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ID: DNSC8200005 Service Depicted: Navy A montage of seven views showing parts of the launching of a Trident I C-4 missile from the submerged nuclear-powered strategic missile submarine USS FRANCIS SCOTT KEY (SSBN-657) and the Trident's re-entry bodies as they plunge into the earth's atmosphere and then into the Atlantic Ocean.  Date Shot: 2 Oct 1981.
ID: DNSC8200005 Service Depicted: Navy
A montage of seven views showing parts of the launching of a Trident I C-4 missile from the submerged nuclear-powered strategic missile submarine USS FRANCIS SCOTT KEY (SSBN-657) and the Trident’s re-entry bodies as they plunge into the earth’s atmosphere and then into the Atlantic Ocean. Date Shot: 2 Oct 1981.

Nuclear Weapons get refurbished. They aren’t just “as is”. Fogbank (or other) refurbishment has been suggested as a possible explanation for some of the more strange movements of nuclear materials, i.e. the US flying Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) from France to “store” at the Y-12 Facility in Tennessee, only to re-export approximately the same amount of HEU.
Weapons Refurbishment GAO

FOGBANK is a code name given to a material used in nuclear weapons such as the W76, W78 and W80“. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FOGBANK. “Refurbishing the nuclear weapons stockpile is a difficult task. NNSA must draw on the scientific expertise of the nuclear weapons laboratories and the manufacturing and engineering expertise of the nuclear weapons production facilities.http://www.gao.gov/assets/290/286692.pdf

For the B61 and W76 life extension programs, Los Alamos National Laboratory is responsible for designing and developing these weapons’ nuclear explosives package. Sandia National Laboratories design non-nuclear components, such as arming, fuzing, and firing systems, foams, and electrical cables, and test the weapons’ non-nuclear components to certify safety and reliability. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory peer reviews design and production activities. Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories work closely with the production plants to ensure that components meet design specifications. The complex’s four production sites include the Y-12 National Security Complex plant in Tennessee, the Kansas City Plant in Missouri, the Savannah River Site plant in South Carolina, and the Pantex Plant in Texas. The Y-12 plant manufactures critical nuclear components, such as parts made from enriched uranium, for the nuclear explosives package. The Kansas City plant produces and procures nonnuclear parts and electronic components and manufactures the new arming, fuzing, and firing system for the W76 warhead. The Savannah River Site plant fills gas bottles it receives from Kansas City with tritium and deuterium, which are used to facilitate the nuclear explosion. Last, the Pantex plant assembles all components supplied by other production plants to produce a weapon for the stockpile.http://www.gao.gov/assets/290/286692.pdf (Emphasis our own.)

In 2000, NNSA considered replacing Fogbank with an alternate material that was less costly and easier to produce but abandoned the idea because NNSA was confident that it could produce Fogbank since it had done so before. In addition, LANL’s computer models and simulations were not sophisticated enough to provide conclusive evidence that the alternate material would function exactly the same as Fogbank. Still further, the Navy, the ultimate customer, had expressed a strong preference for Fogbank because of its proven nuclear test record. In response to the Navy’s preference and the lack of sufficient test data on the alternate material, NNSA did not pursue the development of an alternate material until 2007.

At the beginning of the W76 life extension program in 2000, NNSA identified key technical challenges that would potentially cause schedule delays or cost overruns. One of the highest risks was manufacturing Fogbank because it is difficult to manufacture. In addition, NNSA had lost knowledge of how to manufacture the material because it had kept few records of the process when the material was made in the 1980s and almost all staff with expertise on production had retired or left the agency. Finally, NNSA had to build a new facility at the Y-12 plant because the facilities that produced Fogbank ceased operation in the 1990s and had since been dismantled, except for a pilot plant used to produce small quantities of Fogbank for test purposes.

