Greenland's Stray Atomic Bomb
The prospect of a stray, possibly damaged atom bomb lying somewhere on the ocean floor is truly horrific. Britain's BBC is currently causing an uproar with a report on the loss of an American atom bomb in 1968. When an American B-52 bomber crashed into the ice off Greenland, the conventional explosives in the bombs exploded, causing a large area to become radioactively contaminated by the plutonium that was released in the process. But what the US government kept secret for decades was that a reconstruction of the bomb components found at the site had revealed that a nuclear warhead was missing. It had apparently drilled its way through the ice in North Star Bay. It was never found.
The loss of an atom bomb is not as rare an occurrence as one would hope. "The American Defense Department has confirmed the loss of 11 atomic bombs," says Otfried Nassauer, an expert on nuclear armament and the director of the Berlin Information Center for Transatlantic Security. "It is believed that up to 50 nuclear weapons worldwide were lost during the Cold War."
Most of these highly dangerous weapons are still lying on the ocean floor. In April 1989, a fire on board the Komsomolez resulted in the sinking of the Russian nuclear submarine to a depth of 1,700 meters (5,500 feet) in the North Atlantic Ocean, together with two torpedoes and their nuclear warheads. On May 22, 1968, another nuclear submarine, the USS Scorpion, sank to a depth of 3,300 meters (10,800 feet) about 320 nautical miles south of the Azores. There were two nuclear warheads on board. Because of the considerable depths involved, neither the weaponry nor the nuclear reactors on both submarines have been recovered to date.