Mar 6, 2008

Warhead woes tied to mysterious material at Y-12

By Frank Munger, Knoxville News Sentinel

OAK RIDGE - New Scientist magazine is reporting that problems with a super-secret material manufactured at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant are what's holding up efforts to refurbish W76 warheads, which are deployed on Trident missiles.

According to the magazine's report by Rob Edwards, the material is code-named "Fogbank" and is extremely hazardous. It is reportedly produced at Y-12's new Purification Facility, a $50 million facility that was completed in mid-2005.

Oak Ridge officials have repeatedly refused to discuss details of the "technical issues" holding up the program to extend the life of the W76 warheads and, at one point, denied that it was a materials problem. Ted Sherry Y-12's federal manager, indicated that a decision would be made in early 2008 whether to proceed with the W76 work and, if so, how to proceed.

Earlier this year, when asked directly if the hold-up was related to materials at the Purification Facility, Y-12 spokesman Steven Wyatt said, "I simply can't say. I can't say anything more than I've already said. That is the God's truth. What we've said is the limit of what we're going to discuss on this particular issue."

Wyatt this morning would not comment on the New Scientist report. His only response was, "Work on the W76 is ongoing."

The W76 is considered a critically important part of the nuclear arsenal, not only in the United States but in the United Kingdom as well.

John Ainslie, coordinator of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, has been researching the W76 problems and the issues with "Fogbank."

In background material sent by e-mail today, Ainslie reported, "The United States Department of Energy has encountered significant problems remanufacturing a secret material for Trident warheads. The material called Fogbank is used in the interstage of the 100 kiloton W76 warhead. The interstage channels energy from the Primary to the Secondary of the thermonuclear weapons."

Y-12 specializes in so-called secondaries, the second stage of nuclear warheads.

The activities at the Purification Facility are classified, and officials will say very little about the work there.

There were several changes in plans before the facility was actually constructed in the post-Cold War period. Earlier, there had been plans to build another, more broadly equipped center known as the Special Materials Facility.

At the time of its construction, the 10,000-square-foot Purification Facility was the first new production unit at Y-12 in more than 30 years.

"This facility will produce a material needed to support the Y-12 weapon mission and will provide a purification process for the manufacture of non-nuclear, special material needed for future stockpile mission," a contractor report said at the time.

Dennis Ruddy, the Y-12 general manager at the time, said, "It reprocesses a material that we're taking out of weapons so that we can reuse it in refurbished weapons. That's probably all I can say."

When pressed for details, Ruddy said, "The material is classified. Its composition is classified. Its use in the weapon is classified, and the process itself is classified."

More information as it becomes available online and in Friday's News Sentinel.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

The super secret material is Illudium Pu-36.

Oh, I'm going to blow up ... the Earth!

Pinky and The Brain said...

"Where is the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!"

Anonymous said...

Everything the Y-12 people have said is correct, and is as much as they can say without going to jail. Any arguments about what they SHOULD be able to say are irrelevant. Get used to the fact that certain aspects of nuclear weapon dsign are classifed. Would you have it not be so? Grow up.

Anonymous said...

Marvin the Martian is loose again.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
The super secret material is Illudium Pu-36.

Oh, I'm going to blow up ... the Earth!

3/6/08 9:09 PM

if you were nnm native you couldn't even spell it

Anonymous said...

oh i am from nnm and so worthless i depend on the entitlement mentality - - -eh ken, why have you not been fired yet? You are a fucking failure as an employee

Pinky and The Brain said...

Go to bed.

Anonymous said...

and tonight chill on the booze

Anonymous said...

> if you were nnm native you couldn't
> even spell it

Oi... Where did that come from?

Anonymous said...

I think it came from a bottle of tequila.

Anonymous said...

Unobtainium. Very secret material.

Anonymous said...

Unobtainium is naturally occurring in the worms at the bottom of tequila bottles.

Anonymous said...

damn!! I ate the worm.

Anonymous said...

