Nobody was in danger and there was no possibility of the weapons ever detonating, but it's a more than a minor goof. The Air Force squadron commander was immediately removed from command and lost his nuclear certification. He will probably never be promoted again, which means his career is over and he'll leave the military.
The first thing I thought of when I read this was this line from Paul Yingling's essay from last May, A Failure in Generalship, in which he states:
As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.An Air Force squadron commander was correctly fired for misplacing five nuclear weapons for three and a half hours. No-one to my knowledge has been fired for mismanaging the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. Different sorts of accountability exist at different levels.
Major General Taguba was essentially forced out for doing his job well, investigating the Abu Ghraib incidents. Shinsheki as we all know was forced out for doing his job in giving his honest opinion about the forces required for invading Iraq. On the other hand, there was no accountability to the generals who thought the insurgency would be defeated by just killing more people. Meanwhile, the people who were and are successful in Iraq, like Col. McMaster, are repeatedly passed over for promotion.
It is of course important to handle nuclear weapons carefully and to keep track of them at all times. But it is more important to win wars...