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LA Times 01/21/01
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"Georgia's Own Offshore Nuclear Bomb" 01/21/2001 TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (Associated Press) -- Lost beneath the shallow waters and sand off the Georgia coast lies a Cold War relic that lingered for decades only in vague memories and folklore: a 7,600-pound nuclear bomb dumped by a crippled Air Force plane. Nearly 43 years later, questions raised by a former military pilot and a Georgia congressman have prompted the government to consider renewing its search for the lost bomb near this island 12 miles east of Savannah. The bomb is lost in Wassaw Sound, where the 1996 Olympic sailing competition was held. The Air Force insists the bomb lacks a key plutonium capsule needed to cause a nuclear explosion, though it still contains radioactive uranium and the explosive power of 400 pounds of TNT. "The bomb off the coast of Savannah is not capable of a nuclear explosion," said Maj. Cheryl Law, an Air Force spokeswoman. As for the uranium still inside the bomb, "to have that hurt you, you would actually have to ingest it." That doesn't mean the bomb is harmless. High explosives in the 12-foot cylinder, resembling a large propane tank, could cause serious damage if they detonated with a boat directly overhead. There's also the environmental threat of an underwater explosion and radiation leakage killing fish and other sea life. But there's no guarantee the bomb could be found. Experts have warned the Air Force that tides and strong weather patterns over the years could have moved the bomb out to sea. Officials believe the bomb sank at least five miles off the coast, beneath about 20 feet of water and an additional 15 feet of sand and silt, said Maj. Don Robbins, deputy director of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons and Counter Proliferation Agency. If it exploded, the bomb "would create maybe a 10-foot-diameter hole and shock waves through the water of approximately 100 yards," Robbins said. "Even boats going over it would not even notice. They might see some bubbles coming out around them." The amount of uranium in the bomb's casing is too low to cause a serious environmental threat, he said. (January 24, 2001 from www.latimes.com).


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