Fire in Missile Silo Goes Unnoticed and Unreported

Correction: The defective battery chargers in the nation's missile silos have not all been replaced. But they're working on it.

original post:

A defective battery charger caused a fire at a nuclear missile silo near Cheyenne, Wyoming last spring, a mishap that is only now being reported "because of the complexity of the investigation." The fire burned for about two hours, finding as fuel (among $1 million of other property) a shotgun and a box of shotgun shells.

A shotgun is a standard security weapon at missile silos.

As formidable a security device as a shotgun might be in thwarting the theft of a Minuteman III missile, there was nobody at the launch site to fire the shotgun, or to save it from the fire. The launch site is unmanned. Five days passed before the Air Force noticed (while investigating a trouble light) that there had been a fire. How secure does that make you feel?

[more ...]

But don't worry. Even though an Air Force investigation was "critical of the presence of flammable materials," Maj. Laurie Arellano assures us that "multiple safety systems" protect the missile from an accidental launch. What about an accidental detonation or radiation leak? Maj. Arellano says "the flames never entered the launch tube where the missile stood." What about next time? Really, don't worry. They've replaced the defective battery chargers. That's sooooo reassuring.

Arellano ... was not allowed to say whether the missile was armed with a nuclear warhead at the time of the fire.
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  • Display: Sort:
    Is it even possible... (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by white n az on Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 09:15:23 PM EST
    that they would leave missle's that have nuclear armaments completely unmanned/unsupervised?

    Is this what the years of Bush wars has done?

    Serious (none / 0) (#3)
    by lentinel on Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 09:23:45 PM EST
    Let's get rid of the damn things.

    Is it apples and oranges (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 09:24:21 PM EST
    to link this energy policy and McCain wanting 30 plus nuke factories? Is that safe? I'm still learning about alt. energy options.

    The issue is simple... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by white n az on Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 09:26:02 PM EST
    we have not come up with a place/method to store spent nuclear fuel and so there's a moratorium on new construction until this is figured out.

    Nuke site is unmanned and unguarded?? (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by arguewithmydad com on Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 09:24:55 PM EST
    This is one scary story and it is amazing that we are just hearing about it now.  This is just one more example of the Bush regime's Homeland Security Department being asleep at the wheel.

    it was in no danger of (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by cpinva on Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 10:19:37 PM EST
    either launching or detonating. leaking is another issue, as well as potentially having the rocket fuel explode, spraying weapons-grade nuclear material all over the place.

    i don't think "merry maids" would be sufficient to clean up that mess.

    i am shocked to hear that a silo, complete with missile (armed or not is irrelevant), was left unmanned. theft isn't really the issue (ever tried stealing a building?), but certainly vandalism might be. and i don't mean graffiti on the walls.

    if we can't attend to them properly, perhaps it's time to decommission them, for our own safety.

    be serious now... (none / 0) (#9)
    by white n az on Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 10:30:56 PM EST
    if it takes them 3 days to respond to a fire alarm, I would think that a small crew could probably disassemble the nuclear payload, and load it onto a truck and be gone in far less time.

    Not secure at all. That's very scary. (none / 0) (#2)
    by Teresa on Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 09:15:32 PM EST
    How can they not guard those things? Or have some kind of loud fire detector alarm or something?

    Didn't something else happen at that base this year?

    yeah... (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by white n az on Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 09:24:47 PM EST
    you would think that they could at least afford a $30 per month contract with ADT or something...

    That story isn't scary enough... (none / 0) (#10)
    by wasabi on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 07:34:03 AM EST
    Read this one titled "The Apocalypses That Might Have Been" if you want to read scary.
    The website is interesting too.

    That is some downright.... (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 10:20:39 AM EST
    frighteneing stuff wasabi...scarier than any horror flick anybody will be watching tonight.

    We have no need for all these nukes and unmanned silos...on the slim chance we ever need to use the damn things the game is already over, so why accept the risks of keeping them around?  I don't get it...I mean "everybody in the Middle east/Asia/Europe/wherever will be dead too" is no consolation if you are about to die by white heat or by radiation soon after, so seriously...why bother?


