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United States News Technology

Lost Nuclear Bomb Found Off Georgia Coast? 820

Posted by michael
from the always-the-last-place-you-look dept.
securitas writes "Both CNN and ABC News report that a hydrogen thermonuclear bomb lost off the Georgia coast in 1958 may have been found. The 'Mark 15, Mod 0' nuclear bomb was jettisoned into the Atlantic Ocean off Savannah after a B-47 bomber and an F-86 fighter collided in mid-air. 'The 7,600-pound, 12-foot-long thermonuclear bomb contained 400 pounds of high explosives as well as uranium' and it was found off Tybee Island by retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Derek Duke,, who said that radiation levels were from seven to 10 times higher than normal. If it is the bomb that Duke has found, the question now is what, if anything, should be done with it?"
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Lost Nuclear Bomb Found Off Georgia Coast?

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  • lol... (Score:4, Funny)

    by here4fun (813136) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:39PM (#10293007) Homepage Journal
    If it is the bomb that Duke has found, the question now is what, if anything, should be done with it?"

    Put it on ebay. ;)

    • Interested (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:49PM (#10293107)
      How much is the shipping and handling?

      Sincerely yours,
      Osama bin Laden
      • by here4fun (813136) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:55PM (#10293144) Homepage Journal
        How much is the shipping and handling?

        Sincerely yours,
        Osama bin Laden

        Dear Mr Laden,

        We would be more than happy to send you the Thermonuclear Bomb for the low price of $1.99, with shipping and handeling of $2,000,000. Our packers pack your item with the best foam and plastic poppers, so you can be confident to recieve your item without any damage. Remember, if you dislike your purchase for any reason, you can return it for no questions asked. Please remember we have a $25% restocking fee, and shipping is non-refundable. Thank you for shopping with ebay.

        • by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:17PM (#10293293)

          We would be more than happy to send you the Thermonuclear Bomb for the low price of $1.99, with shipping and handeling of $2,000,000.

          No, no - shipping is free for the esteemed My Bin Laden (long time customer and all). However, we will require that he take personal delivery.

      • Re:Interested (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Arker (91948)
        Don't start drooling, even if the rest of the bomb were still usable (it won't be) the fissionable material inside deteriorates quite rapidly. Nuclear warheads must be 'refurbished' every couple years or so, otherwise they deteriorate too much to explode. This one's been sitting there for how long? Forget about making it go off, without a lot of fresh material at least - and if you had that, you wouldn't need this antique.
        • WRONG (Score:5, Insightful)

          by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:41PM (#10293444)
          The material used in this particular weapon is Pu-239. Pu-239 has a half-life of 24,100 years. That means that this device is and will be a hot-potato for much longer than you or I will be debating this subject.
          • Re:WRONG (Score:5, Insightful)

            by John Courtland (585609) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:43PM (#10293466)
            There's more than plutonium in a nuke. I'm sure the other components in the warhead are unusuable.
          • RIGHT (Score:5, Insightful)

            by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @07:04PM (#10293572)
            He is talking about the tritiated lithium hydride, not the Pu-239 used in the surrounding triggers (which is quite salvageable from both an engineering and a financial standpoint).

            A thermonuclear bomb (at least as made in the fifties) is essentially a tank of deuterated and tritiated lithium hydride (LiH) that will explode with great fury if quickly raised to a temperature of millions of degrees within a span of milliseconds. It's very difficult to create the required temperatures quickly with chemical explosives- the easiest way to do it is to surround the tank with numerous small fission devices, which heat the tank to millions of degrees quickly and easily and are responsible for the radioactive fallout still associated with fusion bombs. (The "neutron bomb" was a planned attempt to replace the fission warheads with chemical explosives, creating a thermonuclear explosion with no radioactive fallout- a truly impressive feat if it were possible.)

