In June of 1990, the SRAM missiles were removed from the inventory because of safety concerns regarding the integrity of their W69 nuclear warheads in the event of a fire. In 1991 DOE and DOD continued to give very high priority to modernizing the SRAM A (W-69) warhead which has the potential for burn and/or detonation during an aircraft accident or fire. The result is dispersal of plutonium over a wide area. The DOD addressed the primary safety concern by removing the SRAM A from active alert. Testimony at the 1990 hearing indicated a 1 year slip in the delivery of the missile system because of development problems, and concern over constraints in DOE's production complex (restart of Rocky Flats).
Retirements of warheads have occurred for several reasons including treaties and weapons modernization efforts that supplant the need for some older or less reliable warheads. For example, a 1991 report of the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. House of Representatives, identified concerns about the W69, a warhead for the Short Range Attack Missile carried on bomber aircraft. The warhead did not have such modern design features as fire-resistant plutonium. The concern was that an accident involving the warhead could scatter plutonium over a wide area or, in the very worst and far less likely case, result in a nuclear explosion.
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