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Nuclear "Broken Arrow" in Seattle, Washington PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Friday, 12 March 2004 07:29
The admiral in charge of the Navy's submarine-launched strategic missile systems has agreed to brief two Washington congressmen behind closed doors next week o­n an incident at Naval Submarine Base Bangor in which a crew reportedly damaged an atomic-tipped Trident missile late last year. Rear Admiral Charles Young, the director of the Navy's Strategic Systems Programs, responded to a demand for the briefing by Reps. Norm Dicks and Jay Inslee after the Navy refused to publicly acknowledge any incident at the base. Scott Baker, a spokesman for Inslee, said the admiral was tentatively set to meet with the congressmen o­n Thursday.

An analysis of potential nuclear ship accident in Victoria is the last posting in this email.

Al Rycroft

Friday, March 12, 2004 - Page updated at 11:16 A.M.

Navy agrees to brief 2 lawmakers o­n reportedly damaged missile

By Mike Carter
Seattle Times staff reporter
The demand for the briefing came after Dicks and Inslee said they were not satisfied with the Navy's public response to their request earlier this week that the Navy release information about the incident in the wake of media reports.

Yesterday, the Navy essentially said it would not acknowledge anything had happened and, even if it had, it wouldn't be discussed because of security concerns.

Dicks, the No. 2 Democrat o­n the Appropriations Subcommittee o­n Defense, took o­ne look at the Navy's written response and called Rear Adm. Charles Young, the director of the Navy's Strategic Systems Programs, and asked for the briefing, said George Behan, a spokesman for Dicks.

Inslee, whose district includes Naval Submarine Base Bangor, said he was "very troubled" by the circumstances of the reported incident, particularly because local emergency-services officials were not notified.

"Congressman Dicks and I intend to discuss these allegations with the Navy in the upcoming days, and work to ensure that a comprehensive safety system exists to prevent any incident, such as those alleged ... in media reports, from occurring," Inslee said in a prepared statement.

Two additional sources familiar with the incident confirmed yesterday that the nose cone of a Trident I C-4 missile was gouged as it was hoisted into a protective sleeve.

Workers had mistakenly left a ladder inside the sleeve, which tore into the tip of the 34-foot missile. There was no damage to any of the warheads inside the missile.

Other sources confirmed they were sent home from their jobs the next day after being told that a missile had been damaged while it was being offloaded from the USS Georgia, an Ohio-class submarine that was berthed at the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific (SWFPAC).

Weeks after the November incident, the entire command staff at SWFPAC, including the commanding officer, executive officer, weapons officer and command master chief, were relieved of duty.
Both Dicks and Inslee were told of the command changes, their staffers said. At the time, the Navy cited a "loss of confidence" in Capt. Keith Lyles and his subordinates.

Behan said Dicks never inquired further and that the congressman was never told of a missile mishap. When Inslee asked for additional information, he was told "it was a personnel matter and that the Navy would not discuss it further," said Scott Baker, Inslee's assistant press secretary.

"At the time, we had no reason to be suspicious," Baker said. "We are concerned now."

In its response yesterday to written questions submitted by The Times, the Navy stated that "there has never been a Trident weapons-system accident" at either SWFPAC or its sister facility o­n the East Coast.

Pamela Sims, a spokesman for Navy's Strategic Systems Programs Office in Washington, D.C., declined to elaborate.

One source, who had been briefed o­n the Navy's investigation into the incident, said a mishap would likely be labeled an "accident" o­nly if there was a release of radiation.

A lawsuit filed by anti-nuclear activist Glen Milner has turned up three other minor incidents involving damage to Trident missiles since 1991. The Navy categorized the incidents as a "jolt" or "bump."

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Copyright ? 2004 The Seattle Times Company


Thursday, March 11, 2004

Nuclear missile allegedly damaged
Web site says Navy called 'broken arrow' aboard Bangor sub


Was it a "broken arrow" at the Trident submarine base in Bangor in November that led to the firing a month later of the Navy leadership overseeing nuclear weapons there?

The code words used by the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the most severe level of a nuclear weapon mishap reportedly were invoked Nov. 7 when a Trident I C4 missile was damaged while being removed from the submarine USS Georgia in Bangor.
The allegation was raised over the weekend at a watchdog Web site, jaghunters.blogspot.com, run by a former Navy officer, Walt Fitzpatrick of Bremerton. Fitzpatrick has had a significant beef with the military justice system for 16 years, which the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has reported previously. Fitzpatrick yesterday said he drew upon Navy sources for his information about the missile incident, which has drawn the interest of U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks.

As the P-I reported in December, the top leadership of the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific -- responsible for handling intercontinental ballistic missiles at Bangor -- was sacked o­n the spot. Three officers have been reassigned and three enlisted men face courts-martial o­n lesser charges.

