Inside a B53 bomb — literally

667439loresDuring a Nov. 12 “special access” tour at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, which included a visit to Building 9731, the original pilot plant for the electromagnetic processes that separated the U-235 for the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima, there were a number of must-see moments. Among them was the outer casing of a dismantled B53 bomb, once the largest bomb in the U.S. nuclear arsenal (with a reported yield of 9 megatons). It was reportedly nicknamed “Big Dog” by the folks at the Pantex assembly/disassembly plant and has been described as being the size of a mini-van. Up close, it appeared to be a little smaller than a mini-van, but maybe that’s because it didn’t have any wheels. Tour participants weren’t allowed to bring cameras (or electronics of any kind), but Y-12 photographer Brett Pate seemed to be snapping away at a furious rate. As I was taking a closer look at the B53 shell on display in 9731, Pate captured my every move — including when I stuck my head inside the bomb casing (see below). No, nobody dared me to do it. I was just curious. (CNS photos/Brett Pate)



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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.