Nuclear Weapon Component Mishap

 In Nuclear Weapons

An Air Force vehicle containing a Minuteman III rocket booster tipped over on the side of a road.  It is only the latest in a series of errors regarding US nuclear technology.

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Missile truck tips in latest Air Force mishap

(CNN) — A truck carrying an unarmed missile booster tipped over in North Dakota on Thursday, the latest in a string of Air Force mishaps and at least the second public mistake since the force’s top leaders were fired in June for a “pattern of poor performance” involving the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The vehicle, which was carrying a Minuteman III rocket booster, tipped on its side on a gravel road about 70 miles southwest of Minot Air Force Base. The crew received only minor injuries.

Last week, the Air Force announced that three officers fell asleep July 12 while in control of a classified electronic part that contained old launch codes for intercontinental nuclear missiles. It happened during the changing out of electronic parts used to communicate with Minot Air Force Base.

The two incidents came after a high-profile error in August, when a B-52 bomber flew from Minot to Louisiana with the crew unaware that six nuclear-tipped missiles were onboard, and a 2006 accidental shipment to Taiwan of components that arm and fuse nuclear warheads.

An investigation prompted by those incidents led to the firing of Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley.

A report on the investigation said it had uncovered that Air Force brass had not acted to improve security after past mishaps and Air Force personnel handling nuclear weapons consistently failed to follow rules.

Air Force leaders “not only fell short in terms of specific acts, they failed to recognize systemic problems, to address those problems or, when beyond their authority to act, to call the attention of superiors to those problems,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said at the time.

Gates announced the creation of a review committee, headed by former Defense and Energy Secretary James Schlesinger, to further look into the military’s handling of nuclear weapons and said he’d be cracking down on mistakes.

Thursday’s accident happened about 8:20 a.m. CT. The transport was en route to a missile launch facility in the area.

“There is no danger to public safety, and local fire department and base emergency officials responded quickly and professionally,” said Col. Christopher Ayres, commander of the 91st Missile Wing. “We’re taking every possible precaution to minimize environmental and safety risks, and we ask the public to avoid the accident scene.”

A release from the Air Force said the cause of the accident is being investigated.

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