The story of an important event which took place at Nanda Devi had supplied enormous fear all across, for the present as well as the upcoming generations:
In October 1965, the US’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) joined hands in a mission to install a nuclear-powered sensing device on the summit of India’s second highest peak.
Three years after India’s defeat to China, it became essential to keep a tab on China’s growing military might. A remote sensing device atop Nanda Devi could keep track of any nuclear tests China might perform. Installing the device meant carrying up equipment weighing around 56kg and the generator’s nuclear fuel, consisting of seven plutonium capsules. On 18 October, when the team reached Camp IV, at over 24,000ft, worse environment conditions made them rethink. Team leader had to choose between men and machine and he chose to save the lives of his men. Unable to take the generator with them, the team secured it near Camp IV and returned to safety.
When they returned in May 1966, the deadly stock of plutonium, which was “about half the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima”, was missing. Nobody seems to know what happened. It is believed that the plutonium capsules could still be buried somewhere in the snow. The area has been virtually closed for decades. The fear was of large-scale plutonium contamination of the river that drains the Nanda Devi glaciers into the Ganga. “Lives of millions of Indians would be affected”, the threat of radioactivity still stays!
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Picture credits: AdventureIndiaGroup