Pantex Develops Tooling System To Save Time, Money

Press Release
Sep 10, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that its Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, has created a special tooling system designed to improve the processing time of the B83. The system will cut in half the number of facilities needed to process a B83 unit and reduce the time it takes to process each unit.

The system, part of a newly engineered tooling set for processing the B83 nuclear ordnance, is comprised of the bomb stand, personnel platforms, unit handling fixtures, and air powered vacuum chamber carts. The new tooling provides a safe and controlled method of handling a 2,500-pound assembly in a single nuclear explosive operating area without the need for hoisting or rigging equipment.

“We applaud the Pantex Tooling and Machine Design team that created the special tooling system by leveraging decades of nuclear security expertise. This system will allow NNSA to use fewer resources to dismantle the B83 in support of the President’s goal of reducing the size of the nation’s stockpile,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Don Cook. “This is a clear example of NNSA and Pantex’s commitment to being effective stewards of the taxpayers’ money while promoting an important dismantlement program."

The backbone of the tooling system is the bomb stand that is the largest weapon stand developed to date by B&W Pantex Tooling and Machine Design Department. The bomb stand is approximately 10 feet tall and weighs more than 3,800 pounds. The stand and associated tooling is designed to manipulate the 2,500 pound assembly with precision and to improve safety during disassembly operations.

The original tooling set to process the B83 dates to the mid-1980s and requires multiple facilities, workstations, and hoisting equipment to handle the assembly. Although the original process is safe and replicable, the tooling is large, heavy and requires specialized training for proper handling of the nuclear explosive.

The new B83 tool system will be implemented in late 2011 as part of the continuous improvement aspect of the Integrated Safety Management process know as Seamless Safety for the 21st Century (SS-21).

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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.