The plot thickens, thanks to Frank Munger’s continued pursuit of FOGBANK.
Munger has a pair of blog posts (Is there more to the story about the W76? Y-12: fogbank produced in Spring 2008) that put NNSA and POGO on a collision course. Only one of them can be accurately describing the reason for the delayed delivery of the first SLEP’d W76 to the Navy.
I based that observation on Vartabedian’s paraphrase of NNSA spokesman Damien Lavera. Lavera, according to Vartabedian, stated that the delay for the W76 relating to the arming, firing and fusing system:
LaVera said all issues with fogbank had been resolved. The only remaining W76 issue involves potential minor defects in its arming, fusing and firing system, the safety controls that prepare a nuclear weapon for detonation
Vartabedian presented the statement uncritically. According to Munger, “NNSA spokesman Steven Wyatt reiterated that Y-12 shipped its first production unit (FPU) for the W76-1 Life Extension Program in August 2008 — as previously reported.”
That seems pretty clear to me.
Now, Peter Stockton at POGO tells Munger that the hold-up is still related to FOGBANK:
Stockton said POGO’s sources at the Pantex warhead assembly plant in Texas have indicated about a dozen W76 warheads are being assembled and disassembled there to maintain certification for the facilities and the technical personnel involved in those tasks. Stockton said those same sources indicated the holdup in delivering those warheads to the military was related to fogbank.
So, which is it? What Stockton said certainly was true, at least until recently. GAO stated while awaiting FOGBANK, Pantex remained “in ‘stand-by’ mode, which includes maintaining the skills of the technicians who will assemble refurbished W76 weapons.” (I suspect “stand-by” mode refers to the process described by Stockton.)
But is it still true in Spring 2009? I have to say, I would be very surprised if the problem continued to relate to FOGBANK. My money is on the AF&F system.