The nuclear bomb is the worst of human inventions. In recent years, members of the public have expressed increasing concern about the possibility of manufacturing or acquiring nuclear weapons by the so-called third world countries. But few people seriously think about the danger that warheads carry, which during the long years of “cold” confrontation were “lost” due to various reasons for both sides of a political conflict. The annals of accidents involving nuclear weapons are as long as their история.
For the first time, secret information regarding lost nuclear weapons became public in 1968, when the United States Department of Defense ventured, under the pressure of the Freedom of Information Act, to display a list of accidents that occurred between 1950 and 1968, in which nuclear warheads appeared. There were thirteen such cases according to the indicated document. Twelve years later, in 1980, a new list was announced, which contained information on thirty-two accidents involving nuclear weapons. Even more shocking was the recent naval disaster list. fleet The United States, which cited data on three hundred and eighty-one incidents that occurred between 1965 and 1977.
Unbiased statistics show that the largest number of nuclear losses was the result of aviation accidents and disasters, which by coincidence occurred over the oceans. This can be explained quite simply: at the beginning of the Cold War, airplanes were used to transport bombs, in which the fuel tanks were not yet designed for a long flight, for example, across the Atlantic. As a result, when the fuel ran out, they had to refuel right in the air. However, there is always a risk of collision when two aircraft come close. In such a case, in accordance with the established safety rules, bombs are immediately dropped from the side. And it also happened that the carrier plane simply fell with its deadly cargo into the ocean. There were few main routes for air flights - only four. They lay over the territories of Greenland, Japan, the Spanish Mediterranean and Alaska. It was in these areas that the greatest number of murderous "gifts" was left to the descendants.
One of the most scandalous and monstrous cases occurred early in the morning of 17 on January 1966 of the year, when the American bomber B-52G collided with the K-135 aircraft during refueling for refueling in the sky above the small Spanish village Palomares. At a height of about nine thousand meters above the ground, according to eyewitnesses, a fireball flared. This is not surprising, because on board the tanker was over a hundred tons of kerosene. Then strange blue objects began to fall from the sky. It was not for nothing that the accident caused a stir among the highest American military ranks, because their bomber was carrying four 1.5-megaton thermonuclear bombs.
The US Air Force aircraft patrolled the southern borders of the airspace of the countries participating in the signing of the Warsaw Pact. Having set off for twelve hours and having made the last lap over the Mediterranean, the bomber was already flying towards its base. When the commander of the refueling crew found that the approach between the sides was too fast, it was already too late. The pilots did not have time to react, the aircraft collided at a distance of eight kilometers from the Spanish coast. After the strongest strike, a fire broke out, in order to avoid possible detonation and in exact accordance with the instructions, the bomber commander immediately launched the bomb-dropping mechanism. Before the explosion, which followed a few seconds, four of the seven crew members managed to leave the plane.
Despite the presence of special parachutes, which should safely deliver dangerous cargo to the ground, they did not open on the two nuclear bombs dropped from the bomber. At a speed of about three hundred kilometers per hour, the bombs just crashed into the ground. One of them fell at a distance of one and a half thousand meters from the unhappy village, and the other - near one of the houses Palomares. A strong blow might well have caused the electric launch of the warhead to fire, but fortunately this did not happen. However, TNT still detonated, throwing a cloud of highly radioactive dust into the atmosphere. It was certainly not a full-scale blast, but two hundred thirty hectares of fertile land around were found to be contaminated.
Another of the four bombs that were on board the B-52, landed near the Almansor River, near the coast. But the fourth warhead that fell into the sea brought the greatest amount of trouble. The search operation lasted almost eighty days, and the search area was over seventy square kilometers. And if it had not been for the fishermen who witnessed the fall of the warheads and conscientiously helped the military to find the place of its fall, it is not known how the search would have ended. April 7 bomb was raised from a depth of eight hundred meters. Interestingly, if it had fallen into the bottom crevice, on the edge of which it was found, then on the seabed would forever lie one of the evidences of human stupidity, threatening at any moment to cause environmental tragedy. This search operation was named the most expensive of the last century at sea, eighty-four million dollars was spent on it!
Despite the meager comments of the military about the safety of further living in the contaminated area for the population, the lack of victims and the work done to decontaminate the soil in the accident area, the cost of which, by the way, amounted to another eighty million dollars, a part of the area of two hectares was eventually declared to be quarantine and still not recommended for visits. Some time after the catastrophe, one of the valiant Spanish officials in the company of a no less valiant American ambassador made an exemplary swim at sea near Palomares, in order to personally demonstrate his safety and once again attract the attention of tourists concerned about the situation. Nevertheless, since the eighties near Palomares, the construction of residential buildings has been banned, and recent measurements suggest that the radiation level in this area is much higher than both acceptable and safe standards.
