Mystery of the nuclear device lost in India's mountains Nanda Devi

Mystery of the nuclear device lost in India's mountains Nanda Devi

The Nanda Devi Nuclear Device Mystery

Nanda Devi is India's second highest peak, located in the Uttarakhand Garhwal Himalayas. It is also the site of a Cold War espionage mission that went wrong, leaving behind a nuclear-powered listening device that has never been recovered.

The Mission

In 1965, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) collaborated to spy on China's nuclear developments in the Xinjiang Province. China had detonated its first nuclear device in 1964, and the US wanted to monitor its missile tests and capabilities.

The plan was to install a remote sensing station on the summit of Nanda Devi, at an altitude of 25,645 feet (7,817 m). The station would consist of an 8–10 feet high antenna, two transceiver sets, and a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) powered by seven plutonium capsules. The RTG would provide electricity for the station for several years, and the antenna would relay signals to a base station in India.

The CIA and the IB recruited a team of Indian and American climbers, led by Captain Manmohan Singh Kohli, an internationally-renowned mountaineer who worked for the IB. The team carried the equipment up the mountain in October 1965, but encountered a severe blizzard at Camp IV, well short of the peak. They decided to abort the mission and return to the base. They left behind the equipment in a sheltered cranny on a mountainside, hoping to retrieve it in the spring.

The Aftermath

In May 1966, a follow-up Indian expedition went back to Camp IV to recover the equipment and complete the mission. To their dismay, they found no trace of the RTG or its plutonium capsules. They suspected that an avalanche or a landslide had carried them away.

The CIA and the IB launched several more expeditions to locate and retrieve the lost device, but none of them succeeded. They even used neutron detectors to scan the area for plutonium radiation, but found nothing. They concluded that the device and its capsules were buried deep under snow and ice, or had fallen into a crevasse or a river.

The CIA eventually managed to install another nuclear-powered station near the summit of Nanda Kot, another peak in the region, in 1967. The station worked for a few months and confirmed that China did not have a long-range nuclear bomb at that time.

The Mystery

More than half a century later, the fate of the Nanda Devi nuclear device remains unknown. Some believe that it is still somewhere on the mountain, slowly depleting its plutonium cores. Some fear that it could leak radiation into the environment or trigger a disaster if disturbed by natural forces or human activity. Some claim that it was secretly retrieved by Indian intelligence or other parties for study or use.

The villagers of Raini, a farming mountain village near Nanda Devi, have grown up with this story and its implications. They have witnessed several floods and landslides in their region over the years, and some of them blame them on the device. They also worry about their health and safety from possible exposure to radiation.

The Indian government has maintained that there is no cause for alarm or concern. It has stated that the device poses no threat to humans or nature, as it is well shielded and has a very low probability of leakage. It has also assured that it has conducted regular surveys and monitoring of the area and has found no evidence of any contamination or abnormality.

However, some experts and activists have challenged these claims and demanded more transparency and accountability from the authorities. They have argued that there is not enough data or information available on the device's location, condition or impact. They have also called for more scientific studies and independent investigations to assess the risks and consequences of this nuclear legacy.

The Nanda Devi nuclear device mystery remains one of the most intriguing and controversial episodes of Cold War history. It also raises important questions about environmental security, nuclear responsibility and international cooperation in today's world.

The Future

What will happen to the Nanda Devi nuclear device in the future? Will it ever be found or recovered? Will it remain hidden and harmless, or will it cause trouble and damage? Will it become a source of curiosity and adventure, or a symbol of danger and conflict?

These are some of the questions that haunt the minds of many people who are interested in or affected by this mystery. There are no easy or definitive answers to these questions, as they depend on many factors and uncertainties.

One possible scenario is that the device will eventually be discovered by chance or by design, either by a scientific expedition, a mountaineering team, a military operation, or a rogue agent. Depending on who finds it and what they do with it, this could lead to different outcomes. For example, it could be safely removed and disposed of, or it could be used for nefarious purposes, such as blackmail, terrorism, or warfare.

Another possible scenario is that the device will remain undetected and undisturbed for a long time, until its plutonium cores decay to a safe level. This could take hundreds or thousands of years, depending on the rate of decay and the environmental conditions. During this time, the device could pose minimal or negligible risks to humans and nature, as long as it is not exposed to external forces or interference.

A third possible scenario is that the device will be affected by natural phenomena or human activities that could damage its integrity and trigger its leakage or explosion. This could include earthquakes, landslides, avalanches, floods, fires, mining, drilling, or construction. Depending on the extent and location of the impact, this could have serious or catastrophic consequences for the people and the environment in the vicinity or beyond.

The Nanda Devi nuclear device mystery is not only a historical curiosity, but also a potential future challenge. It requires constant vigilance and preparedness from all stakeholders involved. It also demands ethical and responsible actions from all parties concerned. It is a reminder that nuclear technology is a double-edged sword that can be used for good or evil. It is up to us to choose wisely and act accordingly.

The Conclusion

The Nanda Devi nuclear device mystery is a fascinating and complex story that spans decades and continents. It involves politics, science, adventure, and intrigue. It reveals the secrets and dangers of the Cold War era, and the challenges and opportunities of the present and future.

The mystery also raises important questions about our relationship with nature and technology. How do we balance our need for security and progress with our respect for the environment and life? How do we deal with the legacy and impact of our nuclear actions and decisions? How do we cooperate and communicate with other nations and cultures on matters of global significance and concern?

The Nanda Devi nuclear device mystery is not just a story about a lost device on a mountain. It is a story about us, our past, our present, and our future. It is a story that we need to remember, understand, and learn from. It is a story that we need to share, discuss, and act upon. It is a story that we need to solve, before it solves us.


(1) Nanda Devi - Wikipedia.

(2) Did nuclear spy devices in the Himalayas trigger India floods?.

(3) Nanda Devi Plutonium Mission - Wikipedia.

(4) Nanda Devi’s Nuclear Secret and a Botched CIA Operation - PeepulTree.

(5) That Time The CIA Lost A Nuclear Device On An Indian Mountain.

(6) Explained: The Nanda Devi Nuclear Device Mystery - DefenceXP.

To Top