To address these concerns, NNSA developed a risk management strategy for Fogbank with three key components: (1) building a new Fogbank production facility early enough to allow time to re-learn the manufacturing process and resolve any problems before starting full production; (2) using the existing pilot plant to test the Fogbank manufacturing process while the new facility was under construction; and (3) developing an alternate material that was easier to produce than Fogbank. However, NNSA failed to effectively implement these three key components. As a result, it had little time to address unexpected technical challenges and no guaranteed source of funding to support risk mitigation activities.

After determining that 2 years was sufficient time to test and perfect the Fogbank manufacturing process, NNSA set March 2005 as the target date to begin operations of the new facility at the Y-12 plant….http://www.gao.gov/assets/290/286692.pdf (Emphasis added).

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

FOGBANK is a code name given to a material used in nuclear weapons such as the W76, W78 and W80.[1]

FOGBANK’s precise nature is classified; in the words of former Oak Ridge general manager Dennis Ruddy, “The material is classified. Its composition is classified. Its use in the weapon is classified, and the process itself is classified.”[2] Department of Energy Nuclear Explosive Safety documents simply describe it as a material “used in nuclear weapons and nuclear explosives” along with lithium hydride (LiH) and lithium deuteride (LiD), beryllium (Be), uranium hydride (UH3), and plutonium hydride. Many arms experts believe that FOGBANK is an aerogel material which acts as an interstage material in a nuclear warhead, i.e. a material designed to become a superheated plasma following the detonation of the weapon’s fission stage, the plasma then triggering the fusion-stage detonation.[2]


It has been revealed by unclassified official sources that FOGBANK was originally manufactured in Facility 9404-11 of the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee from 1975 until 1989, when the final batch of W76 warheads were completed. After that the facility was mothballed, and finally slated for decommissioning by 1993. Only a small pilot plant was left, which had been used to produce small batches of FOGBANK for testing purposes.[2]

In 1996, the US government decided that large numbers of its nuclear weapons would require replacement, refurbishing, or decommissioning. Accordingly, the Department of Energy set up a refurbishment program aimed at extending the service lives of older nuclear weapons. In 2000, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) specified a life-extension program for W76 warheads that would enable them to remain in service until at least 2040.[2]

It was soon realized that the FOGBANK material was a potential source of problems for the program, as few records of its manufacturing process had been retained when it was originally manufactured in the 1980s, and nearly all staff members who had expertise in its production had either retired or left the agency. The NNSA briefly investigated sourcing a substitute for FOGBANK, but eventually decided that since FOGBANK had been produced previously, they would be able to repeat it.[2] Additionally, “Los Alamos computer simulations at that time were not sophisticated enough to determine conclusively that an alternate material would function as effectively as Fogbank,” according to a Los Alamos publication.[3]

Manufacture involves the moderately toxic, highly volatile solvent acetonitrile, which presents a hazard for workers (causing three evacuations in March 2006 alone).[1]

With Facility 9404-11 long since decommissioned, a brand new production facility was required. Delays arose during its construction, and in addition, engineers repeatedly encountered failure in their efforts to produce FOGBANK. As one deadline after the other expired, and the schedule was pushed back again and again, the NNSA eventually decided to invest $23 million to attempt to find an alternative to FOGBANK.[2][4][5]

In March 2007, engineers finally devised a manufacturing process for FOGBANK. Unfortunately, the material turned out to have problems when tested, and in September 2007 the FOGBANK project was upgraded to “Code Blue” status by the NNSA, making it a major priority.[2] In 2008, following the expenditure of a further $69 million, the NNSA finally managed to manufacture FOGBANK, and 7 months later, the first refurbished warhead was handed over to the US Navy, nearly a decade after the commencement of the refurbishment program.[2] However, in May 2009 a US Navy spokesman said that they had not received any refurbished weapons to date. The Energy Department stated that the current plan was to begin shipping refurbished weapons in the fall of 2009, two years behind schedule.[6]

The experience of reverse engineering FOGBANK produced some improvements in scientific knowledge of the process. The new production scientists noticed that certain problems in production resembled those noted by the original team. These problems were traced to a particular impurity in the final product that was required to meet quality standards. A root cause investigation showed that input materials were subject to cleaning processes that had not existed during the original production run. This cleaning removed a substance that generated the required impurity. With the implicit role of this substance finally understood, the production scientists can control output quality better than during the original run.[3]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FOGBANK (Emphasis added; last modified on 3 July 2013; See references at bottom of this post).

