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America’s nuclear headache: old plutonium with nowhere to go

AMARILLO, Texas: In a sprawling plant near Amarillo, Texas, rows of workers perform by hand one of the most dangerous jobs in American industry. Contract workers at the US Department of Energy’s Pantex facility gingerly remove the plutonium cores from retired nuclear warheads. Although many safety rules are in place, a slip of the hand could mean disaster. In Energy Department facilities around the country, there are 54 metric tons of surplus plutonium. Pantex, the plant near Amarillo, holds so much plutonium that it…

Building — and delivering — a nuclear weapon

PARIS: After testing a missile that North Korea said was capable of striking the US, Pyongyang claimed it had become a full nuclear power, though analysts remain sceptical. Following are the steps necessary to build and deliver a nuclear weapon: The raw material: uranium The key ingredient in a nuclear bomb is enriched uranium -- or plutonium, which can be obtained through the combustion of uranium. Uranium is a relatively common mineral, found both in the ground and under the sea. Some 20 countries operate…