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U.S. Disassembled More Nukes Than Planned in Fiscal 2012

The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration on Monday said it had disassembled 12 percent more nuclear weapons than anticipated in fiscal 2012.

The program for the budget year that ended on Sept. 30 covered B-61 and B-83 bombs as well as W-76, W-80, W-84 and W-78 warheads. An exact number of disassembled weapons was not provided in a press release from the semiautonomous Energy Department branch that oversees the U.S. nuclear arms complex.

“NNSA delivered on President Obama’s commitment to reduce the numbers of U.S. nuclear weapons declared excess to the stockpile and awaiting dismantlement. We exceeded our dismantlement goals for FY 2012 by a significant margin,” NNSA Deputy Administrator Don Cook said in provided comments. “Our stockpile today is smaller, but the deterrent remains just as safe, secure and effective as it was. Dismantlements of legacy weapons are a key part of the Nuclear Posture Review, going hand-in-hand with the safety and security improvements in our life extension programs and critical to our long-term national security."

Weapons disassembly involves a number of NNSA sites, including the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee, which takes apart weapons' uranium parts, and the Pantex Plant in Texas, where duties include extracting plutonium triggers from warheads and securely storing the material.

The work ensures that nuclear materials cannot be diverted to illicit purposes, according to the agency release. It also enables material to be repurposed to weapons undergoing service life-extension updates or in nuclear reactors on naval vessels. A certain amount of weapon-grade uranium is converted to a more proliferation-resistant form usable in civilian nuclear reactors.

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