On Tuesday, in Amarillo, Texas, the most powerful nuclear bomb in the United States is going to be dismantled. This weapon is reported to be six hundred times stronger than the one that was dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II. It has been nearly fifty years since it was put into service at the top of the Cold War. The B53 bomb’s final components will be broken down at the Pantex Plant. It is the only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly plant in the United States.
This bomb was first put into service in 1962. This was during the Cuban Missile Crisis when Cold War tensions peaked. This particular nuclear bomb was the size of a minivan and weighed ten thousand pounds. The bomb was designed to destroy deep underground facilities and was carried by B-52 bombers. It has taken time to disassemble the bomb because it was made using older technology. The engineers who designed the bomb have either died or retired so they had to develop new procedures and complex tools to make sure they disassembled it safely.
In the 1980’s many of the B53 bombs were disassembled but there were a significant number of them still in the United States arsenal. In 1997 they were all retired from the stockpile. A spokesman at the disassembly plant would not comment on how many have been disassembled there.
They consider the bomb dismantled with approximately three hundred pounds of high explosives that are inside are separated from the special nuclear material. These materials are called “the pit.” These pits will be stored at the plat on an interim basis. The rest is sanitized, recycled, and disposed of.