Nondescript 18-wheelers are secretly transporting nearly 1,000 of the U.S. Navy's 100-kiloton W76 nuclear warheads from a submarine base near Seattle to a plant in Texas. Worse news? It's by an agency recently investigated for problems with alcohol abuse.
An item in Washington's Kitsap Sun this weekend confirms something we all expect to be true but is rarely talked about: the transportation of nuclear weapons across the United States.
The quantity of nuclear warheads is astounding, with the report indicating as many as 1,000 of the approximately 30-year-old 100-kiloton W76 warheads are being transported from Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor near Seattle to the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, nearly 1,800 miles away, for updates that'll extend the life of the weapon by 30 years.
The W76 wahreads, currently used as the main warhead for the Trident 1 and Trident II Submarine-launched missiles, are designed to create a fireball more than half-a-mile in diameter if exploded.
Transportation of these items will be carried out by the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Office of Secure Transportation. Convoys of escorted and unmarked nuke trucks like the ones pictured above will carry them on their journey.
Numerous safeguards are in place according to the NNSA, including bulletproof sleeper areas in all trucks and a requirement that agents don't go for more than 32 hours without 8 hours of "stationary bed rest."
Here's them bragging:
The federal agents who do this work are trained to defend, recapture, and recover nuclear materials in case of an attack. Because of the highly skilled agents, NNSA was able to safely and securely complete 100 percent of its shipments without the compromise or loss of any nuclear weapons and components or a release of radioactive material.
This is true, but the revelation about transportation follows the release of a report two weeks ago by Department of Energy investigators (Report PDF) announcing that agents within the Office of Secure Transportation had a bad habit of getting drunk while on the job.
[A] review of OST documentation and interviews confirmed the occurrence of 16 alcohol-related incidents involving OST Agents, Agent Candidates and other personnel from 2007 through 2009.
[...] Of the 16 incidents, 2 were of the greatest concern because they occurred during secure transportation missions while the Agents were in Rest Overnight Status, which occurs during extended missions
where convoy vehicles are placed in a safe harbor and where convoy vehicles are placed in a safe harbor and
Agents check into local area hotels.
Though the report did point out the incidents were in the minority, it determined "in our judgment, alcohol incidents such as these, as infrequent as they may be, indicate a potential vulnerability in OST's critical national security mission."
Just remember that the next time you think it's a good idea to cutoff a nondescript 18-wheeler.
Photo Credit: FOE.org via DOE