Program required development of new equipment and training program
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that its Y-12 National Security Complex has completed the dismantlement of the first secondary from a retired B83, one of the biggest weapon systems ever built. The B83 was introduced into the U.S. nuclear stockpile in 1983. While the B83 remains in service, some of its components have been replaced and some retired B83s have been removed from the stockpile.
“Dismantlement of the first B83 secondary is an important demonstration of our nation’s commitment to reducing the size of the nation’s nuclear stockpile in support of our arms reduction treaty commitments and our nuclear nonproliferation objectives,” said Don Cook, Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs. “I applaud the men and women at Y-12 and across the enterprise who have worked so hard to ensure the highest standards of safety as we continue to find ways to implement our program.”
Y-12 has been working aggressively to prepare for B83 dismantlements for the past several years. Significant upgrades were made to key facilities, equipment, and tooling and new dismantlement personnel were hired and trained to support this program.
Significant facility upgrades include electrical and utility improvements. Equipment deployment includes advanced machining equipment and specialized material handling systems and intricate tooling, most of which was designed and fabricated at Y-12.
These new equipment and facility upgrades will ensure the highest level of personnel safety and enable Y-12 to continue to meet dismantlement production requirements. As an added benefit, these upgrades are expected to cut processing times by more than 50 percent when compared to similar operations in the past.
Taking apart nuclear weapons is a complex process that involves almost all of the sites within the nuclear security enterprise. First, NNSA’s design laboratories work with Pantex to identify and mitigate hazards that may arise before a particular weapon type is to be dismantled. The labs are able to apply the unique knowledge they gained during the original design process for each weapon in the stockpile.
When a weapon is retired, it is returned to the Pantex Plant, where the high explosives are removed from special nuclear material, and the plutonium core is removed from the weapon. The plutonium is placed in highly secure storage at Pantex. Non-nuclear components are sent to the Savannah River Site and the Kansas City Plant for final disposition. Y-12 receives uranium components which are dismantled over a defined timeframe.
Dismantlement not only prevents the potential misuse of nuclear material but also allows recycling of the material for national defense uses such as weapon refurbishment (the Life Extension Program) and fuel for the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered fleet. Some of the highly enriched uranium is also down blended to a less concentrated form for use in commercial nuclear reactors.
Y-12 will be taking apart some of the same units that were put together at the site during the Cold War. The safe and secure removal of nuclear weapons components from the stockpile will contribute to nonproliferation efforts and arms reduction.
For more information on NNSA’s dismantlement program, click here.
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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.