Fogbank: In case you were wondering

Fogbank, a classified material used in some thermonuclear weapons, is seemingly one of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s least favorite topics — at least when fielding media inquiries. The mystery material has been the subject of conjecture, speculation and almost-unquenchable curiosity.

A few years back, Fogbank got a lot of unwanted attention — and was the subject of a 2009 Government Accountability Office report — because of problems when Y-12 attempted to remake quantities of the material for the W76 warhead LEP after a significantly long absence. The problem was exacerbated because the old production facility had been demolished and knowledgeable people had retired or left the staff since the last quantities of Fogbank had been successfully produced. A new facility and new team of experts, some drawn from across the nuclear weapons complex, did not immediately find success — and some critics suggested that the government had lost the recipe, an allegation the NNSA flatly denied.

Anyway, after considerable effort, the NNSA was eventually able to produce useful quantities of the classified material at Y-12’s new Purification Facility. Indeed a federal spokesman declared that the newly made quantities of Fogbank were “as good as, if not better than, the original.”

So, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen any updates on Fogbank production at Y-12, and so I asked. Mind you, the NNSA didn’t have a lot to say but it did confirm that the material is still being manufactured at the Oak Ridge plant.

Here’s a statement from NNSA’s Rebekah Nwangwa:

“The Purification Facility at Y-12 continues to operate and is used to produce Fogbank, a material associated with the weapon program.  We will not elaborate further on this facility or the material produced.”

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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.