An anonymous "Bangor virgin" has sent us her account of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day action at the gates of Bangor Naval Base, where thirteen were arrested Monday.[1]  --  The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action posted its account of the event on Tuesday.[2]  --  One of those arrested, Martin Fleck of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, also wrote up an account.[3]  --  The only media notice of the action of which we are aware appeared Tuesday in the Kitsap (WA) Sun police blotter report, alongside, ironically, two violent incidents in Bremerton.[4]  --  The lack of attention is all the more remarkable given recent news reports that one-quarter of all the U.S.'s nuclear warheads are located there.  --  On Dec. 8, 2006, Elaine Helm, who writes a blog on the Kitsap (WA) Sun web site called "Military Life," noted that a recent report in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said Bangor possesses "the largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the U.S. and possibly the world."[5]  --  A few days later Tom Brown of the Seattle Times reported that 1) "The warheads assigned to the ballistic missile submarines stationed at Bangor and at Kings Bay, Ga., now constitute more than half of the U.S. strategic weapons force"; and 2) "Other storage sites have been closed or consolidated as the country has cut the size of its arsenal from a Cold War peak of some 24,000 weapons."[6]  --  "About half of Bangor's active weapons are at sea at any given time," Brown noted.  --  On the last day of 2006, the Kitsap (WA) Sun printed an overview by Elaine Helm, reporting that "The number of U.S. ballistic missile submarines has been cut from 18 to 14, with the conversion of the four oldest Tridents into platforms for launching cruise missiles and supporting special operations missions.  --  Bangor now is home to eight of the ballistic missile subs (SSBNs) and two of the converted subs (SSGNs)."[7]  --  As well as "nearly one-fourth of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile." ...


1.

CONFESSIONS OF A BANGOR VIRGIN
By Anonymous

January 16, 2007

This was my first time. I had heard about it for years and was very curious, but this was the first time I had someone to do it with.

The Bangor Naval Base is in Kitsap County near Poulsbo, Washington. Looking for weapons of mass destruction? Look no further. There are over 1,600 nuclear warheads based in Kitsap County. Ground Zero is a group dedicated to peacefully and non-violently opposing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

It was about 38 degrees that early afternoon. A bit of snow, but the roads were clear. Still, it was cold. Cold enough so that if I had not been part of a group that planned an action together, I might have stayed home. Driving 30 miles on ice to stand in the cold is not my idea of fun. But having worked with this group beforehand and also being the driver, I got up, got dressed, gathered my mask and coffin, and set out to join the group.

Yes, mask and coffin. And skeleton. Our group decided to do a bit of theater with the flag-draped coffin, death masks and a sign that read “U.S. Foreign Policy.” I believe this is on the fringe of the commitment to non-violence that Ground Zero embodies. They are totally committed to peace, beginning with peace within ourselves. I certainly agree with no weapons, no verbal abuse, no retaliation, and no physical violence, but I wonder if our message of death violated the call to remain gentle and not be hostile. A fine line. I feel angry that our tax dollars are going to this facility of death and that is not a very peaceful feeling.

Ground Zero has property that adjoins the Bangor Naval Base. It is about a ½-mile walk down the country road to the main gate. We gathered in a line and hiked along the side of the road. We passed a sheriff’s car and I heard them talking to each other.

“Looks like a couple of hundred.”

“I’ve counted 175 so far.”

A couple of hundred people. I felt mixed emotions. Glad that so many people could make a commitment to come out in this cold weather and sad that there weren’t 200,000 of us. There ought to be 2 million. I’m sure there are 2 billion people in the world who, if asked, would say they would rather have better schools and health care rather than more nuclear missiles.

I know for a fact that there were more than our group who felt this way. Although traffic was light on this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, a good number of people in passing cars looked at the peace flags, the photos of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and even our little funeral procession and gave us the thumbs up. For every one of us, there are at least 5-10 people who couldn’t be there that day, but who supported our effort.

When we got down to the main gate at the naval base, they were expecting us. More than a dozen county police officers as well as about six from Naval Base Security lined the road. Along with all the police cars were two vans, just waiting.

Along the side of the road was strung bright green tape that read “Police Line: Do Not Cross.” This was on the white line at the side of the road. What some call the fog line. The sacred line we must not cross.

