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Watchdog: Firm nearly detonated nuke bomb (1.2 megaton bomb near Amarillo)
Arizona Daily Star | Cox News Service ^ | 12/15/06 | Jeff Nesmith

Posted on 12/16/2006 7:11:23 PM PST by LibWhacker

WASHINGTON — An accident that occurred as a decades-old nuclear warhead was being dismantled at the government's Pantex facility near Amarillo, Texas, could have caused the device to detonate, a nonprofit organization charged Thursday.

The Project on Government Oversight said the "near miss" event, which led the Energy Department to fine the plant's operator $110,000, was due partly to requirements that technicians at the plant work up to 72 hours per week.

The Pantex plant, 17 miles northeast of Amarillo, is the country's only factory for assembly and disassembly of nuclear weapons.

The organization said it was told by unidentified experts who were "knowledgeable about this event" that the accident, in which an unsafe amount of pressure was applied to the warhead, could have caused the device to detonate.

The oversight project also released an anonymous letter, purportedly sent by Pantex employees, warning that long hours and efforts to increase output were causing dangerous conditions in the plant.

In a two-paragraph statement, BWX Technologies, the company that operates the Amarillo facility under a contract with the Energy Department, said it "takes seriously any employee concerns about safe operations" and was comparing statements in the anonymous letter "with the reality of day-to-day work."

BWX spokeswoman Erin Ritter declined to comment beyond the statement.

Julianne Smith, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, which owns the Pantex plant, declined to respond to safety complaints outlined in a letter from oversight project Executive Director Danielle Brian to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman.

However, records show that the department last month fined BWX $110,000 for the accident and another event involving the same warhead.

In a letter to Dan J. Swaim, BWX general manger of the plant, the Energy Department said the company had "significantly delayed" disclosing the incidents and then submitted a "factually inaccurate and incomplete" report.

The letter, signed by Linton Brooks, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, did not say the incidents could have caused a nuclear detonation or what kind of warhead was being dismantled when they occurred.

It said that during three separate unsuccessful attempts to dismantle the warhead in March and April of last year, workers applied too much pressure to the device and a safety mechanism failed to work.

Oversight project investigator Peter Stockton, a former Energy Department official, said the device was a W56 warhead, with a yield of 1,200 kilotons, 100 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb.


TOPICS: News/Current Events; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: 2005; 200503; 200504; amarillo; detonated; dismantle; holidayinnexpress; leak; leftwingnuts; nuclear; nuclearwarhead; nuke; pantex; peterdhstockton; peterstockton; pogo; security; w56; warhead; weapon; wmd; wmds; yperbole
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1 posted on 12/16/2006 7:11:25 PM PST by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker
I said Bud Light!!!

.

2 posted on 12/16/2006 7:14:32 PM PST by Incorrigible (If I lead, follow me; If I pause, push me; If I retreat, kill me.)
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To: LibWhacker

If it was "decades old", chances are that it would have been a dirty bomb and not a nuclear explosion.

Still not good if true especially if you're one of the techs doing the dismantling.


3 posted on 12/16/2006 7:15:18 PM PST by cripplecreek (Peace without victory is a temporary illusion.)
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To: LibWhacker

Well, I certainly hope that's not true, or at the very least misinformation.

4 posted on 12/16/2006 7:15:55 PM PST by StACase
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To: LibWhacker
Apparently, they didn't listen to the whole CD or read the liner notes.


5 posted on 12/16/2006 7:16:24 PM PST by edpc (Violence is ALWAYS a solution. Maybe not the right one....but a solution nonetheless)
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To: StACase

Nope, Pantex is the only one left. You can thank Bill Clinton for that.


6 posted on 12/16/2006 7:16:55 PM PST by COEXERJ145 (Bush Derangement Syndrome Has Reached Pandemic Levels on Free Republic.)
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To: LibWhacker

Just for reference, the W-56 was the warhead carried by the Minuteman I and Minuteman II ICBMs.


7 posted on 12/16/2006 7:17:37 PM PST by COEXERJ145 (Bush Derangement Syndrome Has Reached Pandemic Levels on Free Republic.)
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To: edpc

Obviously the liner notes were not detailed enough.


8 posted on 12/16/2006 7:18:39 PM PST by Incorrigible (If I lead, follow me; If I pause, push me; If I retreat, kill me.)
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To: Incorrigible

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.


