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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


PANTEX PLANT

Zone 12 - Weapons Assembly/Disassembly

Nuclear Explosive Bays

Buildings 12-64, 12-84, 12-99, and 12-104 are part of the production area of Zone 12 and are located inside the material access area (MAA). These buildings provide bays for weapons assembly, disassembly, examina- tion, testing, training, process demonstration, nuclear explosive safety studies, procedure verification and similar operations, and packaging and staging of component parts. The bays in these buildings were designed as nuclear explosive facilities with the capability to process encased explosive components that contain plutonium and other hazardous materials. The bays range in age from 7 to 25 years. Buildings 12-64, 12-84, 12-99, and 12-104 contain 62 bays. All but three bays are used for assembly or disassembly. Two bays in Building 12-84 are used for radiography operations; one bay in Building 12-104 is a vacuum chamber bay. The 62 bays total approximately 300,000 square feet. Essential safety systems include the structure's blast design, the structure (concrete walls and earth overburden), blast doors, and fire suppression system. [Photo Number: 437 046 001, Photo Date: June 1983]

The major operations conducted in the assembly/disassembly bays are the partial assembly/disassembly of nuclear weapons containing high explosives (HE) and the complete assembly or disassembly of weapons containing insensitive high explosives (IHE). Operations on encased components rely on the casing to provide the primary containment; operations involving unencased HE are not allowed in bays that contain plutonium, but are allowed in bays that do not contain plutonium. Final disassembly of primary subassemblies involving plutonium and unencased HE is permitted only in assembly/disassembly cell facilities. Bays 1, 2, 3, and 4 of Building 12-64 are used for the testing and staging of tritium reservoirs.

Nuclear Explosive Cells

Buildings 12-44 (Cells 1 to 6), 12-85, 12-96, and 12-98 (Cells 1 through 4) are part of the production area of Zone 12 and are located inside the MAA. These buildings, totaling 73,000 square feet, provide cells for weapons assembly, disassembly, examination, training, process demonstration, nuclear explosive safety studies, procedure verification and similar operations, packaging, staging, and testing. The cells range in age from 9 to 36 years. Essential safety systems include the blast valves, blast door interlocks, and facility structure (concrete walls and slab, blast doors, and earth overburden). Nuclear explosive special purpose Buildings 12-26 (Bays 27 and 28), 12-41, 12-50, 12-60, and 12-94 are part of the production area of Zone 12 and are located inside the MAA. These buildings provide testing/support facilities for nuclear weapons and weapon components that contain special nuclear material. The buildings range in age from 3 to 51 years and total approximately 95,000 square feet in area.

Except for Building 12-26, these facilities were constructed for nuclear weapons work. Building 12-26 was constructed in 1944 for munitions work as part of the World War II construction of the Pantex Army Ordnance Plant. It was originally used for shipping and staging ordnance, but is now used for component accelerated aging, tritium reservoir testing and inspecting, weapons vacuum and leak testing, and tool storage. The facility was used for assembly and disassembly of nuclear explosive-like assemblies (NELAs) and war reserves units as late as the early 1980s. A NELA is an assembly that represents a weaponized nuclear explosive, such as a warhead, bomb, reentry vehicle, or artillery shell. NELAs do not contain an arrangement of HE and fissile material capable of producing a nuclear detonation. Presently, the prime function of the facility is to provide space for tooling storage. Other significant operational areas include the weapon vacuum and leak test bays, the component accelerated aging bays, the tritium reservoir testing and inspection bay, and the pit vault for special nuclear material.

Building 12-41 is a weapons paint facility. It is used primarily to support painting buildings operations on joint test assemblies (JTAs), weapons components (tails, fins, cases), weapon "H" Gear (containers), and roadables. Unit roadables are also repaired and modified in the building.

Building 12-50, the separation test facility, is used to provide data for evaluating specific nuclear weapons release assembly hardware and installation procedures and for detecting and monitoring time and service related deterioration of the system. Selected reentry body assemblies are subjected to a functional separation test as a continuing requirement of these surveillance programs.

Building 12-60, the mass properties facilities, is used to provide data for evaluating specific nuclear weapons to ensure that certain tolerance specifications for various nuclear weapons, NELAs, and subassemblies are met.

Building 12-94, the weapons aging facility, conducts operations consisting of exposing weapons or weapon components to variable temperature cycles for prolonged periods to simulate long-term stockpile effects. The aging studies can involve complete nuclear weapons, explosives core samples, weapons components, and weapon-like assemblies.

