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Five Times the US Almost Nuked Itself

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the stopping-there-for-brevity dept.

The Military 384

kdawson writes "io9 has a scary outline of five times the US came close to accidental nuclear disasters. Quoting: 'In August of 1950, ten B-29 Superfortress bombers took off from what was then called Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base in California, headed for Guam. Each was carrying a Mark IV atom bomb, which was about twice as powerful as the bombs dropped on Japan at the end of World War II. Shortly after takeoff, one of the B-29s had engine trouble. On board was General Robert Travis. He commanded the plane to turn back to the base when the landing gear refused to retract. Sensing the plane was going down, the pilot tried to avoid some base housing before crashing at the northwest corner of the base. The initial impact killed 12 of the 20 people aboard, including General Travis. The resulting fire eventually detonated the 5,000 pounds of conventional explosives that were part of the Mark IV. That massive explosion killed seven people on the ground. Had the bomb been armed with its fissile capsule, the immediate death toll may have reached six figures.'"

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384 comments

The good news (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919314)

These people will soon be in charge of health care.

Re:The good news (5, Informative)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919394)

Not really. Unlike the UK, almost all doctors in America are private practice doctors and not on government salary. The same with hospitals, a mix of private and local/state public hospitals. The health care reform legislation passed is mainly for insurance; the government won't change its control of doctors or which private plans people choose. So the government really isn't in charge of health care, although they've taken a more regulatory role in insurance.

Re:The good news (5, Funny)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919426)

Not really. Unlike the UK, almost all doctors in America are private practice doctors and not on government salary. The same with hospitals, a mix of private and local/state public hospitals. The health care reform legislation passed is mainly for insurance; the government won't change its control of doctors or which private plans people choose. So the government really isn't in charge of health care, although they've taken a more regulatory role in insurance.

While factual, your post goes against the narrative we're trying to push here. Expect to be modded into oblivion.

Re:The good news (2, Interesting)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919590)

I see a lot of comments like this immediately following things modded to +5. It seems the Slashdot Groupthink is less powerful than some might imagine.

Re:The good news (5, Insightful)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919660)

It's got nothing to do with group-think. Apparently some people have a persecution-complex, even though their views match the popular opinion. Not sure how that happens, but it seems to be quite common.

Re:The good news (3, Informative)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919540)

He who regulates something, runs it.

Re:The good news (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919630)

He who regulates something, runs it.

As far as medical insurance goes, it really hasn't been handled well by private industry. Ideally, we all pool, and all receive care. The private insurance industry has caused a health class divide to develop; on one side, we have people who get medical care, and on the other, those who don't. Like education, healthcare is a basic need.

Sadly, the legislature really didn't do what those who elected them wanted them to do, which was get the insurance companies out of the system entirely. The current half-measures... they're not going to work.

Re:The good news (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919576)

General practitioners, who form the vast majority of doctors in the UK, are not on a government salary either. A doctor's practice is a private business that bills the government for NHS treatments. (Which is why there is no problem with your doctor providing private treatments; he's not a government employee.)

Our situations are more similar than you think.

Re:The good news (3, Informative)

canadian_right (410687) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919658)

Kind of like Canada. The government pays doctors, builds and run hospitals, chooses what procedures are covered, but has no say in which doctor you use. I can use whatever doctor, at whatever clinic, at whatever hospital I want. The doctor doesn't have to worry about a "pre-existing" condition invalidating my insurance, or about caps, or co-pays.

Still not happy, and have lots of money? nothing stopping you form flying to the states, and there are private clinics up here too.

Yes, really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919666)

He who pays for the thing, controls the thing. The government has just increased its control over how health care gets paid for to over 50%. Yes, it has not yet legislated itself as the single proprietor and employer of doctors, but it legislated itself a strong controlling interest in what will be paid for and how much.

Re:The good news (5, Insightful)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919436)

These people will soon be in charge of health care.

This statement brought to you by the people who brought you the quote, "The government better keep its hands off my Medicare!"

Re:The good news (-1, Flamebait)

pgmrdlm (1642279) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919556)

This statement brought to you by someone that feels that the post office will always run at a profit, who was extremely happy on how the recovery effort was run for Hurricane Katrina, and had no complaints about how President Obama's administration performed the clean up from the Gulf spill.