I suppose one could make the case that this is the worlds biggest handgrenade.


9 posted on 12/16/2006 7:19:05 PM PST by Chickensoup (If you don't go to the holy war, the holy war will come to you.)
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To: StACase

It's true alright,they in fact are the only facility doing this work at the present time.


10 posted on 12/16/2006 7:19:21 PM PST by Farmer Dean (Every time a toilet flushes,another liberal gets his brains.)
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To: COEXERJ145

"Pantex"... that's some woman-thing, right?


11 posted on 12/16/2006 7:19:52 PM PST by SteveMcKing
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To: Chickensoup

If they're shorthanded I'm sure they could find lots of willing applicants in the mideast. I bet they'll even work cheap.


12 posted on 12/16/2006 7:21:11 PM PST by cripplecreek (Peace without victory is a temporary illusion.)
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To: Incorrigible
I am extremely skeptical about a decommissioned warhead going off in such circumstances. Arming codes with redundancies, last minute initiator settings, dial-in tritium boosters etc. Just doesn't seem likely that a nuke salvage and abatement team would find themselves in such a situation.
13 posted on 12/16/2006 7:22:55 PM PST by SpaceBar
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To: LibWhacker
applied too much pressure to the device and a safety mechanism failed to work

I claim BS! You cannot detonate a nuclear weapon with a chain reaction explosion using any sort of mechanical force. You can blow it up with another nuke and it will not set off a nuclear explosion. You can burn it, you can blow it up, you can run over it with a train and it will not explode with other than he non-nuclear high explosive in the weapon.

14 posted on 12/16/2006 7:24:30 PM PST by Ben Mugged (Always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.)
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To: All


Last Cold War-era W56 warhead dismantled
AFX
June 30, 2006
(For personal use only)


The Minuteman missile was a hallmark of America's defenses during the Cold War.

The Energy Department said Thursday it has completed dismantling the last W56 warhead that for 30 years, beginning in the early 1960s, was the deadly core of the Minuteman I, and later the updated Minuteman II long-range missile.

http://www.sgpproject.org/Personal%20Use%20Only/w566-30-06.htm


15 posted on 12/16/2006 7:26:18 PM PST by Vn_survivor_67-68
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To: Cailleach

ping


16 posted on 12/16/2006 7:26:23 PM PST by kalee (No burka for me....EVER!)
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To: LibWhacker
a nonprofit organization... The Project on Government Oversight

I know these guys. They are an extreme left anti-military group that opposes all weapons (nuc and conventional) and all defense spending.

For example, they oppose the Osprey tiltrotor, and say we should buy more helicopters... but they oppose helicopters too. They'd let us use sticks and stones if we could do it without disturbing the environment.

They work closely with another misleadingly-named crank group, the "Center for Defense Information," which was a Soviet-controlled front organization during the 1980s. I don't know if external enemies run POGO, or just homegrown ones.

d.o.l.

Criminal Number 18F

17 posted on 12/16/2006 7:26:32 PM PST by Criminal Number 18F (Build more lampposts... we've got plenty of traitors.)
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To: SpaceBar; Ben Mugged
Yeah, I tend to question this as well. A nuke just don't go BOOM because someone beats on it, kicks it, or worse. Fully armed nuclear weapons have survived impact with the ground when accidentally released from tens of thousands of feet and none every went nuclear.
18 posted on 12/16/2006 7:27:08 PM PST by COEXERJ145 (Bush Derangement Syndrome Has Reached Pandemic Levels on Free Republic.)
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To: SpaceBar
"The organization said it was told by unidentified experts who were "knowledgeable about this event" that the accident, in which an unsafe amount of pressure was applied to the warhead, could have caused the device to detonate."

I am extremely skeptical about a decommissioned warhead going off in such circumstances. Arming codes with redundancies, last minute initiator settings, dial-in tritium boosters etc. Just doesn't seem likely that a nuke salvage and abatement team would find themselves in such a situation.

I agree... also there seems to be a security leak...

19 posted on 12/16/2006 7:27:43 PM PST by Sir Francis Dashwood (LET'S ROLL!)
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To: COEXERJ145

I agree... also there seems to be a security leak...


20 posted on 12/16/2006 7:28:28 PM PST by Sir Francis Dashwood (LET'S ROLL!)
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