8. Accidents involving nuclear weapons have been more frequent than is well known
During the development of the first atomic weapons there were accidents, both in the United States and in Germany, and probably in the Soviet Union. Two technicians were killed as a result of separate criticality accidents in Los Alamos following the atomic bombings of Japan, as further development of the weapon continued. Since deployment, there have numerous accidents involving nuclear weapons, but to date, none resulted in an accidental nuclear detonation, largely because of the design of the weapon which prevents inadvertent detonation. However, in several aviation accidents, the high explosive material which is used to trigger the implosion event has detonated. Nuclear detonation was avoided for differing reasons, including the nuclear core not being installed in the weapon (Albuquerque, 1950); the weapons were lost (Mediterranean Sea, 1956); or radioactive materials were released without detonation (Rocky Flats, 1957).
These are but a very few of the several incidents involving the loss or destruction of nuclear weapons due to accident. Nuclear weapons have been lost in the sinking of American and Soviet submarines, the loss of aircraft, and fires. There have been numerous incidents of accidental venting of irradiated water and steam in shipboard accidents, most of which were the result of nuclear power incidents, rather than accidents involving nuclear weapons. The United States quickly developed fail-safe procedures for the handling of nuclear weapons at all stages of their manufacture and maintenance, storage, and deployment while in military hands; these procedures and extensive training have been a major reason that there have been no accidental nuclear detonations over the more than decades of nuclear weapon deployment, but nonetheless, accidents which resulted in the release of radioactivity, or the complete loss of the weapon, have occurred.