The hypocrisy of Slashdot strikes again.

Re:The good news (3, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919614)

You mean the people who through prudent safety protocols managed to not have a single accidental detonation of the most dangerous weapons ever made? It's too bad they won't actually be in charge.

Instead, we've left health care in the hands of the civilian sector which HAS had actual accidental radiation leakage from time to time (though to be fair it wasn't that much) and isn't trusted with the weapons.

Re:The good news (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919764)

Which people? The ones who died? The ones who survived?

Or maybe you mean the ones whose nuclear handling procedures successfully prevented an accidental detonation in the even of an airplane crash?

Sensationalist story with absurd summary is absurd. Trying to twist that story into a 'government is incompetent' narrative is like wearing your shoes on the wrong feet. The incident in the summary is a prime example of government properly instituting and following critical safety protocols--or are you going to suggest that only government planes have ever crashed?

Darwin awards (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919336)

"That massive explosion killed seven people on the ground. Had the bomb been armed with its fissile capsule, the immediate death toll may have reached six figures."

Re:Darwin awards (2, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919742)

So the safety features worked as designed.

Bombs were not armed. The critical igniter capsule which was designed to be installed just prior to attack was not in the bombs, as per design and regulations, yet you are handing out Darwin awards?

Um, not quite.... (5, Informative)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919340)

In the case of the Travis accident, there was no nuclear disaster precisely because the nuclear core was not loaded. The Air Force was all too aware of the number of B-29's that crashed on or shortly after takeoff and never armed the weapons until they were close to the target area. To call this a "close call" is simply fear mongering to get page hits.

Re:Um, not quite.... (5, Insightful)

ustolemyname (1301665) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919354)

Agreed. Real lesson of the article: The government is competent at risk management.

Re:Um, not quite.... (1)

aekafan (1690920) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919472)

and it's corollary: Incompetent at calculating risk

Re:Um, not quite.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919526)

and it's corollary: Incompetent at calculating risk

Did you mean "it is corollary" or "it has corollary"? The use of the apostrophe to denote the contraction of "it is" or "it has" is rather ambiguous in this context.

Re:Um, not quite.... (5, Interesting)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919710)

It strikes me that Tybee Island and Travis Air Force Base belong more on a "times safety systems stopped a disaster effectively exactly as they were designed to" list.

Fermi 1 could also fall in that catagory.

"Had the bomb been armed with its fissile capsule" could be replaced with "had the bomb contained a black hole or killer vampire ghost" and be about as scary. it wasn't armed for exactly that kind of situation.

Tybee Island strikes me in a similar manner.

Re:Um, not quite.... (4, Funny)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919882)

"Had the bomb been armed with its fissile capsule" could be replaced with "had the bomb contained a black hole or killer vampire ghost" and be about as scary. it wasn't armed for exactly that kind of situation.

Wait, wait, wait.... So you're saying that the US has bombs with vampire ghost payloads now? AND black holes?!!

Yep (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919946)

Pretty much all this shows is that, at least when it comes to nukes, the safety systems are pretty good. Almost nuking yourself means something like "The bomb was going to detonate, but a technician was able to defuse it in time." Not "A bomb was in a perfectly safe condition when the airplane it was on crashed and the bomb did not go off."

Even the NORAD incident. It wasn't a case of one lone guy staving off a nuclear strike while his superiors yelled for launch (as happened in the Soviet Union). It looked like an attack was happening, so things went to high alert. Everyone was ready. What did they do? They WAITED FOR CONFIRMATION. When it turned out that it was a false alarm, they stood down. That is precisely how things should happen. They didn't ignore ti and go "Eh, probably just a bug," but they didn't go full out WW3 for no reason. On the warning, everything got ready to go, but confirmation was needed. For that matter, even had there been confirmation an order would still have been needed.

To me, looks like the US has pretty damn good nuclear safeguards. If the best "almosts" they can find were things when nothing even came close to actually going wrong that is good.

Hell look on the civilian side, at Three Mile Island. The "Worst nuclear disaster in US history." Even with a rather major screwup making the problem so much worse, something the NRC discovered, it still didn't release any significant amount of radiation, not enough to cause any adverse health effects (and it has been studied for decades now). That's pretty fucking good, if the worst it gets is a case of "Nobody got hurt."

