Open Thread - 237 Nuclear Dull Swords

What's a Dull Sword you say.........
237 nuke handling deficiencies cited since 2001

excerpt:

The service defines a Dull Sword as a “safety deficiency not included in the accident or incident categories.”

Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, issued a Freedom of Information Act request for all ACC Bent Spear and Dull Sword incidents from June 1992 — when the ACC took over the nuclear mission from Strategic Air Command — to Sept. 27, 2007, when he made the request.

The response he received went only as far back as June 2001 because the ACC Safety database no longer has any records of Dull Sword incidents from 1992 to 2001, said Maj. Thomas Crosson, an ACC spokesman. Air Force officials could not explain why those incidents got deleted from the database.

I stumbled on this information while reading an article last nite (shout out to Roxy) pertaining to the saga of B-52's 2007 Flight With Warheads. A recent hearing on this nuclear flight incident conducted by the Senate Armed Services Committee was told by a panel of Air Force and independent investigators:

U.S. ties missile mix-up to reduced nuclear focus
excerpt:

that the increased importance of conventional combat missions since the 1991 Gulf War has undermined nuclear-related training and experience.

"The turning point of this diminished focus began when aircraft came off nuclear alert status," three Air Force officers headed by deputy Air Force chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Daniel Darnell, said in a written report to the panel.

"Training in nuclear procedures became less frequent without the daily activity required by nuclear alert conditions coupled with the expanded commitments of dual-tasked units," they said.

This explanation just rings hollow to me. Either I am just stupid in believing that our military protects our country or our military cannot keep up with the demands. I guess like in other instances, the squeaky wheel gets the attention.

But retired Gen. Larry Welch, an independent investigator with the Institute for Defense Analyses, told lawmakers that the Air Force nuclear mission faces a status problem caused by the end of the Cold War arms race against the Soviet Union.

He reported a "perception at all levels within the nuclear enterprise that the nation and its leadership do not value the nuclear mission and the people who perform that mission."

During this hearing Senator Levin has referred to a nuclear accident in the 1960's. Okay that's a long time ago but seems to be front and center so let's all pay attention.

The Air Force says the war heads were not armed and were never in danger of detonating.

But Levin disputed assertions by the Air Force and his Republican colleagues that the weapons posed no danger to the public, saying a crash could have caused a plutonium leak like one that occurred during a B-52 crash in Spain in the 1960s.

Now why do you suppose Senator Levin is adament about this accident that happened way back in the 60's. Well, I wanted to know also. Can you say "Dirty Bomb"! Found this in wiki.. Palomares hydrogen bombs incident
excerpt:

The Palomares hydrogen bombs incident occurred on January 17, 1966 when a B-52G bomber of the USAF Strategic Air Command collided with a KC-135 tanker during mid-air refuelling at 31,000 feet (9,450 m) over the Mediterranean sea, off the coast of Spain. The KC-135 was completely destroyed when its load of fuel ignited, killing all four crew members. The B-52G broke apart, killing three crew members.

- snip -

Contamination: The conventional explosives from two of the bombs which fell on land detonated (essentially what has come to be referred to as a dirty bomb), causing contamination with uranium and plutonium of 2 square kilometres (0.8 sq mi) of land. 1,750 short tons (1,590 M/T) of contaminated material were excavated and sent for disposal at the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina, USA.

To defuse alarm of contamination, the Spanish minister for information and tourism Manuel Fraga and the US ambassador Angie P. Duke swam on nearby beaches in front of press.[4] First the ambassador and some companions swam at Mojácar (a resort 15 km (9 mi) away) and then Duke and Fraga swam at the Quitapellejos beach in Palomares. It's often said that Fraga achieved his immortality by swimming on those radioactive waters.

Dirty bombs seem to leave their mark 10, 20, 30, 40+ years, maybe until ? No wonder our government is so darn concerned about terrorists getting their hands on nuclear material.

The Air Force settled out of courtIn 2004, a study revealed that there was still some significant contamination present in certain areas, and the Spanish government subsequently expropriated some plots of land which would have been slated for agriculture use or housing construction otherwise. In early October, 2006, the Spanish and United States government agreed to decontaminate the remaining areas and share the workload and costs, which are hitherto unknown, as it first needs to be determined to what extent leaching of the plutonium has occurred in the 40 years since the incident.

On October 11, 2006, Reuters reported that higher than normal levels of radiation were detected in snails and other wildlife in the region, indicating there may still be dangerous amounts of radioactive material underground. The discovery occurred during an investigation being carried out by Spain's energy research agency CIEMAT and the U.S. Department of Energy. The U.S. and Spain have agreed to share the cost of the initial investigation, set to begin in November, but according to a U.S. embassy spokesman in Spain responsibility for clean up costs is yet to be agreed upon.

Political consequences
Four days after the accident, the Spanish government stated that "the Palomares incident was evidence of the dangers created by [NATO's] use of the Gibraltar airstrip", announcing that NATO aircraft would no longer be permitted to fly over Spanish territory either to or from Gibraltar.

Palomares and another accident involving nuclear bombers two years later near Thule Air Base, in Greenland, led the U.S. Department of Defense to announce that it would be "re-examining the military need" for continuing the so-called Airborne Alert Indoctrinal Training Program.

In case you are wondering why this incident has gotten under my craw........ I have vivid memories from childhood of air raid sirens blarring, standing in school hallways with my head covered and backyard bomb shelters. The phrase "Better Dead than Red" also sticks in my mind. And lastly, father pointing out to me in our home's basement where to position myself for survival just in case.

Previous commentary: Nukes on a plane - AF Cover-up?.

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Shout out to nasrudin on BuzzFlash for bringing this to my attention.

Residents of the Navajo Nation are haunted by radiation threats from more than a thousand gaping mine sites abandoned after the cold war arms race. After decades of uranium mining — and accumulating evidence of spikes of cancer and other diseases — mining companies walked away from their cleanup responsibilities. Talk of opening even one new mine — which could, of course, lead to others — adds grave insult to the severe injury already done.

Pointing us to a NT Times story.

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If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little. ~ George Carlin

This is a fun one from Gannet ... fortunately I passed. :)

US Trivia

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ePMedia ... get the scoop with us!
If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little. ~ George Carlin

But dang it all, missed two questions...duh!