In addition to the Nuclear Industries problems here are a few military mishaps "BROKEN ARROWS" - accidents which threaten nuclear devastation - 36 known by1991 - none of which were acknowledged willingly. Almost without question more have not surfaced.
13 February 1950 A B-36 en route from Alaska to Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas, developed serious mechanical difficulties, complicated by severe icing conditions, leading to the world's first nuclear accident. The crew headed out over the Pacific Ocean and dropped the nuclear weapons from 8,000 feet off the coast of British Columbia. The weapons' high-explosive material detonated on impact, but the crew parachuted to safety.
11 April 1950 A B-29 carrying a nuclear weapon crashed into a mountain near Manzano Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, killing all 13 crewmembers aboard.
10 November 1950 A B-50 en route to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, was forced to jettison a nuclear weapon over the St. Lawrence River near St. Alexandre-de-Kamouraska, Canada.
10 March 1956 A B-47 with two nuclear weapons aboard disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea after flying out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. An exhaustive search failed to locate the aircraft, its weapons, nor its crew.
27 July 1956 A U.S. B-47 practicing a touch-and-go landing at Lakenheath Royal Air Force Station near Cambridge, England went out of control and smashed into a storage igloo housing three Mark 6 nuclear bombs, each of which had about 8,000 pounds of TNT in its trigger mechanism. No crewmen were killed, and fire fighters were able to extinguish the blazing jet fuel before it ignited the TNT.
22 May 1957 A 10 megaton hydrogen bomb was accidentally dropped from a bomber in an uninhabited area near Albuquerque, New Mexico owned by the University of New Mexico. The conventional explosives detonated, creating a 12 foot deep crater 25 feet across in which some radiation was detected.
28 July 1957 A C-124 Globemaster transporting three nuclear weapons and a nuclear capsule from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to Europe experienced loss of power in two engines. The crew jettisoned two of the weapons somewhere east of Rehobeth, Del., and Cape May/Wildwood, New Jersey. A search for the weapons was unsuccessful and it is a fair assumption that they still lie at the bottom of the ocean.
11 October 1957 A B-47 carrying a single nuclear weapon crashed shortly after takeoff. The weapon was partially destroyed in the ensuing fire, but the nuclear core was recovered intact.
31 January 1958 Unbeknownst to Moroccan officials, a B-47 loaded with a fully-armed nuclear weapon collapsed and caught fire on the runway at a U.S. Strategic Air Command base 90 miles northeast of Rabat. The Air Force considered evacuating the base, but instead allowed the bomber to continue to burn for seven hours. During cleanup operations a large number of vehicles and aircraft were contaminated with radiation.
5 February 1958 A B-47 carrying a Mark 15, Mod 0, nuclear bomb on a simulated combat mission from Homestead Air Force Base in Florida collided with an F-86. After three unsuccessful attempts to land at Hunter Air Force Base in Georgia, the B-47 crew jettisoned the nuclear bomb into the Atlantic Ocean off Savannah. The Air Force conducted a nine-week search of a 3-square-mile area in Wassaw Sound where the bomb was dropped, but declared on April 16 that the bomb was irretrievably lost. The bomb was rediscovered in September 2004.
11 March 1958 A B-47 on its way from Hunter Air Force Base in Georgia to an overseas base accidentally dropped an unarmed nuclear weapon into the garden of Walter Gregg and his family in Mars Bluff, South Carolina. The conventional explosives detonated, destroying Gregg's house and injuring six family members. The blast resulted in the formation of a crater 50-70 feet wide and 25-30 feet deep. Five other houses and a church were also damaged; five months later the Air Force paid the Greggs $54,000 in compensation.
4 November 1958 A B-47 carrying a nuclear weapon caught fire and crashed during takeoff from Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, killing one crew member.
26 November 1958 A B-47 caught fire on the ground at Chennault Air Force Base in Lake Charles, Louisiana, destroying a nuclear weapon onboard, resulting in minor radioactive contamination of the immediate vicinity.
15 October 1959 A B-52 with two nuclear bombs collided in mid-air with a KC-135 jet tanker and crashed near Hardinsberg, Kentucky. Both bombs were recovered intact, but eight crewmembers lost their lives.