Exactly. Thank you for your clarity. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919356)

This is a non-story and a waste of time.

Re:Um, not quite.... (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919358)

But if you take that away, what will the anti-nuke people say? I mean seriously, the people that argue against nuclear whatever tend not to bother with the science and reality and focus on nightmare scenarios which already have reliable procedures in place to prevent.

Re:Um, not quite.... (4, Funny)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919446)

So what you're saying is that this bomb is perfectly safe?

Re:Um, not quite.... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919532)

So what you're saying is that this bomb is perfectly safe?

In a word, yes.

A nuke without a pit is like a gun with neither a firing pin nor a bullet in it. Just because it's long, thin, and you can still point it at someone and say "Bang!", doesn't mean it's anything more than a metal tube.

This article is FUD.

Re:Um, not quite.... (1)

Peach Rings (1782482) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919966)

Even if it had its core inside, you can't start a runaway fission reaction by throwing the thing into a fire. They needed high-performance switching electronics to even achieve the kind of precision necessary to start a successful detonation. An atomic bomb is just a normal bomb unless the fissile material is held at critical mass for some time.

Re:Um, not quite.... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919534)

So what you're saying is that this bomb is perfectly safe?

Given that the Guam bomb was designed to blow up and destroy stuff, I don't think "perfectly safe" makes sense as a criteria. An analogy are guns. Guns rarely injure people while used properly. The problems are that either guns are used improperly (I gather virtually all accidental shootings are of this form) or used intentionally to kill people.

Re:Um, not quite.... (5, Informative)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919668)

"Perfectly safe" is a quote from the Douglas Adams' short story, "Young Zaphod Plays it safe." He is sent to recover the wreck of a starship which was supposed to get rid of phenomenally awful waste. The government flunkies with him refer to everything as being, "perfectly safe," even when it is clearly not.

Re:Um, not quite.... (4, Funny)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919690)

Guns rarely injure people while used properly.

Uh. I'm not sure what kind of guns you've been using, but if they're not injuring people you need to go ask for your money back.

Re:Um, not quite.... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919708)

Uh. I'm not sure what kind of guns you've been using, but if they're not injuring people you need to go ask for your money back.

I meant guns rarely harm the user. How many cool points did I lose there?

Re:Um, not quite.... (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919902)

How many cool points did I lose there?

I am not sure you can take something away from nothing and still have something. I thought I figured out a way once, but I woke up the next morning with a wicked hangover and had forgotten how.

Re:Um, not quite.... (3, Funny)

aGuyNamedJoe (317081) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919782)

Guns rarely injure people while used properly.

Uh. I'm not sure what kind of guns you've been using, but if they're not injuring people you need to go ask for your money back.

Just like with axes, eh?

  -- Lizzie

Re:Um, not quite.... (0, Offtopic)

flyneye (84093) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919618)

Nothing compared to me leaving the Asian Buffet stuffed with 5 plates of who knows wtf is in it and too much wassabe. I'll be droppin bombs that'll take out much of my neighborhood all weekend!
        You could say its Hiroshimas revenge.

Re:Um, not quite.... (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919636)

When it's fitted with the dummy pit? Still not absolutely safe since it contains RDX, but it's no worse than conventional munitions at that point.

Re:Um, not quite.... (5, Funny)

flyneye (84093) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919586)

Funny you should mention "anti-nuke" people and make me recall one of my fav' Pete Townsend quotes
"I'm really for nuclear energy, but I haven't told anyone because I'm still hoping to fuck Jane Fonda" -P.T. circa 1980

Re:Um, not quite.... (4, Informative)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919360)

Seriously, It was my understanding that you could blow up bombs around the nukes and besides the explosives included with the bomb, the actual "atomic" parts were inert. This was by design, so this article should be praising how the device worked by design, not trying to spin it like OMG we almost nuked ourselves.

Re:Um, not quite.... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919684)

The basic principle of a nuke is that a mass of fissionable material is put in a sufficiently small volume to create a runaway chain reaction. What makes it a bomb is that the material is "compressed" quickly enough that the beginning chain reaction does not cause most of the material to vaporize and leave the containment early. It's like the difference between a firecracker and a small amount of black powder on a piece of paper. One goes boom, the other fizzles.

