Refurbished W76 Warhead Enters U.S. Nuclear Weapon Stockpile

Press Release
Feb 23, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The first refurbished W76 nuclear warhead has been accepted into the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile by the Navy, according to a senior official at the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).  This culminates a ten year effort to ensure that the aging warhead, already years beyond its original intended life, can continue to be a reliable part of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

"This is another great example of the unsurpassed expertise throughout NNSA's national security enterprise," said William Ostendorff, NNSA's principal deputy administrator.  "It becomes more and more challenging each time we extend the life of our nuclear weapons.  I am proud that our dedicated scientists and engineers were able to once again meet this unique responsibility."

Most nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile were produced anywhere from 30 to 40 years ago, and no new nuclear weapons have been produced since the end of the Cold War.  Integrated into the Department of the Navy's Trident II "D5" Strategic Weapon System, the first W76 entered the stockpile in 1978.

NNSA must use science-based research and development to extend the lifetime of the current weapons in the stockpile.  By extending the life, or time that a weapon can safely and reliably remain in the stockpile without having to be replaced or removed, of a current weapon, NNSA is able to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent without producing new weapons or conducting new underground nuclear tests.

President George H.W. Bush instituted a moratorium on nuclear testing in 1992, and Ostendorff said that NNSA continues meeting the challenge of certifying nuclear weapons without testing.  "We were able to certify that the refurbished W76 is reliable without conducting an underground nuclear test," he said.  "This is one reason why we need to continue recruiting our nation's best scientific and engineering minds, so that we can continue doing this very complicated work."

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation's national security enterprise.  NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad. 

Media contact(s):
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371