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(Some Guy)   "Missing" thermo-nuclear bomb may have been found. In other news, there are missing hydrogen bombs   ( divider line
    More: Scary  
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20008 clicks; posted to Main » on 16 Sep 2004 at 6:19 PM (13 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2004-09-16 11:03:11 AM  
May 2, 2004

Thanks for the up to date information.
2004-09-16 11:03:12 AM  
Atomic and Hydrogen bombs have experation dates.

No joke. (Any radioactive materials have a half-life. Two or three of these half lives will be long enough for the residual energy of extra protons to leak out.)
2004-09-16 11:05:05 AM  
Now if Hurricane Jeanne would get with it and target the Savannah area, we might get the answer to whether a nuclear bomb can stop a hurricane....

/brings new meaning to the phrase Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
2004-09-16 11:23:31 AM  
"I don't know what's scarier, losing nuclear weapons, or that it happens so often that there's actually a term for it."

From the movie Broken Arrow
2004-09-16 11:39:20 AM  
Why would they train with real (albeit disarmed) nuclear bombs? Why not something, I dunno, a little LESS INSANE, that simulates the weight and dimensions?
2004-09-16 11:41:41 AM  
ceebeecates4 Atomic and Hydrogen bombs have experation dates. No joke. (Any radioactive materials have a half-life. Two or three of these half lives will be long enough for the residual energy of extra protons to leak out.)

Except that the half life of plutonium is around 24,000 years, and as for uranium.

"uranium-234: half life = 244 thousand years, 0.0055% of all uranium.
uranium-235: half life = 704 million years, 0.72% of all uranium.
uranium-238: half life = 4.5 billion years, 99.28% of all uranium."
2004-09-16 12:03:56 PM  
ceebeecates4 Atomic and Hydrogen bombs have experation dates.

Except that the half life of plutonium is around 24,000 years, and as for uranium.

Not to mention that even though they may no longer be capable of a fission or fusion reactions, it takes at least 13 half lives for the element to no longer be dangerously radioactive. So set your watches - in only 312,000 years we can play with the plutonium in these bombs!
2004-09-16 12:20:46 PM  
Here's the story when the source gets farked:

Caught a blip of this on one of those annoying news scrollers so thought I'd stir up an old story (long) which may be soon coming to a conclusion. Here's the back ground, the link below is the more recent finding...
May 2, 2004

H-bomb off Georgia coast: Is it a danger?

By Chelsea Carter
The Associated Press

WASSAW ISLAND, Ga. - The 20-foot Boston Whaler bobs in the swells of Wassaw Sound off Savannah. The engines grumble as Derek Duke peers over the stern. This, he says, is the place.

There seems to be nothing special out here. But beneath the ocean floor near this city, an aluminum cylinder lies entombed in silt. It's like an 11-foot-long bullet with a snub nose and four stubby fins. Written on it, its name: ``No. 47782.'' Enclosed in its metal skin: 400 pounds of conventional explosives and a quantity of bomb-grade uranium.

No. 47782 is an H-bomb - a Mark 15, Mod 0, one of the earliest thermonuclear devices developed by the United States. It has rested off Savannah since 1958.

It might well have remained a footnote to Cold War history were it not for the man on the boat and his one question: Is it a danger?

Stories resurface

As a child growing up near Savannah, Derek Duke, now 58, heard the story: A pilot was forced to jettison an H-bomb bomb near Tybee, one of city's barrier islands, after a midair collision.

But it wasn't until 1998, when he stumbled onto some old news stories about the ``Tybee Bomb'' while surfing the Web, that Duke became intrigued by it.

He searched the Internet and local newspaper archives. He read the limited information available about the bomb. Many details, including the amount of uranium it contained, remain classified.

By 1999, he began contacting others who might know something about the case. He talked to residents who lived in the area. He wrote letters requesting unclassified documents.

Then Duke looked up the pilot.

Howard Richardson was surprised by the telephone call from Duke. Slowly, he began to share his story.

It was Feb. 5, 1958, and he was a major at the controls of a B-47 bomber - one of a dozen from the 19th Bombardment Wing taking off on a training mission from Homestead Air Force Base in Florida.