Even though a nuclear bomb will not detonate without the proper application of force through conventional explosives, it still contains plenty radioactive and highly toxic material. I would not call that "inert" at all. One "broken arrow" [wikipedia.org] incident still affects an area in Spain more than 40 years later.

Re:Um, not quite.... (2, Insightful)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919702)

With the newer designs, yeah, that's how it works. Some of the older designs were a lot easier to detonate, though. The gun-type would be particularly easy to set off.

Re:Um, not quite.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919832)

Which we haven't used since Hiroshima. Nagasaki was an implosion. Deployed weapons have all been implosion since then.

Re:Um, not quite.... (5, Informative)

ColdBoot (89397) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919390)

Agree - I used to work on nukes - they are designed to disperse, not detonate, on anything other than a properly sequenced detonation.

Plus Nuke Plants... (4, Informative)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919428)

In addition nuclear plants cannot cause nuclear explosions so while the US may have come close to contaminating areas there was zero danger of a nuclear explosion in such cases.

Re:Um, not quite.... (5, Insightful)

aekafan (1690920) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919430)

I would agree with this. We have come far closer to nuking ourselves through intentional political will than any accident.

Re:Um, not quite.... (5, Informative)

zrbyte (1666979) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919544)

A real close call was this. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Um, not quite.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919692)

"I did nothing." - Stanislav Petrov

Re:Um, not quite.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919806)

This might be silly but there was no such thing as Russian Federation in 1983.

Re:Um, not quite.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919876)

So the first one is excusable, but the "intruder alert" alarm, being mis-wired to the "holy crap launch the nukes" alarm is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. People often think the military is somehow above the rest of the stigma of being a government employee. I can assure you, it's not. Some very smart people put in some very good checks and balances that keep
  this from happening... usually.

Re:Um, not quite.... (3, Informative)

BudAaron (1231468) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919912)

As a past holder of TSBI and AEC Q clearances I can tell you that the idiot who wrote these stories hasn't a clue what he's talking about. Comp C burns but doesn't explode unless a detonater is used. I won't go into whether or not or when the "nuclear core" is inserted but I can tell you that without a carefully detonated implosion nothing would ever happen. The China Syndrome is science fiction so this is all fear mongering for the effect. All bull.... and I DO know what I'm talking about.

Insulting to real nuke victims at worst... (5, Insightful)

VendettaMF (629699) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919346)

>> Had the bomb been armed with its fissile capsule, the immediate death toll may have reached six figures.

So now we see why the bomb wasn't "armed with its fissile capsule", don't we?
Seriously, sad about the lives lost at the time an all, but to describe this as "almost nuked America" is facetious at best. This being the example chosen to represent the articles contents (and so probably the "best" of the incidents) I see no reason to read any further.

This is no more "nearly nuked" than the making of the movie "Broken Arrow". After all, they had props that looked like nukes in that. What if there's been a mix-up somewhere along the line? OMG! Nearly nuked America again!

Re:Insulting to real nuke victims at worst... (1)

irtza (893217) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919816)

Right, so you are trying to say that we need to stop Hollywood? I am all for it!

Unfortunately, I think most people will think you are being sarcastic and I am just going for a "funny" mod. I am quite serious, but I will take the funny since people may actually get to see my post about how hollywood has gone too far and we need more exposure of indie films, but now I fear I am off topic.

If, if and more if (3, Insightful)

Fenresulven (516459) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919352)

Had the bomb been armed with its fissile capsule, the immediate death toll may have reached six figures.

And maybe that's the reason the fissile material wasn't inserted into the bomb? And in any event I'd be very surprised if the fire caused the explosives to detonate sufficently simoultaneously to actually cause anything more than a fizzle.

Re:If, if and more if (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919628)

I was going to say that, too, but some of the early bombs were gun-type devices, which are a tad more forgiving on the explosives, at a cost of being frickin' expensive to obtain the materials for, and I don't think the article specified which it was.

Re:If, if and more if (1)

Fenresulven (516459) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919794)

It was a Mk-4, basically an improved Fat Man design, but using a composite Uranium/Plutonium core with a levitated pit. Obviously not a gun-type. As a matter of fact I don't think the US had any gun-type devices in service during 1950, the T-1 demolition bomb was withdrawn from service before then and the Mk-8 had not yet entered production.

nukes do not work that way (5, Informative)

klparrot (549422) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919370)

IANANP, but AFAIK a regular explosion or fire will not set off a nuclear weapon. The trigger explosion has to be carefully controlled, otherwise it'll just blow apart the nuclear material instead of compressing it to supercritical. That's why it's so hard to build a nuke. Crashing with a nuke is at worst going to spread some nuclear material over a small area, in the same way that any other material in the crash would be. No nuclear explosion.