Hmm. I cross lines like this a lot. Crossing the street or just losing my balance walking along a road with no sidewalk. What was so magical about this line? Something very significant, apparently, because when seven people walked out there to hold up their signs, the police were right there with handcuffs to haul them away. Not so much as, “Excuse me, but you are blocking traffic.” There was no traffic to block. I barely had time to raise my camera before the police were on the protestors. What would happen if someone, not knowing about the Ground Zero action, were to wander down there and just want to cross the road to get to the other side? Would he be hauled away with no warning?

What law were they breaking? They certainly didn’t resist arrest. There was no disorderly conduct. If fact, it was quite orderly. They walked out, stood or knelt in a triangular formation with their signs and banner, and let the police handcuff them. Apparently, there is a new charge, “attempted disorderly conduct,” that could be used against demonstrators by Kitsap County prosecutors, with a maximum 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine. Attempted? Does that imply that they would have done something very disorderly if given a chance?

I missed the six who crossed the Federal line onto the base. Now it wasn’t as if they infiltrated the base. All they did was cross a blue line. The intent, I was told was to deliver a message to the base commander. But no, that is not possible. This is Federal property. Owned by the Federal government. The government that is run by we, the people. It gets very circular.

The police knew the protestors were going to cross the line. The protestors knew that they would be arrested. It seems all pre-arranged. Much of it seems symbolic. I don’t think I would have the courage to do that.

Part of it is that my shoulders don’t work too well and I don’t think I could hold my hands behind my back. The people I saw who were arrested had their hands tied behind their backs with long plastic zip ties. It looked painful to me, but these folks were smiling back at the crowd as the Seattle Peace Chorus began leading us in song. As the protestors were herded into the van, I heard one young man call out, “I love you, Mom!”

I got busy taking pictures of the crowd, of the police, of the arrest, and of the men on the overpass who were videotaping everything. I found out later that I had disturbed a few people. I was still wearing my mask and some people thought I was an infiltrator. Someone asked my fellow coffin-carrier, “Is she all right?” meaning, could I be trusted. I’m not sure I can be trusted, but I did take my mask off at that point and apologize to those around me for scaring them.

Before I went to Bangor, someone described this to me as being choreographed. I now agree. This is a dance that has been going on for years. Protests at Bangor have been happening for decades. Many people have been arrested and spent months in jail for simply stepping onto the road or crossing a painted line. When I got home that evening, I read more on Ground Zero. I read an article that was written by Brian Watson, who was arrested last August during the Hiroshima/Nagasaki action. Rather than being released on his own recognizance, they required $5000 bail. Apparently, the prosecutor’s office hoped that the bail requirement would deter people from doing this kind of nonviolent civil resistance. But Brian summed it up well. “What they seem to fail to grasp is that such heavy-handedness has the exact opposite effect, galvanizing, rather than deterring people from risking arrest. I later learned that people are already making commitments to risk arrest at the next action on Martin Luther King Day.”

His words were prophetic. There were 13 people arrested yesterday, three more than last August. I hear there is another action planned for Mother’s Day. Maybe then we will have 2,000 people. Maybe then 200 will risk arrest. Maybe someday, I will get the courage to cross the line.

2.

13 PEOPLE ARRESTED HONORING DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. AT TRIDENT SUBMARINE BASE AT BANGOR, WA

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action
January 16, 2007

http://www.gzcenter.org/articles/13_arrested_20070115.htm

Thirteen people arrested honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Trident submarine base at Bangor, WA

Two hundred ten people were present at the demonstration commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the gates of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor on January 15th. Thirteen demonstrators were arrested at the highway entrance into the base.

At 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, demonstrators walked from the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action to the entrance of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. Seven demonstrators then took a banner onto the highway which stated, “Abolish Nuclear Weapons.”

As the seven demonstrators were arrested by Kitsap County Sheriffs, six more demonstrators entered federal property at the base entrance. The six were arrested by Naval Base security.

Demonstrators also hung a large banner over the entrance to the Trident submarine base with a statement by Dr. King which stated, "When scientific power outruns spiritual power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men."

The Trident submarine base at Bangor is located 20 miles west of Seattle. It is the last active nuclear weapons depot on the West Coast and is the place of deployment for approximately 1,360 nuclear warheads. Another 1,000 warheads are stored on the base in inactive reserve. The Trident base at Bangor has the largest stockpile of nuclear warheads in the United States.

