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The Worst Nuclear Weapon Accidents


Nuclear weapons are the most devastating weapons
ever devised by man. With the power to completely level a city,
a single bomb can kill millions and bring a nation to its knees. With their first use in World War II by the
United States against a stubborn Japan that refused to surrender, nuclear weapons have
only grown in yields over the decades, growing to devices of nightmarish power. While the original Little Boy released 15
kilotons of energy, or an equivalent of 15,000 tons of TNT, the modern B83 gravity bomb has
a yield of 1.2 megatons, or 1,200,000 tons of TNT- over 80 times more powerful than Little
Boy. Yet nuclear weapons are capable of much, much
more than that, with the Soviet Union’s Tsar Bomba, detonated in 1961, producing a 50 megaton
blast, or 3,333 times the explosive yield of Little Boy. While Little Boy devastated a city, the Tsar
Bomba was capable of devastating an entire county, wiping out tens of millions of people
if dropped in a heavily populated area like Los Angeles or Moscow. Today we’re capable of even greater yields
though, and even before the Russians had detonated their Tsar Bomba, Edward Teller, the Hungarian-American
inventor of the hydrogen bomb, had already drawn up plans for a 10 gigaton- or 10,000
megaton- bomb. Such a bomb would have been capable of devastating
the entirety of England and Ireland combined, or both North and South Korea. Ultimately such a proposal was deemed way
too impractical to be effective, and ultimately unnecessary. With the development of Multiple Impact Re-entry
Vehicle technology, a single nuclear missile could deliver a scattershot payload of nuclear
weapons that would devastate a countryside. Once a full nuclear strike had been carried
out, there would have been little point to devastate the rest of the nation- every military
and civilian target would have been eradicated, and most survivors would then die from the
societal collapse that followed. With so much power in such small devices it
can be terrifying to think about them being involved in any sort of accident, and yet
throughout history that’s exactly what’s happened time and time again. Nuclear weapons safety policy in the United
States is known as “always and never”, in that a nuclear weapon must always be reliably
counted on to detonate when deployed, but must never detonate when not specifically
intended to do so- no matter the circumstances. This policy was immediately put to the test
as nuclear weapons joined the growing military arsenal of the United States and other nations,
and incredibly, despite some major accidents, the safety standard of always and never has
held. Now let’s look at some of the worst nuclear
weapon accidents in history: 1950 British Columbia On the 14thof February, 1950, a US Air Force
Convair B-36 was tasked with conducting a simulated nuclear strike against the Soviet
Union. This was the beginning of the Cold War and
well before the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles, so nuclear weapons could
only be delivered via aircraft. Yet any such strike mission would have to
cross over the North Pole, facing bitterly cold temperatures and other flight challenges-
especially so if war broke out during the winter. Realizing that they needed to ascertain just
how feasible such a strike would be, the US military approved and then carried out the
simulated nuclear strike. For the nuclear exercise the B-36 would take
off from Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska and then fly just off the coast of the Alaskan
panhandle and British Columbia, cross inland over Washington state into Montana, and then
climb to 40,000 feet (12,000 meters) for a simulated bomb run on San Francisco in California. Then the plane would continue its non-stop
flight to Fort Worth, Texas where it would land. The mission would last 24 hours and for added
realism, the bomber carried a Mark IV atomic bomb- although the weapon only carried uranium
and 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) of conventional explosives. The plutonium core necessary for a nuclear
detonation was not present. Extreme cold weather on the ground at Eielson
AFB immediately affected the bomber, causing some minor technical difficulties. Eventually though the plane was cleared for
take off, only for seven hours later to have flames begin shooting out of three of the
six engines. To prevent the engines from being severely
damaged, the three engines were shut down and the plane continued on its mission on
just three operational engines. However, the three engines eventually were
unable to provide full power, causing the plane to lose altitude. The crew decided to abandon the aircraft as
it could not stay aloft for much longer. In order to spare his crew from parachuting
into the freezing cold North Pacific, the aircraft commander steered the plane inland. Before bailing, the atomic bomb was jettisoned
somewhere over the Inside Passage in British Columbia, with the weapon detonating in mid-air. As it did not have its plutonium core though
the weapon did not achieve a nuclear yield- although the conventional explosives would
have spread radioactive particles across a wide area. Thankfully the territory was extremely remote,
and to date no casualties from the explosion have ever been reported. 2007, North Dakota Modern nuclear weapon operations require the
highest degrees of security and safety both, and even the most basic of maintenance operations
has a long list of stringent security guidelines that must be strictly adhered to. Yet in 2007 six nuclear cruise missiles went
missing from their storage depot and flown cross-country with nobody involved being aware. At 0800 hours on the 29thof August, 2007,
a breakout crew of US Air Force airmen from Minot Air Force Base prepared twelve AGM-129
air-launched cruise missiles for transport to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana . This
was the sixth of twelve planned ferry missions, with each flight carrying 12 cruise missiles
with dummy warheads for storage in Barksdale. Yet as the airmen prepared the weapons for
loading onto a waiting B-52, instead of using the standard electronic tracking system for
the missiles, they relied on an informal process that failed to identify six of the missiles
as being loaded with fully functional W80-1 variable yield nuclear warheads. If you’re wondering what that means, it’s
military speak for “the airmen got lazy and complacent and cut corners to get the
job done quickly.” As the breakout crew began a final inspection
of the missiles however, the transport crew arrived early and began to hook up the missiles
for transport to the waiting plane. Once more failing to adequately do their jobs,
