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BOMARC Missile Accident Site

The BOMARC launch complex at McGuire AFB

BOMARC Site RW-01 is a 75-acre (30 ha)[1] fenced-off site contaminated primarily with "weapons-grade plutonium (WGP), highly-enriched and depleted uranium." On 7 June 1960 an explosion in a CIM-10 Bomarc missile fuel tank caused the accident and subsequent contamination. The explosion occurred at Launcher Shelter 204, McGuire AFB, Burlington County, New Jersey, approximately 16.1 miles (25.9 km) south-southeast of Trenton, New Jersey. Launcher Shelter 204 was one of fifty-four located at McGuire AFB, operated by the 46th Air Defense Missile Squadron.[2]

BOMARC Base No. 1

The BOMARC Base No. 1 site was 218 acres (88 ha)[3] within the "Range and Impact Area"[4] at the Northeast corner of McGuire AFB.[5] It was one of two BOMARC bases of the New York Air Defense Sector. It was the first operational BOMARC base and had both a "Missile Support Area" with a Squadron Operations Center and a "Launch Area" with 56 Mode II Launcher Shelters in 2 flights (e.g., 2 compressor buildings were available to simultaneously get 2 missiles to the "Standby" stage prior to "Fire-up".) [5] The missile complex was an annex of McGuire Air Force Base 6 mi (9.7 km) to the west where the sector's SAGE Direction Center (DC-01) was the missile launch control center. Planning for the base began in 1955, and construction began January 1958, aiming to begin operations in January 1960.[6] and it became operational on 1 September 1959 with 3 IM-99A missiles (24 by 1 January).[7] In December 1959, Col. Robert E. Stuart was the base commander, the 46th Air Defense Missile Squadron (BOMARC) commander was Lt. Col. Ernest B. Sheppard, and the Boeing support office was in New Egypt.[5]

External images
1960 damage to Launcher Shelter 204
21st century photos of shelter damage
various facility photos

1960 IM-99 accident

"On 7 June 1960, an explosion in a helium tank [between the missile's fuel tanks[8] took place in Shelter 204 causing a fire in a liquid-fueled, nuclear-tipped BOMARC missile. The fire burned uninhibited for about 30 minutes. Firefighting activities, using water as a suppressant, were conducted for 15 hours. As a result, materials from the shelter flowed under the front shelter doors, down the asphalt apron and street between the row of shelters, and into the drainage ditch".[9] "Contamination was restricted to an area immediately beneath the weapon and an adjacent elongated area approximately 100 feet long".[10][11] A nuclear response team from Griffiss Air Force Base found "no trace of dispersed radiation" during spot checks "outside the facility's boundaries" for 66 mi (106 km).[12] Approximately 300 g (11 oz) of WGP was not recovered,[13] "A significant fraction of the radiological material contained in the weapon [was] shipped…to Medina Base, San Antonio TX"[9] and then to Amarillo.[14]

According to the Trenton Times, “In June 1987, traces of a radioactive substance used in nuclear warheads (americium-241 related to plutonium) were found about one-half mile from the site."[15] In a 1992 report, the Air Force wrote that the missile launcher from Shelter 204 had been removed from the shelter shortly after the accident, and that no records about the manner of disposal of the missile launcher existed. They found five anomalous areas which could represent the buried launcher.[15] From 1999-2000 the USGS sampled and tested the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer with shallow ground water and sediment for radionuclides. No manmade radionuclide was present in the well-bottom sediments, or unfiltered or filtered water samples.[16] From April 2002 through May 27, 2004,[1][17] 21,998 cu yd (16,819 m3) of "contaminated debris and soils were packaged, shipped, and disposed"[18] at Clive, Utah;[19] the remains of the shelter were removed. In 2005, the contaminated area was estimated as 7 acres[20] and ~60 cu yd (46 m3) were additionally remediated by 2007.[21] The 1972[22] RW-01 perimeter fence with height 6 ft (1.8 m) topped with barbed wire[23] was extended by 2007 to include a larger area on the south.[13] A 2013 study compared the characteristics of the accident's particle release with the nuclear warhead dispersals of the 1966 Palomares B-52 crash and 1968 Thule Air Base B-52 crash.[24]