            Since the bomb was lost 46 years ago, which is about 4 tritium half lives, the maximum possible yield has in theory been reduced to 1/16 of what it was in 1958, and the actual yield is probably zero, as you would expect of a fusion device that has spent many tritium half lives on the seafloor. The tank is probably full of lithium oxide and all sorts of crap, although it may still contain enough H isotopes to make it worth recovering. But the Pu is undoubtedly going to be salvaged. In dollar terms, Pu makes Au look like Si.
            • Re:RIGHT (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @07:44PM (#10293783)
              Er, um, you're about 20% correct. Chemical explosions top out around 10,000 degrees, barely 1/1000th the temp required. They don't use "numerous" fission explosions, one will do, you just reflect the radiation around so it's coming from all sides. The neutron bomb didnt use chemical explosives, just a regular fission bomb with the parameters juggled for maximum radiation and minimum blast. Even so there was still about 30% blast effects. Pu is totally worthless nowdays, the US has about 18 tons of excess Pu that it would like to get rid of, the Russians likewise.. We may have to build several billion dollar reactors just to burn up the excess Pu.
              • Re:RIGHT (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Mr. Flibble (12943) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:48PM (#10294079) Homepage
                Pu is totally worthless nowdays, the US has about 18 tons of excess Pu that it would like to get rid of, the Russians likewise.. We may have to build several billion dollar reactors just to burn up the excess Pu.

                True - worthless to nations like the US and Russia... Not so worthless to others who have more nefarious designs.
            • Re:RIGHT (Score:5, Informative)

              by RayBender (525745) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @07:51PM (#10293830) Homepage
              A thermonuclear bomb (at least as made in the fifties) is essentially a tank of deuterated and tritiated lithium hydride (LiH) that will explode with great fury if quickly raised to a temperature of millions of degrees within a span of milliseconds. It's very difficult to create the required temperatures quickly with chemical explosives- the easiest way to do it is to surround the tank with numerous small fission devices, which heat the tank to millions of degrees quickly and easily and are responsible for the radioactive fallout still associated with fusion bombs.

              Close, very close, but not quite right. The trigger is a single fission bomb; the radiation it produces is redirected cleverly so as to compress the fusion charge (a concept referred to as a "Hohlraum"). In some designs there are more than two "stages" where fission triggers fusion, which then is used to trigger more fission or, in some cases, another fusion stage (the Soviet "Tsar Bomba" was a multistage fusion device of 60-120 Mtons. Check out the Nuclear Weapons FAQ [virtualschool.edu] for more info.

              The "neutron bomb" was a planned attempt to replace the fission warheads with chemical explosives, creating a thermonuclear explosion with no radioactive fallout- a truly impressive feat if it were possible.

              Not the neutron bomb I'm familiar with. It was a very low-yield fission-triggered device that had a fusion stage. There has long been a dream at LLNL to figure out how to initiate fusion with a conventional high-explosive trigger, but to my knowledge, no such weapon has ever been tested or fielded. The neutron bomb of the 80's would have created plenty of fallout and radioactivity; the point was it created less blast damage and so didn't sound as bad (the fallout was sort-of ignored).

              He is talking about the tritiated lithium hydride,....Since the bomb was lost 46 years ago, which is about 4 tritium half lives, the maximum possible yield has in theory been reduced to 1/16 of what it was in 1958, and the actual yield is probably zero.

              I think there is a small mis-understanding here. A fusion weapon of this type uses tritium to boost the yield of the fission trigger, NOT as a component in the fusion main stage fuel. The fusion stage creates the tritum needed at the time of explosion by neutron-spallation of the Lithium. So, after 4 half-lives the fission trigger yield will be greatly reduced - probably enough to prevent any significant second-stage fusion. This means that if it exploded, the yield would be in the 10-kiloton range, not the megaton range. However, if the fusion stage were to ignite, it would do so with as much yield as ever.

              • Re:RIGHT (Score:5, Funny)

                by kjamez (10960) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @09:12PM (#10294210) Homepage
                maybe a little offtopic, but does it scare anyone else how much these cats know about nuclear explosives and such?
                • Re:RIGHT (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by caveat (26803) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @10:17PM (#10294560)
                  nah, nukes are very geeky devices, they have three features that are very attractive to nerds - they use mechanics with the precision of a swiss watch, they manipulate some of the fundamental laws of nature, and they make REALLY big explosions. seriously though, the physics behind them is pretty cool, and the way they're designed to exploit said physics is no small feat. Morality aside, they're just really interesting, and arguably one of the great technological achievements of mankind (again, morality aside).
              • Re:RIGHT (Score:5, Interesting)

                by spitzak (4019) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @10:36PM (#10294641) Homepage
                The neutron bomb of the 80's would have created plenty of fallout and radioactivity; the point was it created less blast damage and so didn't sound as bad (the fallout was sort-of ignored).

