W76: follow-up

The First Production Unit for the rehabbed W76 warhead components at Y-12 was “diamond-stamped” last week. According to Y-12 spokesman Steven Wyatt, that is the quality-assurance certification that the NNSA gives “to a weapon or component to qualify it to rejoin the weapons stockpile. It is actually a physical stamp.”
Bill Ostendorff, the principal deputy administrator of NNSA, was in Oak Ridge Wednesday and said he planned to meet later that day with members of the W76 team to congratulate them on overcoming technical issues on the life-extension project. “We are pleased that we’ve been able to resolve these issues. But I think one should not underestimate the challenge of stopping a production process and then many years later trying to resume it. That’s been tough.”

Ostendorff added, “I can’t discuss the details because it gets into classified weapons design issues. I’d say it was some engineering issues that had to be sorted out.”
Ted Sherry, the NNSA’s site manager at Y-12, confirmed that the first production unit for the W76 had been completed, but he would not address whether it had been delivered. Production components at Y-12 are ultimately shipped to the Pantex site in Texas for assembly.
“I’m not going to comment specifically on when we transported it,” Sherry said. “We have completed the first production unit for the W76.”
He also acknowledged the production challenges, but didn’t share much info.
“We had a technical issue that required a lot of support from other sites, as well as drawing on a lot of expertise here at Y-12,” Sherry said. “It involved reconstitution of an old process. It’s quite challenging to reconstitute something you haven’t done in awhile.”

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.