The base has been recently rebuilt for the deployment of the larger and more accurate Trident D-5 missile system. Each of the 24 D-5 missiles on a Trident submarine is capable of carrying eight of the larger 455 kiloton W-88 warheads (each warhead is about 30 times the explosive force as the Hiroshima bomb.)

Those arrested by Kitsap County Sheriffs: George Rodkey, 53, of Tacoma; Lynne Greenwald, 57, of Bremerton; Rev. Anne Hall, 61, Martin Fleck, 48, Carolyn Dorisdotter, 68, Steven Gilbert, 55, and Glen Milner, 55, of Seattle.

Those arrested by Naval Base security: Larry Kerschner, 60, of Pe Ell; Tim Russell, 41, of Olympia; Fr. Bill Bichsel, S.J., 78, Caitlin Webb, 18, Eric Buley, 19, and Aaron Gerow, 23, of Tacoma.

The seven arrested by Kitsap County Sheriffs were booked and later released in Port Orchard. Kitsap County Sheriffs stated a new charge, “attempted disorderly conduct,” could be used against demonstrators by Kitsap County prosecutors, with a maximum 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine.

The six arrested by Naval Base security were booked at the Trident submarine base and released. Some of these demonstrators may be tried in federal court.

Contact: Anne Hall or David Hall (206) 545-3562; Karol Milner or Glen Milner (206) 365-7865

3.

REPORT FROM THE TRIDENT PROTEST
By Martin Fleck

** WPSR delegation of 22 swells ranks of annual MLK Day protest -- 3 WPSR members arrested **

Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
Martin Luther King Day, January 16, 2007

BANGOR SUBMARINE BASE (WA) -- On January 15, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 207 people gathered under sunny skies at the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and marched in silence to the gate of the Bangor Submarine Base on the Kitsap Peninsula. Then, after vigiling at the gate with meditative drumming provided by Buddhist monks, 12 people carried out nonviolent civil disobedience, symbolically closing the base by blocking the access road. As the arrestees were handcuffed and loaded into police vans, the Seattle Peace Chorus led the vigilers in singing “We Shall Overcome.”

The Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility Affinity Group turned out 22 people for the event, and three members of the WPSR group blocked the access road and were arrested by Kitsap County deputies directed by Sheriff Steve Boyer, who was present.

Members of the WPSR Affinity Group:

Sunil Aggarwal
Bruce Amundson, MD
Sally Bagshaw
Katie Barton
Rev. David Bloom
Tom Buchanan
Nancy Dickeman
Martin Fleck
Linda Frank, RN
Steve Gilbert, PhD
Rich Grady, MD
Rev. Anne Hall
Dave Hall, MD
Laura Hart, MD
Gerri Haynes
Margaret Kitchell, MD
Charlie Meconis, PhD
Shanon Sidell
Dane Spencer
Bill Wahl, MD
Kim Wahl
Chatu Yapa

Gerri Haynes opened up the police barrier to allow the team, including Anne Hall, Steve Gilbert, and Martin Fleck, to move swiftly into the roadway to block access to the Bangor base. Anne was arrested for sitting in the middle of a lane of traffic, while Steve and Martin held either end of a giant yellow “Abolish Nuclear Weapons” banner, which was confiscated by the deputies.

Altogether, seven protesters were arrested on the Kitsap County side of the “blue line,” and five more protesters -- including several of Mark Jensen’s students from Pacific Lutheran University -- were arrested by federal agents for blocking the road on federal property side of the “blue line.”

Anne, Steve and Martin were charged with “Attempting Disorderly Conduct,” held for approximately 5 hours in the Kitsap County jail in Port Orchard, and released Monday evening to their support crews. The protesters were told they will be summoned for a trial, date to be determined.

The next Ground Zero action at the Bangor base is scheduled for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 13.

Familiar faces at the protest included Paul Beeson award winner T.J. Johnson of Olympia and coordinator of the Wallingford Meaningful Movies, Rick Turner. Many thanks to delegation members for their participation, all those who photographed and videotaped, Anne and Dave Hall for their leadership for the day’s activities, the arrestees, and their supporting crew members: Dave Hall, Laura Hart, Rich Grady, Dane Spencer, Charlie Meconis, and David Bloom.