                If "not sound as bad" was the intent, it sure failed at that. Whether it was a good idea or not, the neutron bomb was a public relations disaster, with it's apparent design to "kill people and leave buildings undamaged". Pointing out this became one of the favorite lines of those opposed to nuclear arms.

                I'm suprised people here who obviously know a lot about these weapons seem totally unaware of the public perception of the neutron bomb.
        • Re:Interested (Score:3, Insightful)

          No, the *fusionable* material deteriorates rapidly.*

          I infer from the article that the fissionable material is enriched uranium, i.e. U235 (mixed with U238). U235 has a half life of 700 million years. (http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/urani u m.htm).

          So there is still a chunk of weapons-grade uranium in this thing. (I agree nothing else would be of use to a would-be nuclear weapon maker.)

          * Quick summary: Fission = heavy nuclei spliting. Fusion = light nuclei combining. A nuclear bomb (e.g. Hirosh
    • Re:lol... (Score:5, Funny)

      by DarkOx (621550) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:09PM (#10293250) Journal
      Now that would be a hell of a restoration project! I thought classic cars were a joy to work on imagine, having a classic nuke in the garage!
  • by theluckyleper (758120) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:40PM (#10293008) Homepage
    Clearly someone tried to nuke the whales, and then covered it up!

    Gotta nuke somethin'!
  • by panxerox (575545) * on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:40PM (#10293013)
    "the question now is what, if anything, should be done with it?" Is it just me or does anybody think the answer to this question would be better arrived at by the US government than the "Other" people that would be interested in the device?
  • Ah ha! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Judg3 (88435) <jeremy&pavleck,com> on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:40PM (#10293016) Homepage Journal
    So THAT'S where I left it.

    Please send it to the following address...

    Err, maybe that's not such a good idea.

    Who are you people? What? No, it's not mine.. It's engraved? I'm being framed. UNHAND ME YOU SCOUjsjcds,.......
  • Bet the... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dethboy (136650) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:42PM (#10293041) Homepage
    Fishing is good around that thing...

    Look it's a GIANT TUNA! And it glows in the dark. And has 3 eyes.

  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by kjones692 (805101) <the.cyborganizer ... m ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:42PM (#10293043)
    On the one hand, a recovery would be expensive, dangerous, and probably unnecessary. On the other hand, if we leave it there... the terrorists win.
  • I think.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pivot (4465) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:42PM (#10293044)
    Those that decided to build this bomb should be forced to dive down to it themselves in a diving suit of choice and pick it up with their bare hands and bring it to the surface. Those who make a mess should be responsible for cleaning up after themselves. They're probably dead though.
    • Re:I think.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Alomex (148003) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:04PM (#10293209) Homepage
      Those that decided to build this bomb

      It's called the American people. We decided as a whole that given the circumstances we had to build atomic bombs. Was that the right choice? I dunno, but don't kid yourself, we all acquiesced to this course of action with our votes.
      • Re:I think.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Caraig (186934) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:29PM (#10293359)
        Those that decided to build this bomb

        It's called the American people.

        It's called Harry Truman.

        The Manahttan Project was one of the more secret projects undertaken by the US military during the Second World War, and remained secret even up until the dropping of Little Boy on Hiroshima and Fat Man on Nagasaki. I kind of doubt there was a referendum to the American people to even start the Manhattan Project, let alone drop atomic weapons on those two cities.

      • Re:I think.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Daniel Ellard (799842) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @07:11PM (#10293621)
        I dunno, but don't kid yourself, we all acquiesced to this course of action with our votes.

        I don't think that the vote was unanimous. Was there ever a referendum on this? Was someone elected on a "let's build atomic bombs platform"?

        In fact, I seem to recall that the first civilians to even be aware of the existence of the USA's atomic weapon program were residents of Hiroshima. By the first time the American public learned about Atomic weapons, the die was already cast.

        • Re:I think.. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by bob beta (778094) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:29PM (#10293992)
          Don't fool yourself. If there had been a referendum, a hundred bombs would have been dropped on as many cities in Japan. WWII-era America wasn't particularly pacifist. Hell, even most of the 'usual suspect' pacifists of today were involved because of the 'United Front' with the state that followed their favored system of political economy.

