Photos of 18 wheelers don't usually get me all excited, but last week Friends of the Earth announced that it has used the Freedom of Information Act to force the U.S. Department of Energy to release color photos of the special trucks that transport nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons components and “special nuclear material” such as plutonium and highly enriched uranium. Well doggone it - I've seen the photos, and those are some of the nicest big rigs I've seen on the road in a loooong time. We're talkin long haul truckin folks; check out that bulletproof sleeper cab. And they are coming soon to a military installation near you (and definitely near me).
The government used to bring nuclear weapons to Bangor on the infamous White Trains, which were greeted by many nuclear resisters during the 1980s, and finally gave up on this mode of transport. Now with trucks moving nuclear materials, it's much harder to know where they are. It was much easier in the good old days when you had trains (they might as well have had a bulls eye painted on them) that were limited to a set of tracks where people could watch them along the way and pass word ahead.
3 safeguards transporters and their escorts leaving the Charleston (SC) Naval Weapons Station with plutonium fuel (MOX) that had been shipped over from France. Photo by T. Clements, 2005.
With the Stockpile Stewardship and Life Extension Programs on track once again (maybe yes, maybe no) refurbishing W76 warheads (they finally remembered how to make them), residents of Washington State might be seeing these warhead delivery vehicles, aka safeguards transporters, making their way to Bangor with refurbished W76 warheads some time soon. Watch for them (accompanied by some pretty gnarly security convoys) coming up from the Pantex plant near Amarillo, Texas on an interstate near you.
P.S. - Check out the "Quick Poll" at the Huffington Post: Do the release of nuclear bomb truck photos make you feel safer?
Read Navy Never Received Refurbished W-76 Warhead, Global Security Newswire, Friday, May 29, 2009.