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US Scientist Sounds Alarm About Incident Involving American Nuke at Dutch Air Base

© Wikimedia CommonsThe B-61, the oldest nuclear bomb in the US arsenal
The B-61, the oldest nuclear bomb in the US arsenal - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.04.2023
The Netherlands is one of a handful of European nations hosting nuclear weapons. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons estimates that about 20 American B61 nukes are held at the Volkel Air Base in the country’s south.
The US and Dutch militaries may have suffered a recent nuclear weapons-related incident at Volkel Air Base and failed to inform the public about it, the Federation of American Scientists has reported, citing photographic evidence of a damaged B61 nuclear bomb being examined by troops.

The photo, featured in a 2022 briefing at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Shows three US servicemen, including two members of the military’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, looking at a B61 bomb strapped into a trolley that’s somehow been misshapen and missing one of its tail stabilizer fins. A fourth soldier is seen holding a folder dotted with red edge markings similar to those typically used to indicate "secret" clearance.

© Photo : Los Alamos National Laboratory / Federation of American ScientistsUS troops examine a damaged nuclear bomb at a Dutch military base.
US troops examine a damaged nuclear bomb at a Dutch military base. - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.04.2023
US troops examine a damaged nuclear bomb at a Dutch military base.
It’s not clear when the photograph was taken, and a cursory examination of media reports shows no recent admissions by the US or Dutch governments about any accidents involving American nuclear weapons at Volkel Air Base.

FAS researcher Hans M. Kristensen, director of the non-profit’s Nuclear Information Project, indicated that if it was confirmed that the image comes from Volkel, and that the misshapen B61 is a real bomb, and not just a dummy trainer, this “would constitute the first publicly known case of a recent nuclear weapons accident at an airbase in Europe.”

The researcher noted that judging by the image, the bomb appears to have been hit with “significant force,” speculating that it may have been hit by a vehicle during transit, “or bent out of shape by the weapons elevator of the underground storage vault.”
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The background details of the photo lead Kristensen to believe that the photo was taken in one of the protective aircraft shelters at the base, which have been featured in press photos put out by the Dutch military.
The 312th Squadron of the Dutch Air Force’s 1st Wing operates nuclear-capable F-16 fighters, with their US nuclear payloads placed under US control during peacetime, but made available to Amsterdam and NATO in the event of a war.
Kristensen noted that if the photo is genuine, the US would likely classify it as an “incident,” which involves “evident damage to a nuclear weapon or nuclear component that requires major rework, replacement, or examination or re-certification by the Department of Energy,” rather than an “accident,” which is reserved by the Air Force to refer to incidents involving a nuke’s destruction or loss.
The scientist noted that although security features built into the B61 make the chance of accidental detonation extremely minute, the detonation of high explosives in the bomb could spread plutonium and other radioactive materials throughout the surrounding environment.
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A Pentagon spokesperson assured that the US “maintains the highest level of standards for personnel and equipment supporting the strategic arsenal,” and said US policy forbids the military from either confirming or denying “the presence or absence of nuclear weapons at any general or specific locations.” The spokesperson did not comment on the photograph.
Washington did not follow in Moscow’s footsteps in removing its nuclear weapons from European soil after the Cold War, and is believed to maintain such weapons at about half a dozen bases across Western and Central Europe and Turkiye. NATO conducts annual "nuclear-sharing" drills known as "Steadfast Noon," and simulates the use of American nuclear weapons by allies.
The B61 thermonuclear gravity bomb began to be produced in the 1960s, and since that time over 3,000 B61s of 13 different variants have been built. The bomb has a blast yield of between 0.3 and 340 kilotons (for comparison, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 had a yield of about 15 kilotons of TNT). The bomb's newest variant, the B61-12, completed flight testing in 2020, and began production in late 2021. US media reported last October that the Pentagon wanted to accelerate the weapon’s deployment to Europe.
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