Non-nuclear prototype provides opportunity to collect data and prepare for production
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) has announced the completion of its second nuclear warhead modernization program First Production Capability Unit (FPCU). This milestone for the B61‑12 Life Extension Program (LEP) was completed Aug. 25, 2020 at the Pantex Plant located near Amarillo, Texas.
An FPCU is a non-nuclear explosive prototype that allows the program to exercise processes to ensure readiness for production. In April 2020, the Pantex workforce also completed the W88 Alteration (Alt) 370 FPCU. Both the W88 Alt 370 and the B61‑12 LEP programs plan to continue to build FPCUs into FY 2021. The results of the FPCU disassembly and inspection will be analyzed and incorporated before the start of each program’s First Production Unit.
“This LEP will improve the weapon’s safety, effectiveness, and security, and extend its service life by at least 20 years,” said NNSA Administrator and Department of Energy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty. “While our timeline for modernizing the nuclear stockpile and recapitalizing the necessary infrastructure is aggressive, completing the FPCU milestones – despite the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic – shows that our modernization plans are achievable. Every member of NNSA’s 50,000 person workforce should take pride in their role assuring our great Nation’s strategic deterrent.”
All NNSA sites support the FPCU concept, allowing the design and production agencies to execute assembly and disassembly operations to address manufacturing issues, gather data, and optimize full scale production.