Radioactive legacy of ‘lost bomb’

By | November 13, 2008


The crash of a B-52 aircraft, armed with nuclear warheads, in north-west Greenland back in 1968 has left a lasting legacy, according to those involved in the clear-up and those who live in the region now.

_45192858_greenland_thule_1011_08There are claims of long-term damage to the environment and to the health of individuals, allegations disputed by the governments involved.

Following the fire aboard the aircraft, the high explosives surrounding the nuclear weapons exploded but without setting off the actual nuclear devices, which were not armed.
Three of the four bombs being carried by the plane smashed on to the ice and broke into tiny fragments.

Radioactive material was widely dispersed across the ice and was also thrust into the sky in a plume of smoke, declassified documents show.

Danish workers rushed to the scene of the crash, near Thule, and were heavily involved in clearing up the wreckage in the subsequent weeks and months as part of an enormous US military operation.

However, some of those workers believe not enough thought was given to their safety, given the presence of radioactive material from the bombs on board the plane.

“I was never given any protective equipment; I just went out in whatever you normally wore at work,” recalls Jeffrey Carswell.

… Four nuclear bombs were aboard the B-52 when it crashed

… Local hunters say the radioactive material has affected wildlife


…According to Dr Ulbak, between 0.5kg and 1kg of plutonium has been on the seabed, seeping into the marine environment over the years, but surveys show that this also poses no danger to humans in the region. But former workers believe that the lack of proof of a link between the crash and their ill-health is precisely because they have not been monitored over time in a way that would allow such a link to be proved. The head of the Association of Former Thule Workers, Jens Zieglersen, who also helped at the crash, remains unconvinced.

“I think it’s a cover-up. We are getting older and the Danish authorities and the Danish government will wait and keep their mouths sealed for another 15, 20 years; then there’s no-one left that remembers and who was a part of the accident back in the days of ’68.”

It is now 40 years since the crash of the B-52. But for those who were in Thule then and for those living in the region now, life and death is still defined by the events of that day. – bbc

According to this report, we are talking about enough plutonium to kill 6 to 12 million people:

… Plutonium is among the most toxic materials every discovered. When a small piece of it gets into a human lung, it is supremely efficient at causing cancer. Somewhere between 28 and 80
micrograms is thought to cause cancer in a human “with certainty.” If we use 80 micrograms as a lethal dose, we can calculate that one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of plutonium contains 12.5 million deadly cancer doses

Someone should go get the stuff before some terrorists collect it.

By far the easiest way to acquire material for a nuclear weapon is to steal it. The amounts needed are not large: one kilogram of plutonium (2.2 pounds) will do it, or 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of enriched uranium can make a bomb equivalent to 1000 tons of TNT. The amount of plutonium needed to make a bomb is somewhere between the size of a hockey puck and a soda can.

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