WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Meeting President Bush's directive to reduce the country's nuclear arsenal, the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced today that it has increased the rate of nuclear weapons dismantlements by 50 percent over last year's level, and will continue at the sharply higher rate for the rest of the year.
"NNSA is committed to carrying out the President's vision of the smallest stockpile consistent with national security needs. By dismantling nuclear weapons safely and efficiently, we are ensuring that the weapons can no longer be used again. This increased dismantlement work demonstrates that this country is serious about nonproliferation," said Bill Ostendorff, NNSA's acting administrator.
At the beginning of fiscal year 2007, NNSA established a goal to increase the dismantlement rate of retired nuclear weapons by nearly 50 percent, but because of dramatic improvements in procedures, tools and policies NNSA was able to reach this goal four months ahead of schedule. In order to increase its dismantlement capacity, NNSA made substantial investments in previous years across the nuclear weapons complex to hire additional technicians, purchase the right equipment and tools, and develop better safety and security procedures.
In 2004, President Bush directed that the size of the nuclear weapons stockpile be reduced nearly 50 percent by 2012 – making it the smallest since the 1950s. As a result of the increase in dismantlements and reductions, the stockpile will be one-quarter of its size at the end of the Cold War.
"Since taking his oath of office, this President has authorized a nearly one-half reduction in the size of U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. This shows a true commitment to shrinking our country's nuclear forces," said Ostendorff. "At NNSA, we've been able to make the President's commitment a reality by investing wisely in the people and tools necessary to get the dismantlement job done."
Increasing the dismantlement rate of excess warheads is a key part of NNSA's future plans to transform and reduce the nuclear weapons stockpile and develop a supporting infrastructure that is smaller, and more modern, efficient and secure to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Meeting this highly ambitious dismantlement goal took the effort of NNSA's entire nuclear weapons complex. This includes the three national nuclear weapons design laboratories (Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia National Laboratories), and the Kansas City Plant, the Savannah River Site, the Y-12 National Security Complex, and the Pantex Plant. The dismantlement process begins at Pantex where the high explosives are removed from the special nuclear material, and non-nuclear components are either processed on site or are sent to other facilities within the complex. Y-12 further dismantles the uranium components. Other non-nuclear components are sent to Savannah River (e.g., pressure storage devices) and Kansas City (e.g., electrical components) for final processing. NNSA's Office of Secure Transportation moves the special nuclear material and some parts between sites, ensuring that the work is completed securely and on-schedule.
Once the weapons are dismantled, the plutonium will be placed in highly secure storage, until a facility is constructed and operating to turn the material into a fuel to be burned. NNSA's plutonium disposition program aims to eliminate a total of 68 metric tons of surplus weapon-grade plutonium both in the United States and in Russia, and is based on a 2000 nonproliferation agreement between the two countries.
Last year, NNSA dismantled the last W56 type nuclear weapon in the U.S. stockpile. The 1960's era system was safely and securely taken apart, never to be included among the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile again.
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a separately organized agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce 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 United States and abroad.
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