    Cautiously Responding (none / 0) (#11)
    by easilydistracted on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 07:42:02 AM EST
    and attempting to not disclose too much in this forum, these unmanned minuteman sites are bountiful in eastern Wyoming, eastern Colorado and the western panhandle of Nebraska.  The missle wing responsible for monitoring these minuteman sites is centrally located at the AFB in Cheyenne.  To my knowledge, these minuteman sites have always been unmanned, as the purported benefit of the minuteman missile platform permitted coordination of multiple sites from a central location rather than staffing each individual missle silo with a crew.  Thereby, saving tax dollars and making the entire system safer because less people in the launch process meant less risk of inadvertenly picking a wacko to man an individual site, or so the argument goes.  I'm not attempting to justify the slow response of the AF here -- it was wholly unacceptable.  I'm only clearing up some facts regarding the minuteman sites.      

    very interesting. (none / 0) (#12)
    by cpinva on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:21:45 AM EST
    i (and i suspect most americans) always thought these were manned silos; two man crews with a duplicate key each, both required to simultaneously activate the arming mechanism of the warhead and launch.

    guess i've been watching too much "educational" tv.

    with regards to someone breaking into the silo, and stealing the warhead, in 3 days: good luck with that. sure, it's possible, but pretty unlikely. those silos have been there for 40 years, no one's done it yet.


    Check out the following link below (none / 0) (#13)
    by easilydistracted on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 09:01:59 AM EST
    The info is a bit dated yet still fairly accurate.



    The shotgun in the missile silo (none / 0) (#14)
    by semiotto on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 09:53:51 AM EST
    The shotgun in the missile silo is there for fighting zombies. What else would it be good for- fighting off an invading army? I don't think so.

    That is what happens when you let people with a mental age of 13 run the military. They worry about zombies.

    You can own your own... (none / 0) (#15)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 10:04:04 AM EST
    ...missle silo starting around 150K.

    While it may seem an improbable castle, the Zwonitzers are not alone. As many as a dozen of the nation's former missile silos have been turned into homes, says Ed Peden, who lives in an Atlas E silo outside Dover, Kansas, and helps sell the sites...

    Some silos have found other uses. One near Holton, Kansas, has been a high school more than 30 years. Another is a museum and a records warehouse for Weld County, Colorado. And one near Chugwater, Wyoming, was until recently a constant-temperature environment for machining precision metal parts...


    Shotgun not included.

    Check it out (none / 0) (#17)
    by easilydistracted on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 10:27:17 AM EST
    I'd be too leery... (none / 0) (#18)
    by kdog on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 10:47:21 AM EST
    of starting to glow in the dark to live in a former missile silo...but at least the land has a practical use now...active missile silos serve no practical or useful purpose.

    Heck... (none / 0) (#19)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 11:14:23 AM EST
    ...between the high concentration of naturally occuring radon here, the plumes of leaked radiation from the Rocky Mountain arsenal/Rocky Flats and all of the medical radiation I've been subjected to, I probably already give off a nice warm glow in the dark!  

    Some clarification (none / 0) (#20)
    by Exiab on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 06:38:40 PM EST
    For those that don't know, and from what I have seen its most so far, the missile sites do have built in security systems and I'm not talking about a an unmanned shotgun.  Just to get down to the bare basics here it is.

    AND TO CLARIFY THIS IS UNCLASSIFIED MATERIAL available on the net with a simple search.

    The security system is broken down into an OZ (Outer zone) and IZ (In er zone) security system. It is monitored 24/7 if an alarm goes off violating SECURITY, it is responded to immediately, not 5 days not 1 hour immediately is what it is.

    Even for the personnel trained in gaining access into a sight takes well over 1.5 hours due to built in delays and just the process in which it takes to gain access.

    And to clarify there are no fire detectors or fire suppression systems.