Re:nukes do not work that way (5, Informative)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919434)

That's generally true, and the only weapon ever deployed that was prone to going off in an crash was probably Little Boy (that later went off on purpose over Hiroshima). The Mark IV, however, was probably somewhat more prone to accidental detonation that any of the others, which is why the core was inserted in-flight. Later, preventing accidental detonation became a serious issue and a lot of the later tests were negative tests to ensure that the safety features worked correctly.

          Full details of each type of bomb and the underlying design can be found at : http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/ [nuclearweaponarchive.org]

          Brett

curious (4, Funny)

rarel (697734) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919372)

Did they try dropping the B29 from orbit? It's the only way to be sure...

Re:curious (4, Insightful)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919746)

I think this Xenu guy tried that once, though I believe it was a different model of airplane.

Wew, thank god. (5, Funny)

orphiuchus (1146483) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919382)

This reminds me of the time the US was almost attacked by giant killer terrorist robots. Luckily, Osama didn't invent and deploy them, otherwise the death toll could have been in the 9 figures.

Re:Wew, thank god. (4, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919512)

This reminds me of the time the US was almost attacked by giant killer terrorist robots. Luckily, Osama didn't invent and deploy them, otherwise the death toll could have been in the 9 figures.

Ironically, that's kind of what happened with both the recent Times Square Bomber and the London nightclub carbomb back in 2007 - neither of the bombers built anything particularly dangerous. In both cases the bombs lacked oxidizers (and other things too) - which meant that at best they might blow the windows out of the car the bomb was in. But all the politicians were eager to make hay and said exactly the same sort of thing, "if the bomb had exploded it could have killed thousands!"

Re:Wew, thank god. (1)

orphiuchus (1146483) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919596)

Ironically, that's kind of what happened with both the recent Times Square Bomber and the London nightclub carbomb back in 2007 - neither of the bombers built anything particularly dangerous. In both cases the bombs lacked oxidizers (and other things too) - which meant that at best they might blow the windows out of the car the bomb was in. But all the politicians were eager to make hay and said exactly the same sort of thing, "if the bomb had exploded it could have killed thousands!"

Certainly, just imagine if zombie Heisenberg had risen from the grave, converted to extremist Islam, and helped those bombers with new gamma powered death devices? The horror.

Re:Wew, thank god. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919538)

Obama. Fixed that for ya.

Sincerely,

Glenn Beck

I am surprised this does list the Spanish one (2, Insightful)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919388)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1966_Palomares_B-52_crash [wikipedia.org]

Not one, 4 hydrogen bombs. 2 of them actually detonated on impact. Probably the worst USA nuclear weapons incident in history.

Re:I am surprised this does list the Spanish one (5, Informative)

orphiuchus (1146483) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919408)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1966_Palomares_B-52_crash [wikipedia.org]

Not one, 4 hydrogen bombs. 2 of them actually detonated on impact. Probably the worst USA nuclear weapons incident in history.

Only the conventional portions detonated, that's a pretty important omission there.

Re:I am surprised this does list the Spanish one (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919518)

To further elaborate, unless the conventional explosives detonate in the correct sequence, the chance that a nuclear explosion will occur is effectively 0. Just smashing into the ground and detonating because of the shock is NOT how you trigger an atomic bomb.

Plutonium doesn't even make a half-way decent dirty bomb. You'd be better off with Cobalt 60 or something along those lines.

Re:I am surprised this does list the Spanish one (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919662)

It's called modern journalism ...

Re:I am surprised this does list the Spanish one (1)

MokuMokuRyoushi (1701196) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919588)

This article is about almost nuking ourselves. Spanish and completed incidents have no place here, sonny Jim.

