One Leg Of Our Nuclear Triad Almost Lost In A Fogbank

For want of polystyrene foam, albeit highly specialized polystyrene foam . . .

Nuclear-Warhead Upgrade Delayed; Government Labs Forgot How to Make Parts

The Department of Defense and the National Nuclear Security Administration had to wait more than a year to refurbish aging nuclear warheads — partly because they had forgotten how to make a crucial component, a government report states.

Regarding a classified material codenamed “Fogbank,” a Government Accountability Office report released this month states that “NNSA had lost knowledge of how to manufacture the material because it had kept few records of the process when the material was made in the 1980s and almost all staff with expertise on production had retired or left the agency.”

So the effort to refurbish and upgrade W76 warheads, which top the U.S. Navy’s (and the British Royal Navy’s) submarine-launched Trident missiles, had to be put on hold while experts scoured old records and finally figured out how to manufacture the stuff once again.

According to the Sunday Herald of Glasgow, Scotland, Fogbank is “thought by some weapons experts to be a foam used between the fission and fusion stages of a thermonuclear [hydrogen] bomb.”

The National Nuclear Security Administration is a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy. It is responsible for the manufacture and upkeep of the nation’s nuclear weapons.

A new facility was built at the Y-12 National Security Complex near Oak Ridge, Tenn., to begin production of Fogbank once again, but was delayed by poor planning, cost overruns and an failed effort to find an alternative to Fogbank.

Refurbished W76 Warhead Enters U.S. Nuclear Weapon Stockpile

The first refurbished W76 nuclear warhead has been accepted into the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile by the Navy, according to a senior official at the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). This culminates a ten year effort to ensure that the aging warhead, already years beyond its original intended life, can continue to be a reliable part of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

“This is another great example of the unsurpassed expertise throughout NNSA’s national security enterprise,” said William Ostendorff, NNSA’s principal deputy administrator. “It becomes more and more challenging each time we extend the life of our nuclear weapons. I am proud that our dedicated scientists and engineers were able to once again meet this unique responsibility.”

Most nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile were produced anywhere from 30 to 40 years ago, and no new nuclear weapons have been produced since the end of the Cold War. Integrated into the Department of the Navy’s Trident II “D5” Strategic Weapon System, the first W76 entered the stockpile in 1978.

Of course, this is just a symptom of a much larger problem, all our nuclear warheads are many decades old and their reliability is becoming a serious issue.

Sure, the DOD and DOE have been pushing inventory modernization and replacement for what seems like forever, but guess what? The Democrats have blocked it every step of the way. And, rest assured, Obama doesn’t want anything to do with anything that contains the word nuclear, not nuclear power plants and especially not nuclear weapons. No Nukes . . . For US

See also:
How the US forgot how to make Trident missiles
Audit: Problems at Y-12
NNSA and DOD Need to More Effectively Manage the Stockpile Life Extension Program
Trident missiles delayed by mystery ingredient
Teller-Ulam design
W76-0/Mk4 / W76-1/Mk4A
Trident II D-5 Fleet Ballistic Missile
SSBN-726 Ohio-Class FBM Submarines
Y-12 National Security Complex
National Nuclear Security Administration
Department of Energy
Department of Defense
Government Accountability Office

The bottom line is that the United States needs to get serious as to whether or not it wants to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent, the kind of nuclear deterrent that has prevented a thermonuclear exchange for over 60 years now. Yes, this country has other issues and problems that weigh more heavily at the average citizen’s kitchen table.

/just remember, without national security we have absolutely nothing and all the rest means diddley squat