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Accidents- 1950's

The Korean War began in June 1950 with an attack by North Korean troops on South Korea. With the Soviet Union absent after having walked out and therefore unable to exercise its veto power, the United Nations Security Council authorized sending troops to defend South Korea. General MacArthur , commander of the United Nations forces, purportedly requested discretionary authority to use atomic weapons in December 1950. President Truman approved the use of atomic weapons on Manchuria if large numbers of Chinese troops joined in the fighting or if bombers were launched from Manchurian bases. Five days later, however, General MacArthur was removed from his command for repeatedly criticizing the limited objectives of the war.

On November 1, 1952, the U.S. raised the stakes in the nuclear arms race by detonating the first hydrogen bomb at Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Less than a year later, the U.S.S.R.detonated its first thermonuclear weapon.

In January 1954 Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announced a doctrine massive retaliation which could entail the use of nuclear weapons against communist aggression. Later that month the U.S. Navy launched the first nuclear-powered ship, the Nautilus .

By the mid-1950s, public protests of the nuclear arms race were building. In 1955, the year in which Albert Einstein died, he and Bertrand Russell issued a Manifesto warning of the dangers of continuing the nuclear arms race. Two years later in 1957 the great humanitarian Albert Schweitzer made a public "Declaration of Conscience " in which he stated that "the end of further experiments with atom bombs would be like early sun rays of hope which suffering humanity is

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longing for."

The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) , an organization of private citizens seeking to alter official nuclear policies, was formed in 1957.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was established by the United Nations in 1957 to promote "peaceful" uses of nuclear energy. The same year saw the U.S.S.R. launch Sputnik I , the world's first artificial satellite. Great Britain became the third country to test a thermonuclear weapon.

In January 1958 Linus Pauling , a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, and his wife, Ava Helen Pauling, presented U.N. Secretary Dag Hammarskjold a Petition to the United Nations Urging International Agreement to Stop the Testing of Nuclear Bombs Be Made Now signed by 9,235 scientists throughout the world. (For his efforts in organizing the world scientific community in opposition to nuclear testing, Pauling received a second Nobel Prize, this one for peace, in 1962.)

1958 found the U.S. government constructing a secrete concret and steel bomb shelter for Congress in the West Virginia hills and the Bundestag approving deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in West Germany. By 1959, activities in outer space had gained momentum. The year saw the first spacecraft escape the Earth's gravity and advances in rocketry leading to the U.S. deployment of of the first operational intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in October.

During the 1950s, some 4,600,000 persons died in warfare, and more than half were civillans.

1950

13 February
U.S.A., Pacific Ocean- A B-36 which developed serious mechanical difficulties on a simulated combat mission, dropped a nuclear weapon from 8,000 ft. over the Pacific Ocean before crashing. Luckily only the weapon's explosive material detonated. Nothing is known of attempts to recover the nuclear weapon and presumably it is still in the ocean. (The Defence Monitor Vol.X No.5 1981 Washington D.C. "The National Times" 15th March 1981)

11 April
New Mexico, U.S.A. - A B-29 crashed into a mountain on Manzano Base approximately three minutes after take-off. The bomb case was demolished and some high explosive material burned. The nuclear components of the weapon were recovered and returned to the Atomic Energy Commission. (The Defence Monitor - Vol.X No.5 19981 Washington D.C. "The National Times" 15th March 1981)

13 July
Ohio, U.S.A. - A B-50 on training mission crashed killing 16 crewmen. The high explosive portion of the weapon aboard detonated on impact. No nuclear capsule aboard the aircraft. (The Defence Monitor - Vol.X No.5 1981 Washington D.C. "The National Times" 15/3/1981)

5 August
California , U.S.A. - A B-29 carrying a nuclear weapon crashed on take-off and the high explosive material detonated. (The Defence Monitor - Vol.X No.5 1981 Washington D.C. "The National Times" 15th March 1981)

10 November
U.S.A. - Due to an in-flight aircraft emergency, a weapon containing a capsule of nuclear material was jettisoned over water from an altitude of 10,500 feet. A high-explosive detonation was observed. No specific location was reported. (The Defence Monitor Vol.X No.5 1981 Washington D.C.)