Re:I am surprised this does list the Spanish one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919650)

Nobody expects the spani.... Ah, nevermind.

it's difficult to set off a nuke (4, Informative)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919400)

If the fission capsule were in there, it most likely would not have gone off. With a implosion bomb (fat man style, as the Mark IV was), all the explosive has to go off at the same time, to very close accurate (picoseconds). If some goes off first, it just blows the core apart instead of pushing it to supercriticality.That is, if the core weren't scattered in the crash before the fire set off the explosives anyway.

Basically, you would have had a dirty bomb, no more.

Now, a little boy (uranium gun-type) bomb can go off by accidentally more easily, but getting the material for those is so difficult that few are made.

Re:it's difficult to set off a nuke (3, Informative)

NouberNou (1105915) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919600)

Gun types are not made because they are inefficient and unsafe, not because the fissile material in them is hard to get.

Wow this is a terrible piece of work. (5, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919402)

So none of these times did we almost nuked our self...
The first on in 1950 at Travis the bomb wasn't armed. AKA it had no nuclear material in it.
So there was zero chance that we would get nuked.
The second at Fermi 1. A reactor problem that was contained and couldn't have caused a nuclear explosion as in a bomb going off. It could have been bad but the systems worked.
The third was another un armed bomb.
The forth another reactor problem and again the emergency systems worked and no chance of a bomb like blast.
The last was a when a training tap was played on real systems. Yes air craft where launched and that mistake was never made again but the the safety systems and procedures worked.
What is this a piece of FUD? Good at scaring children ,people that will not bother to read, and those that are already full of fear mindless fear. Move on nothing to see here.

Re:Wow this is a terrible piece of work. (4, Informative)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919548)

Hah, notice the submitter - kdawson! When he isn't posting complete crap, he's submitting it :)

Re:Wow this is a terrible piece of work. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919830)

Nope I missed it. Can we moderate down submitters? He is an anti-nuclear crack pot of the first order.

Lucky for us (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919406)

It's a good thing that those aliens have ben monitoring our nukes.

5 times ... that we know of (2, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919432)

I wonder how many other times good risk management and fail-safes prevented a nuclear disaster?

To err is human, to err without planning for eventual mistakes can be criminally negligent homicide.

Re:5 times ... that we know of (0)

orphiuchus (1146483) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919466)

I wonder how many other times good risk management and fail-safes prevented a nuclear disaster?...

How about all 5 times listed in the article?

Re:5 times ... that we know of (2, Informative)

MokuMokuRyoushi (1701196) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919642)

I wonder how many other times good risk management and fail-safes prevented a nuclear disaster?

How about reading classes?

not to mention the US is the most nuked country (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919464)

Or at least one of the top two.

It has nuked itself on quite a number of occasions, often in Nevada. It hasn't done this for a long time now, but it used to.

Scary scary oooh nuclear we're all gonna die! But somehow, against all odds, life on the planet survived the repeated nuking of Nevada. It was a slim chance! How we made it through, god only knows. Good thing luck was on our side.

Captcha: TARGET.

Re:not to mention the US is the most nuked country (2, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919530)

US is the most nuked country.

1,054 tests by official count (involving at least 1,151 devices, 331 atmospheric tests), most at Nevada Test Site and the Pacific Proving Grounds in the Marshall Islands, with ten other tests taking place at various locations in the United States, including Amchitka Alaska, Colorado, Mississippi, and New Mexico.

928 at Nevada Test Site, 105 atmospheric at Pacific Proving Ground, two underwater at Pacific Proving Ground, one underwater 500 miles from California.

715 for the Soviet Union.

Fear mongering? (4, Informative)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919562)

A an accidental detonation from a bomb twice the size dropped on Japan would not result in " immediate death toll" that " may have reached six figures".

In 1950, the population of Fairfield was around 3000. I don't know the size of the air force base, but I don't think it was close to the 6 figure range (today it has 15K military and civilian workers, it may have been higher during the cold war). Suisun City today has a fraction of the population of Fairfield.

Just 3km from the hypocenter of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, most structures withstood the blast and most people that were indoors survived the initial blast.

And that bomb detonated at an altitude of 500m to maximize destruction. An accidental surface detonation in an airplane crash is going to have a much smaller destructive zone, even though the bomb is twice as powerful. So even if that bomb had detonated in the crash, there would be survivors even on the airbase itself.