        • Re:I think.. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dvdeug (5033) <[dvdeug] [at] [email.ro]> on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:32PM (#10294007)
          By the first time the American public learned about Atomic weapons, the die was already cast.

          We had created two nukes and used them. We didn't have to build more. But the American people elected JFK in part because he tolds us that we needed to build more nukes to achieve parity with the Soviet Union. We elected Eisenhower who was building more nukes. If the American public hadn't wanted nukes, they had more than enough opportunity to tell their presidents and congressmen that.

          Not that America is alone in this; India, the UK, France and Israel are other democratic nations that chose to join the nuclear club, even knowing what they were capable of. Even after widespread knowledge of their nuclear programs, none of those nations has voted to dismantle their nukes.
  • The Sum Of All Fears (Score:5, Informative)

    by Space cowboy (13680) * on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:43PM (#10293054) Journal
    Is it just me, or is this scarily like the plot of the book (didn't see the film)... I don't mind science-fiction becoming reality (for the most part :-) but I have a real problem with nuclear bombs being unaccounted for. I had thought the whole premise for the book was ridiculous, but ....


    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.


    This really doesn't fill me with happy thoughts... Bottom of the ocean is far too lax a description, you can practically paddle in the North Sea between the UK and the rest of Europe! The Marianas trench would be (just about) deep enough for me not to care...

    Simon

    • The Marianas trench would be (just about) deep enough for me not to care

      Trust me when I say that most of the ocean floor is deep enough that once you get beyond the continental shelf, it would take a major government to retrieve anything from the ocean floor. Mainly cause that is over a mile down.
  • Two words (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:45PM (#10293074)
    SCO Headquarters.
  • Retrieval (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StevenHenderson (806391) <stevehenderson&gmail,com> on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:46PM (#10293080)
    From the FA:

    The report also estimated it would take as long as five years and cost $5 million to $11 million to recover the bomb.

    Can anyone explain why the retrieval process would take so long if the bomb is supposedly "likely harmless"? I'm honestly baffled at this, and if we do not expend the money to retrieve it, are there any international accords in place to make sure our enemies do not retrieve/ reverse engineer it?

    • by commodoresloat (172735) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:17PM (#10293287)
      are there any international accords in place to make sure our enemies do not retrieve/ reverse engineer it?

      Osama bin Laden: Hey, Ayman, whassup? check this out -- there's a nuke off the infidel American coast that we can blow up!

      Ayman al-Zawahiri: Sorry, Osama, we can't do it; there's an international accord against it. We'll have to stick to strictly legal forms of terrorism, like hijacking airplanes and blowing up buildings.

      OBL: Curses! Foiled again!

  • by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:47PM (#10293094) Journal
    For one thing it's a danger to the local marine environment. There's no telling how long radiation levels in the area have been higher than normal, but leaving a nuke with decaying seals on it will do nothing for the area.

    And, for another thing, you want to go retrieve it before someone else does. Nuclear - or should that be "nu-cu-lar"? - material lying there just waiting to be had is a potential goldmine for a terrorist organisation, etc. The symbolism of using an American nuke to make the material for its own nuclear device, dirty bomb, or whatever against the very people that built it would be just the kind of thing that Al Qaeda would love.

    Bottom line: it's there, you know where it is, so go get it so it's out of play.
    • by chill (34294) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:01PM (#10293198) Journal
      Read the whole article and you'll see that there are over 50 nuclear bombs that were "lost" and just sitting out there.

      The tons of enriched Plutonium sitting in Kazahkstan (sp?) are more easily acquired by terrorists than stuff lying on the bottom of the ocean.

      Still, just letting it sit there and contaminate the fish isn't a good idea.
    • by Like2Byte (542992) <Like2Byte@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:47PM (#10294070) Homepage
      Bottom line: it's there, you know where it is, so go get it so it's out of play.

      As someone who was trained by the US Navy to protect nuclear weapons, I'd like to chime in on this:

      DAMN RIGHT! I busted my ass and busted peoples balls protecting nukes. There's this little thing called two-man control. At least two men have to be in the room (area) with the nuke at all times. Anyone tries to get past you, whether by force or being a sneaky bastard: double-tap! The deader the better!

