See How the U.S. Government Transports Its Nuclear Weapons

Transporting nuclear weapons on the Interstate is a delicate operation. The trucks used to carry them look nondescript, but they’re equipped with sophisticated security features that protect their cargo no matter what.
You've probably been within spitting distance of a nuclear warhead without even realizing it.
You've probably been within spitting distance of a nuclear warhead without even realizing it. / Jorg Greuel/Photodisc via Getty Images

If you don’t work for the U.S. government, you’ve likely never seen the inside of one of its nuclear facilities. But that doesn’t mean you haven’t come within spitting distance of a nuclear warhead. The Office of Secure Transportation (OST) is constantly shuttling these weapons across the country, which means you may have passed one on the highway without even realizing it.

In this new video, the YouTube channel Half as Interesting explains how the government transports its nuclear devices safely and discreetly. Moving a volatile weapon across state lines is a surprisingly common occurrence in the U.S. Plutonium degrades over time, so nuclear bombs have to be regularly tested and maintained, even if there are no plans to use them in the immediate future. This requires moving them to different facilities that are sometimes thousands of miles apart.

Many risks come with transporting a nuclear weapon in a fuel-powered vehicle on a public highway, but the OST has several safeguards in place to prevent disaster. The tractor-trailers they use are specially designed to protect their contents no matter what, with 12-inch steel doors and puncture-proof tires. In the case of an accident, the trailer automatically fills with a rapidly expanding foam to cushion the precious cargo. 

The trailer can also withstand an hour-long fuel fire before its contents are affected. On top of that, the truck is accompanied by a convoy of armed OST agents on the road and in the air any time it’s in transit. If hijackers were somehow able to get past these defenses, the vehicle is also equipped with top-secret security features that would kill the interlopers on the spot.

The system for transporting nuclear materials is incredibly sophisticated, but you would never know it if you saw it in action. That’s by design: The weapons are carried in a nondescript truck flanked by unmarked cars so as to not arouse suspicion. That makes it impossible to spot the convoys on the road—and if you trail them trying to get a closer look, you may end up on a government list. 

You can watch Half as Interesting’s full video above.