The United States government paid cash compensation to local residents, and patrolling Spanish airspace by American bombers has since been banned. Only in the autumn of 2006, the United States and Spain returned to this problem again and reached agreement on the need to clean up areas of ten hectares contaminated after the 17 accident in January of 1966 with plutonium-239. But this document seems to have become another official, purely formal paper, signed to purify not the land, but the safely sleeping conscience of American politicians and the military.
Nuceflash - any incident entailing the threat of detonation of a nuclear weapon.
Broken Arrow or Broken Arrow - theft, seizure or loss of nuclear weapons and their components.
Bent Spear or Curved Lance - any nuclear weapon incident that could lead to the outbreak of war.
Faded Giant or Dry Giant - any incident with radiological components or nuclear reactors.
Dull Sword or Blunt Sword - all other nuclear weapon incidents.
21 January The 1968 of the United States B-52G strategic bomber crashed near the American Thule base in Greenland. From the base, tracking of Soviet territory was carried out, as well as flight control of strategic American aviation, which had atomic bombs on board. On board the plane that had crashed, there were just four of them. The plane broke the ice and found himself at the bottom of the sea. The impact led to the detonation of an explosive in the fuses of all the bombs, and, despite the fact that a nuclear explosion did not occur, radioactive elements scattered over a huge area. Danish workers and American military personnel (over seven hundred people in all) for more than half a year raised the remnants of atomic bombs and carried out environmental cleanup of the soil. All work was completed before the spring thaw - over ten tons of contaminated ice, snow and other radioactive waste were collected in barrels and sent to the United States for burial. The cost of the operation was estimated at nine and a half million dollars. Nevertheless, the radioactive components did get into the waters of the bay. After this tragedy, McNamara (US Secretary of Defense) ordered the removal of all nuclear weapons from aircraft on combat duty.
In addition, on the basis of documents declassified after forty years in accordance with US law, it follows that only fragments of three bombs were found. Uranium and plutonium missing the fourth bomb represents a great danger to the environment. Concerned US authorities organized a new study of the seabed at the accident site. A Star III submarine was sent to the incident area, the purpose of the arrival of which was deliberately hidden from Danish officials. However, the underwater search was not successful. Subsequently, Per Bertlesen, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greenland, noted that the administration of the island "has classified information on this issue." He stated: “We are aware that the efforts of the American search groups were in vain .... In any case, the government of the territory, which is part of the Danish kingdom as an autonomy, is awaiting a response from Washington and Copenhagen to previously published information, in which the Pentagon claims that all warheads have been found. ”
One more fact, starting from the 1960s at the bottom of the Far Eastern seas, the USSR secretly heated the mini-AES RTGs (radioisotope thermoelectric generators). Only thirty nine pieces. According to minimal estimates, in the region on the seabed, no joke, there are more than twenty tons of uranium-238. In addition, there is still strontium-90 with a total activity of fourteen million curies (the total release in Chernobyl is fifty million curies). These substances pollute the marine world and will be still dangerous for about six hundred and eight hundred years.
February 5 X-year of the American bomber B-1958 "Stratojet" during a night training flight collided over the coast of Georgia with the F-47 fighter "Saberjet". The fighter fell apart, and the bomber badly damaged the wing. Everything would be fine, but he had a hydrogen bomb on board. Before attempting to land, the Bomber pilot received an order to throw her overboard. He threw it and - in the swamp at the mouth of the Savannah River and near the city of Tybee Island. In his opinion, the "gift" should be easily and quickly found. Search and rescue teams were sent to the place of the alleged fall. Terrain cordoned off units paratroopers. For a whole month, the Air Force fumbled over the swamps, but it was useless. And 86 March 11-th year in South Carolina is already another hydrogen bomb accidentally dropped from B-1958. The bomb itself, fortunately, did not explode, but the charge of trinitrotoluene did explode, causing serious damage. The command of the Air Force hastily redeployed their fellows from Tud. The search from Tybee Island was stopped and subsequently never returned to them. From the recently partially declassified data follows: “The search for weapons was stopped by 47. Consider it irretrievably lost, ”after which there is a polite correspondence between the Pentagon, the Atomic Energy Commission and the Air Force, asking them to send a new hydrogen bomb to the latter.
Of course, the US government has not forgotten about the bomb. In 1966, Assistant Secretary of Defense, W. J. Howard, wrote to Congress that a Tybey bomb contained an assembled plutonium warhead. However, in 2001, the United States Air Force published the official incident report, stating that the bomb was in a transport configuration (that is, there was no nuclear capsule needed for a chain reaction). On the one hand, they do not lie before Congress, on the other, it’s really stupid to take a curb bomb on a training flight. All that is exactly known today is the presence of radioactivity in the area of the fall, confirmed in 2004 in the course of regular inspections.