      And God forbid one of your shipmates breaks protocol. Officers and sailors could have their careers ruined by slipping up while protecting nukes. And I'm serious! Those alarms sound and the guns come out.

      They'd (US authorities) better get their collective asses out there and retrieve this thing. Don't tell me I wasted my time pointing loaded guns at people while protecting nukes while some dumbass flyboy comes back one bomb too short and everyone turns a blind eye.

      {{alright, I never pointed a loaded gun at someone while protecting nukes but it wasn't out of mind while doing so...}}But you get my point.
  • Got WMD? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:49PM (#10293112)
    AHA! THAT'S where Saddam hid it.
  • Experiment? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Audacious (611811) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:51PM (#10293129) Homepage
    Since the radiation levels are so high - why not use it as a test field on the surrounding fish. Oh yeah - that's already been done. Hasn't it?

    Realistically though, how many people's lives are going to be lost because of the government leaving it there all of this time? Radioactive fish, shellfish, and others do not really glow in the dark just because they are radioactive. (ie:You could have eaten radioactive fish and not known it.) So what this means is that a lot of the people who may have died of cancer over the years in that area have just cause to file suit with the US Government over this. And just as surely, with tides, currents, and the like the radioactive material has spread over at least a portion of the coast line. I'd hate to be someone living in that area right now and know that your property just became a wasteland.
    • Re:Experiment? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ironsides (739422)
      7 to 10 times the radiation is not that much. You get more rads getting an X-Ray, Mamogram, or walking out into the sun that you would from standing around this thing all day. Hell, the people in the surroundin area have probably picked up more radiation from their thorium smoke detectors and radon clock faces than from the nuke.
  • by theMerovingian (722983) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:53PM (#10293132) Journal

    I live in a country with a 300 billion dollar annual PEACETIME military budget, and they can't locate an accidentally dropped nuclear bomb in 12 feet of water to recover it?

    Instead, a hobbiest treasure hunter with a civilian boat and a WalMart geiger counter has to do the job for them and send the US military a GPS point.

    That makes me sick to my stomach, no wonder we can't find Osama or WMD's.

    Tell me again who's the real winner when it takes a 5 billion dollar nuclear aircraft carrier to deploy a 20 million dollar plane flown by a pilot with a million dollar education, dropping a ten thousand dollar bomb just to kill some Iraqi kid hiding in a hole with a $20 russian surplus rifle?

    This to me is symbolic of everything that's wrong with our bloated defense budget.

    Vote libertarian!! /rant

    • by dheltzel (558802) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:25PM (#10293335)
      Tell me again who's the real winner when it takes a 5 billion dollar nuclear aircraft carrier to deploy a 20 million dollar plane flown by a pilot with a million dollar education, dropping a ten thousand dollar bomb just to kill some Iraqi kid hiding in a hole with a $20 russian surplus rifle?

      That's because Americans have an aversion to putting themselves in harms way to save money. An American soldiers life is worth untold millions in defense spending. You may not think so, but the majority of Americans do, and they vote to support that position. The Islamic fundamentalists have no such aversion, they willingly raise their children to hate non-Muslims so violently that they will strap bombs on themslves to make a statement, Americans just send in missiles and bombers. Sure they cost more than an American child on a suicide mission, but we are willing to pay that price.

      Besides, it's not like we're pouring the money down a rat hole, the defense industry produces lots of jobs and lots of tax revenue to support the costs. So does NASA and a lot of other "frivilous" govt programs. Better just get used to it, it's not likely to change soon. It sure doesn't matter in this regard who gets elected President, both candidates know how to spend your money to excess, it's just a matter of what they spend it on, not whether they will, that's a given.

      • by Archimonde (668883) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:47PM (#10293489) Homepage
        [The Islamic fundamentalists] willingly raise their children to hate non-Muslims so violently that they will strap bombs on themslves to make a statement.

        Maybe yes, maybe no. But one thing is certain, if invaders bomb/kill all your innocent family including your 7 years old daughter whose birthday you celebrated yesterday, would you die to avenge them?

        I would.
        • Maybe yes, maybe no. But one thing is certain, if invaders bomb/kill all your innocent family including your 7 years old daughter whose birthday you celebrated yesterday, would you die to avenge them?