North West Australia - A uranium mining disaster desolated an area in N.W. Australia when heavy rainfall breached the earth wall of a mine's tailings dam and radioactive material was released into surrounding water systems. To date details are still secret. The mine was connected with the British and U.S. Nuclear Weapons Programs. Safety standards were rudimentary. As a result Australia has become extremely cautious about uranium mining according to Dr. Charles Kerr of the Department of Preventative and Social Medicine, University of Sydney, when testifying to a Royal Commission on uranium mining in Vancouver. (Source: AAP-AP, "The West Australian" - 11th January, 1980).

1950-1977
Windscale, U.K. - Between 1950 and mid-1977, there were 194 accidents at Windscale, 11 involving fires and explosions, 45 release plutonium (Sources: Nucleus - 25th July, 1979, P.17; "The New Ecologists" March/April, 1978)

1951

1951-1963
Residents' Reaction to the Nuclear Tests Helt at Nevada Test Site, U.S.A. - Martha B. Laird's husband and son developed leukemia. Son died. Other children developed rashes. Sister reported burns to the eyes.

"During this time, our cows got white spots on them and developed cancer eyes," Mrs. Laird wrote to the Government. "One letter came back saying I was Communistically inspired" Another said: "Persons in fallout path were a small sacrifice." (Source: The Herald. -Tuesday 24th April, 1979)

February
North Wales, U.K. - The Trawsfynydd nuclear power plant was shut down because of fears expressed by Britain's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate that the two 25-year old reactors there were operating with weakened welds in their pressure vessels. (New Scientist, 9 February 1991).

April
Kildin Island, Norwax, U.S.S.R. - The small Norwegian group Bellona stated that, according to information passed to activists by a Soviet coastguard officer, waste from Soviet nuclear submarines has been dumped at Kildin Island, less than 120 km from Norway. The officer, who did not want to be identified, produced photographs and said safety precautions at the dump were "scandalous". This brought to five the number of suspected military and civilian nuclear waste dumps in the Barents and Kara Mesa off the Soviet Union's northern coast. One of them was thought to lie nearer than 45 km to Norway. (Bellona Magazine, 2 April 1991)

1952

12 December
NRX CHALK RIVER, CANADA - First major reactor accident. Human error. Technician opened three or four valves and the resultant heat release melted some of the uranium fuel and boiled some of the coolant. The reactor core was nearly demolished by the explosions and much radioactivity was emitted. (Sources: Penelope Coleing for M.A.U.M./S. Novick. The Careless Atom, Delta Books, NY 1969).

1953

No records yet avaliable for this year.

1954

No records yet avaliable for this year.

1955

November
Idaho Falls EBR-1, U.S.A. - The EBR-1 reactor had a partial core meltdown which destroyed it with ensuing low level contamination. (Sources: Eco, Atomic Reactor Safety Hearings, 1973 p. 56/Webb p.187)

1956

10 March
U.S.A., MEDITERRANEAN SEA - A B-47 carrying "two capsules of nuclear weapons material. from MacDill Air Force Base to an overseas bases, disappeared in clouds. "An extensive search failed to locate any traces of the missing aircraft or crew". A nuclear detonation was not possible. (The Defence Monitor - Vol.X No.5 1981 Washington D.C. "The National Times" - 15th March 1981).

26 July
U.S.A., ENGLAND - An American B-47 with weapons aboard crashed into a storage igloo containing several nuclear weapons. The bombs did not burn or detonate.- (The Defence Monitor - Vol.X No.5 1981 Washington D.C. "The National Times. 15th March 1981). This air crash at a United States Air Force base could have turned the area into a nuclear "desert" according to new details which have emerged in the U.S. The crash, occurred when a B-47 bomber skidded on the runway after a flight from Nebraska and burst into flames. Blazing jet fumes gushed towards a shelter housing three nuclear bombs, each containing eight tonnes of T.N.T. and a quantity of uranium, according to the new details. Had the fire ignited the T.N.T. it is possible a part of eastern England could have become a desert, while the uranium could have exposed the area to contamination. ("The Age" 10th August 1981)

1957

22 May
New Mexico, U.S.A. - A B-36 ferrying a nuclear weapon from Biggs Air Force Base, Texas to Kirtland accidentally discharged a bomb in the New Mexico desert. The high explosive material detonated, completely destroying the weapon and making a crater approximately 25 ft in diameter and 12 ft deep. Radiological survey of the area disclosed no radioactivity beyond the lip of the crater at which point the level was 0.5 milliroentgens. Both the weapon and capsule were on board the aircraft but the capsule was not inserted for safety reasons. A nuclear detonation was not possible. (The Defence Monitor Vol.X No.5 1981 Washington D.C. "The National Times" 15th March 1981)

