WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced that the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has dismantled the last W62 nuclear warhead. Secretary Chu made the announcement after personally participating in the final W62 dismantlement during an August 11, 2010 visit to NNSA’s Pantex Plant outside Amarillo, Texas.
Completed a full year ahead of schedule, the W62 dismantlement program safely and securely took apart the retired 1970s era warhead, which will never again be a part of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.
“Completing the last W62 dismantlement is a tangible demonstration of our firm commitment to support the President’s goal of reducing the number of nuclear weapons and their role in the U.S. national security strategy,” said Secretary Chu. “I am proud to have had the opportunity to join the outstanding men and women working at NNSA’s Pantex Plant for this important milestone. I applaud the team here for working so diligently to ensure that the W62 dismantlement program was safely completed more than one full year ahead of schedule and for their continued commitment to working in challenging environments to advance a critical national security mission.”
The dismantling of the final W62 warhead is consistent with the goal President Obama announced in his April 2009 Prague speech to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. In that speech the President said “we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.”
NNSA’s Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Laboratories designed the W62 warhead, which supported the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program. The U.S. produced the W62 in the 1970s, and the warhead saw service until recently. The delivery platform was the Air Force Minuteman III ICBM.
As a key part of its national security mission, NNSA is responsible for safely dismantling weapons that are no longer needed and disposing of the excess material and components. The dismantlement process includes four steps: retiring a weapon from service; returning it to NNSA’s Pantex Plant; taking it apart by physically separating the high explosives from the special nuclear material; and processing the material and components, which includes evaluation, reuse, demilitarization, sanitization, recycling, and ultimate disposal.
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.