Tybee News Story
Derek Duke, whose documentation of the lingering danger from a nuclear bomb jettisoned by a crippled Air Force bomber over Wassaw Sound prompted Tybee to urge federal officials to locate the long lost weapon, said he was still awaiting government action in mid March.
Duke--a former Air Force colonel and commercial air line pilot who heads the American Sea Shore Recovery Expedition (ASSURE), organized to search for the bomb, determine if it is leaking toxic radioactive materials, and give the Air Force its location to enable it to remove and dispose of the weapon--expressed concern about accusations that his group raised the issue of the missing bomb to get rich conducting a search for it.
He said there is a real danger that conventional explosives in the weapon have become unstable since it was jettisoned in 1958 will be accidentally set off by agitation in a hurricane, being hit by a ship's anchor, or some other accident and detonate the devastating nuclear components of the bomb, a Mark 15 described as considerably more powerful than the weapon dropped on Hiroshima.
"They want to let sleeping dogs lie because of their fear of the problems and costs but somebody is going to kick this one and it's liable to explode," he said. "It's an old game they're playing, hoping people will lose interest and the can leave it alone and nothing will happen on their watch."
In response to critics claiming he is motivated by money, Duke said his extensive studies have convinced him that he can virtually pinpoint the bomb's location and that he would consider leading government experts to the spot free of charge, even though he and his team have invested a considerable amount of money in assembling people and equipment.
Duke said ASSURE formed a nonprofit corporation and he now believes his group, using its own equipment and personnel, can locate the weapon for about $50,000, although his critics have said he's trying to make a million. He said he hopes to obtain private financing for the project but thus far none has been forthcoming.
Duke said pressure being exerted on the Air Force by U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston should eventually force the government into action but if the Air Force is assigned the task of locating the weapon it will turn the task over to the U.S. Navy which will then contract the work out to a private oceanographic firm and ultimately wind up paying $2 million or more for the work.
He claims the Air Force is afraid to recover the bomb because it is unstable and--because of the danger posed by its plutonium and highly enriched uranium components-- would be required to evacuate a large area of the Georgia coast.
This would not only wreak havoc, but be expensive and require authorities to admit they were wrong in their claim that the lost bomb poses no danger, he said.
Even if the government located the weapon with the advanced electronic equipment now available and decided to "encapsulate" it for safety reasons they would be admitting that they had misled the public with their repeated claims that it is harmless, he said.
Duke said several former military and government personnel who were involved in the bomb drop have provided him with additional information after hearing of his efforts to locate and dispose of the nuclear weapon.
He says government officials now concede the Tybee Bomb represents the most unique of numerous lost nuclear weapons and, although some have denied that it is armed with a triggering device, everyone agrees it is loaded with toxic nuclear material, some of which is "indescribably dangerous."
Former CIA agent and ASSURE member Bert Soleau, who has a degree in chemical engineering, says the lost bomb contains not only highly enriched uranium but Lithium and beryllium which could be used to build a nuclear weapon and has warned that terrorists could locate and recover the weapon if our government doesn't.
Pam O'Brien, of Douglassville, Ga., an activist who has been involved in a number of antinuclear issues, said it was "ludicrous" for the government to claim leaving the bomb alone, where they suspect it is buried in sand at least 15 feet below the bay, is no big deal and won't contaminate drinking water.
"It's a nightmare and their own people know it!" she said. "Plutonium is a nightmare, a catastrophe! It can get in everything, your eyes, your bones, your gonads! You never get over it. They need to get that thing out of there!"
Duke says he will continue to look for sources to finance his search for the weapon, and meanwhile "the government knows we can find the bomb and they've got a hot potato on their hands. We could sue them and put them in jail for saying it poses no danger and can't be