According to Fitzpatrick, the Nov. 7 incident happened when the missile from tube No. 16 was hauled up and smacked into an access ladder that had been left in the tube, slicing a 9-inch hole in the missile's nose cone.

The ladder is placed inside the silo after the tube hatch is opened so a sailor can climb inside to attach a hoist to lift the intercontinental ballistic missile out of the tube. After attaching the hoist, the sailor climbs out and the ladder is to be removed before the missile is lifted out.

The crew members reportedly took a break, and when they returned, they began to hoist out the missile without removing the ladder, damaging the nose cone. Although there would not have been a nuclear explosion, a radiation release or non-nuclear explosion was possible, Fitzpatrick claims.

That didn't happen, though the base's civilian emergency services allies yesterday wanted to know more.

Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer said yesterday that his office was not notified of any incident involving nuclear-tipped missiles last fall. Boyer was surprised yesterday when he heard of the incident from a reporter. He described cooperation with the Navy as excellent, particularly since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Phyllis Mann, who as director of Kitsap County's Emergency Management Division works with the Navy and monitors Navy incidents, said county and state records show no "broken arrow" was reported as is required. Defense Department directives require the FBI as lead civilian agency to be notified, as well as local and state emergency services.

"Based upon our relationships with the bases, we would expect to be notified if there was a public safety health threat," Mann said.

She's not surprised, however. If the missile was banged up but nothing was released, reporting of the incident might not be required.

Navy officials here and in Washington, D.C., refused to discuss the allegations, citing a strict Defense Department "neither confirm nor deny" directive concerning nuclear weapons to keep potential or real enemies guessing.

Regarding the disciplinary action meted out in December and the reasons behind it, Pam Sims, spokeswoman for the Strategic Systems Program in Washington, D.C., that oversees the strategic weapons units o­n each coast, could say little.

"Safety is paramount in everything we do in the Navy and a primary focus for our leadership at every level of command," she said.

The neither-confirm-nor-deny policy, however, handcuffs the Navy from explaining the incident, and stirred up questions from Dicks and activists who have been monitoring the base for years.

"We are working with the Navy to see what may have happened and to see what guidelines they have" for weapons accidents, said George Behan, spokesman for Dicks, who sits o­n key defense committees.

Dicks' office yesterday contacted Rear Adm. Charles Young, head of the Strategic Systems Program in the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the nation's "nuclear Navy."

The issue echoes concerns raised in January by Glen Milner, 52, a peace activist and member of Ground Zero, a citizens group that has protested outside Bangor over the nuclear weapons issue for years and filed lawsuits over safety concerns.

"What would happen in a missile loading accident at the wharf?" Milner asked in a letter to the P-I early this year.

Ground Zero recently won a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that showed 53 less severe "incidents" prior to 1986 involving submarine-launched missiles. Sixteen were classified as potentially serious. Even if it's unlikely a nuclear warhead would be detonated, the potential remains for a plutonium release or an explosion from the Trident's missile propellant.

Adding Fitzpatrick's concerns to his own, Milner said, "What is most outrageous is that while o­n Nov. 7 when this ladder is impaled into this nose cone of this missile, imagine the sailors not knowing how far in, or whether it would blow up" creating an instant "dirty" bomb.

"It's shocking that the Navy didn't reveal anything," he said.

So strict are the Navy's protocols for handling nuclear weapons that overlooking the smallest details results in discipline. The accident immediately shut down the strategic weapons facility. Fitzpatrick said the unit's failure to pass a subsequent inspection resulted in the firings.

As the P-I reported in December, Capt. Keith Lyles, commander of Bangor's strategic weapons unit was fired o­n the spot Dec. 19.

Also relieved of duty in what Fitzpatrick says has been coined the "royal flush" were Lyle's executive officer, Cmdr. Phillip Jackson, and Cmdr. Marshall Millett, weapons officer.

Young, the admiral in charge of strategic systems, cited o­nly a "loss of confidence" as the reasons. Three enlisted men in the missile handling team face courts-martial involving less severe alleged offenses.

Those who could be reached declined to comment.

Young replaced Lyles with Capt. Lawrence Lehman. Lehman, who had led a 40-man inspection of the facility, replaced Lyles o­n the spot. The facility reopened after passing inspection Jan. 9.

Although defense officials are mum o­n nuclear weapons, the P-I in April 1998 reported o­n a Washington, D.C.-based Natural Resources Defense Council report that said base closures and realignments meant Washington state by 2003 could house 1,685 such weapons, more than any other state and bigger than the nuclear forces of Great Britain, France or China.

Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, has been a thorn in the Navy's side for years, trying to clear his name from a court-martial conviction that fellow officers and some congressmen say is a case of military justice gone wrong.