Please support WPSR online! Visit www.wpsr.org

Another opportunity to resist Trident and support the Ground Zero community will be Saturday, Jan 20

Town Hall Lecture: John Burroughs, "From Auschwitz to Trident"

7:00 p.m. -- John Burroughs, the executive director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy in New York speaking about nuclear weapons in Puget Sound, the power of international law, and individual responsibility for abolishing nuclear weapons. Tickets are $10 at www.brownpapertickets.com

More Info:

http://www.townhallseattle.org/calendar.cfm
or
http://www.gzcenter.org/articles/john_burroughs_town_hall_20070120.htm

4.

CODE 911

Kitsap (WA) Sun
January 16, 2007

http://www1.kitsapsun.com/bsun/local/article/0,2403,BSUN_19088_5282679,00.html

BANGOR -- Seven people were arrested Monday at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor after trying to stop traffic during a peaceful protest, according to Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Scott Wilson.

Close to 200 people walked from the Clear Creek Trail to Bangor on Monday for an annual nonviolent march in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. that is put on by the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.

Wilson said protestors met with police the day before the march to discuss where they would be allowed to stand once they arrived at the base. While the protestors were peaceful, three women and four men were arrested for trying to stop traffic from entering the submarine base, Wilson said.

Three of the men were from Seattle and one was from Tacoma, Wilson said. Of the women, two were from Seattle and one was from Bremerton. The seven were arrested on suspicion of attempted disorderly conduct. They were taken to the Kitsap County jail and booked and released, Wilson said.

An additional unknown number of protestors were arrested by the Naval police because they crossed into an area where they were not allowed.

MAN BLOODIED IN MYSTERY ASSAULT

BREMERTON -- A Bremerton Police officer following up with a robbery call at 4 a.m. Monday found a large amount of blood on a sidewalk in front of a home along the 3100 block of 13th Street, according to reports.

The officer also noted a bloody hand print on the side of the house and a large amount of blood on the steps leading to the home’s doorway. A 60-year-old Bremerton man answered the door with paper towels wrapped around his head, which was bleeding.

The man told the officer he was coming home around 2 a.m. Monday after drinking at a bar when he slipped and fell on the sidewalk. The man said he was dazed after the fall, but had seen a man with blond hair walking in front of his home. He said the man asked if he was OK, and then he felt his wallet being lifted from his back pocket, according to the report.

The man said he wasn’t sure, but he could have been pushed. After the fall, he crawled into his home and went to sleep. When he woke up, his wallet and checkbook were gone. The inside of the man’s home was covered in blood. The man was taken to Harrison Medical Center, where he was treated.

A doctor determined the man had been "violently assaulted" because he had at least seven cuts to his head. Some of them were deep enough to touch the man’s skull, according to the report. The man also fractured three of his fingers on his right hand. The report was forwarded to detectives.

TEEN'S 'DISCIPLINE' WAS TOO MUCH

BREMERTON -- Police responded to a home along the 100 block of Bloomington Avenue on Monday morning after a mother and her son got into a fight, according to Bremerton Police reports.

The 37-year-old Bremerton mother stated she had asked her 17-year-old son to get off the computer and clean his room. The woman said her son started talking back to her, using obscenities. The mother then grabbed a nearby belt and hit her son on the back with it, according to the report.

According to the mother, the son then got up and pushed her, making threats. She then hit him in the face with the belt, according to the report. The woman told officers she believed it was in her right to discipline her son with the belt.

According to the son, his mother hit him with the belt after he swore at her, and then told him to get out of the house. She then hit him in the face and the son said he defended himself by grabbing her to avoid being hit, according to the report. The son said he felt his mother was assaulting him and not disciplining him.

The son was removed from the home and a report was sent to the prosecutor’s office to review charges of fourth-degree assault, domestic violence against the mother.

--Code 911 is compiled mainly from information in police and fire department reports. To report news tips or inaccuracies, call (360) 792-8558. To read the Kitsap Sun’s criminal justice blog, more Kitsap crime and justice news, go to kitsapsun.com, click on "Blogs" at the top of the page and then click on the Criminal Justice Forum.

5.

