Jeffrey LewisShow me the FOGBANK

The plot thickens, thanks to Frank Munger’s continued pursuit of FOGBANK.

Munger has a pair of blog posts (Is there more to the story about the W76? Y-12: fogbank produced in Spring 2008) that put NNSA and POGO on a collision course. Only one of them can be accurately describing the reason for the delayed delivery of the first SLEP’d W76 to the Navy.

In a recent blog post, I observed that Ralph Vartabedian’s story on the W76 conflated problems relating to the production of FOGBANK with problems related to the new W76 AFF&F system.

I based that observation on Vartabedian’s paraphrase of NNSA spokesman Damien Lavera. Lavera, according to Vartabedian, stated that the delay for the W76 relating to the arming, firing and fusing system:

LaVera said all issues with fogbank had been resolved. The only remaining W76 issue involves potential minor defects in its arming, fusing and firing system, the safety controls that prepare a nuclear weapon for detonation

Vartabedian presented the statement uncritically. According to Munger, “NNSA spokesman Steven Wyatt reiterated that Y-12 shipped its first production unit (FPU) for the W76-1 Life Extension Program in August 2008 — as previously reported.”

That seems pretty clear to me.

Now, Peter Stockton at POGO tells Munger that the hold-up is still related to FOGBANK:

Stockton said POGO’s sources at the Pantex warhead assembly plant in Texas have indicated about a dozen W76 warheads are being assembled and disassembled there to maintain certification for the facilities and the technical personnel involved in those tasks. Stockton said those same sources indicated the holdup in delivering those warheads to the military was related to fogbank.

So, which is it? What Stockton said certainly was true, at least until recently. GAO stated while awaiting FOGBANK, Pantex remained “in ‘stand-by’ mode, which includes maintaining the skills of the technicians who will assemble refurbished W76 weapons.” (I suspect “stand-by” mode refers to the process described by Stockton.)

But is it still true in Spring 2009? I have to say, I would be very surprised if the problem continued to relate to FOGBANK. My money is on the AF&F system.

We’ll see.

Comments

  1. Rudolf

    If I’ve been following your posts on FOGBANK correctly, and unfortunately I might have missed one or two, its involved in the secondary. Are those really assembled and disassembled at Pantex? For some reason, I thought the secondaries were assembled and disassembled someplace else.

  2. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    No worries.

    The secondaries (including FOGBANK) are produced at Y-12, but the final weapon is assembled at Pantex.

    Which is why Y-12 issued a statement to the effect that it “Y-12 shipped its first production unit (FPU) for the W76-1 Life Extension Program in August 2008…”

  3. bobbymike (History)

    The big picture is that the country that invented nuclear weapons and has been and should always be on the cutting edge of nuclear weapons technology should not have these problems, ever!

    It is time to invest heavily in the infrastructure to insure the US is the premier technology leader in all things nuclear.

    This would include education programs to produce the next generation of weapons designers.

    The genie is out of the bottle. I have no problem with the US leading efforts to stop proliferation but we better have “unquestionably” the most effective deterrent in the meantime.

  4. anon

    “The big picture is that the country that invented nuclear weapons and has been and should always be on the cutting edge of nuclear weapons technology should not have these problems, ever!”

    I’d settle for a first rate nuclear energy program.

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