This day in US nuclear accidents

Discussion in 'Military' started by mhansen2, Dec 12, 2017.

  1. mhansen2
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    mhansen2 Gold Member

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    13 December

    1960 – Naval Ordnance Test Station, San Clemente Island, California

    At approximately 7:45 PM PST, an explosion occurred in a storage bunker at the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) on San Clemente Island, approximately 40 miles west of San Diego, California. Two "development type" nuclear warheads were in the bunker at the time of the explosion; the warheads contained "toxic materials" but no high explosives. One of the warheads was damaged by flames. The explosion originated in a Jet-Assisted Take Off (JATO) rocket which was being prepared for mating to one of the developmental warheads in preparation for a test. The explosion resulted in one fatality and three additional casualties; all were NOTS personnel. No AEC news release was issued.

    Chuck Hansen, “The Swords of Armageddon,” Vol. VII, pp.262-263.

    For the source material, go here:

    index.htm
     
  2. JGalt
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    JGalt Platinum Member

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    Gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet.
     
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  3. mhansen2
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    mhansen2 Gold Member

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    14-31 December

    No reported incidents
     
  4. mhansen2
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    mhansen2 Gold Member

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    Unknown date

    1952 – B-50 / Alaska

    Although checklists were followed and procedures approved by an on-board AEC representative, a nuclear weapon was unintentionally jettisoned from a B-50 when the release shackle became unlocked and the bomb fell through the bomb bay doors onto the
    Alaskan tundra. (No other details currently available.)

    Chuck Hansen, “The Swords of Armageddon,” Vol. VII, p.239.
     
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    4 January

    1958 – Railway Accident / Hamburg, New York

    A derailment accident occurred on the Nickel Plate Road near Hamburg, New York approximately fifteen miles south of Buffalo at 4:50 AM EST. Thirty-two cars of a 78-car train were derailed behind the engine. No one was injured or killed; early assessment indicated that the accident was caused by a broken axle or defective junction box on the second car behind the engine. The AEC shipment was enroute from the manufacturing facility at Burlington, Iowa; it included assembled and loaded bomb casings, which were undamaged.

    An early news release about the accident quoted a railroad employee as saying without official authorization that the shipment contained enough explosives to "blow up the western end of New York State." In order to counter this statement, the AEC issued a news release that stated: "The Commission has been advised of a wreck near Buffalo, New York of a freight train which carried a routine AEC classified shipment. The shipment included a quantity of non-nuclear conventional explosive. There was no danger of a nuclear detonation. The shipment was unharmed and will shortly be on its way again." The entire shipment left Buffalo at 10:00 AM on January 5, en route to its original destination. (Not a "Broken Arrow" accident.)

    Chuck Hansen, “The Swords of Armageddon,” Vol. VII, pp.245-246
     
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    5 - 8 January

    No reported incidents.
     
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    9 January

    1956 – B-36 / Kirtland AFB

    A February 1991 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report lists an incident involving a B-36 carrying one or more nuclear weapons at Kirtland AFB on this date. No further details are currently available.

    Chuck Hansen, “The Swords of Armageddon,” Vol. VII, p.240
     
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    11 January

    1985 - PERSHING II MRBM / Heilbronn, West Germany

    During the assembly of a PERSHING II missile, the motor caught fire, and exploded, killing three people.

    Chuck Hansen, “The Swords of Armageddon,” Vol. VII, p.292.
     
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    12 January

    No reported incidents.
     
  10. mhansen2
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    13 January

    1964 - B-52 / Near Cumberland, Maryland

    A B-52D was enroute from Westover AFB, near Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, to its home base at Turner AFB, near Albany, Georgia after having concluded an airborne CHROME DOME alert mission on January 12. The plane crashed at about 3:00 AM approximately 17 miles SW of Cumberland, Maryland in a remote, thickly wooded uninhabited area near Lonaconing, Maryland. The aircraft was carrying two unarmed war reserve weapons, both in tactical ferry configuration, with no mechanical or electrical connections made to the aircraft and safing switches in the "safe" position to preclude arming.

    Before the crash, the pilot had requested a change in flight altitude because of severe air turbulence at 29,500 feet. The aircraft was cleared to climb to 33,000 feet; during the climb, the B-52 encountered violent air turbulence around 31,000 feet and the airframe structure failed (a two-day-long driving snowstorm was in progress and winds up to 145 knots at 30,000 feet had been reported in the vicinity of Washington, D.C.). The vertical fin separated from the bomber, striking the left horizontal stabilizer which broke off the aircraft and caused the tail section to tear loose. (By January 1964, at least four other B-52s had lost their tail sections in turbulence.) Of the five aircrewmen aboard the bomber, only the pilot and copilot survived after ejecting.

    The tail gunner and navigator ejected successfully but died of exposure to sub-zero temperatures after reaching the ground alive. The radar navigator did not eject and died in the crash. The B-52 apparently disintegrated upon impact and cut a 100-foot wide by 100-yard long swath through a wooded area; only one engine remained recognizably intact. The crash site was an isolated mountainous and densely wooded area on the western side of Big Savage Mountain; 8 to 14 inches of new snow covered the aircraft wreckage which was scattered over an area of approximately 100 square yards. The aircraft's tail section was found 15 miles away.

    Weather during recovery and cleanup operations included extreme cold (on the order of 0 to -10 F), nearly four feet of snow, and gusty winds. Two unarmed weapons remained aboard the aircraft until it crashed and were relatively intact, although heavily damaged, after impact near the center of the wreckage field; they were found approximately 20 to 25 yards apart in two feet of snow. There was no HE explosion nor was there any radiation hazard. The nearest inhabited residence was between one-half mile to one mile from the crash site.

    The debris pattern indicated that the weapons, found near the center of the wreckage, remained secured to the aircraft until impact. The basic assembly of weapon number one cracked in three places, with one crack circumscribing three-quarters of the bomb casing circumference. The firing set, including detonator cables and two firing set cables, had been secured to the weapon by eight retaining bolts; the firing set was found about 15 feet from the basic assembly. The X-unit, the high-voltage source for the detonators, was sheared off the primary, but its thermal batteries did not fire. The rear case sections of both weapons had broken off and been consumed by the ensuing fuel fire after impact.

    Weapon number two was less severely damaged: the thermal batteries did not fire, and there was no apparent damage to components within the basic assembly. Pullout wires to the fuzing system were broken, but the electrical system safing switch remained in the "safe" position.

    The nuclear portions (basic assemblies) of both weapons were evacuated by air from Cumberland via an Air Force C-124 to Kelly AFB near San Antonio, Texas and were turned over to the AEC's Medina Modification Center where they were disassembled beginning on January 24, 1964. Postmortem examinations at Medina and later at Sandia verified that none of the weapon components were activated by the crash.

    Chuck Hansen, “The Swords of Armageddon,” Vol. VII, pp.273-274.
     

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