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  Timeline of the Nuclear Age 1960s  1961

  1961  

The Soviet Navy dumps liquid radioactive waste into the Barents Sea.

Control rods are removed in error from the core of a military experimental reactor near Idaho Falls, Idaho, causing a steam explosion that kills three technicians. One of the technicians is even impaled by a control rod.

In his farewell address to the nation, President Dwight Eisenhower, warns of the threat of the military-industrial complex, stating, "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

A B-52 bomber, carrying two 24 megaton bombs, crashes in Goldsboro, North Carolina. On one of the bombs, five of the six interlocking safety devices fail, and a single switch prevents detonation. The explosion would have been 1,800 times more powerful than the bomb that exploded in Hiroshima.

The United States launches the Minuteman I missile. 

The Bay of Pigs Invasion fails. A group of Cuban exiles, trained by the CIA and supported by the American government, attempt to invade Cuba and overthrow Castro. They are quickly either killed or captured. The debacle may have helped pave the way for the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.

The Antarctic Treaty enters into force. [see December 1, 1959]

East Germans begin building Berlin Wall, precipitating a crisis between Eastern and Western blocs. The Berlin Wall stands for some four decades as a symbol of East-West conflict.

The Soviet Union ends their moratorium on testing. 

The United States' nuclear testing moratorium ends.

The United States and the Soviet Union sign a "Joint Statement of Agreed Principles for Disarmament Negotiations," known as the McCloy-Zorin Accords. It outlines a program for general and complete disarmament. [see documents]

The Soviet Union explodes the most powerful bomb ever: a 58 megaton atmospheric nuclear weapons test over Novaya Zemlya off Northern Russia.

The United Nations General Assembly adopts the McCloy-Zorin Accords. [see September 20, 1961]