Texas wildfires forces shutdown at nuclear weapon facility. Here is what we know

A nuclear weapons facility was forced to briefly evacuate most of its staff due to a fast-moving wildfire in the Texas Panhandle.

The Pantex plant, northeast of Amarillo, evacuated nonessential staff Tuesday night as the blaze rapidly grew. On Wednesday, the Texas A&M Fire Service said the blaze rivaled the largest in state history.


Pantex is one of six production facilities in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Nuclear Security Enterprise. The plant has been the main U.S. site for assembling and disassembling atomic bombs since 1975. It produced its last new bomb in 1991, and has dismantled thousands of weapons retired from military stockpiles. Pantex says on its website that it places “the resulting plutonium pits in interim storage,” but it does not explain what that means. The company did not respond to questions about nuclear storage at the site.

Most activities at Pantex take place on 2,000 acres (8 square kilometers) of the 18,000-acre (73-square-kilometer) site. The Pantex site includes 650 buildings and employs more than 4,200 full-time workers.


On Tuesday afternoon, Pantex began posting on X about the approaching wildfire to the north of the facility. The company cancelled the graveyard shift and evacuated most staff out of an “abundance of caution." Employees built a fire barrier to protect the facility and essential staff, including first responders, security personnel and fire fighters, remained on the site, according to a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

By early Wednesday, the threat appeared to have passed. Pantex posted that the facility was “open for normal day shift operations and advised that all personnel should report for duty. The company also said all employees were accounted for.


The fire definitely had an impact. The company said Tuesday night that plant operations had “paused until further notice," but that “all weapons and special materials are safe and unaffected.” Asked about the potential danger of the wildfire, a spokesperson would only say that Pantex “has robust facilities designed to prevent fire from damaging site facilities.”