It is quite disturbing what is to be understood behind the U.S. Navy’s term broken arrow which is to be found in relation with nuclear weapons and their unwittingly loss – be that temporary or continuous. Corresponding to a definition by the Central for Defense Information (2012 merged into the non-profit organization Project On Government Oversight POGO) the term refers to incidents as follow :
The accidental or unauthorized detonation, or possible detonation of a nuclear weapon ( other than war risk); Non-nuclear detonation or burning of a nuclear weapon; Radioactive contamination; Seizure, theft, or loss of a nuclear weapon or component (including jettisoning).
There were quite a bit incidents in that sense in the cold war and its still happening today. More than a few frightening situations have come to pass. One of the most exposing examples is an accident affecting a Mark 15 nuclear bomb which has been jettisoned by the carrying bomber after a collision with another plane near Tybee Island, Georgia on February 5th in 1958 (Tybee-Bomb). There was no explosion but the bomb is still missing in the sea. The opinions about the dangerousness of the bomb differ but nobody had been too much interested in looking for the truth. In January 1966 there was an accident during a mid-air refueling destroying both tanker and bomber whose cargo were four Mk28 type hydrogen bombs of which three were find on land near Palomares. In two weapons the non-nuclear explosives blew up contaminating nearly a square mile area by plutonium. One bomb fell into the sea till its intact recovery two and a half month later.
Oops – Ok, we’re still fine, it’s only a dent.
In his documentary Nuclear Rescue 911 filmmaker Peter Kuran looks into the bottom of a shocking history of accidents. Just currently happened a door to a US Air Force nuclear warhead room to be mistakenly open offering the possibility to gain access to the top secret codes of the launch center – for more information check out the POGO BLOG. And yet its only one party’s nuclear breakdowns. What had already happened to other nuclear superpowers which lies in the silent (possibly contaminated) dust of history?
What is confusing as well is the public silence in the microcosm of daily life. Is there really something as journalist Eric Schlosser names an enormous amnesia? Why is there no further reaction on this arrogance in nuclear handling? What does legitimize the risk of maintaining nukes? Maybe because things like these mentioned above – and the whole devastating power of nuclear weaponry in general – is still hard to believe how it came to this point.