" if you were nnm native you couldn't. even spell it
Oi... Where did that come from?
Said 3/7/08 10:31 AM

Answer: It comes from the racist arrogant cowboy butt-head mentality that's become a trademark of LANL, ala we're the "best and brights" working at the "crown jewel" lab doing the "worlds best science" in the "welfare community of "nnm." Hence these stupid. dillusional self-serving legend-in-our-own-mind type comments.

Pinky and The Brain said...

He managed to leave three comments before he passed out last night. I had to reject one.

Anonymous said...

Hence these stupid. dillusional self-serving
=============

The word is spelled "delusional"

You were ranting against a post that
claimed residents of nnm couldn't spell?

I rest my case!!!

Anonymous said...

> Answer: It comes from the racist
> arrogant cowboy butt-head mentality ...

Oh, you have made me very angry, VERY angry indeed! Brace yourself for immediate disintegration.

Anonymous said...

"
Answer: It comes from the racist arrogant cowboy butt-head mentality that's become a trademark of LANL, ala we're the "best and brights" working at the "crown jewel" lab doing the "worlds best science" in the "welfare community of "nnm." Hence these stupid. dillusional self-serving legend-in-our-own-mind type comments."

Take a guess who this troll poster is? All I can say is that Chris Mechels is legend in his own delusional mind.
Talk about entitlement this guy takes the cake!

Pinky and The Brain said...

What's so bad about cowboys?

Anonymous said...

Wow. Is this what every thread on here degrades into now? *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Only if we let it. Just ignore the race baiting, on both sides of the issue, and it will die on its own. It will take some mental fortitude to ignore it. Pinky could start rejecting them too of course.

Anonymous said...

What's so bad about cowboys, you ask?
The guy obsessed with butt-sex, of course! THAT is what is so bad about cowboys!

Anonymous said...

What about the subject of this thread..."Warhead woes tied to mysterious material at Y-12"?

It seems that regardless of the topic, it degenerates to inane comments and a contest of who can use the "F" word in the most vulgar manner.

Too bad some can't stay on topic...perhaps the mods could move the off-topic comments to an off-topic post for tequila over indulgers only :)

Anonymous said...

I'm going to vote for Obama. He actually pronounces "nuclear" correctly, as New-Clear!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
What's so bad about cowboys, you ask?
The guy obsessed with butt-sex, of course! THAT is what is so bad about cowboys!

3/7/08 9:12 PM

Maybe it is not a guy... and if it is a guy I think you are gay bashing.

Anonymous said...

Nine years ago today, in 1999, the U.S. Energy Department fired a Chinese-born computer scientist from the Los Alamos, N.M., National Laboratory in the theft of U.S. nuclear secrets.

Anonymous said...

5:39 PM - since then they have ruined many other people's lives at the Lab. Just ask Todd Kauppila, MyHang Huynh, Al Sattelburger, Jenny Vigil, Jaime Tournear, Francis Vigil, and Tom Mayer to name but a few...

Anonymous said...

MyHang Huynh is the one that won the MacArthur Genius award. 500k is still good.

Anonymous said...

The only thing worth saying on this thread is that there's nothing worth saying. What a bunch of assholes. The top post was actually interesting until the trolls took over.

Pinky, instead of "censoring" couldn't you at least enforce a transfer of off-topic posts to another thread?

Anonymous said...

"The only thing worth saying on this thread is that there's nothing worth saying."

Is it so far fetched that the secrecy merely hides incompetence?

Is it unpatriotic to wonder just how bad this problem has become?

Will this problem influence any future production plans?

Anonymous said...

"Will this problem influence any future production plans?"

It appears not in the near future. RRW was supposed to get us out of dealing with production of hazardous, difficult substances... other than Pu, that is.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the "mystery material" is actually one of the driving factors for the RRW (reliable replacement warhead, for those who haven't paying attention). The RRW designs would not use this exotic, toxic, reactive, hard-to-make material.

