A bit of good… well maybe just decent news today burried on page 15 of the Post, behind all the goings on in Gaza and the Supreme Court Ruling on Gitmo.
The Bush administration is expected to announce today that it has dismantled the last of the most powerful nuclear missile warheads left over from the Cold War….
The warhead at the center of today’s announcement, the W-56, was put into operation in 1963 atop the Minuteman I intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It had the explosive power of 1.2 megatons or “roughly 100 times greater” than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, according to Thomas B. Cochran, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s nuclear program.
The W-56 was retired in 1991, when the last Minuteman II ICBMs were taken out of their silos during the George H.W. Bush administration. However, it was not until 1999 that the government started dismantling the first W-56, a slow and precise process because of aging parts and nuclear materials, according to NNSA Deputy Administrator Thomas P. D’Agostino.
“It takes anywhere from a few weeks to a month for each warhead if there are no problems,” D’Agostino said. He noted that “they are difficult to take apart because they were not designed to be dismantled.
D’Agostino said NNSA is planning to put more emphasis on dismantling retired nuclear weapons, a process that in the past decade has provided a steady amount of work for the Pantex facility outside Amarillo, Tex., where weapons are assembled and disassembled. Up to now, the programs to refurbish operational warheads have used up almost all the operating space at the facility. But with that program declining, dismantling of retired weapons can increase.
An entire class of nuclear weapons– and really nasty ones at that– gone, never to be used in war.
Of course no good deed goes unpunished:
At the same time, however, a Senate subcommittee has added $10 million to next year’s budget to fund a design competition for the second warhead in a new generation of U.S. nuclear weapons.
But Congress and the administration are pressing ahead with the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, which will guarantee production in the next decade of fewer but more reliable and secure nuclear warheads and bombs.
Filed as: nuclear weapons