28 July
U.S.A. , Atlantic Ocean - A C-124 aircraft en-route from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, lost power in two engines and jettisoned two nuclear weapons over the ocean. "No detonation occurred from either weapon". The nuclear weapons were never found. (The Defence Monitor Vol.X No.6 1981 Washington D.C. "The National Times" 15th March 1981)

11 October
Florida, U.S.A. - A B-47 crashed shortly after take-off with a nuclear weapon and a nuclear capsule on board.

"Two low order detonations occurred during the burning." - ("The National Times" 15th March 1981)

October
Windscale No 1, U.K. - Fire caused by human error and defective procedures resulted in eleven tons of uranium being ablaze, relossing a vast cloud of radio-isotopes from the melted fuel. Milk from an area of more than 500 square kilometers (approx. 2 million litres) was poured into the rivers and sea as unsafe for human consumption. Farmers were compensated by the Government, but how many people living near Windscale were affected is not known. Nor is it known how much radioactivity descended over Westmoreland and Cumberland. Local inhabitants any there is a high incidence of cancer deaths in the area, but the Government did not carry out any medical or statistical checks. Both Windscale reactors have since been filled with concrete and entombed. The radioactive cloud reached up to Denmark. In London, 500 km from Windscale the radioactivity reached 20 times the normal level. Report of enquiries into safety was never published. (Sources s A. Gyorgy p.1198/S. Novick). However a previously classified report released in 1989, revealed that the Mc Millan Government invented large amounts of money to finance a concerted pro-nuclear campaign which included scientists traversing U.K., assuring people that the accident was insignificant. (W. Australian May 1989).

1958

31 January
U.S. Overseas Base - A B-47 crashed and burned during take-off with one nuclear weapon "in strike configuration..." There was some contamination in the immediate area of the crash. ("The National Times" - 15th March 1981)

5 February
Georgia, U. S. A. - Midair collision between an F-86 aircraft and a B-47 on a simulated combat mission out of Homestead Air Force Base, Florida. The B-47 jettisoned the nuclear weapon, which was not found and considered irretrievably lost. ("The National Times" 15/3/1981)

11 March
South Carolina, U.S.A. - A B-47 left Hunter Air Force Base, Georgia with three other B-47s en route to an overseas base. The aircraft accidentally jettisoned an unarmed nuclear weapon which impacted in a sparsely populated area 6-1/2 miles east of Florence, South Carolina. The bomb's high explosive material exploded on impact.("The National Times" 15/3/1981)

March
Kyshtym, Ural Mountains, U.S.S.R. - Explosion occurred in radioactive stockpile at a nuclear plant, presumably a weapons centre at Fyshtym, 43 miles from Chelyabinak. People "grew hysterical with fear with the incidence of unknown 'mysterious' diseases breaking out. Victims were seen with skin 'sloughing off' their faces, hands and other exposed parts of their bodies." (source: Pollock p.9) "Hundreds of square miles were left barren and unusable for decades and maybe centuries". Hundreds of people died, thousands were injured and surrounding areas were evacuated. (Source: Dr. Medvedev "The Australian" 9th December 1976). The area is now a wasteland. Drivers must pass through with their car windows closed and are not to stop. The C.I.A. knew of the accident all along but kept it secret so as not to affect the fledgling US nuclear industry. Information was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from C.I.A. files. (Source: Gyorgy p.128). "Ralph Nader surmised that the information had not been released because of the reluctance of the C.I.A. to highlight a nuclear accident in the U.S.S.R., that could cause concern among people living near nuclear facilities in the U.S." (Pollock p.9)

The accident was confirmed by published Soviet research into the effects of radioactivity on plants and animals by Professor Leo Tumerman, former head of Biophysics Laboratory at the Institute of Molecular Biology in Moscow. (Sources: Gyorgy, A. et al "No Nukes: Everyone's Guide to Nuclear Power" South End Press. 1979. "New York Times" - 7/11/76 p. 18. "Sydney Morning Herald" - 8th/12/11/76. "New Scientist" - 30/6/77. "The Australian" -9/12/76). Richard Pollock "Soviets Experience Nuclear Accident" in "Critical Mass Journal" - Jan 78, Vol.3 No.10 p.9. Clyde W. Burleson "The Day the Bomb Fell") - Sphere Books Ltd. 1980 p.37)