As a separately organized agency within the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) administers the Stockpile Life Extension Program, whose purpose is to extend, through refurbishment, the operational lives of the weapons in the nuclear stockpile. NNSA encountered significant management problems with its first refurbishment for the W87 warhead. GAO was asked to assess the extent to which NNSA and the Department of Defense (DOD) have effectively managed the refurbishment of two other weapons–the B61 bomb and the W76 warhead. This report summarizes the findings of GAO’s classified report on the refurbishment of the B61 bomb and W76 warhead.
NNSA and DOD have not effectively managed cost, schedule, and technical risks for either the B61 or W76 life extension program. Regarding the B61 program, although NNSA completed the refurbishment of the strategic variants of the B61 bomb–the Mods 7 and 11–on schedule in November 2008, the refurbished weapons do not meet all refurbishment objectives. According to NNSA and DOD officials, NNSA established an unrealistic schedule and failed to fully implement its refurbishment guidance, known as the Phase 6.X process. NNSA was able to meet its refurbishment schedule and avoid significant cost overruns for the B61 program only because (1) some of the refurbishment objectives were changed, (2) NNSA was able to reuse, rather than manufacture, a critical component when B61 bombs were decommissioned, and (3) the Nuclear Weapons Council significantly reduced the number of B61 bombs in the stockpile. Despite DOD concerns about the adequacy of NNSA testing of the B61 bombs under certain conditions, NNSA continued refurbishing the weapons. Some of the B61 refurbishment problems could have been avoided if DOD had fulfilled its roles and responsibilities in overseeing NNSA’s life extension program activities. For example, the Air Force did not adequately review NNSA’s design, engineering, and testing activities–a review that would have alerted DOD that NNSA was missing some of its refurbishment objectives. Regarding the W76 program, NNSA did not effectively manage a high risk associated with manufacturing an essential material, known as Fogbank, needed to refurbish the W76 warhead. NNSA had developed a risk mitigation strategy to avoid potential cost overruns and schedule delays related to the manufacture of this key material but failed to effectively implement this strategy. As a result, NNSA’s original plans to produce the first refurbished W76 weapon in September 2007 slipped to September 2008; NNSA spent $69 million to address Fogbank production problems; and the Navy faced logistical challenges owing to the delay. Furthermore, NNSA did not have a consistent approach to developing a cost baseline for the W76 program, which makes it difficult to track refurbishment costs over time and to know the actual cost of the program.

lanl. gov/science/weapons_journal/wj_pubs/17nwj2_09 Fogbank  Samarai
lanl. gov/science/weapons_journal/wj_pubs/17nwj2_09 Fogbank  Samarai p. B

Click to access 17nwj2_09.pdf

Wikipedia article References
1. Jeffrey Lewis. “FOGBANK”. Arms Control Wonk.
2. Last, Jonathan V. (18 May 2009). “The Fog of War: Forgetting what we once knew”. The Weekly Standard 14 (33).
3. “Fogbank: Lost Knowledge Regained”, (Los Alamos) Nuclear Weapons Journal no. 2 (2009), 20-21.
4. Ian Sample (6 March 2008). “Technical hitch delays renewal of nuclear warheads for Trident”. The Guardian.
5. Rob Edwards (12 March 2008). “Trident missiles delayed by mystery ingredient” (2646). p. 15.(subscription required)
6. Ralph Vartabedian (2009-05-29). “Program to refurbish aging nuclear warheads faces setbacks”. The Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2009-05-30.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FOGBANK last modified on 3 July 2013 at 07:40.