7 June 1960 A BOMARC-A nuclear missile burst into flames after its fuel tank was ruptured by the explosion of a high pressure helium tank at McGuire Air Force Base in New Egypt, New Jersey. The missile melted, causing plutonium contamination at the facility and in the ground water below.
21 January 1961 A B-52 bomber carrying one or more nuclear weapons disintegrated in midair following an engine fier and explosion approximately 10 miles north of Monticello, Utah, killing all five crewmembers.
24 January 1961 A B-52 bomber suffered structural failure and disintegrated in mid-air 12 miles north of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, NC, releasing two hydrogen bombs. Five crewmen parachuted to safety, while three others died when the aircraft exploded in mid-air. The bombs jettisoned as the plane descended, one parachuting to earth intact, the other plunging deep into waterlogged farmland. To this day, parts of the nuclear bomb remain embedded deep in the muck. The area is off-limits, and is tested regularly for radiation releases. More information can be found at the Broken Arrow: Goldsboro, NC site at www.ibiblio.org/bomb/.
14 March 1961 A B-52 with nuclear bombs crashed in California while on a training mission.
13 January 1964 A B-52 with two nuclear weapons crashed near Cumberland, Maryland.
8 December 1964 A B-58 slid off a runway at Bunker Hill (now Grissom) Air Force Base in Peru, Indiana. The resulting fire consumed portions of five onboard nuclear weapons, leading to radioactive contamination of the surrounding area.
5 December 1965 An A-4E aircraft accidentally fell overboard off the USS Toconderoga, with the loss of pilot LTJG D.M. Webster and a nuclear weapon. The incident, which occurred in the Pacific Ocean approximately 200 miles east of Okinawa, was not reported by the Department of Defense until 1981.
17 January 1966 A B-52 collided with an Air Force KC-135 jet tanker while refueling over the coast of Spain, killing eight of the eleven crew members and igniting the KC-135's 40,000 gallons of jet fuel. Two hydrogen bombs ruptured, scattering radioactive particles over the fields of Palomares; a third landed intact near the village of Palomares; the fourth was lost at sea 12 miles off the coast of Palomares and required a search by thousands of men working for three months to recover it. Approximately 1,500 tons of radioactive soil and tomato plants were removed to the U.S. for burial at a nuclear waste dump in Aiken, S.C. The U.S. eventually settled claims by 522 Palomares residents at a cost of $600,000, and gave the town the gift of a $200,000 desalinizing plant.
22 January 1968 A B-52 crashed 7 miles south of Thule Air Force Base in Greenland, scattering the radioactive fragments of three hydrogen bombs over the terrain and dropping one bomb into the sea after a fire broke out in the navigator's compartment. Contaminated ice and airplane debris were sent back to the U.S., with the bomb fragments going back to the manufacturer in Amarillo, Texas. The incident outraged the people of Denmark (which owned Greenland at the time, and which prohibits nuclear weapons over its territory) and led to massive anti-U.S. demonstrations. One of the warheads was reportedly recovered by Navy Seals and Seabees in 1979, but a recent (August 2000) report suggests that in fact it may still be lying at the bottom of Baffin Bay.
2 November 1981 A fully-armed Poseidon missile was accidentally dropped 17 feet from a crane in Scotland during a transfer operation between a U.S. submarine and its mother ship. Submarines and Ships Some of the following incidents involve the discharge of radioactive coolant water by ships and submarines. While water from the primary coolant system stays radioactive for only a few seconds, it picks up bits of cobalt, chromium and other elements (from rusting pipes and the reactor) which remain radioactive for years. In realization of this fact, the U.S. Navy has curtailed its previously frequent practice of dumping coolant at sea.
1954 An experimental sodium-cooled reactor utilized aboard the USS Seawolf, the U.S.'s second nuclear submarine, was scuttled in 9,000 feet of water off the Delawre/Maryland coast. The reactor was plagued by persistent leaks in its steam system (caused by the corrosive nature of the sodium) and was later replaced with a more conventional model. The reactor is estimated to have contained 33,000 curies of radioactivity and is likely the largest single radioactive object ever dumped deliberately into the ocean. Subsequent attempts to locate the reactor proved to be futile.
