The acrid fog of charred cow pulp had barely settled when the crack AFSWP (Armed Forces Special Weapons Project) team from Kirtland arrived to discreetly liquidate the consequences of the “broken arrow.” They encountered a 25-foot crater with gamma exposure readings of 0.5 mR / hr at the rim. Although the Army filled in the crater and recovered most of the weapon, to make a clean sweep of the several square miles peppered with debris would have been a Herculean task. They did a job that was good enough for government work–in other words, plenty of radioactive H-bomb components still litter the desert for the interested public to collect. That’s the good news, and I’ll discuss my collection of bomb chunks shortly.
There’s some bad news, however. The inexorable tide of urban sprawl has engulfed just about anything resembling a “windswept expanse of mesa” in the Albuquerque vicinity, and such is the imminent fate of this one. Forest City Covington NM, LLC has begun marketing the land as a master-planned development called “Mesa del Sol.” Now it would be a crying shame if this unique venue for radioactive material collectors got overrun by banal New-Urbanist homes, schools, and shoppes. Let me make a plea to you, dear reader: If you respect the history of this place, and believe that the wonderful actinide-laden goodies in the topsoil ought to remain accessible to the collecting public rather than gumming up lawnmowers in the front yards of yuppie-stuffed townehomes, please send your thoughts to the developers by clicking here.
†Note: some creative license has been taken with this description of cow’s demise
Links to further historical information:
- Oskins, J, Maggelet M. Broken Arrow: The Declassified History of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Accidents. pp. 88-93
- Les Adler’s 1994 column for the Albuquerque Tribune
- “The X-Hunters” website, with details about the accident and photographs of the site
- Laminated cork composite from bomb liner. Cork is very abundant, but never radioactive.
- White solid plastic resembling polyethylene, perhaps from interstage. Most shows signs of melting and charring. Frequently radioactive.
- Black plastic or composite. Brittle, unlike #2 material. Never radioactive.
- Aluminum casing components, still retaining the greenish-yellow exterior paint. Never radioactive.
- Part of a wiring harness, containing remnants of wires. Only example found. Not radioactive.
- Fabric sheath / strap material. Only example found. Radioactive.
- Gear (not radioactive).
- Aluminum sheet (no exterior paint). Not radioactive.
- Steel. Rarely radioactive.
- Lead metal, probably from the bomb’s radiation reflector. Sometimes radioactive.