At the time, it was routine for crews in training to carry transportation-configured nuclear bombs, with the detonation capsules removed to prevent a nuclear explosion, the Air Force said. It gave the crews the opportunity to practice with the bomb, said Billy Mullins, associate director of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons and Counterproliferation Agency.

The mission was to simulate dropping a bomb on a city in the Soviet Union and to evade Air Force fighters sent up to simulate Russian interceptors.

Over Reston, Va., which was unknowingly playing the role of the Soviet city, Richardson's navigator lined up the target on the radar screen and punched the launch button. The button activated a transmitter that recorded how close the crew came to hitting the target.

Then Richardson turned the B-47 south toward home through a screen of ``enemy'' fighters.

When he and his two-man crew crossed into North Carolina at more than 37,000 feet, they were back in friendly skies.

But that's when the B-47 collided mid-air with one of the ``enemy'' fighters.

Struggling to keep the bomber under control, Richardson headed for Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah.

But the tower operator told the crew the runway was under construction.

``I thought that if we landed short, the plane would catch the front of the runway and the bomb would shoot through the plane like a bullet through a gun barrel,'' Richardson said.

So, on that clear, moonlit night, Richardson turned the B-47 toward sea and dropped the bomb in the ocean, before landing.

For nearly 10 weeks, Navy divers searched the waters near Tybee Island. The weather was bad, the water cold, the visibility poor. On April 16, 1958, the military declared the bomb ``irretrievably lost.''

The bomb became one of 11 ``Broken Arrows'' - nuclear bombs lost during air or sea mishaps, according to U.S. military records.

Four months after Richardson's accident, the Atomic Energy Commission changed its policy, banning the use of nuclear bombs during training.

As Duke was learning all of this, he turned up a copy of the receipt Richardson had signed. Written near the top was the word ``simulated.'' That, according to the Air Force, meant the bomb did not have a detonation capsule. Without it, there was no risk of a nuclear explosion.

Testimony turns murky

That might have been the end of the story if not for another document Duke soon acquired. This one was a letter, written in 1966 to the chairman of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, recounting the testimony of Assistant Defense Secretary Jack Howard before a 1966 congressional committee.

Howard, the letter says, testified there were four complete nuclear weapons, including detonation capsules, that were missing or lost. Among them: the bomb dropped off Savannah.

Decades later, Howard recanted his testimony after Duke gave the letter to the media and elected officials.

But which version was really true?

That's when Duke's intrigue turned to determination.

``Until that point, I bought the military's story,'' he said. ``But not now. Something is just not right.''

He began studying topography maps, tidal charts and weather patterns. But Duke knew he needed help navigating the waterways. In Harris Parker, a 64-year-old sometime treasure hunter and sometime movie consultant, he found both an expert and a partner.

Together, Duke and Parker spent countless hours trolling Wassaw Sound, dragging Geiger counters behind their boat and bringing up sand to test.

Mapping every inch of their effort, they identified what they believe is a plume of radiation, although the readings are only slightly higher the sea's natural radiation level.

But the plume wasn't near Tybee Island. Rather, it was just off Wassaw Island, about 20 miles from Savannah. Perhaps, Duke says, the bomber crew had mistaken one landmark - an old World War II bunker - for another near Savannah when it dropped the bomb.

In August 2000, Duke gave the Howard letter to U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, a Savannah Republican. Kingston, in turn, asked the Air Force to investigate whether a live nuclear bomb might be lurking off the Georgia coast.

On April 12, 2001, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons and Counterproliferation Agency reported the bomb was likely buried about 5 to 15 feet in silt somewhere below the ocean floor. There is ``no current or future possibility of a nuclear explosion,'' the report said. And if left undisturbed, the conventional explosives in the bomb posed no hazard.

In fact, the uranium in the bomb is of less concern for radioactivity than as a heavy metal, Mullins said.

Recovering it at an estimated cost of $5 million didn't seem worth the trouble or the potential danger to Savannah's fresh water supply, he said.

Nonetheless, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks some folks in Savannah began to worry. A town hall meeting was called to discuss the bomb and the Air Force findings.

``If we're so worried about terrorists getting ahold of nuclear weapons, why aren't we doing anything about this,'' Duke says. ``Right down there, somewhere, is the material to make a dirty bomb.''

