The last of the U.S. B53 nuclear bombs, the most destructive weapon in its arsenal that is about 600 times more powerful than the one that destroyed Hiroshima, will be dismantled as part of President Barack Obama's goal of reducing the number of atomic weapons.
B53s, described as “high yield strategic thermonuclear bombs”, were first introduced around 1962. The bomb, which weighs about 10,000 pounds, is roughly the size of a minivan.
It was deployed at the height of the Cold War and was targeted at Russia.
“This was a big part of our Cold War strategic plan,” said Steve Erhart, the top federal official at the Pantex weapons plant, about 27 km northeast of Amarillo, Texas.
The Pantex plant is America's only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility. Workers at the facility will spend less than an hour on Tuesday doing the final work to dismantle the last B53, the Star-Telegram newspaper reported.
“Its dismantlement is a key point in history,” said Mr. Erhart. “It takes a lot of destructive power off of the earth.” The B53s were designed to be dropped from a B-52 bomber as a “bunker buster”, sending shockwaves similar to an earthquake through the ground to collapse deep underground shelters near Moscow where high-ranking officials might be.
The bomb can burrow underground and destroy everything in its path. It contains about 300 pounds of high explosive around a uranium core, has a yield of nine megatonnes, making it about 600 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
Because of the bomb's size and age, officials said dismantling the weapon “did present some challenges”, said Mr. Erhart.