A consultant's report given to Congress catalogs 29 military accidents involving nuclear weapons in the United States, but its accuracy is being challenged by the agency that commissioned the study as well as by the Pentagon.
The study released Thursday by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee raised some eyebrows because it appeared to include possibly eight incidents that never before had been acknowledged by the Defense Department as involving nuclear materials.But after the report was released, officials of the Environmental Protection Agency, which had commissioned the study and initially appeared to endorse it, took pains to disavow its accuracy - at least as far as the nuclear weapons incidents.
The study's overall purpose was to assemble a list of thousands of sites nationwide where there may have been a potential for radiation contamination with the military incidents only a part of the overall report.
Tony Wolbarst of the EPA's Office of Radiation Programs said late Thursday that some of the 29 accidents on the list "may or may not have been nuclear." Other agency officials characterized it as a preliminary draft that needed further analysis.
"The report cataloged all sites that now or in the past have possessed radioactivity," said Michael Shapiro, an EPA deputy assistant administrator for air and radiation.
But the report prepared by Roy F. Weston Inc., of Edison, N.J., and S. Cohen and Associates, Inc., of McLean, Va., referred to its list of 29 nuclear weapons accidents between 1950 and 1980 as "documented cases" and suggested there may be others for which no documentation could be found.
The Pentagon in a 1981 report referred to 21 accidents involving nuclear weapons in the United States and a dozen more abroad.
Defense officials said there is no new evidence that additional nuclear weapons incidents had occurred from those previously reported. "We're not trying to cover anything up," said an Army spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Marilla Cushman.
EPA officials acknowledged that some of the incidents cited by the consultants report may, in fact, not have involved nuclear weapons.
Only 1 Utah incident
i Of the 29 military accidents involving nuclear weapons over a 30-year period beginning in 1950, only one occurred in Utah:
Jan 19, 1961 - Monticello, Utah, B-52.