The UK's Trident missiles are only allowed to be serviced in the US by US personnel. Now there has been a hitch at their utility in handling the W-76 warheads carried on the missiles, which are intended to remain in service past the end of their design life in the 2020s and to be carried by a new fleet of Vanguard submarines.
The Y-12 nuclear weapon plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee is conducting service extensions on the W-76 warheads but it has run into an unspecified problem involving a material known as “Fogbank,” - supposed to be a cleaning substance.
“The only thing we can say is there’s an issue with the W-76 life extension program. It’s been delayed a bit, but we have all our experts working on it,” said a spokesman for the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees Y-12.
The agency is spending “a lot of money” to produce “Fogbank,” NNSA chief Thomas D’Agostino told a congressional committee last year. “We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said, noting the difficulty in working with a substance that is toxic, flammable and explosive .
"Fogbank" has safety concerns equivalent to handling beryllium which has been a matter of concern at Y12 which was reported in December 2007.
While B&W Y-12’s program already provides a level of protection well beyond Department of Energy requirements, the DOE’s Office of Inspector General looked at the B&W Y‑12 program and said there were things Y‑12 could do better.
Y-12 developed a beryllium protection program before DOE had a beryllium rule. Additionally, the site has had different internal requirements for surface contamination. Over the years, these control limits have got progressively tighter. Ten years ago, the control limit was 10.0 micrograms per 100 square centimeters. That control limit was lowered to 5.0 micrograms per 100 square centimeters. Today, the program is controlling to 0.2 micrograms per 100 square centimeters. A microgram is a millionth of gram.
Following the visit from representatives of the Inspector General, the Y‑12 Site Office of the National Nuclear Security Administration had an independent review team from DOE/NNSA headquarters come in to look at the Y‑12 beryllium program. The team reviewed B&W Y‑12’s action plan and found that it would “fully resolve all the Inspector General’s audit results and recommendations.”
Wouldn't it be real drag if we had to upgrade the missiles as well ?