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Seal Beach Official Urges End to Nuclear Arms Handling at Base

Times Staff Writer

Citing the potential for “toxic annihilation” in the event of an accident at the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, a city councilman Tuesday called for an end to the handling of nuclear weapons at the installation.

“Our concern is not one of a mushroom cloud situation. That does not appear to be a possibility,” Councilman Victor Grgas said in an interview following a City Hall press conference.

“Rather, it’s the potential for damage or destruction of a nuclear weapon as a result of fire or mishandling, which might cause dispersion of radioactive material into the atmosphere.”

Grgas said the loading and unloading of weapons from ships entering and leaving the port should be moved away from densely populated Orange County to more remote areas such as Port Hueneme in Ventura County or Camp Pendleton in northern San Diego County.

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He added that storage of nuclear weapons at the Seal Beach base “is not the question here . . . but the loading and offloading for transshipment to other facilities like Fallbrook. It’s the personnel and equipment failures associated with that that we’re concerned with.”

If removal of such operations from the base “is out of the question,” Grgas said, “We’d like to meet with Navy officials . . . and come up with some ideas on how to handle a situation or an accident.”

John T. Frye, a weapons station spokesman, said the base “stands on its safety record of 40 years without an accident. We work well within our safety requirements and go through continual inspections to make sure we’re up to snuff on everything.” (In the past, the Navy has declined to say whether it loads, unloads or stores nuclear weapons at the base.)

However, the recent explosion of a Titan missile at the Vandenberg Air Force Base launch facility “really brought the point home,” Grgas said. “City officials there didn’t get any information for half a day regarding toxic elements that may have been released. We want to be more prepared to handle a situation should one like this occur.”

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Grgas said his concerns were raised by information contained in a recently released Navy report covering 381 accidents or incidents involving nuclear weapons between 1965 and 1977, 140 of which involved surface ships such as those that dock at the Anaheim Bay facilities.


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