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1968: Radiation alert following B-52 crash
A recovery team is searching for wreckage from an American Air Force B-52 bomber armed with four hydrogen bombs which crashed into the sea near the Arctic air base of Thule in Greenland.

Investigators are searching the area eight miles west of Thule for radioactive debris. The accident happened a week ago when the plane caught fire and the crew bailed out before the plane crashed through the ice.

The United States defence department says parts of the bombs have been found. But it is thought the radioactive detonators are still missing.

A team of 47 men with dog sleigh teams have been brought in to clear the wreckage. The sea surrounding the crash site has since re-frozen.

One of the scientists involved in the operation said all the wreckage was emitting low level radiation but there was no evidence of radiation on the snow.

The risk of contamination is said to be slight - except to those working on the spot who are equipped with protective clothing.

Two years ago, there was a similar accident involving a B-52 over the sea off Palomares in south-east Spain. The plane dropped its bombs over the Spanish coast.

It took nearly 80 days to recover the last of the four bombs on board that plane. The Spanish subsequently banned flights carrying nuclear weapons over their territory.

Plutonium specialist Dr Wright Langham, who is serving as a consultant to the recovery operation at Thule, said preliminary indications of the radiation levels showed two of the four weapons had broken.

He said: "One point to make is that since the count level is comparable to what we saw in Spain we can equate what we have here to what we had in Spain."

Dr Langham has insisted radiation is not a hazard at Thule. Most of the crash site has now been cleared of radioactive debris.

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US B-52 bomber
The bomber was carrying hydrogen bombs

In Context
The American defence department did not release details of the Thule crash for 18 hours.

It feared "serious political difficulties" with Denmark over the crash.

The Danish authorities, which control Greenland, were informed in 1965 that the Americans had been storing nuclear weapons at Thule - against their wishes.

Although Thule was no longer used as a weapons store, it was still embarrassing for the US to admit planes carrying nuclear weapons were regularly flying in Danish airspace.

It took 700 men over nine months to remove all the contaminated material including snow from the crash site.

America subsequently ended the airborne alert which kept some B-52 bombers in the air at all times in case of surprise nuclear attack.

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