October 1959 One man was killed and another three were seriously burned in the explosion and fire of a prototype reactor for the USS Triton at the Navy's training center in West Milton, New York. The Navy stated, "The explosion...was completely unrelated to the reactor or any of its principal auxiliary systems," but sources familiar with the operation claim that the high-pressure air flask which exploded was utilized to operate a critical back-up system in the event of a reactor emergency.
1961 The USS Theodore Roosvelt was contaminated when radioactive waste from its demineralization system, blew back onton the ship after an attempt to dispose of the material at sea. This happened on other occasions as well with other ships (for example, the USS Guardfish in 1975).
10 April 1963 The nuclear submarine Thresher imploded during a test dive east of Boston, killing all 129 men aboard.
5 December 1965 This write-up is drawn from the US Nuclear Weapons Accidents page at www.cdi.org/Issues/NukeAccidents/accidents.htm. An A-4E Skyhawk strike aircraft carrying a nuclear weapon rolled off an elevator on the U.S. aircraft carrier Ticonderoga and fell into the sea. Because the bomb was lost at a depth of approximately 16,000 feet, Pentagon officials feared that intense water pressure could have caused the B-43 hydrogen bomb to explode. It is still unknown whether an explosion did occur. The pilot, aircraft, and weapon were lost. The Pentagon claimed that the bomb was lost "500 miles away from land." However, it was later revealed that the aircraft and nuclear weapon sank only miles from the Japanese island chain of Ryukyu. Several factors contributed to the Pentagon's secretiveness. The USS Ticonderoga was returning from a mission off North Vietnam; confirming that the carrier had nuclear weapons aboard would document their introduction into the Vietnam War. Furthermore, Japan's anti-nuclear law prohibited the introduction of atomic weapons into its territory, and U.S. military bases in Japan are not exempt from this law. Thus, confirming that the USS Ticonderoga carried nuclear weapons would signify U.S. violation of its military agreements with Japan. The carrier was headed to Yokosuka, Japan, and disclosure of the accident in the mid-1980s caused a strain in U.S.-Japanese relations. 1968 Radioactive coolant water may have been released by the USS Swordfish, which was moored at the time in Sasebo Harbor in Japan. According to one source, the incident was alleged by activists but a nearby Japanese government vessel failed to detect any such radiation leak. The purported incident was protested bitterly by the Japanese, with Premier Eisaku Sate warning that U.S. nuclear ships would no longer be allowed to call at Japanese ports unless their safety could be guaranteed.
21 May 1968 The U.S.S. Scorpion, a nuclear-powered attack submarine carrying two Mark 45 ASTOR torpedoes with nuclear warheads, sank mysteriously on this day. It was eventually photographed lying on the bottom of the ocean, where all ninety-nine of its crew were lost. Details of the accident remained classified until November 1993, when Navy reports revealed that the cause of the sinking was an accidental detonation of the conventional explosives in one of Scorpion's warheads.
14 January 1969 A series of explosions aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier Enterprise left 17 dead and 85 injured. 16 May 1969 The U.S.S. Guitarro, a $50 million nuclear submarine undergoing final fitting in San Francisco Bay, sank to the bottom as water poured into a forward compartment. A House Armed Services subcommittee later found the Navy guilty of "inexcusable carelessness" in connection with the event.
12 December 1971 Five hundred gallons of radioactive coolant water spilled into the Thames River near New London, Connecticut as it was being transferred from the submarine Dace to the sub tender Fulton.
October-November 1975 The USS Proteus, a disabled submarine tender, discharged significant amounts of radioactive coolant water into Guam's Apra Harbor. A geiger counter check of the harbor water near two public beaches measured 100 millirems/hour, fifty times the allowable dose.