So Duke, Parker and a handful of others formed a company to look for the bomb and submitted a bid to the government to locate it. The bid - $900,000-plus - was denied.

Parker, meanwhile, co-wrote a script, titled ``The Tybee Bomb,'' a Tom Clancy-esque mystery. But the script, along with the creation of the company, led some to wonder about their motives.

At home in Jackson, Miss., Richardson eases onto a couch.

``Derek Duke just doesn't know what he's talking about. I keep telling him he's wrong,'' he said. ``The paper says no capsule on board. I think I know what I signed for.''

He has come to believe Duke and Parker are motivated more by money than by virtue. He points to the government bid and now the movie script....
2004-09-16 12:45:53 PM  
Sorry about that. I left it in my pants pocket when I did the wash. My bad.
2004-09-16 03:17:44 PM  
Check the history. There have been 11 of the bombs lost. Hope that makes you sleep better tonight.
2004-09-16 06:05:23 PM  
It's wet?

How are we going to light the fuse?
2004-09-16 06:24:44 PM  
reminds of what a british general said in a james bond film, bloody hell, cant you people keep anything locked up?
2004-09-16 06:25:24 PM  
Now all that AL Qaeda needs is a platoon of those Zombie Nazis that can breath underwater......
2004-09-16 06:26:25 PM  
Someone set up us...oh fark it, I got nothin...

[image from too old to be available]

2004-09-16 06:26:52 PM  
I'm glad we could get the news from such a credible place. Indeed, 'NatureWeb' and 'GardenWeb' are the apotheosis of investigative journalism. Bravo, gentlemen.
Kiz [BareFark]
2004-09-16 06:28:26 PM  
I keep mine in the basement. Picked it up on Ebay.
2004-09-16 06:28:54 PM  
Nice, i want more up to date info from gardenweb.
2004-09-16 06:29:19 PM  
Rumour has it at least two of them are underneath the cushions on the whitehouse livingroom couch (along with $3.43 in loose change.)
2004-09-16 06:29:38 PM  
The band Green Jelly should sue the Jello corporation for making them change their name.
2004-09-16 06:30:46 PM  
If you're whining that this is an old story, here's a sept 16th one: a more current and topical article, from
2004-09-16 06:31:35 PM  
So it's okay when we lose nukes, but when Iraq loses a shell of mustard gas it's a deliberate violation of an arms treaty?
2004-09-16 06:36:11 PM  
You know what, John Travolta has them. he stole them and is planning on blowing up Denver, Colorado. I hope Christian Slater can stop him on time.

[image from too old to be available]
2004-09-16 06:36:50 PM  
I think H-bombs contain other radioactive materials besides uranium and plutonium. The fission bomb is just the kick start for a much bigger fusion reaction.

For some really scary and true accounts of the US Nuke program, check out the Atomic Veterans site

[image from too old to be available]
2004-09-16 06:38:00 PM  
My head asplode. Thermonuclearlly. Asplode.

Too bad it's disarmed or this would've been a grand testing of the Stop a Hurricane with a Nuke hypothesis...

Either that, or it's all Kim Jong Il's fault. He musta somehow travelled back in time and deposited his Dong there! Yeshiatoo bad for he, he used a wrong dong.

\\And Got No and Thing
2004-09-16 06:38:21 PM  
How about Global Thermonuclear War?
2004-09-16 06:39:06 PM  
The missing h-bombs are bad, but there are rumors etc that all the old USSR nukes aren't accounted for. Not the big, ICBM megaton kind, the tactical nuclear weapon kind.

Nobody's quite sure what happened to them. I'm sure that there's a government or two that's hanging on to them for insurance purposes.

Obviously none of them have fallen into Chechen hands yet.

Just something else to brighten your day.
2004-09-16 06:39:50 PM  
It'd be hilarious if it exploded. The Soviet Union will be laughing in its grave.
2004-09-16 06:40:52 PM  
Somewhat off topic, but doesn't the term "Broken Arrow" actually refer to a situation in which your position is being overrun and you need immediate air support?
2004-09-16 06:42:51 PM  
He has come to believe Duke and Parker are motivated more by money than by virtue. He points to the government bid and now the movie script....

