Something light for Saturday.
[W]e have learned that in March 2005, there was a “near-miss” event while disassembling another W56 warhead. Apparently the production technicians were using a faulty tool, putting too much pressure on the warhead. On November 29, 2006, Pantex was only fined $110,000 – 18 months after the near-miss incident. What was not made public at the time the fine was levied, however, is that according to safety experts knowledgeable about this event, it could actually have resulted in the detonation of the warhead. This incident was particularly dangerous because the W56 warhead was deployed in 1965, pre-dating the three basic enhanced safety features which reduce the possibility of an accidental detonation that are now required on more modern weapons. There are still several older warheads slated for dismantlement that do not include these enhanced features.
According to POGO, a crack was discovered in another W56 the year before. It was stitched up “with the equivalent of duct tape.” The letter from Pantex employees warning of problems at the plan is here.
Pantex is located outside Amarillo, population 180,000. Yield of a W56: 1.2 megatons, 100 times the size of Hiroshima.
Have a great day!