Nuclear Bomb: North Carolina Could've Been Wrecked in '60s, Report Says

Monday, 23 Sep 2013 01:39 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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A nuclear bomb nearly exploded over North Carolina in 1961, an investigative journalist uncovered in declassified documents that say atomic bombs 260 times more powerful that what devastated Hiroshima, Japan, almost went off accidentally near the town of Goldsboro.

Eric Schlosser, a journalist at The Guardian, obtained the document through a Freedom of Information Act request. The report described how on Jan. 23, 1961, two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs accidentally fell after a B-52 bomber broke in mid-air.  

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If each bomb, which had the equivalent of 4 million tons of explosives, detonated, the explosion fallout could have endangered people in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City. Three of the four safety switches meant to prevent an accidental denotation had failed after the bombs hit the ground.

Parker F. Jones, the supervisor of the nuclear weapons safety department at Sandia national laboratories, said that one safety switch prevented the bombs from going off.

"The MK 39 Mod 2 bomb did not possess adequate safety for the airborne alert role in the B-52," Jones said, according to The Guardian.  

The document is part of Schlosser's research for a book on the nuclear arms race, titled "Command and Control."

"The U.S. government has consistently tried to withhold information from the American people in order to prevent questions being asked about our nuclear weapons policy," Schlosser said. "We were told there was no possibility of these weapons accidentally detonating, yet here's one that very nearly did."

According to The Associated Press, Schlosser's book reports that he discovered at least 700 "significant" accidents and incidents involving 1,250 nuclear weapons from 1950 and 1968 through the Freedom of Information Act request.  

Schlosser told Mother Jones that the continued presence of nuclear weapons leaves millions at risk even if there is no intention to use them.

"One document I got through a Freedom of Information Act request listed more than 1,000 weapons involved in accidents, some of them trivial and some of them not trivial," Schlosser told Mother Jones. "There's somebody who worked at the Pentagon who has read this book, and one of his criticisms was that I'm so hard on the Air Force — he said that there were a great number of accidents involving Army weapons that I don't write about."

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Related stories:

Israeli Official: Iran Could Produce Dozens of Nukes A Year

Obama to Announce Major US Nuclear Force Cuts Soon

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