BY JAY COGHLAN
Good article indeed. Kudos to Scott Wyland.
But to add to it:
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) cannot do, or rather will not do, good governance 101 for its largest program ever (i.e., expanded plutonium pit production), which is credible cost estimates and schedules. Why won’t NNSA do that? Because of PR and political concerns when their flaky cost estimates (such as they are) get blown up by inevitable escalating costs. NNSA knows that if it gave accurate projected costs Congress and the public would balk. Thus, the agency goes in lowballing costs, which always inevitably rise. I could rattle off a dozen NNSA projects over the last 15 years in which costs have exploded, wasting tens of billions of taxpayers’ dollars.
But get this, future pit production is also unnecessary and may actually degrade national security. To begin with, independent experts have found that pits have serviceable lifetimes of at least a century (their average age is now around 40). And we already have at least 15,000 existing pits stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX.
Moreover, no future pit production is to maintain the safety and reliability of the extensively tested, existing nuclear weapons stockpile. Instead, it’s all for pits that may substantially deviate from tested designs, for speculative new-design nuclear weapons. They cannot be full-scale tested because of the international testing moratorium. Or, alternatively, could prompt the U.S. to resume testing, which would have severe international proliferation consequences.
But expanded plutonium pit production does serve one essential service: it keeps vast sums of taxpayers’ money flowing to the nuclear weapons-industrial-congressional complex in New Mexico and South Carolina. It is no coincidence that Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) teamed up to co-sponsor legislation requiring the combined production of at least 80 pits per year in their two states, which Ben Ray Lujan is all too eager to support.
But do they do anything to ensure that tens of billions of dollars are properly spent? No, nothing meaningful so far, as that would set up speed bumps on their nuclear pork gravy train. Meanwhile, New Mexico remains mired at or near the bottom of all states in poverty and education, while the privileged nuclear weapons communities are rolling in the dough.