NNSA Announces Dismantlement of Last B53 Nuclear Bomb

Press Release
Oct 25, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that the last B53 nuclear bomb has been dismantled. The announcement was made at a ceremony at NNSA’s Pantex Plant outside Amarillo, Texas. Officials from the Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration and Pantex joined elected officials to commemorate the dismantlement of the final B53 nuclear bomb.b53 bw

The dismantlement of the 1960s-era weapon system is consistent with President Obama’s goal of reducing the number of nuclear weapons. In his 2009 speech in Prague, 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.

"The dismantlement of the B53 bomb - the oldest weapon in America's arsenal and one of the largest in U.S. 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."

“The elimination of the B53 is a significant milestone in our efforts to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and implement President Obama’s nuclear security agenda,” said NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino. “Today, we're moving beyond the Cold War nuclear weapons complex that built it and toward a 21st century Nuclear Security Enterprise.  I applaud the outstanding work done by the dedicated men and women across our enterprise to ensure that the B53 dismantlement program was safely completed 12 months ahead of schedule, and appreciate their continued commitment to working in challenging environments to advance a critical national security mission.”

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 a dismantlement program that meets the requirements of NNSA’s rigorous SS-21 process.

NNSA’s Seamless Safety for the 21st Century (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 benchmark for developing weapons assembly and disassembly processes at the plant, the SS-21 process has been incorporated into all current Pantex weapon programs.

As a key part of its national security mission, NNSA is actively responsible for safely dismantling 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.

A fact sheet about the B53 is available here: http://nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/factsheets/b53factsheet

A video describing the B53, its dismantlement, its history, and its significance, can be found on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UspUEjMLsdA

Photos of the B53 are available online at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/nnsanews/sets/72157627937731182/

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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.

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