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1961

…and this could have been North Carolina.

US plane in 1961 ‘nuclear bomb near-miss’

Image: The Guardian

Image: BBC News

Eric Schlosser: ‘We nearly had a hydrogen bomb detonate a few days after JFK’s inauguration’

A four-megaton nuclear bomb was one switch away from exploding over the US in 1961, a newly declassified US document confirms.

Two bombs were on board a B-52 plane that went into an uncontrolled spin over North Carolina – both bombs fell and one began the detonation process.

The document was first published in the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

The US government has acknowledged the accident before, but never made public how close the bomb came to detonating.

The document was obtained by journalist Eric Schlosser under the Freedom of Information Act.

Schlosser told the BBC such an explosion would have “changed literally the course of history”.

The plane was on a routine flight when it began to break up over North Carolina on 23 January 1961.

As it was breaking apart, a control inside the cockpit released the two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs over Goldsboro.

One fell to the ground unarmed. But the second “assumed it was being deliberately released over an enemy target – and went through all its arming mechanisms save one, and very nearly detonated over North Carolina,” Mr Schlosser told the BBC’s Katty Kay.

Only the failure of a single low-voltage switch prevented disaster, he said.

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Doomsday Clock moves one minute closer to midnight

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Scientists said trends that moved the clock back in 2010 had not been continued

The Doomsday Clock, a symbolic gauge of nuclear danger, has moved one minute closer to midnight because of “inadequate progress” on nuclear and climate issues.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) announced the move – to five minutes before midnight – on Tuesday.

The clock last moved one minute back in 2010.

BAS said the failure of multiple nations to control the spread of nuclear weapons was a cause for worry.

The group, which created the clock in 1947, said that two years ago it believed world leaders were trying to address global threat issues.

“In many cases, that trend has not continued or been reversed,” it said in a statement to explain the change.

‘No return’

Jayantha Dhanapala, a member of the BAS Board of Sponsors and a former UN undersecretary-general for disarmament affairs, said that while Russia-US nuclear relations were improving, others left much to be desired.

The failure by the US, China, Iran, India, Pakistan, Egypt and Israel to act on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and by North Korea on a treaty to cut off production of nuclear weapons material “continues to leave the world at risk from continued development of nuclear weapons”, he said.

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