Even in a 1 megaton blast (50 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Nagasaki) , there's a 75% survival rate just 7.5 miles from the blast.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/sfeature/1mtblast.html [pbs.org]

So even if a a 1 Megaton accidental detonation occurred in the NW corner of the base today, it wouldn't cause an immediate 6 figure death toll.

This, of course, this ignores the long term deaths and illness caused by radiation exposure.

Re:Fear mongering? (2, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919954)

Any theorizing about the possible results of a nuclear detonation ignores the basic fact that the military wasn't incredibly stupid. The bomb wasn't armed and therefore there was no possiblity of it going off.

Now in the bad old days "arming" the bomb did not consist of throwing a switch but actually putting the uranium or plutonium into the bomb. So there was no dependency on any sort of fail-safe mechanism. It was impossible for a crash to detonate the bomb. These things were shipped and transported taken-apart so nothing like an accidental detonation could possibly occur.

When a plane was sent out to drop one on an enemy installation the bomb would be armed on the way, after the plane was flying and everyone was reasonably certain it would continue to do so.

Yes, in the area of nuclear stuff some fairly silly things were done, but the military was quite well aware of the consequences of a plane crash and what would happen if there was a nuclear detonation anywhere on US soil. So it was made certain that nothing like that could happen, period.

Now, could something bad have happened if a plane was carrying an armed bomb over Russia and it got shot down? Sure. Anywhere up to and including an absolute certainity that the bomb would go off because the crew set it off rather than have it and the plane fall into enemy hands. But remember, no nuclear armed bomber ever went into Russian airspace.

creators' newclear powered rescue still on (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919604)

there's no other way out but up for most of US.

the corepirate nazi holycost (life, liberty etc...) is increasing by the
minute. you call this 'weather'?

continue to add immeasurable amounts of MISinformation, rhetoric & fluff,
& there you have IT? that's US? thou shalt not... oh forget it. fake
weather (censored?), fake money, fake god(s), what's next? fake ?aliens?
ahhaha. seeing as we (have been told that) came from monkeys, the only
possible clue we would have to anything being out of order, we would get
from the weather. that, & all the other monkeys tipping over/exploding
around US.

the search continues; on any search engine

weather+manipulation

bush+cheney+wolfowitz+rumsfeld+wmd+oil+freemason+blair+obama+weather+authors

meanwhile (as it may take a while longer to finish wrecking this place);
the corepirate nazi illuminati (remember, (we have been told) we came from
monkeys, & 'they' believe they DIDN'T), continues to demand that we learn
to live on less/nothing while they continue to consume/waste/destroy
immeasurable amounts of stuff/life, & feast on nubile virgins while
worshipping themselves (& evile in general (baal to be exact)). they're
always hunting that patch of red on almost everyones' neck. if they cannot
find yours (greed, fear ego etc...) then you can go starve. that's their
(slippery/slimy) 'platform' now. see also:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisocial_personality_disorder [wikipedia.org]

never a better time to consult with/trust in our creators. the lights are
coming up rapidly all over now. see you there?

greed, fear & ego (in any order) are unprecedented evile's primary
weapons. those, along with deception & coercion, helps most of us remain
(unwittingly?) dependent on its' life0cidal hired goons' agenda. most of
our dwindling resources are being squandered on the 'wars', & continuation
of the billionerrors stock markup FraUD/pyramid schemes. nobody ever
mentions the real long term costs of those debacles in both life & any
notion of prosperity for us, or our children. not to mention the abuse of
the consciences of those of us who still have one, & the terminal damage
to our atmosphere/planet (see also: manufactured 'weather', hot etc...).
see you on the other side of it? the lights are coming up all over now.
the fairytail is winding down now. let your conscience be your guide. you
can be more helpful than you might have imagined. we now have some
choices. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on your
brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day.
there's lots going on up there.

