3D printing replacement parts for a nuclear warhead

The W80 nuclear warhead is a small American thermonuclear warhead designed for deployment on cruise missiles. A program has been implemented to extend the life of the warhead, called the W80-4 LEP, or life extension program. Recently the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) gave passing grades to the plans to refurbish certain components as well as to the proposed approach to developing component cost estimates.

The warhead, once refurbished, will be paired with a new cruise missile that is being developed by the US Air Force. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is the lead nuclear design agency and is working with Sandia National Laboratories, the lead non-nuclear design agency. The work being done on the warhead is to satisfy military requirements to pair the warhead with the new delivery system and improve the weapon’s safety, security and operational logistics, as well as to maintain effectiveness without the need for additional explosive tests. The first production of the W80-4 is scheduled for 2025.

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