Fitzpatrick was executive officer of the USS Mars when he received a career-destroying reprimand in 1988 for failing to properly supervise the spending of his ship's morale, welfare and recreation money. The non-governmental funds pay for non-government gear such as entertainment or recreational equipment for the crew and are raised through the ship's retail store.

The incident grew out of a terror attack. Fitzpatrick allowed the money to be used to help Capt. Mike Nordeen, the ship's commanding officer, when his brother, Navy Capt. William Nordeen, was murdered in Greece by terrorists in 1988. Though the ship's crew voted to use the money to send a contingent to the funeral, the Navy came down o­n Fitzpatrick for misusing the funds.

P-I reporter Paul Shukovsky contributed to this report. P-I reporter Mike Barber can be reached at 206-448-8018 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


For more background o­n nuclear ships and accidents see:

See my own http://www.vicpeace.ca/centre/#readings , which includes:

Jackson Davis Study, Executive Summary (reproduced below)
   Nuclear accidents o­n military vessels in Canadian ports:
   site-specific analyses for Esquimalt/Victoria

Angus Reid 1998 Poll showing 93% of Canadians want their country involved in global negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons
Art Nuko World Tour
Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Nuclear Map of Canada
Canadian Government Committee Report: Reducing the Political Value of Nuclear Weapons
Canberra Commission Executive Summary (Australia)
David R. Morgan, 16 Known Nuclear Crises (74 K)

Alan Rycroft


Nuclear accidents o­n military vessels in Canadian ports: site-specific analyses for Esquimalt/Victoria
by W. Jackson Davis, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology
Nuclear Policy Program
Adlai Stevenson College
University of California at Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, California 95064

October 15, 1987

Executive Summary

This paper reports a quantitative, site-specific analysis of two nuclear accident scenarios aboard military vessels in a Canadian port. Conventional methodology used by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to regulate the U.S. civilian nuclear industry is combined with generally conservative assumptions (that is, assumptions that tend to understate the likely impact of an accident) to evaluate t he consequences of hypothetical nuclear accidents aboard military ships in the port of Esquimalt and the adjacent city of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The results are used as a basis for policy evaluations o­n the issue of port visits. The results also bear upon the proposed acquisition by the Canadian Armed Forces of 10-12 nuclear-powered submarines. Although this analysis has been undertaken for a U.S. military propulsion reactor, comparable effects would be anticipated from a similar accident entailing a British Trafalgar class or a French Rubis class submarine.

The first accident scenario analyzed is incineration of a single nuclear warhead in a ship-board fire. Such an accident would produce a radioactive cloud containing plutonium-239, which would be carried toward the northeast, directly over Esquimalt/Victoria, by the most probable prevailing winds. The plutonium concentration in the cloud would exceed U.S. federal (NRC) limits for air contamination (10 CFR 20) by up to ten thousand times. Ground contamination from fallout would exceed U.S. federal (NRC) limits for unrestricted public use by up to o­ne million times. Radiation exposure from inhalation of the plutonium would exceed U.S. federal limits for "routine" releases by up to o­ne hundred thousand times. Prompt fatalities have not been considered here; instead casualties calculated here would take the form of latent cancers fatalities and genetic defects. Latent cancer fatalities incurred during the accident would range from 15 to 3,413 depending o­n thermal lofting, atmospheric stability and the radiation risk factor used, with an equal number of additional fatalities from severe genetic defects. The greatest contamination would occur nearest the accident site, although both air and ground contamination would remain well above the NRC limits up to 50 km form the accident site and beyond. Casualties would be concentrated within 5 km of the accident, but could extend out to several tens of kilometers from the accident site. Under unfavorable meteorological conditions the effects of such an accident could be experienced as far away as Vancouver.

The second accident scenario analyzed is a hypothetical nuclear-reactor accident aboard a ship berthed at Esquimalt. The core inventory of a 100 megawatt (thermal) naval propulsion reactor fueled by highly enriched uranium metal is derived from calculations o­n research reactor fuel performed with the ORIGEN computer code. Release fractions consistent with existing accident histories and radionuclide properties are assumed, and consequent releases to the atmosphere are calculated for 15 radionuclides comprising an estimated 94.8-98.1% of the projected health detriment for three exposure pathways (cloudshine, inhalation exposure and groundshine). Ingestion and resuspension pathways are ignored under the assumption of early evacuation and decontamination.

Calculated downwind air concentrations of the radionuclides following a four hour propulsion reactor accident, as well as ground deposition, exceed the aforementioned federal U.S. NRC limits by hundreds to thousands of times. Prompt casualties are possible close to the accident but have not been considered here. Total latent cancer fatalities incurred during the accident range from 2 to 422, depending o­n assumptions, and are concentrated in the first 5 km from the accident site. An equal number of additional fatalities from severe genetic defects would be anticipated. Additional casualties incurred from 1 week of habitation of contaminated urban regions would range from 69 to 636 latent cancer fatalities, with an equal number of casualties from severe genetic defects, highlighting the need for immediate evacuation. Additional casualties incurred from 1 year of further habitation range from 254 to 1,562 latent cancer fatalities and an equal number of casualties from severe genetic defects. Additional casualties in each subsequent year would approximate 250 to 1,500 latent cancer fatalities initially, declining to half within approximately 30 years. The high annual casualties from continued long-term habitation of the city indicate the need for decontamination prior to rehabitation.

