WASHINGTON, D.C. – Work on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) High Explosives Pressing Facility at its Pantex Plant, located near Amarillo, Texas, this month passed the 85 percent construction completion mark and is on schedule and under budget.
The new 45,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility will provide safer, more reliable production by consolidating high explosives operations from numerous buildings and greatly reducing the movement of high explosives within the plant. High explosives are a key component of a nuclear weapon, providing the initiation for a complex sequence of events necessary for nuclear detonation.
“This new facility at Pantex will help NNSA fulfill its mission in maintaining the nation’s nuclear deterrent,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Don Cook. “I commend the work done on the facility and for maintaining the project on time and under budget.”
Replacement of high explosives in weapons is an important part of the mission to maintain and extend the life of the nation’s nuclear arsenal. High explosives are pressed into molds at immense pressures, then machined into hemispheres, which surround the nuclear core of the weapon. The explosion of high explosives provides the force to compress the nuclear material, leading to detonation.
Construction of the $65 million facility began in late 2011 and is on schedule to be completed next summer. Operations of the facility will begin September 2016.
Construction progress includes the arrival and installment of new modern high explosives presses, process equipment and all blast-resistant doors. Offices have been built and are being painted. In addition, the roof is completed, officially enclosing the exterior of the facility, which allows the contractor to continue work inside during inclement weather.
The major remaining work activities include installation of overhead cranes, flooring and mechanical/electrical systems. The construction effort is being managed by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the design effort and plant support is being led by B&W Pantex with a design subcontract to CH2M Hill.
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. 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 U.S. and abroad.