Originally introduced to the U.S. Air Force inventory in 1961, the B-52 remains a potent and lethal platform.© Aero Graphics, Inc./CORBIS Originally introduced to the U.S. Air Force inventory in 1961, the B-52 remains a potent and lethal platform.
REPORTING FROM OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Pipes, tanks and other equipment rust in the humid Southern air. Leaky roofs leave puddles on factory floors. Abandoned buildings are scattered across an 800-acre site contaminated with hundreds of tons of mercury.If this were a factory making cars in Detroit or steel in Pennsylvania, it would have long ago been shuttered.

But this is the Y-12 National Security Complex, a linchpin of the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons complex, responsible for making thermonuclear assemblies for hydrogen bombs.

The 1940s-era plant is part of a weapons program that has become increasingly costly to operate because of aging equipment, deteriorating facilities and soaring overhead costs. At its root, it is bloated and mismanaged…