Dismantlement of W69 canned subassemblies has been completed at the Y-12 National Security Complex, officials said Friday.
The W69 was the warhead for the short-range attack missile, or SRAM, and it was retired from the U.S. nuclear stockpile in 1992. The last W69 weapon was dismantled in 1999. The Y-12 site originally assembled the W69 canned subassemblies, or CSAs, in the 1970s and began disassembly in 2012.
“These weapons components have come full circle, considering Y-12 has been responsible for the assembly and disassembly of every secondary in the nation’s nuclear stockpile,” manager of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Production Office Geoff Beausoleil said, “With this successful dismantlement, we now can turn our focus to other systems to further modernize the stockpile.”
“The employees of Consolidated Nuclear Security are proud to have an integral role in accomplishing the NNSA’s nuclear weapon mission,” Consolidated Nuclear Security President and CEO Morgan Smith said. “The work done at Y-12 on the W69 is yet another example of the important role we play in supporting our nation and making the world a safer place.”
Consolidated Nuclear Security manages and operates Y-12 and the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, under a consolidated contract for the NNSA, a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy.
Taking apart nuclear weapons is a complex process that involves almost all of the sites within the nuclear security enterprise, a press release said. Prior to starting the dismantlement process, NNSA’s design laboratories identify and mitigate hazards that may arise for a particular weapon type or component based on unique knowledge gained during the original design process.
Once retired weapons are returned to the Pantex Plant, high explosives are removed from the plutonium pit constituting a weapon dismantlement. Plutonium pits from dismantled weapons are placed in highly secure storage at Pantex, while uranium parts including CSAs are moved to Y-12. Other non-nuclear components are sent to the Savannah River Site and the National Security Campus at Kansas City for final disposition. Y-12 continues the dismantlement process, taking apart CSAs and recovering needed materials.
Dismantlement not only prevents the potential misuse of nuclear material but also allows recycling of the material for national defense uses such as weapon refurbishment (the Life Extension Program) and fuel for the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered fleet, the press release said.
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