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  Radiation levels not significant
Air Force to report on H-bomb search

Of The Post and Courier Staff

The Air Force is poised to report on its hunt last year off the coast of Savannah for a missing hydrogen bomb, though a spokesman recently said the search didn't find "significant" levels of radiation.
Last summer, The Post and Courier reported that a group of private nuclear hunters from Georgia identified unusual levels of radiation in Wassau Sound, near Tybee Island, Ga.

In September, government scientists and divers prowled the shallows for radiation hot spots and other clues.

The nuclear weapon has been missing since 1958, when a bomber and a Charleston-based fighter collided off the Georgia coast. To land the crippled bomber, the pilots jettisoned the 7,000-pound MK-15 nuclear bomb.

Since the incident, the Air Force has maintained that the bomb lacked a capsule of plutonium needed for a nuclear explosion.

However, the military also has said the bomb contained highly enriched uranium and about 400 pounds of conventional explosives. Scientists say they think it is still intact.

In a recent letter about the Air Force's investigation, Col. James DeFrank said the team did not find radiation levels as high as those reported by the private group.

The government team then shifted its focus to the "arduous task of analyzing data to determine what the samples did contain," DeFrank said. His letter does not say whether the team located the missing weapon. That answer should come within two weeks. Air Force Col. Maj. Stephanie Holcombe said the military hopes to issue its report by then.

This article was printed via the web on 4/20/2005 10:03:41 PM . This article
appeared in The Post and Courier and updated online at Charleston.net on Tuesday, April 19, 2005.


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