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156148.  Tue Mar 13, 2007 10:53 am Reply with quote

Q: Why do the Spanish residents of Palomares have their medical bills paid for by Americans?

A: Because the Americans accidentally dropped 4 thermonuclear bombs on them in 1966.


America accidentally dropped four US thermonuclear hydrogen bombs over Palomares in South Eastern Spain in 1966 when a B52 bomber from South Carolina collided in mid-air with a refuelling craft from a Spanish airbase at 31,000 feet.

Three bombs went down onto the shore. High explosive igniters on two of them detonated on impact, spreading plutonium dust clouds over several hundred acres of fields.

The fourth bomb, however, went missing. The search for the bomb was led by Dr John Craven using a mathematical technique called Bayesian Search Theory which attaches probabilities to map grids, and then updates during the search. (This technique also helped find MV Derbyshire, the largest ever ship to get lost at sea.)

Craven’s search was aided by Spanish fisherman Francisco Simo Orts who witnessed the bomb go into the sea.

The bomb was found eighty days after it crashed into the sea by a semi-submersible called Alvin.

Simo Orts appeared at the First District Federal Court with his lawyer Herbert Brownell, former Attorney General of President Dwight Eisenhower claiming salvage rights.

According to maritime law, the person who identifies the location of a salvageable ship are entitled to 1 or 2 per cent of the value of the ship. As the Secretary of Defense had valued the bomb at $2 billion, the finders fee was valued at $20 million. Orts went for $5 million but only ended up getting $14,566. The bruised and battered bomb now lives in the National Atomic Museum in Albuquerque. A sign on it reads “Do Not Bump”.

After the accident,1,600 tons of plutonium contaminated soil were scraped from the farmland near Palomares and sent to the U.S. for containment.

Recently (2006), radioactive snails have been discovered on the site, prompting concerns that there is radiation below ground. No-one dares eat the escar-glow and they are firmly off the menu.

Since 1966, the US has helped to fund health checks for the residents of Palomares as a safety measure against radiation poisoning.

The United States lost 11 nuclear bombs in accidents during the Cold War according to the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. They have never been recovered.

According to Greenpeace,roughly 50 nuclear warheads, most of them from the former Soviet Union, are still on the bottom of the world's seas and oceans.

Last edited by Bunter on Tue Mar 13, 2007 11:25 am; edited 1 time in total

156157.  Tue Mar 13, 2007 11:24 am Reply with quote

I love this. It's a real 'Oops - sorry!'

156162.  Tue Mar 13, 2007 11:30 am Reply with quote

Justin - the business about the Brookings Institution 11-bomb figure seems promising. I can't find it in the three sources you list - can you direct me?

156182.  Tue Mar 13, 2007 11:47 am Reply with quote

The United States lost 11 nuclear bombs in accidents during the Cold War that were never recovered, according to the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

An estimated 50 nuclear warheads, most of them from the former Soviet Union, still lie on the bottom of the world's oceans, according to the environmental group Greenpeace.


156190.  Tue Mar 13, 2007 11:52 am Reply with quote

Missing nuclear material from the former USSR:

According to the report, about 40 kilograms of weapons-usable uranium and plutonium have been stolen from poorly protected nuclear facilities in the former Soviet Union during the last decade.


156208.  Tue Mar 13, 2007 12:14 pm Reply with quote


44. Number of U.S. nuclear bombs lost in accidents and never recovered: 11

U.S. Department of Defense; Center for Defense Information; Greenpeace; "Lost Bombs," Atwood-Keeney Productions, Inc., 1997

50 Facts About US Nuclear Weapons

156210.  Tue Mar 13, 2007 12:19 pm Reply with quote

On the subject of explosions, zookeepers at Haifa are worried that the animals suffer from stress after nearby areas are bombed.

The lions gained weight, Baboons suffered from stress [and gazelles] sometimes die instantly from a heart attack several weeks after they were traumatized.

156269.  Tue Mar 13, 2007 3:34 pm Reply with quote

Wasn't that also reported during NATO's terror attacks on Yugoslavia?