Although SHORT-TERM casualties under the generally conservative assumptions of this analysis are relatively low, both accidents modeled would cause from hundreds to thousands of LONG_TERM casualties unless the contaminated urban areas were both evacuated and decontaminated. Rapid evacuation would appear impossible in the absence of effective emergency response plans (see below). The most significant impact, however, could be economic. U.S. Government studies indicate that decontamination could cost tens of billions of U.S. dollars and take months to complete, during which time the local economy would be largely terminated. These cost estimates omit the o­n-site costs of clean-up, and they omit "indirect" losses from the termination of local economies and ripple effects o­n provincial and national economies. The ecological and economic impacts of such an accident o­n surrounding salt water bodies have not been considered here but could also be significant.

The risk to the Canadian public from these accidents is the product of the CONSEQUENCES and PROBABILITY of the accident. Although the consequences can be estimated under idealized accident conditions as assumed above, the probability of each accident requires information that is not within the public domain. Such information includes the number of nuclear warheads aboard ships in port, the frequency and intensity of shipboard fires, the fire resistance of nuclear warheads, and the accident history and operating characteristics of naval propulsion reactors, In the absence of this is information, the probability of the accidents m modeled cannot be calculated, and hence the risk associated with port visits or stationing of nuclear powered submarines cannot be assessed accurately.

Emergency preparedness for a nuclear accident in Canadian ports is inadequate to the scale of possible accidents analyzed here. Civilian regulatory bodies exercise no licensing nor oversight authority over the technical aspects of U.S. military reactors and weapons. Port visits by U.S. nuclear powered or nuclear capable vessels are conducted under the U.S. General Statement of Assurances (Appendix I). This document does not mention emergency preparedness, is ambiguous o­n the issues of liability/compensation in the event of an accident, and omits any consideration of nuclear weapons accidents, even though such accidents have occurred and are featured in U.S. military emergency preparedness plans. Emergency preparedness for nuclear accidents is allocated to Canadian authorities, who have assigned such responsibility to the Department of National Defence (DND). DND emergency preparedness plans are not, however, in the public domain. Without public knowledge of emergency preparedness plans, it is therefore not clear how public participation in a time of actual emergency could be implemented. U.S. studies indicate that emergency preparedness is effective o­nly when specific plans adequate to real emergencies are designed, publicized and exercised periodically.

Publicly-available information o­n DND emergency procedures suggest: 1) evacuation zones extend o­nly to 609 meters from the accident site; 2) Nuclear Emergency Response Teams (NERTs) are responsible for seeking information about the type of hazard and containing any radioactive material released; and 3) responding to nuclear weapons accidents is not a part of NERT planning. These emergency procedures are ineffectual in that: 1) contamination and casualty zones could extend to several km from the accident site, as demonstrated in the present analysis, rendering a 609 m evacuation zone meaningless; 2) the U.S., General Statement of Assurances explicitly prohibits the boarding of U.S. military vessels for the purpose of obtaining technical information, and U.S. Department of Defence directive 5230.16 permits concealing nuclear weapons accidents when they occur. It is not clear, therefore, how NERTs could identify, let alone contain, nuclear materials released in an accident. Indeed NERTs are not alerted by visits of n nuclear-capable vessels, and are not situated in several ports visited by such vessels.

The findings of this report provide a technical basis for seven policy recommendations. These are: 1) Prospective costs and benefits of port visits by nuclear capable and nuclear propelled warships, as well as those associated with the acquisition of nuclear powered submarines, deserve careful weighing, incorporating quantitative assessments of possible costs of accident scenarios such as those reported here. If the Canadian public and government decide nonetheless to proceed with port visits and/or acquisition of nuclear powered submarines, a number of additional recommendations follow. These are: 2) Emergency evacuation ought to be extended to at least 5 km from the accident site for densely populated urban areas such as Esquimal/Victoria; 3) Evacuation plans should be established, coordinated and rehearsed periodically; 4) Decontamination plans in the event of an accident should likewise be formulated; 5) The data needed to ascertain empirically the probability of nuclear accidents should be obtained from the U.S. military so that the risk to the Canadian public can be estimated as closely as possible; 6) Detailed liability and indemnity regimes in the event of an accident should be negotiated in advance; 7) Existing emergency response institutions, procedures and documents should be evaluated in light of accident analyses such as the present o­ne.

Last Updated on Friday, 12 March 2004 07:29

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