The National Nuclear Security Administration has announced that dismantlement of the B53 nuclear bomb inventory will soon begin at the Energy Department’s Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Tex. The United States introduced this thermonuclear bomb type into its stockpile in 1962. It is about the size of a mini-van and weighs approximately 10,000 pounds. B-47, B-52, and B-58 bombers were able to carry it. The weapon, with a reported nine-megaton yield, was a key part of the US nuclear deterrent until its retirement in 1997. The B61-11 replaced it. The current B53 inventory is classified. The dismantlement process at Pantex will entail taking the bombs apart by physically separating the high explosives from the special nuclear material and then processing the material and components for reuse, demilitarization, sanitization, recycling, and ultimate disposal. NNSA said the B53 dismantlement “is consistent with President Obama’s goal of reducing” the nation’s nuclear stockpile. (For background, see Being Transparent from the Daily Report archives.)
More than 100 B-21s will be needed if the nation is to avoid creating a high demand/low capacity capability, panelists said on a Hudson Institute webinar. The B-21's flexibility, stealth, range and payload will be in high demand for a wide range of missions, both traditional and new.