Tuesday, October 25, 2011

U.S. Dismantles Last of Big Cold War Nuclear Bombs

WASHINGTON - Nuclear experts in Texas prepared Tuesday to dismantle the oldest, biggest and most powerful bomb in the U.S. nuclear arsenal from the Cold War era.
The last B-53 bomb - built in 1962, the year of the Cuban missile crisis - will be taken apart at the Pantex facility in Amarillo, the only place in the U.S. that builds, maintains and dismantles nuclear weapons.
Grey in color, weighing 10,000 pounds and as big as a minivan, the device had the power to wipe out a metropolitan area with its nine megaton yield when dropped from a B-52 bomber.
By comparison, the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan, in the final days of World War II packed a yield of 12 kilotons, or 0.012 megatons.
"It's significant in the sense that it's the last of these multimegaton weapons that the nuclear powers used to build during the height of the Cold War," said Hans Kirstensen, director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists.
Dismantling the B-53 bomb - retired from service in 1997 - involves separating 300 pounds of high explosive from the uranium "pit" at the heart of the weapon, Pantex spokesman Greg Cunningham told AFP.
"The world is a safer place with this dismantlement," Thomas D'Agostino, director of the National Nuclear Security Administration, said in a Pantex statement.

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