|San José State University|
& Tornado Alley
by the U.S. Air Force which
Involved Thermonuclear Weapons
When almost anyone thinks of the danger associated with nuclear weapons they think only of war. They imagine that, at least in the United States, those weapons are so tightly controlled there is no chance of one ever being lost. The reality is quite different. There have been at least 29 serious accidents involving nuclear weapons. Here is a tabulation of the known incidents in which nuclear bombs were lost. There were eight incidents involving ten intact bombs being lost.
|1950||Not Available||Plane carrying two bombs|
disappeared over water
|1956||Mediterranean Sea||Plane carrying two bombs|
disappeared over water
|1957||Atlantic near Atlantic City,|
|Two bombs jettisoned at sea|
|1958||Mouth of Savannah River, |
|One bomb lost at sea|
|1958||Florence, South Carolina||One bomb fell from plane|
and was recovered
|1959||Puget Sound, Washington||One bomb lost at sea|
|1961||Goldsboro, North Carolina||Parcel of uranium fell into|
deep mud in swamp
|1965||Pacific||Plane carrying bomb|
rolled off aircraft carrier
|1966||SE coast of Spain||B-52 carrying four bombs |
caught fire. Three bombs
landed in farmland, one lost
at sea. That one recovered after
$12 million search
|1968||Thule, Greenland||B-52 carrying four bombs crahed on the ice.|
The bombs were destroyed by fire.
The next to the last one above was particularly catastrophic. An accident in refueling resulted in the B-52 being sprayed with fuel which ignited. Seven of the eleven crew members were killed. The bombs were jettisoned with parachutes but for two of the bombs that fell on land the parachutes failed. Those two landed with such an impact that the conventional explosives they contained exploded and that vaporized the plutonium they contained. The farm fields were vacant that day so no one in the fields was injured.
Elaborate search schemes were tried,but success came when the searchers relied upon the eye-witness report of a Spanish fisherman.
The Soviets over the same post war period lost 43 nuclear warheads in missiles on sunken submarines.
Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, The theory that would not die, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2011.
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