Military Life

NUKES IN THE BACKYARD
By Elaine Helm

Kitsap (WA) Sun
December 8, 2006

http://blogs.kitsapsun.com/kitsap/military/archive/bases/naval_base_kitsapbangor/

Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor has the largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the U.S. and possibly the world, according to a report from the latest edition of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

About 24 percent of the nation's active and inactive nuclear weapons -- 2,364 of 9,962 warheads -- reportedly are stored at Bangor's Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific, commonly known by the acronym SWFPAC (pronounced "swiff-pack"). That includes 850 inactive warheads for the older C4 Trident missiles, which are no longer in use.

6.

Local news

WHERE THE NUKES ARE: 20 MILES FROM DOWNTOWN SEATTLE
By Tom Brown

Seattle Times
December 11, 2006

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003468096_webbangor11.html

[MAP CAPTION: Naval Submarine Base Bangor]

Nearly one-quarter of America's 9,962 nuclear weapons are now assigned to the Bangor submarine base on Hood Canal, 20 air miles northwest of downtown Seattle.

This makes Bangor the largest nuclear weapons storehouse in the United States, and possibly the world.

The share of the nation's nuclear armaments at Bangor is higher than it has ever been for two reasons:

• The warheads assigned to the ballistic missile submarines stationed at Bangor and at Kings Bay, Ga., now constitute more than half of the U.S. strategic weapons force.

• Other storage sites have been closed or consolidated as the country has cut the size of its arsenal from a Cold War peak of some 24,000 weapons.

The status and disposition of the nation's nuclear arsenal is detailed in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Bulletin authors Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen say the U.S. arsenal is now the smallest it has been since 1958. U.S. nuclear arms are maintained at 18 facilities in 12 states and six foreign countries, according to the report.

The Bulletin was founded in 1945 by scientists who participated in the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb and is considered an authoritative source of nuclear weapons information for the United States and other countries.

Norris and Kristensen write: "Pinpointing the whereabouts of all U.S. nuclear weapons, and especially the numbers stored at specific locations, is fraught with many uncertainties due to the highly classified nature of nuclear weapons information. Declassified documents, leaks, official statements, news reports, and conversations with current and former officials provide many clues, as do high-resolution satellite images of many of these facilities. Such images are available to anyone with a computer and internet access, thanks to Google Earth and commercial satellite imaging companies such as DigitalGlobe. This development introduces important new tools for research and advances citizen verification. The statistics contained in this article represent our best estimates, based on many years of closely following nuclear issues."

Thus, the estimate of what is stored at Bangor can't be verified but probably is quite close.

Unsurprisingly, the 2,364 weapons reportedly assigned to Bangor are warheads for the Trident and cruise missiles carried by the submarines based there:

• 1,100 W76 warheads for Trident II D5 missiles. The W76, the mainstay of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, has a yield, or explosive force, of about 100 kilotons. That's more than six times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II. Each of the nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines at Bangor can carry up to 24 Trident II missiles. Those missiles in turn can be armed with up to eight W76 warheads apiece, or as many as 192 warheads per sub.

• 850 W76 warheads for Trident I C4 missiles. These warheads are inactive, as Bangor's subs have been upgraded to carry Trident II D5 missiles

• 264 W88 warheads for Trident II D5 missiles. The W88 has a yield of about 475 kilotons and is considered the most sophisticated thermonuclear weapon in the U.S. stockpile. Each of the 24 missiles on an Ohio-class nuclear submarine can carry eight W88 warheads.

• 150 W80-0 warheads for sea-launched cruise missiles (four Trident subs have been converted to carry cruise missiles rather than ballistic missiles and two of those subs are stationed at Bangor).

The mix of warheads carried by each of the Bangor submarines is classified and most likely varies depending on its patrol mission and international circumstances. About half of Bangor's active weapons are at sea at any given time, the Bulletin estimates.

At Bangor, weapons not deployed aboard subs are stored in bunkers that are visible in commercial satellite photos readily available on the Web. The Federation of American Scientists blog Strategic Security has an interactive map and satellite images of the country's various weapons sites. The map requires Google Earth software, which is available free from Google.

No nuclear weapons have been used since August 1945, when the U.S. bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II, though there have been a number of close calls since. There also have been scores of military accidents or incidents involving nuclear weapons over the last 60 years, including four at Bangor, the last of which occurred in late 2003. In the Bangor incident, a Trident missile was damaged, but none of its warheads were and no radiation was released.

