The National Nuclear Security Administration announced today that it exceeded its goal for dismantling nuclear weapons in the federal fiscal year that ended in September.
In a press release, the NNSA said it had reached 112 percent of its goal, although it didn’t give specific information on the number of dismantled weapons.
The Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge is one of the NNSA sites involved in the dismantlement work.
“NNSA delivered on President Obama’s commitment to reduce the numbers of U.S. nuclear weapons declared excess to the stockpile and awaiting dismantlement,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Don Cook. “We exceeded our dismantlement goals for FY 2012 by a significant margin.”
Cook said the stockpile is smaller today, but the deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective.
“Dismantlements of legacy weapons are a key part of the Nuclear Posture Review, going hand-in-hand with the safety and security improvements in our Life Extension Programs and critical to our long-term national security,” Cook said.
The press release said NNSA successfully dismantled a number of B61 and B83-0/1 bombs and W76-0, W80-0, W84, and W78 warheads.
The press release said taking apart nuclear weapons is a complex process that involves almost all of NNSA’s sites within the nuclear security enterprise, including design laboratories and national laboratories.
“When a weapon is retired, it is returned to Pantex where the high explosives are removed from the special nuclear material and the plutonium pit is removed from the weapon,” the release said. “The plutonium is placed in highly secure storage at Pantex. Non-nuclear components are sent to the Savannah River Site and the Kansas City Plant for final disposition. The Y-12 National Security Complex receives uranium components, which are dismantled over a defined timeframe.”
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 through the Life Extension Program and fuel for the Navy’s nuclear-powered fleet. Some of the highly enriched uranium is also downblended to a less concentrated form for use in commercial nuclear reactors, the release said.