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Significant Nuclear Accidents

February 13, 1950
A B-36 Bomber drops a nuclear weapon from 8,000 ft. over the Pacific Ocean before crashing after experiencing serious mechanical difficulties on a simulated combat mission. Only the weapon's explosive material detonates. The bomb was never recovered from the ocean.

April 11, 1950
A B-29 Bomber carrying a nuclear bomb crashes into a mountain on Manzano Base near Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. The bomb is destroyed but the accompanying nuclear capsule, which had not been inserted into bomb, remains intact.

July 27, 1956
A United States bomber crashes into a storage igloo containing three Mark 6 nuclear bombs at Lakenheath RAF base in the United Kingdom. The resulting fire damages the bombs, but fails to ignite their conventional explosive triggers.

March 10, 1957
A U.S. Air Force B-47 bomber flying from Florida to Europe with two capsules of nuclear materials for bombs fails to meet its aerial refueling plane. No traces are ever found.

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May 22, 1957
A B-36 ferrying a nuclear weapon from Biggs Air Force Base, Texas to Kirtland accidentally discharges a bomb in the New Mexico desert. The high explosive material detonates, 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. The nuclear capsules had not been inserted into the bombs. A nuclear detonation was not possible.

July 28, 1957
A C-124 aircraft en-route from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, loses power in two engines and jettisons two nuclear weapons over the Atlantic ocean. The nuclear weapons were never found.

February 5, 1958
An F-86 aircraft and a B-47 Bomber collide midair on a simulated combat mission out of Homestead Air Force Base, Florida. The B-47 jettisons its nuclear weapon, which is not found and is considered irretrievably lost.

March 11, 1958
A B-47 bomber accidentally drops a nuclear weapon over Mars Bluff, South Carolina. The conventional explosive trigger detonates, leaving a crater 75 feet wide and 35 feet deep.

November 4, 1958
A B-47 catches fire on take-off and crashes, killing one crew member. The high explosive in the nuclear weapon on board explodes leaving a crater 35 feet in diameter and 6 feet deep. Nuclear materials are recovered near the crash site.

November 26, 1958
A B-47 catches fire on the ground. The single nuclear weapon on board is destroyed by fire. Contamination is limited to the immediate vicinity.

January 23, 1961
A B-52 bomber carrying two 24 megaton bombs crashes at Goldsboro, North Carolina. On one of the bombs, five of six interlocking safety devices fail, and a single switch prevents detonation. The explosion would have been 1,800 times more powerful than the bomb exploded at Hiroshima.

June 4, 1962
A nuclear warhead atop a Thor rocket booster falls into the Pacific Ocean when the booster has to be destroyed.

June 20, 1962
A second Thor rocket booster fails, and the nuclear device falls into the Pacific.

April 10, 1963
An American nuclear submarine, Thresher, sinks in the North Atlantic, killing all 129 crewmen.

December 5, 1965
A nuclear-armed airplane rolls off the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga and sinks in 16,000 feet of water off the coast of Japan.

January 17, 1966
A B-52 bomber carrying nuclear weapons has a midair accident while refueling and drops four nuclear weapons on Palomares, Spain. Although no nuclear explosion occurs, conventional explosions in two of the weapons scatter radioactive material over a populated area.

January 21, 1968
A B-52 bomber crashes while attempting an emergency landing at Thule Air Force Base, Greenland. The high explosive components of all four nuclear weapons aboard detonate, producing plutonium contamination over an area approximately 880,000 sq. feet.

March 8-10, 1968
A Soviet Golf-II class submarine with three nuclear tipped missiles aboard sinks 750 miles off the coast of Oahu of the Hawaiian island chain.

May 21, 1968
The American nuclear submarine Scorpion sinks in the Atlantic near the Azores, killing 99 crewmen.

May 24, 1968
An accident aboard the Soviet nuclear submarine K-27 kills five crew members. After unsuccessfully attempting to repair the submarine, the Soviets scuttle it along with its nuclear fuel near Novaya Zemlya.

January 14, 1969
A bomb is accidentally dropped on the deck of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, killing 25 and wounding 85 crewmen.

April 12, 1970
The Soviet nuclear submarine K-8 sinks in the Bay of Biscay, killing 53 crew members.

April 16, 1976
A nuclear warhead on the cruiser USS Albany is damaged (this type of incident is code-named Dull Sword).

September 8, 1977
A Soviet Delta class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine accidentally jettisons a nuclear warhead near Kamchatka in the Pacific. The bomb is recovered.

June 3, 1980
A 46-cent computer chip fails, causing the mistaken detection of a Soviet missile attack by the NORAD system. About 100 B-52 bombers were readied for take off along with the President's airborne command post before the error is detected.

September 20, 1980
A technician dropping a wrench and breaking a fuel tank causes an explosion in the silo of a Titan II Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile. The explosion blows off the 740-ton door and sends the re-entry vehicle with its 9-megaton warhead 600 feet into the air, killing one man and injuring 21 others.

April 9, 1981
The USS George Washington, a submarine carrying 160 nuclear warheads, collides with a Japanese freighter in the East China Sea.

November 2, 1981
An American Poseidon nuclear missile being winched from the submarine support ship USS Holland falls seventeen feet when the winch runs free. The automatic brakes on the winch bring it to rest just above the submarine's hull.

March 21, 1984
The aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk collides with a Soviet attack submarine. The submarine is carrying nuclear armed torpedoes and the carrier is armed with several dozen nuclear weapons.

October 3, 1986
A fire breaks out aboard a Soviet Yankee Class nuclear submarine in the Atlantic about 400 miles east of Bermuda. The submarine sinks three days later while under tow.

April 7, 1989
The Soviet nuclear submarine Komsomolets sinks 300 miles off Norway, killing 42 crewmen.

September 27, 1991
A missile misfires on a Soviet Typhoon class nuclear-powered submarine carrying several nuclear weapons.

March 20, 1993
A Russian Delta III class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine collides with the USS Grayling, a nuclear-powered attack submarine in the Barent Sea.

January 19, 1996
A French Mirage 2000-N nuclear bomber crashes in southern France after flying into a flock of birds. French officials state that there were no nuclear missiles on board when the plane went down.