the breakout crew simply allowed the transport crew to remove the missiles without finishing
their final check, which would have discovered the live warheads and put a halt to the entire
incident. Instead the transport crew towed the missiles
to the waiting aircraft were they were then loaded on the external wingtip pylons at approximately
0925. For over 23 hours the nuclear weapons sat
completely unguarded on the Minot Air Force Base flight line as the crew loaded them onto
their pylons and then left the plane sitting out overnight for the next day’s mission. The next morning one of the aircraft’s flight
officers arrived and prepped the plane for takeoff, closely inspecting the six missiles
on the right wing which were loaded with training warheads, but signing off on the flight manifest
without then inspecting the six missiles on the opposite wingtip- once more complacency
ensured the live nuclear weapons would remain undetected and unguarded. The B-52 then took off and landed at Barskdale
Air Force Base in Louisiana a few hours later, where it remained in a far corner of the flight
line completely unguarded for nine hours. That night a munitions team arrived to remove
the missiles, upon which one of the crew members noticed something unusual about the six missiles
containing nuclear warheads and immediately contacted his supervisor. A skeptical supervisor arrived shortly after
and immediately confirmed that the weapons were indeed armed and live, and immediately
reported the incident up the chain of command. The mere movement of nuclear weapons from
an active flight line to their storage bunkers requires a security force of no less than
60 heavily armed security personnel made up of several fire teams, four heavy weapon escorts,
and numerous ATV off-road roving scouts to monitor avenues of approach. While present on an aircraft the weapons require
at minimum a 15 man Quick Reaction Force that can arrive on-scene to the plane within 5
minutes, with two stationary patrols made up of 2 guards each with a third 2-man mobile
patrol constantly monitoring the perimeter. Yet for 36 hours the nuclear weapons involved
remained completely unguarded, tucked away in a far corner of two different flight lines,
with all personnel involved completely oblivious to their presence. Worse yet, for that entire duration the United
States military had lost track of six of the most powerful nuclear devices in its inventory,
and nobody had any idea. 1966, Spain In 1966 intercontinental ballistic missiles
were still a ways off from being reliable means of delivering nuclear weapons, and thus
the bulk of the nuclear strike capability of the United States still rested on its bomber
fleet. Known as SAC, the US Air Force’s Strategic
Air Command was responsible for delivering nuclear armageddon against the Soviet Union,
and to maintain this capability regularly engaged in training scenarios meant to keep
its readiness levels up. On the 17thof January, 1966, A B-52 took off
from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. It’s mission was to conduct a long-range simulated
nuclear attack run against the Soviet Union and its allies, and thus would fly across
the Atlantic Ocean, over the Mediterranean Sea, and then east off the Italian coast before
turning around and flying back home, reaching within just a few dozen miles of the Soviet
Union’s borders. Because war could break out at any time, the
aircraft was loaded with four B28RI hydrogen bombs for its training mission, which could
be turned into a live fire mission at any time in worst case scenario. The flight plan would take over 24 hours and
involve two in-flight refuelings, a dangerous affair that requires careful coordination
between the tanker and receiving aircraft- specially with aircraft as large as the B-52
involved. At 10:30 AM while flying at 31,000 feet (9,450
meters), the B-52 met up with a KC-135 tanker aircraft flying out of Moron Air Base in Spain. As the two aircraft met just off the sunny
coast of southern spain, it was clear that the B-52 was coming in too fast as the KC-135
extended its refueling boom. The boom operator aboard the KC-135 is supposed
to warn the approaching aircraft to break away if this happens, yet the operator said
nothing which led the pilots of the B-52 to assume nothing was wrong as they tried to
slow their plane down. Yet the approach speed was far greater than
any of the men realized, and the nozzle of the refueling boom struck the top of the B-52
fuselage, tearing through a load-bearing longeron and snapping off the left wing. This resulted in an explosion which devastated
both aircraft- in the end only four of the eleven men across both aircraft would survive. The four hydrogen bombs were torn free from
the tumbling aircraft and plummeted below. Three of the bombs struck farm fields near
the fishing village of Palomares, with two of the bombs having their conventional explosives
detonate on impact- though the weapon’s safety mechanisms prevented a nuclear explosion,
the conventional explosion still spread radioactive fallout over a wide area. The third weapon was found relatively intact
in a dry riverbed. The fourth weapon however had drifted out
over the ocean as it fell, and would take years to recover via remote drone. As a result of the nuclear fallout, the US
government ended up having to buy several farmer’s fields and conduct extensive cleanup
operations. To help ease the fears of a very worried public,
Spain’s minister for information and tourism, and the United State’s ambassador made a public
show of swimming in a beach just 9 miles (15 km) away, and then later swam at a second
beach close to the impact site. While the fallout continues to affect the
area to this day, with the US still monitoring the situation closely, what is truly incredible
is that the weapon that was found relatively intact had actually undergone all arming procedures
as it fell to earth, and only a single last ditch safety measure had prevented the weapon
from achieving a nuclear yield. Nuclear weapons are clearly robustly designed
devices, yet what’s equally clear is that the one weak point in every nuclear weapon
safety and security measure is the human element. With thousands of live nuclear weapons still
in active inventory around the world, some believe that it’s only a matter of time before
the worst comes to pass, and if it does, it may lead to an accidental nuclear war by a
confused United States and Russia that still hold on to plenty of Cold War hostility. Can nuclear weapons be kept safe forever? Or are accidents and a full-scale nuclear
detonation inevitable? Let us know in the comments! Also, make sure you check out our other video,
Can One Person Destroy The World? See you next time!

