Jeffrey LewisMy Lil' PONI

I attended the CSIS Project on Nuclear Issues breakfast with General John Gordon, former NNSA Administrator.

Everything was off-the-record, but General Gordon did mention a few stories that were in his 2001 congressional testimony, which can be shared.

Arguing about the decline in US nuclear weapons infrastructure, General Gordon told the Senate:

I tend to say that the poster child of bad facilities is the Y-12 plant. And again, this is the facility that you’re talking about, Mr. Chairman, where we literally ask people who work in lithium hydride to wear hard-hats when they go into work to protect themselves from the concrete that’s falling off the ceiling of this mid-40’s building. Now again, we run a very aggressive program in NNSA called Integrated Safety Management, where we hold the contractors strictly accountable for the safety of how they operate in their facilities.

So what I do is tell this contractor that you basically make sure that guy wears his hard-hat or I’m going to fine you. And by the way, do really quality work while you’re in there because this is about nuclear weapons. The situation in Pantex in Amarillo has its own story. It’s the only site in the complex where we actually assemble and disassemble nuclear weapons. This is the roof of the assembly buildings. We call them gravel gerdies. They leak, the grass grows up in the areas, they’ve been in operation since about 1953.

[Here is a link to his prepared testimony]

“Gravel Gerties” are the buildings at Pantex where nuclear weapons are assembled and dissambled. They are designed to collapse in the event of an explosion from the HE and contain radioactive material.

For more information about Gravel Gerties, I recommend this DOE factsheet and this OTA report.


  1. Kathleen McInnis

    FYI, the PONI website is

  2. Muskrat (History)

    And what a web site it is… “For a host of reasons – ranging from the increased role of conventional forces in the post-Cold War era to the global campaign to “de-legitimate” nuclear weapons – the attractiveness of the nuclear field has declined markedly for younger generations.”

    Oh those darn, un-named campaigners. Thank goodness we habe selfless corporations like Northrop Grumman Corporation, The Boeing Company, and ATK Thiokol (all PONI sponsors! Imagine that!) to selflessly stand up for the utility, the legitimacy, heck, the haiku-like beauty and considerabel drain-scrubbing power of a good nuke.