Nuclear Staging Facilities

Buildings 12-26 pit vault, 12-42 south and north vault, 12-44 cell 8, and 12-58 Bays 4 and 5 are part of the production area of Zone 12 and are located inside the MAA. These buildings provide temporary staging facilities for nuclear weapon components that contain special nuclear material. These components include pits, Oak Ridge ordnance (ORO) items, radioisotopic thermoelectric generators (RTGs), and reservoirs. These facilities range up to 51 years old and total approximately 15,000 square feet in area. Building 12-26 was built in 1944 as part of the World War II construction of the Pantex Plant and was originally used for shipping and staging of conventional ordnance. The other staging facilities were constructed for nuclear weapons work.

The pit vault is used as a staging facility for pits. Pits are encapsulated components that are packaged in specially designed containers for staging and intra-plant transport. The containers in the pit vault are not opened during the operations conducted within the vault. The Building 12-42 south vault is used as a staging facility for weapon components called "reservoirs," which are small, metal bottles filled with tritium. Reservoirs are shipped to and from the Pantex Plant in specially designed Department of Transportation certified containers. Metal cases are used for the intra-plant transport of reservoirs.

The Building 12-42 north vault is used as a staging facility for RTGs, which are small, self- contained, sealed sources of thermally produced electricity used in several of the nuclear weapon systems. The RTGs consist of a heat source (Pu-238), a thermopile, an insulator, and a container.

Building 12-44, Cell 8 is used as a temporary staging facility for pits. The primary activity conducted in Cell 8 is the automated placement and retrieval of pits in sealed containers. However, some containers are opened within the facility, and those pits undergo a variety of inspection, testing, and verification operations. Pits are repackaged in Cell 8.

Bays 4 and 5 of Building 12-58 are used as staging facilities for nuclear weapons components.

Explosives Development - Zones 11 and 12

Buildings 11-17, 11-22, 11-36, 11-38, 11-51, 11-55, 11-56, 12-8, 12-19, 12-59, and 12-62 are part of Pantex's explosive processing and development resources and are located in Zones 11 and 12 of the Plant. These buildings contain laboratories that have been historically used to develop and test new high explosives, examine the morphology of bulk formulated explosives, and perform routine analysis of explosives, pilot activities for new plastic bonded explosives, aging studies on various explosives, and chemical analysis of explosives and associated materials. Their primary current use is for surveillance support. The buildings range in age from 14 to 51 years. The 11 buildings total approximately 90,500 square feet. Requirements for these facilities do not vary with production schedules, and known future missions will not change these requirements. Included are chemical laboratories, a gas analysis laboratory, a metrology laboratory, a stockpile system testing laboratory, environmental laboratories, and radiation monitoring laboratories.

Explosives Manufacturing

Buildings 11-51, 11-20, 11-50, 12-17 A&B, 12- 63, 12-121, and 12-24 are used for formulating, pressing, machining, gauging, and staging a variety of high explosives. These buildings range in age from 11 to 51 years and total approximately 113,450 square feet. Most of these buildings were con- structed to manufacture explosives main charges and small components for nuclear weapons, and to meet the high explosives research and development mission of the site. Current missions remain the same as efforts continue to remove obsolete weapons from the stockpile. Two-thirds of these buildings were built prior to 1955. They are in poor condition and are rapidly approaching the ends of their useful lives.

Explosives Staging

Buildings 4-45 to 4-75, 11-23, 11-25, 11-37, 11-42, 11-45, 11-46, 12-55, 12-58, 12-65, 12- 68B, 12-71, 12-83, 12-92, 12-95, 16-2, and 16-7A&B are used to store and stage all types of HE and IHE. These facilities will continue to be used for this purpose. These facilities range in age from 8 to 51 years and contain 46 structures covering a total area of approximately 63,300 square feet. The primary hazard in these buildings is explosives. Over 50 percent of the explosives storage facilities were constructed prior to 1950; they are in deteriorating condition and need replacement.

Testing and Evaluation

This key facility includes Buildings 11-5, 11- 16, 11-18, 12-21, and 12-21A and Firing Sites FS-2, FS-3, FS-4, FS-5, FS-10, FS-11, FS- 11A, FS-16, FS-18, FS-21, FS-21A, FS-22, FS-23, and FS-24. The buildings are used for testing and evaluation of both HE and IHE, test firing of explosives, and non-destructive evaluation of explosives (the firing sites are no longer being used for this purpose). The facilities range in age from 8 years to 51 years. The buildings total approximately 68,200 square feet; the Firing Sites are several square miles in size. Many of the facilities have high speed cameras to monitor and analyze tests. Missions are not expected to change until the current effort to remove obsolete weapons from the stockpile is complete in six to eight years.


             



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