U.S.’s Most Powerful Nuke Being Dismantled


us-bombThe last of the nation’s most powerful nuclear bombs – a weapon hundreds of times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima – is being disassembled nearly half a century after it was put into service at the height of the Cold War.

The final components of the B53 bomb will be broken down at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, the nation’s only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility. The completion of the dismantling program is a year ahead of schedule, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, and aligns with President Barack Obama’s goal of reducing the number of nuclear weapons.

Thomas D’Agostino, the nuclear administration’s chief, called the bomb’s elimination a “significant milestone.”

First put into service in 1962, when Cold War tensions peaked during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the B53 weighed 10,000 pounds and was the size of a minivan. According to the American Federation of Scientists, it was 600 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, at the end of World War II.

The B53 was designed to destroy facilities deep underground, and it was carried by B-52 bombers.

Since it was made using older technology by engineers who have since retired or died, developing a disassembly process took time. Engineers had to develop complex tools and new procedures to ensure safety.

“We knew going in that this was going to be a challenging project, and we put together an outstanding team with all of our partners to develop a way to achieve this objective safely and efficiently,” said John Woolery, the plant’s general manager.

Many of the B53s were disassembled in the 1980s, but a significant number remained in the U.S. arsenal until they were retired from the stockpile in 1997. Pantex spokesman Greg Cunningham said he couldn’t comment on how many of the bombs have been disassembled at the Texas plant.

The weapon is considered dismantled when the roughly 300 pounds of high explosives inside are separated from the special nuclear material, known as the pit. The uranium pits from bombs dismantled at Pantex will be stored on an interim basis at the plant, Cunningham said.

The material and components are then processed, which includes sanitizing, recycling and disposal, the National Nuclear Security Administration said last fall when it announced the Texas plant’s role in the B53 dismantling.

The plant will play a large role in similar projects as older weapons are retired from the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal.

{Time Magazine/Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Just curious!
    We always called it Hiroshima. Now we hear much about Iwo Jima. Is it the same place just in the Japanese vernacular there are no letters R?

  2. hiroshima is in japan. iwo jima is on one of the random islands in the pacific (i think the phillipines) i guess you failed your u.s. history regent!

  3. No atomic bomb was dropped on the island of Iwo Jima. It is famous because of the incredibly difficult jungle fighting, much of it hand-to-hand, that took place as the US Marines took the island from the Japanese. The battle for the tiny island took over a month and resulted in 26,000 Marine casualties and the deaths of over 20,000 (out of only 21,000 total) Japanese soldiers.

    In case you are wondering, what made the island so valuable were the airfields located there that would be used in any invasion of the Japan home islands (which did not take place due to the Japanese surrender after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.)