Is there something wrong with that? They sound like red blooded American capitalists to me. Heck, if the government won't do it why not pay a couple of business men to do it? It's the American way.
2004-09-16 06:43:55 PM  
hey, in the water off Georgia is better than all over a crowded Spanish beach resort, right?

January 17, 1966, Palomares, Spain

A B-52 bomber carrying four hydrogen bombs collided in midair with a KC-135 tanker near Palomares, Spain. Of the four H-bombs aboard, two weapons' high explosive material exploded on ground impact, releasing radioactive materials, including plutonium, over the fields of Palomares. Approximately 1,400 tons of slightly contaminated soil and vegetation were later taken to the United States for storage at an approved site. A third nuclear weapon fell to earth but remained relatively intact; the last one fell into the ocean.
The weapon that sank in the Mediterranean set off one of the largest search and recovery operations in history. The search took about eighty days and employed 3,000 Navy personnel and 33 Navy vessels, not including ships, planes, and people used to move equipment to the site. Although the midget sub "Alvin" located the bomb after two weeks, it was not recovered until April 7. Wreckage from the accident fell across approximately 100 square miles of land and water.
The accident occurred during a routine high altitude air refueling operation as the B-52 was returning to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina, after flying the southern route of the Strategic Air Command air alert mission code named "Chrome Dome." The bomber was attempting its third refueling with a KC-135 tanker from the American base at Moron, when the nozzle of the tanker's boom struck the bomber. The boom ripped open the B-52 along its spine, snapping the bomber into pieces. The KC-135's 40,000 gallons of jet fuel ignited, killing seven crewmen.

Full list of Nuclear Weapons mishaps can be found Here
2004-09-16 06:45:48 PM  
when ussr split it lost track of some of it's mobile nukes. They're similiar to the mobiles ones used in the cuban missle crisis, except larger. It is also rumored in the split it mother russia lost control over some of it silos. I'm willing to bet that russia has lost more nukes than the states.
2004-09-16 06:48:06 PM  
Can you spot the oxymoran in this statement?

Tactical Nuke.

/Yes, I know nukes have tactical uses, I'm just sayin'.
2004-09-16 06:48:20 PM  
So would that bomb be considered salvage? Maybe we of fark should save up 900K to recover it for Farkistan.
2004-09-16 06:49:46 PM  
If anybody's looking for a few thermonuclear devices, I'll auctioning them on Ebay this weekend ... reserve $5M.

/just kiddin' Herr Ashcroft
2004-09-16 06:50:24 PM  
I'd like to thank that ABC news article for telling us just where the bomb is, and how horrible it would be if someone disturbed it without fully planning it out...

//jesus christ people
2004-09-16 06:52:30 PM  
Ya know, these things don't surprise me anymore.
2004-09-16 06:53:49 PM  
yes, they do have shelf lives, but as you well know, being a nuclear physicist and all, that the half-life of uranium 238 is on the order of billions of years. as is uranium 235, the substance used in weapons.

the purified hydrogen isotopes have relatively shorter lifetimes, on the order of hundreds of years, but i doubt that the weapon is now fully past its shelf life. it's still very alive and dangerous.
2004-09-16 06:57:07 PM  
oh the problem is much worse than just this. In russia, there are hundreds of missing tactical nuclear weapons that are housed in suitcases. Yeah check out information about nunn lugar programs in Russia. We were paying to help secure and dispose of them, then a certain texan thought it was better to spend money on WMD problems that didnt really exist
2004-09-16 06:57:37 PM  
kitten killer
The Uranium or Plutonium in the various bombs may not have degraded to the point that it is no longer fissionable but the bombs themselves start to fail eventually. Most of the weapons in our nuclear arsenal from the 50's and 60's were only designed to last a decade or two. That bomb has been in disrepair for over 40 years and probably wouldn't go critical.
2004-09-16 06:58:06 PM  
how could a hydrogen bomb not contain deuterium? there was no mention of it... but that is, in fact what makes it a hydrogen bomb. fission bombs, while bad, are several orders of magnitud less bad than fusion bombs.
2004-09-16 06:58:56 PM  
To me the scary part isnt that we lost 1 or 11.......It is that we now have told the whole damn world where it is........
2004-09-16 07:00:54 PM  
Eh. It happens.
2004-09-16 07:01:23 PM  
EvilGnome, they probably didn't mention it because it is literaly just heavy water. Deuterium and tritium naturaly occur in water, just in incredibly small amounts. It wouldn't really have an effect on the environment.
2004-09-16 07:06:18 PM  
The particular bomb in question was not loaded with any plutonium, only uranium. If detonated there would be no fission, only a big radioactive mess.