77 thoughts on “The Worst Nuclear Weapon Accidents

  1. Which technology never should have been invented? Name one thing that would make the world a better place had it been uninvented…

  2. The shaped charge of conventional explosives in nuclear weapons must detonate evenly to apply equal pressure from all sides in order to properly compress the Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239 core and initiate the nuclear explosion which is unlikely if the bomb falls out of an airplane as in one of the accidents mentioned here and its for that reason, I think, that none of these "Broken Arrows"(the US Government's term for an accident or theft involving a nuclear weapon) incidents resulted in a nuclear explosion. The sheer volume of nuclear weapons in existence during the Cold War all but assured that things would go wrong.

  3. america thinks other countriess in the world is low living mosquitoes and dont care to fly bombs like nuclear over them

  4. Teller Ede is not Edward Teller (same person) Ede is not Edward (Yes we Hungarians puts the "first" name to the back) Ede has no english traslation Ede is Ede!

  5. Let me provide a counter-argument. If US didn't bomb Japan twice, do you think we would still have Anime with all its oneesan and ara ara goodness? I couldn't prove it of course but you couldn't disprove it as well. Think about it. A world without loli Rapthalia, Aqua crying or Chika dance.

  6. People should end gunsand nuclear weapons ! I just want bow and arrows and swords, i wish i lived in the medieval times

  7. This channel put my old history class to shame! By far the best education channel out there ive learned quite a bit and its entertaining! I hppe this channel profits plenty cause i never want it to leave!

  8. "Worst Nuclear Accidents"? Huh? Even very very very worst Nuclear Accident are not in this clip. Worst nuclear accident happen in Greenland near Thule Air base in 1968. B-52 carrying 4 nuclear weapons crash into the sea ice. 4 nuclear weapons contaminates northern Greenland, cancers caused by nuclear accident occurred in Greenlandic native people to this day.

  9. Why do we even still have nukes? Why does each country need nukes? it’s not like we’re going to use them on each other they are just a disaster waiting to happen

  10. 🤯Whoops, Sorry Canada🇨🇦!!! 😬

    ☢️Luckily there was no Uranium core☢️

    No hard feelings, right???
    ❤️Love you, Mean it.

  11. Infographic this: how about using the radiation symbol instead of the biohazard symbol on your thumbnail!!! Okay thanks!!!!!!!!! – a Medical laboratory scientist

  12. Can nukes be kept safe forever? When has humanity ever invented a new technology for killing and not used it? It is inevitable.

    That's why Oppenheimer said he had become death, destroyer of worlds during the Manhattan project. He realized at that moment he had opened Pandora's box and helped invent our extinction.

  13. I was in the USAF for 22 years and worked with alert forces. The 2007 story does not past the smell test there is more too the story that we will never know.

  14. 1:50, WOW Look at that! Only the Nuke signal is the biggest in China, but if you look back, you will see every place on earth. Only USA has not been target by the bomb. So what do you want whoever is the video maker?

  15. Some of those can take out small countries
    Also the united States nuclear weapons are controlled by extremely out dated analog technology. Which is scary

  16. How much eye protection would you need to watch a nuclear explosion without injury (excluding instant vaporization)

  17. Greater yields than 50 megatons? Actually modern weapon yields have decreased. The USA largest warhead is currently 1.2 megaton.

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