A key rationale for a new $5 billion Energy Department facility has been undermined as the nuclear weapons complex examines hundreds of weapons in the inventory, POGO has been told by a knowledgeable government source. The Energy Department claims an urgent need for a new Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at its Y-12 facility in Tennessee with the ability to manufacture 160-200 highly enriched uranium (HEU) secondaries annually. However, the source has told POGO that among the several hundred warheads of the four different types of nuclear weapons (W87, B61 Mod 7, B61 Mod 11, W76) that have gone through a Lifetime Extension Program, not a single secondary has had to be cut apart and remanufactured.
Secondaries are added to single-stage nuclear weapons to create a thermonuclear explosion.
“Why is the Energy Department screaming for a new $5 billion facility when there’s no apparent need for it?” said Peter Stockton, POGO’s senior investigator.
In a recent study for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the group of scientists known as the JASON group found that all existing secondaries can be extended safely and certifiably for decades.