          Not casually. Vengence is a dish best served cold, and there are much more efficent things given time then just strap a bomb on my chest.
      • A receant one is GPS. The whole reason it was developed was for the military. They wanted to be able to easily and accuratly know the location of all their assets, be that soldiers, vehicles, or bombs. Well out of that has come the biggest advance in navigation in a long time. Commercial traffic, air, sea, and land is virtually dependant on it now.

        Now it's not like this had to start as a military project, this could be done purely as a civilian endevor, but the point is that it's not like money that goes t
    • Tell me again who's the real winner when it takes a 5 billion dollar nuclear aircraft carrier to deploy a 20 million dollar plane flown by a pilot with a million dollar education, dropping a ten thousand dollar bomb just to kill some Iraqi kid hiding in a hole with a $20 russian surplus rifle?


      Believe it or not, the one who's not dead.
  • Duke Nukem (Score:5, Funny)

    by retodd (798765) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @05:55PM (#10293151)
    and it was found off Tybee Island by retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Derek Duke...

    ... who forever shall be known as 'Duke Nukem'
  • by morcheeba (260908) * on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:05PM (#10293213) Journal
    I found this fascinating account [ibiblio.org] of a hydrogen bomb accidently dropped in 1961 and still buried on a North Carolina farm. Although major portions were recovered, the uranium never was.
  • Big Concern (Score:5, Informative)

    by Phanatic1a (413374) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:23PM (#10293326)
    If it is the bomb that Duke has found, the question now is what, if anything, should be done with it?"

    It should be retrieved. If this were a modern fission-fusion-fission bomb, it wouldn't be a concern. The Air Force says it doesn't have the fission trigger installed, so with a modern device that means you don't have a bomb. You need a fission bomb to ignite the lithium deuteride in the fusion stage, and you need the neutrons from the fusion stage to fission the U-238 jacket. So, again, no primary, no bomb. Leave it there, rivers already feed natural uranium into the oceans at a rate of 3.2x10^4 tons every year.

    But this isn't a modern bomb, it was a transitional device between the earliest, liquid-dueterium monsters and modern three-stage designs. They weren't yet sure how to achieve efficient compression of the fusion stage, so they wrapped the bomb in highly-enriched uranium to be sure the fusion stage would light off. The bomb had a design yield of 1.7 megatons, and something like 1.3 megatons of that would be due to the fission of the U-235 jacket.

    That means that this bomb contains a lot of almost-weapons-grade uranium. Again, 1.3 megatons of yield from the fission of uranium. The largest pure-fission bomb we ever detonated was the 500-kiloton Mark 18 prototype, and that used about 60 kilograms of HEU. Assuming linear scaling, that means we're looking at upwards of 156 kilograms of HEU in this bomb. Critical mass of uranium's about 16 kilograms. Double that to overengineer a bomb, and that means whoever gets their mitts on this thing could build 4 or 5 crude Hiroshima-type bombs, each with a yield of several kilotons.

    That's bad. They need to retrive this thing, even if there's a risk they blow it up in situ. I'd rather have some of this stuff scattered in an unusable form offshore than have Mohammed and his band of Merry Pranksters get their hands on 4 or 5 cities' worth of U-235.
    • Re:Big Concern (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nigelc (528573) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @07:52PM (#10293832) Homepage
      I'd rather have some of this stuff scattered in an unusable form offshore than have Mohammed and his band of Merry Pranksters get their hands on 4 or 5 cities' worth of U-235.
      While it is currently fashionable to believe that the only terrorists in the world are those of middle-eastern descent or belief, there are enough home grown idiots with grudges against the government to go out there with the bass-boat, a winch and a case or two of beer.

      Let us not forget the home-grown nutcases and whack-jobs of the ilk of McVeigh, Koresh and Kaczynski (?sp). But heck, the Americans would probably invade Iran (or whoever is next on the Axis of Terror) if the IRA admitted igniting the damn thing.

      • Re:Big Concern (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Phanatic1a (413374)
        While it is currently fashionable to believe that the only terrorists in the world are those of middle-eastern descent or belief,

        Name me a major terrorist attack since the OKC bombing that was not carried out by Islamic extremists.

        there are enough home grown idiots with grudges against the government to go out there with the bass-boat, a winch and a case or two of beer.