/I almost submitted this article a couple of days ago from a different source, but I couldn't think of a funny headline.
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2004-09-16 07:06:36 PM  
The tritium is the critical component; half-life 13+ years. I think Clancy got it more or less right in The Sum of All Fears.

In addition to the above, I heard we bombed a farm in North Carolina and couldn't find the bomb.
2004-09-16 07:10:04 PM  
ceebeecates, Lord Argent

In a more modern thermonuclear system, the tritium gas used in a boosted-boost primary would have decayed away to He3 by now and the primary would dud, if the explosives still had their configuration intact. So in a way, a modern thermonuke will age out. You have to service newer nukes constantly.

However, the Castle Nectar series of nuclear devices, of which the Mark 15 was one, are really weird configurations. It's less a thermonuke than a bizarre inside-out boosted-boost weapon, only instead of using compressed tritium they used a Teller-Ulam secondary as a neutron generator for the casing.

Here's how it was supposed to work. There is a fairly primitive non-boost compression plutonium primary. This is used to generate x-rays to trigger one of the first solid-state Teller-Ulam secondary designs. The secondary then generates neutrons to trigger the casing, which is the 'real' nuclear fuel for this bomb. So it's a fission-fusion-fission bomb. Really odd. But, it doesn't use tritium anywhere, except that generated ad hoc in the secondary during firing, so you can't count on tritium decay to dud the thing.

However, the AF says the pit wasn't in, so the primary can't detonate. If they're lying, then the odds are still very good that the impact disordered the internals so badly you couldn't get a "real" detonation. Not to mention that getting a real detonation involves a very tricky noble gas switch mechanism and all that will have turned into corroded goo by now. So as a hazard, the real issue is scattering primary materials into the watershed if the explosives DO go off, which is more than bad enough.

The big payoff for getting your hands on an unexploded Castle Nectar is that the casing is pure HEU. And lots of it. If you could winch up the bomb, you get not just a little but [big amount] of 90%+ enriched uranium. So, you could conceivably make [number] of crude linear uranium bombs, and if the pit is in, you could take that and [make something spectacularly obnoxious but non-nuclear] with the material.

Now that the guy may have located it, it is up for grabs. Hopefully he hasn't published where, and if he has, it weighs 7500 pounds intact so it may not be possible for anyone but the Navy to get it anyway.

For the curious, here's what it looked like:

[image from too old to be available]

/sorry about the []'s I decided to self-redact that bit
2004-09-16 07:13:13 PM  
fission-fusion-fission, one of those old and dirty bombs.

Wow, was the cold war hot or what?

In the 50s they dropped one about 30 miles north of where I live, of course in indiana you only lose this sort of thing if it hits a cow.
2004-09-16 07:14:58 PM  
What, no one's blamed Los Alamos for this yet?
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2004-09-16 07:17:40 PM  

Are you sure the outer layer is enriched? An advantage of a three stage design is the use of easy-to-produce U238 as the outer shell. The neutrons from the fusion reaction split the atoms even though U238 can not self-sustain a fission reaction.
2004-09-16 07:19:19 PM  
Hopefully, they'll see the long term danger in this. Just because the items or item is difficult to recover now, doesn't mean in 20 or 30 years time, the item won't be able to be scooped off the ocean floor by our (any) advanced technology. Unfortunately, the advanced technology might belong to someone who wishes to do harm to the U.S. or it's allies.
So, the prudent thing to do would be to retrieve the errant bomb, BEFORE some future Osama Bin Bing Bong manages to make a weapon out of this.

~ I never understand why people think the future isn't just waiting for us to catch up.
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