As such, future production (of RRWs) would not be impacted by the inability to make Fogbank. However, (re)manufacture of the warhead in question (the one, and only one, that uses it) would be essentially impossible without it. Another factor in RRW's favor...

A final point: the apparent lack of ability to make this stuff is mostly centered in the safety requirements for handling it and its precursors. This did not use to be the case. While safety was not ignored, it was not the paramount factor in any operation that it is today. Note that this is not nuclear safety, as no radioactive materials are involved in its manufacture -- toxicity is the issue.

Anonymous said...

"While safety was not ignored, it was not the paramount factor in any operation that it is today."

You make some excellent observations 3/9/08 1:00 PM.

I agree,but I do think the introduction and use of IHE in many of the more modern weapons is proof that safety was a paramount factor...be you designer, manufacturer or transporter.

Anonymous said...

And here I was wondering what could make life in a sub any less pleasant.

Anonymous said...

Pinky and The Brain said...
He managed to leave three comments before he passed out last night. I had to reject one.

3/7/08 1:34 PM

What I missed was genuine concern about another human who was having problems. Instead it was a full on frontal attack on the weaknesses. I hope none of the protagonists need help. but LA can be quite an umpleasant place to live. Not making a value judgement on the place, or the citizenry, but fo those who have lived in other parts of the US or world life in NNM can be quite painful, desolate, and alone. I hope in the future members of this blog can exhibit basic compassion. Remember - your backyard is not always clean either.

To the other - please get help if you need it or contact someone to help through your struggle. If you dig into the tequila (yum) stay off of the computer.

Anonymous said...

From 3/8/08 6:47 PM - "MyHang Huynh is the one that won the MacArthur Genius award. 500k is still good."

Unfortunately, after taking credit for her brilliant accomplishments, Wallace saw to that poor MyHang got fired. $500K does not get you that far when you unemployed.

Anonymous said...

3/9/08 1:37 PM said:
I agree,but I do think the introduction and use of IHE in many of the more modern weapons is proof that safety was a paramount factor...be you designer, manufacturer or transporter.

===========

This is not a valid analogy. The safety concerns are completely different. Safety in chemical processing is something that you can engineer, but it is difficult. In todays climate, the difficulty is viewed as not worth the effort and cost, especially since there are alternatives. An unwanted detonation of high explosives in a nuclear weapon is a completely different matter.

Anonymous said...

Well, we started to get back on topic, and then lost the bubble. I see this effect at work at LANL every day. Is everyone who posts here suffering from ADD? Or is every opportunity to speak (or write) seen as a chance to reiterate your favorite goofiness?

Pinky and The Brain said...

For further information about this topic please see this post on Arms Control Wonk, and this post on Science and Global Security.

To the person who said I didn't sound compassionate I want to thank you for pointing that out. I'm more compassionate than I sounded and I'll try to let it show a little more.

Anonymous said...

3/9/08 7:50 PM…I stand corrected. After studying your post and information at the 2 links P&TB provided I can see my analogy was incorrect.

Anonymous said...

This blog is dead.

For the five guys who are still posting here...get off the computer and do something with your lives.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the OT, but was MyHang fired? I thought she was on some sort of disability leave. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

3/10/08 6:26 AM

Well if the four of us stop posting what will you do with your time?

If you are complaining about the posts on the blog, the best bet (and well under your control) is to stop reading.

Anonymous said...

Oh no.

Not the "arrogant cowboy butt-heads" again.

I thought they moved to DTRA and were replaced by the "Sustantial equivalents"

Anonymous said...

Nuclear Weapon Secondaries use basically a plastic foam surround that acts as a plastic explosive when illuminated by the dense X-rays channeled and reflected from the primary. The x-ray induced plastic explosive effect happens with even detonation at the speed of light to compress the secondary's nuclear material and burn it like a cigar lit at one end by impinging neutrons off the primary. Typically it fulls a channel area between the weapons casing and the nuclear materials for HEX type material compression.



This is the html version of the file http://www.banthebomb.org/newbombs/fogbank%20material.doc.