18 October
Boris Kidric Institute, Vinca, Yugoslavia - Nuclear reactor overheated. Six scientists were irradiated, transported to France for treatment. One death. (Sources Work Circle Environmental Protection; "Les Amis de la Terre". Agence de Presse Rehabilitation Ecologique, Repertoire den accidents Nucleaires, Paris 1974, 1976. "Accidents Near Accidents & Leaks in the Nuclear Industry", Penelope Coleing for Sydney M.A.U.M.)

4 November
Texax, U.S.A. - B-47 caught fire on take-off and crashed, killing one crew member. The high explosive in the nuclear weapon on board exploded leaving "a crater 35 ft in diameter and 6 ft deep". Nuclear materials were recovered near the crash site. (Defence Monitor - Vol.X No.5 1981 Washington D.C. "The National Times" -15/3/1981)

26 November
Louisiana, U.S.A. - A B-47 caught fire on the ground. The single nuclear weapon on board was destroyed by fire. Contamination was limited to the immediate vicinity. This was the eighth and last acknowledged B-47 accident making it the most accident-prone of the nuclear capable systems reported. (The Defence Monitor - Vol.X No.5 1981 Washington D.C. "The National Times" -15/3/1981)

Los Alamos, U.S.A.
One death caused by radiation in the uranium enrichment plant. Plutonium had been allowed to accumulate inside a mixing vessel. When a new batch of plutonium was transferred to the vessel, all eight pounds of plutonium dissolved off the walls and came together in the centre of the vessel. The person working on it received ten times the lethal dose in less than a second. He died less than 35 hours later. (Sources: Walkatein "The Myth of nuclear Safety" The Ecologist July 1977. World Health Organisation, 1961 "Contingency Plan"

Waltz Mill, U.S.A.
Cooling System failed. (World Health Organization "Contingency Plan")

Chalk River, Canada, MRU
Irradiated fuel element broke and plant caught fire. Two months of intense contamination followed. 400,000 square metres around the building were contaminated. (sources: "Accidents, Near Accidents And Leaks in the Nuclear Industry", Penelope Coleing for Sydney M.A.U.M.; Jean Geue A.A.B.C. "Les Amis de la Terre" L'escroquerie nucleaire. Stock 1978 France.)

1958-1959
Colorado, U.S.A. - Animas River near uranium mills at Darango, Colorado measured three times safe maximum dally level for radium. Crops on farms in area irrigated by river had twice radioactivity of other crops. ("Nucleus" - 25th July, 1979 p.11. SABNS/LANS Uranium Kit no 2 Aus. Autumn 1975.)

1959

18 January
Pacific Base, U.S.A. - An F-100 caught fire on the ground while loaded with unarmed nuclear weapon. There was no reported contamination or clean-up problems (The Defence Monitor - Vol.X No.5 1981 Washington D.C. "The National Times" - 15th March 1981)

6 July
Louisiana, U.S.A. - A C-124 on a nuclear logistics movement mission crashed on take-off. The aircraft was destroyed by fire which also destroyed one weapon. Limited contamination was present over a very small area. (The Defence Monitor - Vol.X No.5 1981 Washington D.C. "The National Times" - 15th March 1981)

25 September
Puget Sound, Washington, U.S.A. - A U.S. Navy P-5M aircraft ditched in Puget Sound off Whidbey Island, Washington. It was carrying an unarmed nuclear anti-submarine weapon containing no nuclear material. The weapon was not recovered. (The Defence Monitor, Vol.X No5/1981 Wash. D.C.)

15 October
Kentucky, U.S.A - A B-52 and KC-135 operating out of Columbia Air Force Base, Mississippi collided during refueling. Two unarmed nuclear weapons were recovered undamaged. ("The National Times" -15/3/1981)

San Fernando Valley, California, U.S.A.
Radioactive genes were slowly and deliberately released into the air after a serious accident in a reactor just north of the populous San Fernando Valley (Sources "From under the Rug" F.O.E. La Trobe University Vic.)