        If two good-ol' boys with a bass boat and a winch can manage to excavate a 7,000 bomb buried under decades worth of sediment, the Terr
  • by oldosadmin (759103) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:28PM (#10293357) Homepage
    Move it please.

    Thank you,

    A Concerned North Carolina Resident

  • by morcheeba (260908) * on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:38PM (#10293418) Journal
    I found a list of lost bombs [cdi.org] (see middle of that page). Here's the summary of locations:

    WEAPONS LOST/MISSING

    March 10, 1956, Over the Mediterranean Sea

    July 28, 1957, Over the Atlantic Ocean - somewhere between Dover Air Force Base (Delaware) and Atlantic City, New Jersey

    February 5, 1958, Savannah River, Georgia (this story)

    September 25, 1959, Off Whidbey Island [southwhidbey.com], Washington. Since this is slashdot, I feel obligated to point out that this is about 30 miles from Redmond [microsoft.com].

    January 24, 1961, Goldsboro, North Carolina [ibiblio.org]

    December 5, 1965, Aboard the USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) in the Pacific Ocean (only miles from the Japanese island chain of Ryukyu)

    Spring 1968, Aboard the USS Scorpion (SSN-589) in the Atlantic Ocean - 400-500 miles southwest of the Azores.

    Any slashdotters have a geiger counter, a boat, and some free time?

  • Plutonium Trigger (Score:3, Informative)

    by DankNinja (241851) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:48PM (#10293495) Homepage
    I'm pretty surprised that no one has mentioned that this bomb lacked the plutonium trigger needed for a thermonuclear explosion. The plutonium trigger is the primary means of "arming" the weapon.

  • Hurricane (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wan-fu (746576) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @06:51PM (#10293511)
    Well, for now there are no more hurricanes, but maybe we can save this bomb up for the next big one and see if it's really true that a nuclear bomb won't affect a hurricane [noaa.gov].
  • by pyrrhonist (701154) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @07:08PM (#10293605)
    If it is the bomb that Duke has found, the question now is what, if anything, should be done with it?

    LICK IT! LICK IT!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 19, 2004 @07:15PM (#10293644)
    If it is the bomb that Duke has found, the question now is what, if anything, should be done with it?

    And if it isn't the bomb, the question now is "WTF?!"

  • by kc8jhs (746030) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:32PM (#10294006)
    Courtesy everyones favorite free encyclopedia:

    List here [wikipedia.org]

    I especially like the one they dropped in a farmers field but they couldn't dig it up so they bought the field.

    Also kinda scary that Rocky Flats [wikipedia.org] which has had it's share of disasters is pretty much in my backyard.

    -Mikey P
  • Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Loki_1929 (550940) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:47PM (#10294071) Journal
    I find myself both frightened and disturbed by the incredible amounts of knowledge both had and openly displayed by numerous individuals posting to this story regarding the components and inner workings of nuclear weapons.

    Perhaps more disturbing is that whenever someone gets the description of the anatomy and physiology almost right - but not quite right - (as if they're still working on it), someone else comes along to merrily correct them. I'm curious now - given the materials necessary, how many slashdotters could construct a working nuclear weapon?

    • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Informative)

      by tftp (111690) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @09:34PM (#10294358) Homepage
      I find myself both frightened and disturbed by the incredible amounts of knowledge...

      All that information is openly available in books and science magazines. The real secret is in exact knowledge of how to do things, not in the principle how things should be working. For example, the physicists knew how to make the bomb before the Manhattan Project started; and it took years and billions of dollars to actually make it work.

      I'm curious now - given the materials necessary, how many slashdotters could construct a working nuclear weapon?

      Probably everyone could do so. The real question would be "how close to the optimum yield you will get?" - because the easiest way to make a bomb would be to take two pieces of uranium in two hands, and to bring them together as fast as you can. This will result in -some- explosion, but not very powerful one. The secret is in how you assemble the critical mass in under microseconds, and those who know won't tell.

  • by Madcapjack (635982) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:58PM (#10294117)
    If it is the bomb that Duke has found, the question now is what, if anything, should be done with it?"

    Give it to Saddam, to justify the war in Iraq.

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