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Fact Sheet

B53 Nuclear Bomb
Oct 25, 2011


The elimination of the B53 by Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is consistent with the goal President Obama announced in his April 2009 Prague speech to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. The President said, “We will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same.” The dismantlement of the last remaining B53 ensures that the system will never again be part of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

As a key part of its national security mission, NNSA is actively responsible for safely dismantling weapons that are no longer needed, and disposing of the excess material and components.

B53 highlights:

  • The B53 bomb is a 1960s-era system and was introduced into the stockpile in 1962.
  • NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories designed the B53 bomb.
  • The B53 served a key role in the U.S. nuclear deterrent until its retirement in 1997.
  • The B53 supported the B-52G strategic bomber program.
  • The B53 was built at Iowa Army Ammunition Plant in Burlington, Iowa.
  • The Pantex Plant, Amarillo, Texas, dismantled the B53 bomb.
  • Y-12 will dismantle the remaining nuclear portion of the B53 bomb.
  • The B53 is one of the longest-lived and highest-yield nuclear weapons ever fielded by the United States.
  • The B53 is about the size of a minivan and weighs about 10,000 pounds.
  • Dismantlement process utilized the rigid Seamless Safety for the 21st Century (SS-21) process in dismantling the B53.
  • NNSA’s SS-21 process fully integrates the weapon system with the facility, tooling, operating procedures, and personnel involved in the dismantlement program to form a safe, efficient, and effective operating environment.
  • The B53 dismantlement program was safely completed 12 months ahead of schedule.
  • The DoD played a role in staging the weapon prior to dismantlement.
  • The B53 dismantlement program involved more than 130 engineers, scientists, and technicians from Pantex, Y-12, Los Alamos National Laboratory (physics designers and weapon response), Sandia National Laboratories (weapon system), and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (weapon response subject matter expert).

The dismantlement process includes: 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.