"The current rate of extinction is around 10 to 100 times the usual
background level, and has been elevated above the background level since
the Pleistocene. The current extinction rate is more rapid than in any
other extinction event in earth history, and 50% of species could be
extinct by the end of this century. While the role of humans is unclear in
the longer-term extinction pattern, it is clear that factors such as
deforestation, habitat destruction, hunting, the introduction of
non-native species, pollution and climate change have reduced biodiversity
profoundly.' (wiki)

"I think the bottom line is, what kind of a world do you want to leave for
your children," Andrew Smith, a professor in the Arizona State University
School of Life Sciences, said in a telephone interview. "How impoverished
we would be if we lost 25 percent of the world's mammals," said Smith, one
of more than 100 co-authors of the report. "Within our lifetime hundreds
of species could be lost as a result of our own actions, a frightening
sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live," added Julia
Marton-Lefevre, IUCN director general. "We must now set clear targets for
the future to reverse this trend to ensure that our enduring legacy is not
to wipe out many of our closest relatives."--

"The wealth of the universe is for me. Every thing is explicable and
practical for me .... I am defeated all the time; yet to victory I am
born." --emerson

no need to confuse 'religion' with being a spiritual being. our soul
purpose here is to care for one another. failing that, we're simply
passing through (excess baggage) being distracted/consumed by the
guaranteed to fail illusionary trappings of man'kind'. & recently (about
10,000 years ago) it was determined that hoarding & excess by a few,
resulted in negative consequences for all.

consult with/trust in your creators. providing more than enough of
everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain
motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply
of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

all the manuals say we're not to kill each other, & we're mandated to care
for/about one another, before any other notion will succeed. one does not
need to agree whois 'in charge' to grasp the possibility that there may be
some assistance available to us, including from each other. there's also
the question of frequent extreme 'distractions' preventing us from
following the simple 'directions' we were given, along with everything we
needed to accomplish our task. see you there?
boeing, boeing, gone.

Supercritical (1)

Tteddo (543485) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919672)

Kudos to using the correct term supercritical instead of critical like they do in the movies.

Godzilla (4, Funny)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919676)

I was nearly incinerated by Godzilla yesterday! I remember it well. The only thing that saved me is that there was no fire and Godzilla wasn't actually there!

Man, what a relief that was!

Five times the US almost (not) nuked itself (1)

NonSenseAgency (1759800) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919686)

Sorry folks, but "nuking" oneself is not as easy as this article tries to make it sound. If you define "nuking" as meaning setting off a Nuclear explosion rather than just making a radioactive mess of the area. All these accidents would never have resulted in the detonation of a nuclear device. At the very worst, detonating the conventional explosions by ANY method except the devices triggering mechanism would simply scatter radioactive debris for a few hundred yards. It is HARD to create a nuclear explosion. If it was as easy as this author tries to have you believe, Iran would have had the bomb in 1969.....

Key words--if it had been armed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919730)

Are they saying there was no fissile material on board at all? Then it's just a plane crash. Even if the material was on board, the bomb was not armed. I don't know what's involved in arming a nuke. Perhaps something has to be inserted into it, and it's physicly impossible to have critical mass without that something.

Of course we should still be careful with this stuff, but this seems just a bit sensationalist... oh... it's Slashdot.

Anyway, interesting bit. I guess this is why it's called Travis AFB now.

Hyperbole is the new Journalism (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919802)

Seriously, this is one of the most significant mischaracterizations I've ever seen on slashdot.

US defense spending too much (0, Offtopic)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919864)

The US spends over $1 trillion on defense. More than the rest of the world combined. It needs to be reduced by a large percentage.

Re:US defense spending too much (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919960)

The US spends over $1 trillion on defense. More than the rest of the world combined. It needs to be increased by a large percentage.

Iran... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33919870)

So now we don't have to be afraid of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons anymore. Hell, we should even give them to them!

Keeping unarmed weapons (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#33919916)

The initial impact killed 12 of the 20 people aboard, including General Travis. The resulting fire eventually detonated the 5,000 pounds of conventional explosives that were part of the Mark IV. That massive explosion killed seven people on the ground. Had the bomb been armed with its fissile capsule, the immediate death toll may have reached six figures."

This is like calling gun movies where actors fire off blanks "Five times hollywood firms almost massacred their staff." As a demonstration that gun movies should not be allowed to be made.

If the US was not handling things properly and carefully, there would be no concept of Arming the weapon. Everything would simply be always armed.

This concept of 'arming' and 'disarming' is a special protection measure designed to prevent accidental activation, and the measure did exactly what it's supposed to do.

Show me a case where a plane crashed with an armed weapon over friendly or neutral area, and i'll agree with you, maybe.

Hell... show me a case where a plane flew over friendly airspace with a nuke armed, and i'll agree with you about incompetence.

This article shows neither.

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