Sep 27, 2007
The National Nuclear Security Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy said in a statement Thursday that "the first W88 nuclear warhead to employ a replacement pit officially was certified for entry into the United States nuclear weapons stockpile."
"An essential piece of every U.S. nuclear weapon, the pit is typically made of plutonium and acts as a trigger, allowing a weapon to function. NNSA recently restored its ability to manufacture pits in small quantities," the statement said.
“Rebuilding this W88 was an enormous undertaking that took NNSA over a decade and required the tremendous scientific and engineering expertise of the entire nuclear weapons complex,” said NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino. “I am proud that we were able to get the job done and accomplish this great feat with the W88.”
The NNSA said that the W88 warhead "was able to be re-assembled, certified and accepted into the stockpile with a replacement pit without conducting an underground nuclear test. Certification was possible because of NNSA’s powerful experimental tools, supercomputers, and improved computer models."
The NNSA said that the restored W88 warhead was put together at NNSA’s Pantex Plant and that it was "the first nuclear weapon to use a replacement plutonium pit."
"In July, NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory produced the first pit for the stockpile in 18 years. The warhead also required a replacement gas transfer system that was manufactured at NNSA’s Kansas City Plant and filled with gas at the Savannah River Site. The gas transfer system is essential to assure a weapon’s performance," the agency said.
“Any replacement component added to a system as complex as a nuclear weapon presents a tremendous challenge. As we extend the lives of our current aging warheads, and continue to move further and further from the original tested designs, this process becomes increasingly complicated,” D’Agostino said.