Originally created 11/17/00

Missouri site: brains of the operation

The radioactive ingredients of the atomic bomb were produced at places such as Savannah River Site and Hanford Engineer Works. But the circuits and switches that served as the bombs' brain were manufactured at a sprawling facility outside Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas City Plant was established as a federal nuclear weapons facility in 1949, but the site's history dates to 1942.

The facility was used first during World War II to manufacture engines for Navy fighters such as the F-6F Hellcat and the F-4U Corsair, according to a history published on the plant's Web site.

By 1947, a storage company was using the plant to store tires, sugar and lumber. But in 1949, the Atomic Energy Commission - the precursor to today's U.S. Department of Energy - reclaimed the plant for use in the Cold War arms race.

For decades since, the plant has manufactured the electronic and mechanical components necessary for the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile. In 1993, the plant was designated as the single source for such parts.

The plant produces more than 40 lines of products, and a state-of-the-art production line allows the site to make 32 different parts at once, according to plant reports.

The plant boasts that it can build anything from a tractor-trailer to tiny motors, microchips and fiber optics. The facility also is home to the Heartland Supercomputer, which the Energy Department calls the fastest computer at any manufacturing plant in North America.

Kansas City Plant's main campus is located on the sprawling Bannister Federal Complex on the city's southern side. Since 1994, the plant also has been responsible for the Energy Department's Kirtland Operations in New Mexico. Together, the operations employ more than 3,000 people.

The plant is operated by Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies, in a deal recently renewed by a five-year, $1.7 billion contract with the Energy Department.

Reach Brandon Haddock at (706) 823-3409.


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