22 May 1978 Up to 500 gallons of radioactive water was released when a valve was mistakenly opened aboard the USS Puffer near Puget Sound in Washington.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Nuclear Bomb Tests and Testing Facilities
26 April 1953 Radioactive rain, the result of above-ground nuclear tests, fell on Troy, New York. 5 September 1961 President Kennedy ordered the resumption of nuclear testing, "underground, with no fallout."
10 December 1961 Clouds of radioactive steam escaped from an underground nuclear test, closing several New Mexico highways.
4 June 1962 The Bluegill nuclear test, designed to detonate a nuclear device in the atmosphere, was aborted 10 minutes after launch when the missile tracking system failed prior to nuclear detonation. The nuclear device was lost at sea.
20 June 1962 A failure of the Starfish nuclear test, designed to detonate a nuclear device in space, caused radioactive debris to be scattered across Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean. 9 December 1968 Clouds of radioactive steam from a nuclear test in Nevada broke through the ground, releasing fallout and violating the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed 5 years earlier.
18 December 1970 An underground nuclear test in Nevada resulted in a cloud of radioactive steam to be thrust 8,000 feet in the air over Wyoming.
15 July 1999 A spokesperson for President Clinton announced that thousands of contract workers at U.S. nuclear weapons facilities, exposed to toxic and radioactive substances during the previous 50 years, could seek federal compensation for related illnesses.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Processing, Storage, Shipping and Disposal From 1946 to 1970 approximately 90,000 cannisters of radioactive waste were jettisoned in 50 ocean dumps up and down the East and West coasts of the U.S., including prime fishing areas, as part of the early nuclear waste disposal program from the military's atomic weapons program. The waste also included contaminated tools, chemicals, and laboratory glassware from weapons laboratories, and commercial/medical facilities
December 1962 A summary report was presented at an Atomic Energy Commission symposium in Germantown, Maryland, listing 47 accidents involving shipment of nuclear materials to that date, 17 of which were considered "serious."
11 May 1969 A plutonium fire broke out in Building 776 at the Atomic Energy Commission's Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant. Plutonium was released into the atmosphere and tracked out of the building on the boots of firefighters, and several buildings at the factory were so badly contaminated that they had to be dismantled.
1971 After experimenting with disposal of radioactive waste in salt, the Atomic Energy Commission announced that "Project Salt Vault" would solve the waste problem. But when 180,000 gallons of contaminated water was pumped into a borehole; it promptly and unexpectedly disappeared. The project was abandoned two years later.
1972 The West Valley, NY fuel reprocessing plant was closed after 6 years in operation, leaving 600,000 gallons of high-level wastes buried in leaking tanks. The site caused measurable contamination of Lakes Ontario and Erie.
December 1972 A major fire and two explosions occurred at a Pauling, New York plutonium fabrication plant. An undetermined amount of radioactive plutonium was scattered inside and outside the plant, resulting in its permanent shutdown.
1979 The Critical Mass Energy Project (part of Ralph Nader's Public Citizen, Inc.) tabulated 122 accidents involving the transport of nuclear material in 1979, including 17 involving radioactive contamination. 16 July 1979 A dam holding radioactive uranium mill tailings broke, sending an estimated 100 million gallons of radioactive liquids and 1,100 tons of solid wastes downstream at Church Rock, New Mexico.
August 1979 Highly enriched uranium was released from a top-secret nuclear fuel plant near Erwin, Tennessee. About 1,000 people were contaminated with up to 5 times as much radiation as would normally be received in a year.
Between 1968 and 1983 the plant "lost" 234 pounds of highly enriched uranium, forcing the plant to be closed six times during that period.
January 1980 A 5.5 Richter earthquake at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where large amounts of nuclear material are kept, caused a tritium leak.
19 September 1980 An Air Force repairman doing routine maintenance in a Titan II ICBM silo in Damascus, Arkansas dropped a wrench socket, which rolled off a work platform and fell to the bottom of the silo. The socket struck the missile, causing a leak from a pressurized fuel tank. The missile complex and surrounding areas were evacuated. Eight and a half hours later, the fuel vapors ignited, causing an explosion which killed an Air Force specialist and injured 21 others. The explosion also blew off the 740-ton reinforced concrete-and-steel silo door and catapulted the warhead 600 feet into the air. The silo has since been filled in with gravel, and operations have been transferred to a similar installation at Rock, Kansas.