Commonly, not much information is released about these accidents, and their relative seriousness is often difficult to gauge. There is no evidence that an unintended nuclear explosion has ever occurred, though radiation has been released numerous times as a result of aircraft crashes or fires.

The Center for Defense Information notes in this lengthy appraisal that the Navy reported 563 "nuclear weapons incidents" between 1965 and 1983, though fewer than half of those seem to have been actual accidents involving weapons.

One Navy accident of regional note occurred Sept. 25, 1959, when a P-5M antisubmarine aircraft crashed into Puget Sound near Whidbey Island. The nuclear depth charge it carried was never recovered.

Nuclear weapons in storage most likely pose little danger. However, they no doubt would be high on the target list of any nuclear-armed adversary.

A new government report concludes that deterioration of nuclear weapons -- long a concern because of potential effects on their reliability -- may be much less significant than previously believed. Thus, it's likely we'll be living with a lot of them nearby for a long time to come.

7.

Local

KITSAP: NATION'S NUCLEAR WEAPON CAPITAL?
By Elaine Helm

** Figuring out how many warheads are in any one location in the U.S. is a less-than-exact science. **

Kitsap (WA) Sun
December 31, 2006

http://www.kitsapsun.com/bsun/local/article/0,2403,BSUN_19088_5248534,00.html

BANGOR -- A watchdog group’s new report estimates that nearly one-fourth of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile is right in Kitsap’s back yard.

Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, home to the West Coast Trident submarine fleet, now has 2,364 of the nation’s 9,962 nuclear warheads, according to the *Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists*’ report, titled "Where The Bombs Are, 2006."

Most of the warheads at Bangor are designed for Trident II D5 missiles, carried by all 14 Trident submarines on both coasts, the report said. The rest, awaiting disposal, are inactive warheads from the older Trident I C4 missiles and nuclear cruise missiles.

Calculating the size of the nuclear arsenal at any location is not an exact science. The bulletin’s report is based on declassified documents, leaks, official statements, news reports, conversations with current and former officials, and satellite images.

Most information about such weapons is highly classified. Navy officials would neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of the bulletin’s estimates.

A statement provided by Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC), which maintains missiles and nuclear warheads for Bangor’s Trident fleet, said: "It is the policy of the U.S. government to neither confirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weapons at any general or specific location."

"The U.S. Navy ranks safety and security as its highest priority for all shore and fleet activities," the statement continued. "SWFPAC is held to these high standards."

An accident in November 2003 drew attention to safety procedures for the handling of Trident missiles at SWFPAC. The accident, which was made public in March 2004, occurred when a ladder left inside a submarine’s missile tube punctured a missile’s nose cone and came within inches of a nuclear warhead.

Local congressmen briefed on the incident described it as "serious" but not life-threatening. Though the Navy refused to discuss publicly what had happened, SWFPAC’s leadership team was dismissed and other corrective measures taken.

Sources familiar with U.S. nuclear weapons systems said the likelihood of such an accident causing a nuclear explosion is minute.

The size of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile has been decreasing since the end of the Cold War and is at its smallest level since 1958, according to the bulletin’s report.

Congressional Research Service reports indicate that under the Bush administration, the Navy reduced the number of warheads allowed on each submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from eight to six on Trident submarines in the Pacific fleet.

The Navy also may have done the same for the Atlantic fleet Tridents, based in Kings Bay, Ga., according to the unclassified reports.

Each Trident submarine has 24 missile tubes. With an allowance for two such subs undergoing overhauls at any given time, the total number of warheads necessary to fully arm and deploy the entire Trident fleet would be about 1,700.

The number of U.S. ballistic missile submarines has been cut from 18 to 14, with the conversion of the four oldest Tridents into platforms for launching cruise missiles and supporting special operations missions.

Bangor now is home to eight of the ballistic missile subs (SSBNs) and two of the converted subs (SSGNs).

Before the departure of USS Alaska in July for an overhaul on the East Coast, the balance of ballistic missile submarines had shifted sharply toward the Pacific. Five Tridents switched homeports from Kings Bay to Bangor from 2003 to late 2005.

That gain was offset by the loss of the Alaska, USS Florida and USS Georgia. The latter two were converted to SSGNs.