Not less, and perhaps more dangerous consequences, a number of other officially recognized dangerous and at the same time most absurd situations in which nuclear weapons were involved may still turn out in the future.
13 February 1950 after the engine ignited due to severe icing from the American B-36 bomber returning from Alaska to its base in Texas, an atomic bomb was dropped from a height of two and a half thousand meters into the Pacific Ocean, which remained to lie at the bottom of this. And already 10 of November of the same year after the occurrence of an emergency with the B-50 aircraft, the bomb was dropped from a height of three thousand two hundred meters to the province of Quebec in Canada. As a result of a strong blow, a detonation of the charge and destruction of the warhead occurred, resulting in radioactive contamination of the river with forty-five kilograms of uranium.
Another dangerous cargo, namely two nuclear bombs, was apparently buried in the Mediterranean 10 in March 1956, when the B-47 bomber of the USA after the first scheduled refueling just disappeared without contacting the second tanker at the appointed time. Large-scale and lengthy searches yielded no results, and the location of the aircraft with its contents is unknown to this day.
Emerging terrestrial emergencies are no less catastrophic. So 26 July 1956-th year at the US air base near Cambridge (in the UK) bomber B-47 crashed into a hangar, in which there were three nuclear warheads. If the resulting fire could not be extinguished on time, the explosives could easily detonate and turn a piece of eastern England, in the words of one of the generals of the USAF, into a bare desert.
Americans living in North Carolina, certainly remember with horror 24 January 1961 year. On this day one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century could have happened. A B-52 strategic bomber with two nuclear bombs of twenty four megatons each, crashed fifteen miles from Goldsboro. The experts of the Ministry of Defense, who arrived at the scene, were amazed. Of the six safety devices that were sequentially put into action in order to cause a chain reaction, five exploded when the plane exploded. Miracle saved all residents of the state from the fate of Hiroshima.
Monstrous in its banality was the cause of the accident in Damascus (USA), which occurred on 20 in September of 1980. A technician performing maintenance work, accidentally dropped a wrench that fell on the fuel tank of the Titan II ballistic missile and successfully pierced it. There was a leakage of fuel components, followed by an explosion of vapors of the resulting substance. He was so strong that the shock wave tore off the cover of a rocket mine weighing seven hundred forty tons, and the nine-megaton rocket itself was thrown two hundred meters in height, taking it outside the site where its technological service was carried out. During the incident, one person died, more than twenty were injured of varying degrees of severity. But the main thing was that the warhead was quickly and timely disposed of, and the fatal explosion was once again miraculously avoided.
Accidents involving nuclear-powered submarines occurring in the depths of the sea periodically become the subject of violent condemnation of the world community. As a rule, a certain veil of secrecy remains around them for a long time, and the details of what happened become known only after many years or remain forever closed. One of the most dangerous was the situation that occurred during the collision of the 21 March 1984 of the American aircraft carrier in the Sea of Japan, carrying several dozens of nuclear warheads, with the Soviet Victor K-314 nuclear submarine (671 project), which was equipped two nuclear torpedoes. Fortunately, as a result of the collision, the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk received only a minor underwater hole and was able to safely move along the course. Less fortunate for the crew of a Soviet submarine, forced to carry out an emergency ascent and drift several days in anticipation of the anti-submarine ship Petropavlovsk, which towed it to the place of repair. In this case, the loss of nuclear carriers was avoided.
But in the 1989 year in the northern Atlantic at a depth of thousands of seven hundred meters the Soviet submarine Komsomolets sank along with two torpedoes equipped with nuclear warheads. This dangerous load remained lying deep at the bottom of the ocean. And to the east of Okinawa Island in the Pacific Ocean, at a depth of almost five thousand meters, an American nuclear-powered airplane that crashed on board during a fall into the water rested on the 4 December, 1965-th. Two more American torpedoes with nuclear carriers along with a sunken submarine lie in the Atlantic Ocean near the Azores from 1968 year.
The cases described show a far from complete picture of the most dangerous “surprises” scattered around the world in the last century, but they also make it possible to realize the scale of the danger that even in the world is exposed to the biosphere of our planet.
After the events of September 11, anxiety about warheads resting in different parts of the world intensified due to fears of the possibility of such dangerous weapons falling into the hands of terrorists who could independently lift them from the bottom of the sea. However, experts consider such fears to be groundless, because terrorist organizations do not have the necessary equipment and capabilities of the military, who have not been able to recover the lost bombs and neutralize their dangerous contents.
It only remains to add that today the augmentation and protection of natural resources for the benefit of future generations is the most important duty of all the inhabitants of the Earth. We share our only planet with other states and nations, so international cooperation based on the principles of mutual benefit and equality, respect for nature, and limiting the damage caused to it is an urgent task. Nature is irreplaceable and united, but even the shrouded guns are becoming more and more dangerous for her.