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B53 Nuclear Bomb

October 25, 2011

The elimination of the B53 by Department
of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is consistent with
the goal President Obama announced in his April 2009 Prague speech to reduce the
number of nuclear weapons. The President said, “We will reduce the role of
nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the
same.” The dismantlement of the last remaining B53 ensures that the system will
never again be part of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

As a key part of its national security
mission, NNSA is actively responsible for safely dismantling weapons that are
no longer needed, and disposing of the excess material and components.

B53 highlights:

  • The B53 bomb is a 1960s-era system and
    was introduced into the stockpile in 1962.
  • NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory and
    Sandia National Laboratories designed the B53 bomb.
  • The B53 served a key role in the U.S.
    nuclear deterrent until its retirement in 1997.
  • The B53 supported the B-52G strategic
    bomber program.
  • The B53 was built at Iowa Army
    Ammunition Plant in Burlington, Iowa.
  • The Pantex Plant, Amarillo, Texas,
    dismantled the B53 bomb.
  • Y-12 will dismantle the remaining
    nuclear portion of the B53 bomb.
  • The B53 is one of the longest-lived and
    highest-yield nuclear weapons ever fielded by the United States.
  • The B53 is about the size of a minivan
    and weighs about 10,000 pounds.
  • Dismantlement process utilized the rigid
    Seamless Safety for the 21st Century (SS-21) process in dismantling the B53.
  • NNSA’s SS-21 process fully integrates
    the weapon system with the facility, tooling, operating procedures, and
    personnel involved in the dismantlement program to form a safe, efficient, and
    effective operating environment.
  • The B53 dismantlement program was safely
    completed 12 months ahead of schedule.
  • The DoD played a role in staging the
    weapon prior to dismantlement.
  • The
    B53 dismantlement program involved more than 130 engineers, scientists, and
    technicians from Pantex, Y-12, Los Alamos National Laboratory (physics
    designers and weapon response), Sandia National Laboratories (weapon system), and
    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (weapon response subject matter expert).

The dismantlement process includes: retiring
a weapon from active or inactive service; returning and staging it at 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.