  1. ^ a b Scott Morgan (June 24, 2004). "BOMARC accident site cleaned". Bordentown Register-News (NJ). Retrieved 20 December 2014.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ "Cause of Bomarc Accident Not Announced by Air Force" (Google news archive). Eugene Register-Guard. June 8, 1960. Retrieved 2013-08-07.
  3. ^ Times, Joseph F. Sullivan and Special To the New York (1985-07-10). "OLD MISSILE SITE AT MCGUIRE IS STILL TAINTED, KEAN SAYS". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "Public Health Assessment". Retrieved 2013-08-07.
  5. ^ a b c IM-99A Bases Manual (Report). Seattle, Washington: Boeing: Pilotless Aircraft Division. December 3, 1959. Differences in the Langley Base layout are due to planning for accommodation of the advanced missile system [(IM-99B) ground equipment with equipment for] the IM-99A system
  6. ^ "Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Eastern New Jersey". Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  7. ^ Preface by Buss, L. H. (Director) (1 May 1960). North American Air Defense Command and Continental Air Defense Command Historical Summary: July–December 1959 (PDF) (Report). Directorate of Command History: Office of Information Services. In the last six months of 1959, two IM-99A squadrons became operational and assumed an air defense role. The first…was the 46th Air Defense Missile Squadron (BOMARC) based at McGuire AFB, New Jersey…activated on 1 January 1959…operational on 1 September 1959 with three missiles.
  8. ^ Imholtz Jr, August (2011-04-26). "The Bomarc Missile Plutonium Spill Crisis: Exercises in Propaganda and Containment in 1960 and Beyond" (blog post). The Readex Blog. Retrieved 2013-08-07. …the container of nonflammable helium gas, located between two fuel tanks, burst… (quotation from webpage's image of a 1960 Augusta Chronicle article). "the fire was one of the largest environmental disasters in the environmentally sensitive Pinelands, which did not become federally protected until 1978" (quotation from the webpage's transcription of a 2010 Burlington County Times' article).
  9. ^ a b Rademacher; et al. (August 28, 2007). …Missile Shelters and Bunkers Scoping Survey Workplan (Report). ADA471460. Air Force Institute of Operational Health. Retrieved 2013-08-06. Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) removed weapon debris that contained a significant fraction of the radiological material contained in the weapon, and shipped the materials to Medina Base, San Antonio TX. … Shelters 202, 205, and 209 were possibly contaminated as a result of the fire, firefighting, and subsequent decontamination of exterior locations. Also, shelter 210 was suspect, as it was used as a staging area for radiological sampling activities for many years.
  10. ^ "quotation from" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-01-13. Retrieved 2013-08-12.
  11. ^ Times, Joseph F. Sullivan and Special To the New York (1985-07-10). "OLD MISSILE SITE AT MCGUIRE IS STILL TAINTED, KEAN SAYS". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "Air Force Magazine". Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  13. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-10-05. Retrieved 2013-08-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ McCulla; et al. (May 22, 1996). BOMARC…Missile Accident Site Mitigation Review (PDF) (Report). LA-UR-96-1765. Los Alamos National Laboratory. Retrieved 2013-07-08.
  15. ^ a b THOMAS P. FARNER (July 23, 2015). "Nuclear 'Cleanup' Leaves Many Questions". The Sandpaper Inc. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  16. ^ Zoltan Szabo; Otto S. Zapecza; Jeannette H. Oden & Donald E. Rice (2005). "Radiochemical Sampling and Analysis of Shallow Ground Water and Sediment at the BOMARC Missile Facility, East-Central New Jersey, 1999-2000, Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5062". US geological survey. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  17. ^ "Intelligent Membranes - - Tri-Town News". Archived from the original on 21 December 2014. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  18. ^ Duratek 2006, cited by Rademacher
  19. ^ [][permanent dead link]
  20. ^ Kalmykov, Stepan N.; Denecke, Melissa A., eds. (2011-06-17). Actinide Nanoparticle Research. ISBN 9783642114328.
  21. ^ Rademacher, S. E.; Tepperman, M.; Weismann, J. J.; Hackett, J. (March 2009). Radiological Closure of a Nuclear Weapon Accident Site with Plutonium Contamination (PDF). WM 2009 Conference. Phoenix, AZ.
  22. ^ [][permanent dead link]
  23. ^ Matt Montana. "BOMARC Rt 539 New Egypt, NJ 08533 Ocean Abandoned". Archived from the original on 21 December 2014. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  24. ^ Bowen, James; Glover, Samuel; Spitz, Henry (2 September 2012). "Morphology of actinide-rich particles released from the BOMARC accident and collected from soil post remediation". Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry. 296 (2): 853–857. doi:10.1007/s10967-012-2177-0.