U.S. Technicians May Have Mishandled Damaged Nuclear Warhead, Safety Group Says

In a letter this week to U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board said that officials at the Pantex Plant in Texas did not adequately evaluate the safety issues involved in a recent incident where plant technicians found cracked high explosives while dismantling a nuclear warhead, according to Energy Daily (see GSN, Dec. 12, 2003).

The board questioned plant safety reviews that concluded that the decision by plant technicians to repair the cracked explosive with tape constituted only “trival” changes to nuclear explosive handling procedures and did not warrant a more extensive analysis of possible hazards, Energy Daily reported. The board also disputed departmental findings that the hazard posed by the cracked explosive was covered under existing safety analyses. It said that the incident was so abnormal that it was not included in the current Nuclear Explosives Safety studies on the warhead involved.

Officials with the National Nuclear Security Administration and plant contractor BWXT had no comment yesterday on the board’s criticisms, Energy Daily reported (George Lobsenz, Energy Daily, Jan. 22).

January 22, 2004
About

In a letter this week to U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board said that officials at the Pantex Plant in Texas did not adequately evaluate the safety issues involved in a recent incident where plant technicians found cracked high explosives while dismantling a nuclear warhead, according to Energy Daily (see GSN, Dec. 12, 2003).

Countries