Nuclear bomb goes awol in Greenland

The U.S. abandoned the hunt for atomic weapon parts lost beneath the ice in northern Greenland after a nuclear-armed B-52 bomber crashed in 1968, the BBC reported.

The plane, carrying four nuclear weapons, went down on the ocean ice near an American air base at Thule, the broadcaster said, citing declassified documents obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and people involved in the search.

The explosives surrounding the weapons detonated without setting off the nuclear devices, which hadn't been armed by the crew, according to the report. Thousands of pieces of debris, some of them radioactive, were scattered across the frozen bay and investigators piecing together the fragments realized that only three weapons could be accounted for, the BBC said on its Web site.

Scientists, fearing that burning components may have melted through the ice, sent a Star III submarine to hunt for them, the BBC said. They called off the search, believing any radioactive material would dissolve and that nobody else would be able to find the bomb pieces, which could reveal secrets of nuclear warhead design, the BBC said. The Pentagon declined to comment on the BBC investigation, referring to previous studies of the incident which maintained that all four weapons were destroyed, according to the report.

U.S. Lost Nuclear Weapon Parts Under Greenland Ice, BBC Reports (, 11 November 2008)

Mystery of lost US nuclear bomb (BBC website, 10 November 2008)