157537.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 6:53 am Reply with quote

Gray wrote:
Missing nuclear material from the former USSR:

According to the report, about 40 kilograms of weapons-usable uranium and plutonium have been stolen from poorly protected nuclear facilities in the former Soviet Union during the last decade.


In the wise words of Nick Ross: "Don't have nightmares"

In order to achieve a nuclear explosion, you have to have enough fissile material to achieve a critical mass. The substances with the lowest critical mass are plutonium-238 and plutonium-239 (both with critical masses of around 10kg), closely followed by plutonium-241 (critical mass 12kg) and uranium-233 (critical mass 15kg). So at the absolute best, the amount of missing material would be large enough to create about 4 bombs that were only just big enough to achieve an explosion (albeit a pretty big explosion).

If the material consisted of uranium-235 (critical mass 52kg), plutonium-240 (critical mass 40kg), or plutonium-242 (critical mass 75kg), then there wouldn't even be enough to create a single bomb.


157547.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 7:22 am Reply with quote

More money down the drain. I should have had Bob check it first ...

157654.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 2:28 pm Reply with quote

There was some great stuff from eggshaped in today's meeting about how Las Vegas' early claim to fame was that people used to go there to watch Atom bombs being tested in the desert (they billed themselves as "The Up-and-Atom City"). I'm sure he'll post it up in due course. Don't hold your breath, though; when last seen he was getting bombed himself, with Bunter, Vitali, and Frederick the Monk - a critical mass of Elves.

157661.  Mon Mar 19, 2007 3:21 pm Reply with quote

Eggshaped didn't let a drop of alcohol pass his lips, but bloody wishes he had as he sits waiting for a delayed flight which means if he's lucky he's going to get home in the early hours of the morning.

Atom facts to follow.

157728.  Tue Mar 20, 2007 3:20 am Reply with quote

What were sunbeam, nougat, grommet, toggle and teapot?

Possible alternative question something about Vegas (especially if Johnny Vegas is appearing):

They were nuclear explosions in Nevada.

In the 1950s and 60s, the Nevada desert was the site of choice for America’s testing of nuclear bombs. There have been nearly 1000 detonations in the area since 1951, which, predictably have lead to a huge number of cancer cases. To date, over 10,000 people (downwinders as they are called) have received over $541 million in compensation from the US Government.

The bombs were visible from Las Vegas (dropped only 65 miles away) and became tourist this was one of the main reasons for the growth of the city. Vegas embraced the nuclear age, calling itself the “up and atom city” and crowning a Miss Atomic Bomb. Days after the first bomb was detonated on January 27, 1951, the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce issued a stream of press releases excitedly describing the new testing grounds as one of the many attractions Las Vegas had to offer. For twelve years, an average of one bomb every three weeks was detonated

The British were no angels either, they blew up parts of Southern Australia. Project buffalo hit Maralinga, close to sacred aboriginal sites, and even used Aussie servicemen to crawl around in ground zero to see how well their clothes protected them against the fallout.

Maralinga is Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal dialect for "Field of Thunder"

names of tests

claims to date


Miss Atomic Bomb

Atomic Testing Museum


Britons in S. Oz

Maralinga in the news, 2003

157730.  Tue Mar 20, 2007 3:29 am Reply with quote

I am of the opinion that these tests were perhaps the most important reason for Vegas becoming such a huge resort.

If you look at the population growth of the town:

1920 2,304
1930 5,165
1940 8,422
1950 24,624
1960 64,405
1970 125,787
1980 164,674
1990 258,295
2000 478,434
2005 545,147

The huge jumps coincide, not with the building of the hoover dam (1936) or the legalisation of gambling (1931) - but with these tests in the 50s and 60s. Add this to the huge tourism push, and I think we would be ok to over-egg the importance of the explosions, or at least put it forward as a possible beginning of the city's popularity.

I'd be interested in what you guys think.

157753.  Tue Mar 20, 2007 5:06 am Reply with quote

Picture researchers, see if you can get this image:

It's attributed to "Las Vegas News Bureau" on the site linked to as "tourism" above.


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