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Nuclear Weapons Dismantlement Rate Up 146 Percent

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The United States significantly increased its rate of dismantled nuclear weapons during fiscal year 2007, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced today.  The agency, a separately organized agency under the Department of Energy, confirmed an astounding 146 percent increase in dismantled nuclear weapons over the previous year's rate, almost tripling its goal of a 49 percent increase.

NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino said that NNSA's focus on dismantling nuclear weapons supports President Bush's goal of having the lowest number of nuclear weapons consistent with the nation's national security needs.
"This is an outstanding achievement by our dedicated employees.  By greatly exceeding our dismantlement goal, NNSA is supporting the U.S. leadership role in global nonproliferation and disarmament efforts," D'Agostino said.  "Our success ensures that these weapons cannot be used again, and sends a clear message to the world that this administration remains committed to reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. nuclear stockpile."

In 2004, President Bush directed that the stockpile be reduced nearly 50 percent by 2012, making it the smallest level since the Eisenhower Administration in the 1950s. This means that in five years the stockpile will be one-quarter of its size at the end of the Cold War.

Dismantling nuclear weapons is a lengthy process that involves almost all of the sites within the nuclear weapons complex. First, NNSA's design labs work with the production facilities to identify and mitigate any hazards that may arise before a particular weapon type is to be dismantled. The labs are able to apply the unique knowledge they gained during the original design process for each weapon in the stockpile.

When a weapon is retired, it is brought to NNSA's Pantex Plant, where the high explosives are removed from special nuclear material, and the plutonium core is removed from the weapon. The plutonium is placed in highly secure storage at Pantex. Eventually, the excess material will be turned into fuel at the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site. Construction on the MOX facility began August 1, 2007.

Part of the weapon then moves to the Y-12 National Security Complex where the uranium components are removed. Then, other non-nuclear components are sent to the Savannah River Site (e.g., gas storage devices) and the Kansas City Plant (e.g., electrical components) for final processing.

To ensure that the special nuclear material is safe and secure during transport from site to site throughout the entire dismantlement process, NNSA relies on its Office of Secure Transportation, which assists in the timeliness of the process by ensuring that the shipments are always on-schedule.

Dismantling excess warheads not only is central to the President's goal of reducing the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile but it also is key to NNSA's vision of transforming the nuclear weapons complex into one that is smaller, more modern, and more efficient to meet future challenges.

Last year, NNSA permanently dismantled the last W56-type nuclear weapon in the U.S. stockpile. Currently, NNSA is dismantling W62 and the B61 modifications 3 and 4, which will continue for several years.

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.

Media contact(s):
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371