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Tuesday, 26 May 1987
Page: 3369

Ms McHUGH(10.50) —The existence of nuclear weapons creates an almost intolerable burden for us all-that is, the possibility of their use in a nuclear war. Those who work for nuclear disarmament, an end to the nuclear arms race, and, we hope, the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons understand that the very presence of these weapons, their very existence, also creates an intolerable danger-that is, the risk of accidents. The passage of nuclear-armed vessels through our oceans and air space, the visits of nuclear-armed ships to our ports, expose us to that very danger. Yet we are constantly assured that there is no risk; there will be no accidents. There have already been very many accidents. I would like to quote from the journal of the Scientists Against Nuclear Arms entitled Sana Update. It contains a list of some of those accidents. I will refer to as many as I have time to read. The sources of this article are a 1981 issue of Flight International and a report in Jane's Defence Weekly on Soviet nuclear accidents dated 19 January 1985. These are very reputable authorities.

The accidents I will refer to have occurred in the United States of America, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. Let me refer to some that have occurred in the United States: On 7 June 1960 a nuclear-tipped Bomarc anti-aircraft missile in `ready-storage' configuration was destroyed in a fire which followed an explosion. The nuclear warhead was destroyed and there was localised contamination. On 24 January 1961 a B52 on airborne alert and carrying two nuclear weapons experienced catastrophic structural failure of the starboard wing and broke up in mid air. One weapon fell free and broke up on impact with the ground. Part of the weapon containing uranium was never recovered, even though the water logged farmland in the vicinity was excavated to a depth of 50 feet.

On 8 December 1964 a B58 crashed on takeoff at Grissom Air Force Base, Indiana, with five nuclear weapons on board, killing one of the three crew. Parts of all the nuclear weapons were burned in the ensuing fire and there was contamination in the immediate vicinity of the wreck. This was subsequently removed. On 11 October 1965 a C124 transport aircraft carrying nuclear weapons components caught fire during a refuelling operation on the ground at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. On 5 December 1965 a United States Navy A4 Skyhawk nuclear-capable strike aircraft loaded with one nuclear weapon rolled off the elevator of an aircraft carrier at an undisclosed location in the Pacific. Just as well it was not Sydney Harbour. The pilot, the aircraft and the nuclear weapon were not recovered. On 17 January 1966 seven out of 11 crew died when a B52 strategic bomber and a KC135 tanker aircraft collided over Palomares in Spain. An accident is listed for the United States for 21 January 1966, when a B52 crashed on approach, seven miles out from Thule AFB, Greenland. On 21 May 1968 the submarine USS Scorpion was lost with all her crew. On 19 September 1980 a fuel tank of an LGM25C Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile was ruptured when a mechanic dropped a wrench down the silo during servicing.

I refer to the Soviet Union. Information is very sparse, but there is still plenty around. On 12-13 April 1970 a nuclear-powered November class submarine, possibly equipped with nuclear tipped warheads, sank after a reactor accident 170 miles south-west of Land's End. In October 1970 another November class boat suffered a fire in the Atlantic leading to its loss and that of many of the crew. In August 1980 an Echo II class submarine was reported disabled in the western Pacific near Okinawa, probably after a major fire. Crew members wearing anti-radiation suits were reported on deck after the incident. In December 1972 a nuclear weapon accident on a nuclear-powered submarine off the North American coast led to a leak of radioactive material from a nuclear-tipped torpedo. Most of the crew were affected by radiation sickness and several died.

I refer to the last of the reported accidents. In the United Kingdom on 20 June 1985 vehicles in a Royal Air Force nuclear weapons convoy were involved in a collision in the middle of Helensburgh, Strathclyde. Two nuclear weapons carriers collided, causing a small fire. That is the sort of accident we can expect as long as nuclear weapons even exist on this earth.