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48 Nuclear Weapons, 11 Reactors Litter Ocean Floor

May 9, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The hydrogen bomb that sank in secrecy off Okinawa in 1965 was just one of 48 nuclear weapons and 11 reactors lost at sea by the Soviet Union and the United States since World War II, says the environmental group Greenpeace.

The most recent loss was a Soviet Mike-class submarine off the coast of Norway April 7, with two nuclear reactors aboard, said Joshua Handler, one of the Greenpeace activists who prepared the report.

The most serious loss was a Soviet Yankee-class submarine that sank in the Atlantic Ocean Oct. 6, 1986, off the coast of Bermuda. Yankee-class subs are believed to carry 16 SS-N-6 ballistic missiles, with two warheads apiece, and to be powered by two nuclear reactors, according to Western defense analysts.

Greenpeace said that most of the nuclear weapons and reactors littering the ocean floor were lost at sea by the Soviet Union, which despite its new-found openness remains far more secretive about its nuclear armaments than does the United States.

Handler, interviewed by telephone Monday, declined to provide a complete list of the 48 nuclear weapons and 11 reactors he believes are on the ocean floor. He said a full list of the nuclear devices Greenpeace believes are on the ocean floor will be released next month.

Known incidents include:

-The Soviet Mike-class submarine, April 7, 1989, with two reactors.

-The Soviet Yankee-class submarine in 1986, with 32 warheads and two reactors.

-A Soviet November-class submarine in 1970, with two reactors.

-The U.S. submarine Scorpion, in 1968, with one reactor.

-The U.S. B-43 bomb from the Ticonderoga in 1965.

-The U.S. submarine Thresher, in 1963, with one reactor.

Sixteen years after the Okinawa accident, the U.S. Navy acknowledged it had lost a B-43 bomb aboard an A-4 attack plane off the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga on Dec. 5, 1965, as the ship steamed toward port in Japan after bombing missions off Vietnam.

In its 1981 statement, the Navy said the incident had taken took place ″more than 500 miles from land ... at sea in the Pacific.″

But Handler and William Arkin, defense analyst for the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal, Washington-based research center, said they had discovered from the Ticonderoga’s logs that the accident occurred in international waters about 80 miles from the closest point of the Okinawa island chain and only 200 miles or so east of the heavily populated island of Okinawa.

At the time of the accident, Okinawa was under U.S. control. It was returned to Japan in 1972.

The Navy said in 1981 that the jet ″rolled off the elevator of a U.S. aircraft carrier and fell into the sea″ and that the pilot, plane and bomb were all lost.

Arkin said Monday there was little danger of detonation from the one- megaton bomb, which has a force of 1 million tons of TNT. But the 15 kilograms of plutonium in the bomb, he added, could threaten the environment as it deteriorates.

The A-4 was the Navy’s main deep-strike aircraft at the time, and an undisclosed number on each U.S. carrier would always be equipped with B-43 hydrogen bombs, Arkin said.

The Navy on Monday maintained its policy of not commenting on whether its ships carry nuclear weapons.

Update hourly