Bloomberg News

U.S. Dismantles Last 10,000 Pound Cold-war Era Nuclear Bomb

October 24, 2011

Oct. 24 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. will dismantle this week the last of its Cold War-era B53 nuclear bombs, the most destructive weapon in the country’s arsenal, the National Nuclear Safety Administration said today.

The 10,000-pound bomb is the size of a minivan and contains about 300 pounds of high explosive surrounding a uranium core. It was designed to be dropped from a B-52 bomber and produce an explosion 600 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, according to the Federation of American Scientists website.

The weapon was being disassembled by Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services Pantex LLC, the contractor that operates the agency’s plant in Amarillo, Texas.

Dismantling nuclear weapons is part of President Barack Obama’s goal to reduce the role of atomic weapons in U.S. national security, Thomas D’Agostino, Under Secretary of Energy for Nuclear Security and administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, said in a statement.

“The world is a safer place with this dismantlement,” D’Agostino said.

The B53 bomb, which entered service in 1962, was designed by Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories. The U.S. began to disassemble them starting in the 1980s. The last were retired from the active U.S. arsenal in 1997, the statement from B&W Pantex said.

Pantex consulted the national labs to design and build new tools to dismantle the bomb because of the weapon’s technology was developed by engineers who have since retired or died, the statement said. “We knew going in that this was going to be a challenging project,” B&W Pantex General Manager John Woolery said of the bomb that workers there call “last of the big dogs.”

The U.S. is also reducing the size of its operationally deployed nuclear weapons to between 1,700 and 2,200 weapons by 2012, as part of a treaty with Russia, according to the nuclear agency.

--Editors: Steven Komarow, Nicholas Wadhams

To contact the reporter on this story: Gopal Ratnam in Washington at gratnam1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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