Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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How is the U.S. preparing for the Second Nuclear Age?

Seven of the eight nuclear-armed nations continue to build new, modern nuclear warheads and delivery systems. In contrast, the United States chooses to maintain its aging stockpile.
February 1, 2014
How is the U.S. preparing for the Second Nuclear Age?

A B-2 Stealth bomber at sunset at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The B-2 is certified to conduct nuclear missions carrying the B61 nuclear gravity-bomb. The B61, designed by Los Alamos in the early 1960s, is one of the primary weapons in the U.S. nuclear stockpile. The B61 is being refurbished by Los Alamos.

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The numbers in the stockpile are decreasing, which increases the need to ensure that the aging weapons that remain will work.

Instead of modernizing its nuclear deterrent, the United States is working to extend the life of its weapons, which were built decades ago with a designed life-expectancy of about 10 years. These life-extension programs (LEPs) determine the condition of the weapons by assessing samples taken from the stockpile and repairing, replacing, and recycling components as necessary. The B61 nuclear gravity-bomb LEP at Los Alamos provides a good example of this.


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