WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the top official of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that the last W56 nuclear warhead has been dismantled. The 1960s era system has been safely and securely taken apart and will never again be a part of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.
"Dismantling the last W56 warhead shows our firm commitment to reducing the size of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile to the lowest levels necessary for national security needs," said Linton F. Brooks, head of NNSA.
In 2004, President Bush directed that the size of the nuclear weapons stockpile be reduced by nearly 50 percent by 2012, which will result in the smallest stockpile since the Eisenhower administration. NNSA's work to dismantle nuclear weapons will increase by nearly 50 percent from fiscal year 2006 to fiscal year 2007.
NNSA's Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Laboratories designed the W56 warhead, which supported the nation's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program. It was produced in the 1960s and saw service until the early 1990s. The delivery platforms were the Air Force Minuteman I and II ICBMs.
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. The dismantlement process includes four steps: retiring a weapon from active or inactive service; returning and storing 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.
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.
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