British Nuclear Sub Damaged in Collision with Tanker off Gibraltar
July 27, 2016
Brian Reyes / Gibraltar Chronicle & Walter Russell Mead / The New York Times
A British nuclear submarine sustained external damage to its conning tower after smashing into a commercial tanker while operating submerged in the waters off Gibraltar. This is only the latest in a chilling inventory of nuclear "near misses" that includes the US Air Force accidentally dropping a nuclear bomb in the backyard of a South Carolina family in the 1960s.
Collision Sub Docks in Gibraltar
Brian Reyes / Gibraltar Chronicle
Photo by David Parody
(July 20, 2016) -- A British nuclear submarine sustained external damage to its conning tower after colliding with a tanker while submerged off Gibraltar.
As HMS Ambush docked in Gibraltar just after 9pm, the Ministry of Defence and the Royal Navy insisted there was "absolutely no damage" to the submarine's nuclear plant and that no one in the crew had been injured.
Early indications were that the merchant vessel in question had not sustained any damage. The HMS Ambush was conducting an exercise when it hit the vessel at 1.30pm.
Initial reports suggested the incident had taken place in British Gibraltar territorial waters but the Gibraltar Government later said it occurred in international waters at the time.
"At approximately 1330 local time today, HMS Ambush, an Astute-class submarine, while submerged and conducting a training exercise was involved in a glancing collision with a merchant vessel off the coast of Gibraltar," the Royal Navy said in a statement.
"We are in contact with the merchant vessel and initial indications are that it has not sustained damage. The submarine suffered some external damage but there is absolutely no damage to her nuclear plant and no member of the ship's company was injured in the incident.
"An immediate investigation is being conducted. There are no safety concerns associated with HMS Ambush being alongside."
The submarine had been operating off Gibraltar as part of the exercise for over a week.
(July 25, 2016) -- On the heels of the vote to renew Trident nuclear submarines for the next millennium, and longer, this news is simply astonishing!
Aren't we pushing our luck? Maybe the UK should vote again on scrapping Trident before the next "accident". What are these guys thinking?!?
Anyone read about all the near misses and nuclear accidents in Eric Schlosser's Command and Control? [See story below -- EAW.]
-- Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
'Command and Control,' by Eric Schlosser
Walter Russell Mead / The New York Times
The Gregg family of Mars Bluff, S.C., whose house was damaged when the Air Force accidentally dropped an atomic bomb in their backyard.
(September 12, 2013) -- A little over 50 years ago a South Carolina doctor (and the grandfather of this reviewer) treated a family for injuries sustained when a sudden, inexplicable explosion tore through their backyard.
The injuries were not serious, and after spending the night at the doctor's house they returned home to discover that the object in the 50-foot crater left behind their house was an atomic bomb that had fallen from a passing Air Force plane.
The bomb had not been "armed" with its nuclear core; the blast came from the explosives intended to trigger a chain reaction. The crater can still be seen today.
That incident, which led to an anti-nuclear movement in Britain, where the plane was bound, is one of many stories Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation, tells in "Command and Control." During the cold war, nuclear bombs fell out of the sky, burned up in plane crashes and were lost at sea.
In the incident Schlosser describes in greatest detail, "the Damascus accident" of Sept. 18, 1980, the warhead from a Titan II missile was ejected after a series of mishaps that began when a repairman dropped a socket wrench and pierced a fuel tank.
Tactical nuclear weapons scattered across Europe had minimal security; misplaced tools and failed repairs triggered serious accidents; inadequate safety procedures and poor oversight led to dozens of close brushes with nuclear explosions.
People have died in these accidents, sometimes as a result of their own carelessness or bad luck, but often while doing their best to protect the rest of us from an accidental nuclear blast.
Schlosser's disquieting but riveting book looks at every aspect of nuclear risk, examining problems with the command and control systems that in theory were supposed to provide presidents with the information they would need to make the decision on whether the United States should retaliate against a Soviet strike.
Constructing the complex systems needed for this task -- linking radar sites and monitor stations around the world into a single network for analysis and control -- was well beyond the technological capacity of American engineers for much of the cold war, but they did the best they could.
The system they created, which led among other things to the technology that gave us the Internet, was not only subject to glitches and crashes, it was also too brittle to survive any serious Soviet attack, too inflexible to give presidents good choices at what would have been the most critical moments in world history and too subject to error to be relied on.
At various points, flocks of birds, sunshine reflecting off clouds and the rising moon over Norway set off alarm bells.
One false alert went high enough up the command chain that a general woke the national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in the middle of the night; as he waited for confirmation before calling President Carter, Brzezinski decided not to tell his wife that Soviet missiles were on their way.
"Command and Control" is organized a bit like a Caribbean cruise. The main part of the voyage is Schlosser's fascinating account of one of the most serious accidents in the history of the American nuclear program: the crisis near Damascus, Ark., when a Titan missile exploded in a fiery blast, sending its warhead into a ditch 200 yards away. From eyewitness accounts and exhaustive research Schlosser has pieced this story together in great detail.
A List of Nuclear Disasters and Radioactive Incidents
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.