Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Digging Crystal Deep

Los Alamos reengineers the insensitive high explosive responsible for keeping the B61 nuclear weapon safe against accidental detonation at the nanoscale-crystal level.
October 25, 2015
Digging Crystal Deep

The B61 aircraft-launched nuclear weapon

New computer simulations make detailed predictions about how the explosive will behave and when it must be replaced.

As Los Alamos National Laboratory works to refurbish the B61 bomb—an aircraft-launched nuclear weapon it designed in the early 1960s—experimental scientists and weapons modelers are delving deep into the microstructure of TATB (triaminotrinitrobenzene), the high explosive that revolutionized B61’s safety. Unlike an earlier kind of explosive used in these weapons, TATB is extremely difficult to detonate by accident. “You can set it on fire or slam it into a brick wall, and it won’t blow up,” says Los Alamos R&D engineer Bert Harry. Now it’s time to replenish the explosive as
the U.S. Air Force and the National Nuclear Security Administration extend the lifespan of existing B61s for another 20 years.

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