US dismantles most powerful nuclear bomb

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 17:26

Washington: Technicians in Texas closed a
chapter on the Cold War, dismantling the oldest, biggest and
most powerful nuclear bomb in the US arsenal, officials said.

The last B-53 bomb -- built in 1962, the year of the
Cuban missile crisis -- was dismantled yesterday at the Pantex
facility in Amarillo, the only place in the United States that
still builds, maintains and dismantles nuclear weapons.

Grey in colour, weighing 4,500 kilograms and as big as a
small car, it had the power to wipe out an entire metropolitan
area with its nine-megaton yield when dropped from a B-52
bomber.

By comparison, the atomic bomb that destroyed the
Japanese city of Hiroshima in the final days of World War II
packed a yield of 12 kilotons, or 0.012 megatons. The bomb
killed more than 100,000 people.

"It`s significant in the sense that it`s the last of
these multi-megaton weapons that the nuclear powers used to
build during the height of the Cold War," said Hans Kirstensen
of the Federation of American Scientists.

"This is the end of the era of these monster weapons," he
said.

Dismantling the B-53 bomb -- retired from service in 1997
-- involved separating 300 pounds of high explosive from the
uranium "pit" at the heart of the weapon, Pantex spokesman
Greg Cunningham said.

"The world is a safer place with this dismantlement,"
Thomas D`Agostino, director of the National Nuclear Security
Administration, said in a Pantex statement.

"The B-53 was a weapon developed in another time for a
different world" and its "elimination" marks a major step in
President Barack Obama`s efforts to scale back the role of
nuclear weapons in US security policy, he said.

Last May, the United States revealed for the first time
the actual size of its nuclear stockpile -- a total of 5,113
warheads as of September 30, 2009, the Pentagon announced.

That figure -- a 75 per cent reduction from 1989 when the
Berlin Wall fell -- included active warheads ready for
deployment at short notice, as well as "inactive" warheads
maintained at a depot in a "non-operational status."

Under a new strategic arms limitation treaty (START)
treaty, agreed in April last year, the United States and
Russia -- which hold nearly all nuclear weapons -- pledged to
reduce their arsenals to 1,550 warheads each.

The B-53 bomb was so big that a B-52 bomber could only
carry two of them. Each was fitted with parachutes to control
their descent, according to videos made public by the National
Nuclear Safety Administration.

"This particular weapon should have been phased out and
dismantled a long time ago," said Kirstensten, director of the
nuclear information project at the Federation of American
Scientists in Washington. (AFP)

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 09:13

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