WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Some of the oldest nuclear bombs in the U.S. arsenal will be dismantled, the government announced Wednesday.
The B53 bombs have been cleared for decommissioning at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, after a long safety review, the National Nuclear Security Administration said.
"Gaining authorization to begin dismantlement of the B53 is a significant step forward for NNSA and the nation," said Don Cook, deputy administrator for defense programs. "It ... marks the first time in over a decade that NNSA has the required authorizations in place to work on all nuclear weapon types in our nation's inventory."
The B53 is a so-called bunker buster bomb introduced into the stockpile in 1962 and retired in 1997, making it one of the longest-lived nuclear weapons ever fielded. It is a 9 megaton-class weapon about the size of a minivan and weighing about 10,000 pounds. Its sheer size and weight pose many challenges for dismantling, the NNSA said.
Jane's Information Group says there were 50 B53s in the U.S. arsenal.
NNSA is responsible for safely dismantling weapons that are no longer needed and disposing of the excess material and components.