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SECRET HISTORY

GONE IN 60 MINUTES US Dismantles Last B53 Nuclear Bomb

merica’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that the last MK/B53 thermonuclear bomb has been dismantled. The huge Cold War era bomb was the design model for the powerful W-53 warhead used in the Titan II missile (see feature opposite) itself decommissioned in 1987.

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“The dismantlement of the B53 bomb - the oldest weapon in America’s arsenal and one of the largest in US history - is a major accomplishment that has made the world safer and for which everyone involved should be proud,” said Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman. “Safely and securely dismantling surplus weapons is a critical step along the road to

achieving President Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons.” NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories designed the B53 bomb and after being introduced into the stockpile in 1962, the B53 served a key role in the United States’ nuclear deterrent until its retirement in 1997. The B53 bomb is one of the longest lived and highest yield nuclear weapons ever fielded. Its sheer size and weight - about the size of a minivan and approximately 10,000 pounds - provided many challenges for the project team responsible for developing the dismantlement programme. As a key part of its national security mission, NNSA is actively responsible for safely disman-

tling weapons that are no longer needed, and securely disposing of the excess material and components. The dismantlement process includes four steps: retiring a weapon from active or inactive service; returning and staging 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.

ALL PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY: NNSA 76 P76/77

EYE SPY INTELLIGENCE MAGAZINE 76 2011

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2/11/11, 11:43 am


Gone in 60 Minutes