More than 50 years after a 7,600lb (3,500kg) nuclear bomb was dropped in US waters following a mid-air military collision, the question of whether the missing weapon still poses a threat remains.
After a mid-air collision and subsequent damage to his plane Colonel Howard Richardson decided to jettison the nuke and try to pilot the plane to safety. The colonel did save his crew and acted within the limits of general orders that apparently gave him the authority to get rid of the bomb under such circumstances. Orders which seem to make the safety of the crew a larger prioty then that of the civilian popualtion living on the coast of Georgia where the bomb remains – off Tybee Island. The colonel and Air Force claim the bomb is safe as it lacked it’s plutonium trigger. Some people remain concerned as someone with less then virtuoeus motives could find it and use it as nuclear blackmail.
I’ve read some lists of nuclear aciidents, mostly concerned with nuclear plants since those nations that were capable of doing so, started building nuclaer energy plants. Not very reassuring picture. After reading this story I wondered if any other nuclear weapons are unaccounted for. According to this report done by The Brookings Institute, 50 Facts About U.S. Nuclear Weapons – “44. Number of U.S. nuclear bombs lost in accidents and never recovered: 11” So there are ten other missing nukes from the US alone. Who knows how many are missing from the former USSR or China. Some other stats about nukes,
34. Number of islands in Enewetak atoll vaporized
by the November 1, 1952 “Mike” H-bomb test: 1
Chuck Hansen, U.S. Nuclear Weapons: The Secret History, Orion Books, 1988, pp. 58-59, 95
35. Number of nuclear tests in the Pacific: 106
Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons Databook Project
36. Number of U.S. nuclear tests in Nevada: 911
Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons Databook Project
40. Number of high level radioactive waste tanks in Washington, Idaho and South Carolina: 239
U.S. Department of Energy
41. Volume in cubic meters of radioactive waste resulting from weapons activities: 104,000,000
U.S. Department of Energy; Institute for Energy and Environmental Research
Forget the missing bombs, we have a enough nuclear waste to detroy the earth. U. S. NUCLEAR WEAPONS ACCIDENTS by Jaya Tiwari and Cleve J. Gray
“Nuclear weapons are designed with great care to explode only when deliberately armed and fired. Nevertheless, there is always a possibility that, as a result of accidental circumstances, an explosion will take place inadvertently. Although all conceivable precautions are taken to prevent them, such accidents might occur in areas where weapons are assembled and stored, during the course of loading and transportation on the ground, or when actually in the delivery vehicle, e.g., an airplane or a missile.” Atomic Energy Commission/Department of Defense, The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, 1962.
[ ]…The history of U.S. nuclear weapon accidents is as old as their introduction into the American military arsenal. The first known, officially acknowledged accident occurred in February 1950, when an American B-36 bomber jettisoned a bomb into the Pacific Ocean. The record of these accidents, however, has been beset with mysteries and inconsistencies due to a lack of documentation available to the public. The paucity of publicly available data is largely the result of the highly classified nature of information regarding nuclear weapons and their location. To maintain this opacity, the U.S. military’s policy is to neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons in most accidents.
Despite claims that the U.S. nuclear stockpile is safe and reliable, the number of accidents involving America’s atomic arsenal is a matter of concern. The Department of Defense (DoD) first published a list of nuclear weapon accidents in1968 which detailed 13 serious nuclear weapon accidents between 1950-1968. An updated and revised list released in 1980 catalogued 32 accidents between1950-1980. However, this second compilation failed to include some of the accidents covered in the 1968 list.
Even the updated estimate does not tell the entire story, for no additional list of nuclear weapon accidents acknowledged by the Pentagon has been released since 1980. Moreover, the list included only those instances that were judged severe enough to fit the Pentagon’s conservative definition of a nuclear weapon “accident.” Many more mishaps which could have been catastrophic were excluded as “nuclear weapons incidents.”
Further blurring the picture are major discrepancies in the way different military branches report nuclear weapon accidents or incidents. For example, according to a General Accounting Office (GAO) report entitled Navy Nuclear Weapons Safeguards and Nuclear Weapon Accident Emergency Planning, a total of 563 nuclear weapon incidents were reported by the Navy between 1965-1983.
As the researchers in this article note it is very difficult to get reliable numbers because its policy not to reveal whether a plane, sub or ship that was involved in an accident actually had nuclear weapons on board. At first I thought this might be the nuclear accident that inspired the movie K-19 with Harrison Ford, but that was not the Kursk ( that makes at least two possibles for the Soviets), Broken Arrows to Faded Giants
On Monday, Aug. 14, the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea off the northwest coast of Russia. Even before their efforts to rescue the sub’s crew began, Russian naval officials issued statements that no nuclear weapons were on board the “Oscar” class Kursk and that her two nuclear reactors had been safely shutdown. In U.S. Department of Defense nuclear accident terms, the Kursk had become a “Faded Giant.”
While the facts concerning the existence or non-existence of nuclear weapons aboard the Kursk may never be confirmed, several lost nuclear warheads already litter the world’s oceans.
[ ]…Just days ago( K2000), reports that a lost U.S. hydrogen bomb may still be on the seabed off Greenland threatened negotiations between the U.S. and Denmark over America’s continued use of the Thule air and radar base.
The bomb was one of four lost in the crash of a U.S. B-52 bomber off Thule, Greenland in 1968. While the U.S. has always contended that all four weapons were recovered, a group of former Thule workers claims to be in possession of “classified” documents indicating that one bomb went unfound.
Nothing to worry about since all the worry in the world won’t find the missing warheads or reactors setting on the ocean floor.
I can’t find more then speculation on what the passage means to Eliza, but it comes from an old gospel hymn,
Lead, Kindly Light
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
Words: John H. Newman, 1833, Music: “Lux Benigna” (Kindly Light), John B. Dykes, 1865
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.