21 September 1980 Two canisters containing radioactive materials fell off a truck on New Jersey's Route 17. The driver, en route from Pennsylvania to Toronto, did not notice the missing cargo until he reached Albany, New York.
1983 The Department of Energy confirmed that 1,200 tons of mercury had been released over the years from the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Components Plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the U.S.'s earliest nuclear weapons production plant.
In 1987, the DOE also reported that PCBs, heavy metals, and radioactive substances were all present in the groundwater beneath Y-12. Y-12 and the nearby K-25 and X-10 plants were found to have contaminated the atmosphere, soil and streams in the area.
December 1984 The Fernald Uranium Plant, a 1,050-acre uranium fuel production complex 20 miles northwest of Cincinnati, Ohio, was temporarily shut down after the Department of Energy disclosed that excessive amounts of radioactive materials had been released through ventilating systems. Subsequent reports revealed that 230 tons of radioactive material had leaked into the Greater Miami River valley during the previous thirty years, 39 tons of uranium dust had been released into the atmosphere, 83 tons had been discharged into surface water, and 5,500 tons of radioactive and other hazardous substances had been released into pits and swamps where they seeped into the groundwater. In addition, 337 tons of uranium hexafluoride was found to be missing, its whereabouts completely unknown.
In 1988 nearby residents sued and were granted a $73 million settlement by the government. The plant was not permanently shut down until 1989.
1986 A truck carrying low-level radioactive material swerved to avoid a farm vehicle, went off a bridge on Route 84 in Idaho, and dumped part of its cargo in the Snake River. Officials reported the release of radioactivity.
6 January 1986 A container of highly toxic gas exploded at The Sequoyah Fuels Corp. uranium processing factory in Gore, Oklahoma, causing one worker to die (when his lungs were destroyed) and 130 others to seek medical treatment. In response, the Government kept the plant closed for more than a year and fined owners Kerr-McGee $310,000, citing poorly trained workers, poorly maintained equipment and a disregard for safety and the environment. [See also 24 November 1992.]
1986 After almost 40 years of cover-ups, the U.S. Government released 19,000 pages of previously classified documents which revealed that the Hanford Engineer Works was responsible for the release of significant amounts of radioactive materials into the atmosphere and the adjacent Columbia River. Between 1944 and 1966, the eight reactors, a source of plutonium production for atomic weapons, discharged billions of gallons of liquids and billions of cubic meters of gases containing plutonium and other radioactive contaminants into the Columbia River, and the soil and air of the Columbia Basin. Although detrimental effects were noticed as early as 1948, all reports critical of the facilities remained classified. By the summer of 1987, the cost of cleaning up Hanford was estimated to be $48.5 billion. The Technical Steering Panel of the government-sponsored Hanford Environmental Dose Reconstruction Project released the following statistics in July 1990: Of the 270,000 people living in the affected area, most received low doses of radiation from Iodine, but about 13,500 received a total dose some 1,300 times the annual amount of airborne radiation considered safe for civilians by the Department of Energy. Approximately 1,200 children received doses far in excess of this number, and many more received additional doses from contaminants other than Iodine. [See also May 1997 and July 2000.]
1987 The Idaho Falls Post Register reported that plutonium had been found in sediments hundreds of feet below the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, an experimental reactor testing station and nuclear waste storage site.
1988 The National Research Council panel released a report listing 30 "significant unreported incidents" at the Savannah River production plants over the previous 30 years. As at Hanford (see 1986), ground water contamination resulted from pushing production of radioactive materials past safe limits at this weapons complex.
In January 1989, scientists discovered a fault running under the entire site through which contaminants reached the underground aquifer, a major source of drinking water for the southeast. Turtles in nearby ponds were found to contain radioactive strontium of up to 1,000 times the normal background level.
6 June 1988 Radiation Sterilizers, Incorporated reported that a leak of Cesium-137 had occurred at their Decatur, Georgia facility. Seventy thousand medical supply containers and milk cartons were recalled as they had been exposed to radiation. Ten employees were also exposed, three of whom "had enough on them that they contaminated other surfaces" including materials in their homes and cars, according to Jim Setser at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
October 1988 The Rocky Flats, Colorado plutonium bomb manufacturing site was partially closed after two employees and a Department of Energy inspector inhaled radioactive particles. Subsequent investigations revealed safety violations (including uncalibrated monitors and insufficient fire-response equipment) and leaching of radioactive contaminants into the local groundwater.
24 November 1992 The Sequoyah Fuels Corp. uranium processing factory in Gore, Oklahoma closed after repeated citations by the Government for violations of nuclear safety and environmental rules. It's record during 22 years of operation included an accident in 1986 that killed one worker and injured dozens of others and the contamination of the Arkansas River and groundwater. The Sequoyah Fuels plant, one of two privately-owned American factories that fabricated fuel rods and armor-piercing bullet shells, had been shut down a week before by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when an accident resulted in the release of toxic gas. Thirty-four people sought medical attention as a result of the accident. The plant had also been shut down the year before when unusually high concentrations of uranium were detected in water in a nearby construction pit. [Also see 6 January 1986 for details of an additional incident.] A Government investigation revealed that the company had known for years that uranium was leaking into the ground at levels 35,000 times higher than Federal law allows; Carol Couch, the plant's environmental manager, was cited by the Government for obstructing the investigation and knowingly giving Federal agents false information. 31 March 1994 Fire at a nuclear research facility on Long Island, New York resulted in the nuclear contamination of three fire fighters, three reactor operators, and one technician. Measurable amounts of radioactive substances were released into the immediate environment. May 1997 A 40 gallon tank of toxic chemicals, stored illegally at the U.S. Government's Hanford Engineer works exploded, causing the release of 20,000-30,000 gallons of plutonium-contaminated water. A cover-up ensued, involving the contractors doing clean-up and the Department of Energy, who denied the release of radioactive materials. They also told eight plant workers that tests indicated that they hadn't been exposed to plutonium even though no such tests actually were conducted (later testing revealed that in fact they had not been exposed). Fluor Daniel Hanford Inc., operator of the Hanford Site, was cited for violations of the Department of Energy's nuclear safety rules and fined $140,625. Violations associated with the explosion included the contractor's failure to assure that breathing devices operated effectively, failure to make timely notifications of the emergency, and failure to conduct proper radiological surveys of workers.
Other violations cited by the DOE included a number of events between November 1996 and June 1997 involving Fluor Daniel Hanford's failure to assure adherence to PFP "criticality" safety procedures. ("Criticality" features are defined as those features used "to assure safe handling of fissile materials and prevention of...an unplanned and uncontrolled chain reaction that can release large amounts of radiation.") [See also 1986 and July 2000.]
8 August 1999 The Washington Post reported that thousands of workers were unwittingly exposed to plutonium and other highly radioactive metals over a 23-year period (beginning in the mid-1950's) at the Department of Energy's Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky. Workers, told they were handling Uranium (rather than the far more toxic plutonium), inhaled radioactive dust while processing the materials as part of a government experiment to recycle used nuclear reactor fuel. June 2000 U.S. Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) led a field senate hearing regarding workers exposed to hazardous materials while working in the nation's atomic plants. At the hearing, which revealed information about potential on and off-site contamination at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio, DeWine noted, "We know that as a result of Cold War efforts, the government, yes, our federal government, allowed thousands of workers at its facilities across the country to be exposed to poisonous materials, such as beryllium dust, plutonium, and silicon, without adequate protection." Testimony also indicated that the Piketon plant altered workers' radiation dose readings and worked closely with medical professionals to fight worker's compensation claims. July 2000 Wildfires in the vicinity of the Hanford facility hit the highly radioactive "B/C" waste disposal trenches, raising airborne plutonium radiation levels in the nearby cities of Pasco and Richland to 1,000 above normal. Wildfires also threatened the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the DOE's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. In the latter case, the fires closely approached large amounts of stored radioactive waste and forced the evacuation of 1,800 workers. [See also 1986 and May 1997.]