Plutonium Pit Production at LANL

Updates

POGO: Congress Pushes Back on Nuke Agency’s Unnecessary Plutonium Buildup

“In a letter to the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee last month, the Project On Government Oversight was joined by Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Savannah River Site Watch in requesting justification for this expanded capacity. NNSA has over 14,000 plutonium cores already constructed and in storage, many of them specifically designated for potential reuse in new nuclear weapons as part of a ‘strategic reserve.’

If the interoperable warhead is not needed or wanted by the Defense Department, then new pit production is not needed, and the MOX facility can be terminated once and for all. If it is, Congress should ensure that any path forward will be appropriately sized and scoped to meet that mission need. Either way, if all of these interlocking parts are not matched up as part of an overall strategy then there’s only going to be more waste, fraud, and abuse and it is the average American taxpayer who will pay the price.”

-Lydia Dennett, POGO investigator See her full report at POGO)

Groups Release Key DOE Documents on Expanded Plutonium Pit Production, DOE Nuclear Weapons Plan Not Supported by Recent Congressional Actions

“Santa Fe, NM & Columbia, SC. Two key U.S. Department of Energy documents on future production of plutonium “pits” for nuclear weapons, not previously released to the public, fail to justify new and upgraded production facilities at both the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina.”

Read More…

What’s Not in NNSA’s Plutonium Pit Production Decision

Excerpts

There is no explanation why the Department of Defense requires at least 80 pits per year and no justification to the American taxpayer why the enormous expense of expanded production is necessary.

NNSA did not mention that up to 15,000 “excess” pits are already stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX, with up to another 5,000 in “strategic reserve.” The agency did not explain why new production is needed given that an immense inventory of already existing plutonium pits. (In 2006 independent experts found that pits last a least a century. Plutonium pits in the existing stockpile now average around 40 years old.)

NNSA did not explain how to dispose of all of that plutonium, given that the MOX program is an abysmal failure. Nor is it made clear where future plutonium wastes from expanded pit production will go since operations at the troubled Waste Isolation Pilot Plant are already constrained from a ruptured radioactive waste barrel, and its capacity is already overcommitted to existing radioactive wastes.

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MOX is Dead

NNSA: Plutonium Pit Production at Both Los Alamos and Savannah River Site

“To achieve DoD’s 80 pits per year requirement by 2030, NNSA’s recommended alternative repurposes the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to produce plutonium pits while also maximizing pit production activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. This two-prong approach with at least 50 pits per year produced at Savannah River and at least 30 pits per year at Los Alamos is the best way to manage the cost, schedule, and risk of such a vital undertaking.”

-Joint Statement from Ellen M. Lord and Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty on Recapitalization of Plutonium Pit Production

See full NNSA statement

NB: Lisa Gordon-Hagerty is the Administrator of the NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration); Ellen Lord is a DOD Under-secretary and Chair of the Nuclear Weapons Council (Gordon-Hagerty is also an NWC member).

NNSA Proposal to Raise Plutonium Limit Ten-Fold in Los Alamos’ Rad Lab Is First Step in Expanded Plutonium Pit Production: Environmental Assessment Is Premature and Deceptive By Omission

“NNSA should begin a nation-wide review of plutonium pit production, why it’s needed, and what it will cost the American taxpayer in financial, safety and environmental risks. These are all things that the public should know.”

– Jay Coghlan, Director, Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Glowing cylinder of plutonium oxide standing in a circular pit

NNSA Releases Draft Environmental Assessment for LANL Rad Lab; Raises Plutonium Limit 10 Times for Expanded Pit Production

Santa Fe, NM.

Today the National Nuclear Security Administration announced an Environmental Assessment to increase the amount of plutonium used in the Radiological Laboratory Utility and Office Building (aka the “Rad Lab”) at the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 38.6 grams of plutonium-239 equivalent to 400 grams. This 10-fold increase is significant because it will dramatically expand materials characterization and analytical chemistry capabilities in the Rad Lab in support of expanded plutonium pit production for future nuclear weapons designs. It also re-categorizes the Rad Lab from a “radiological facility” to a “Hazard Category-3” nuclear facility.

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Santa Fe City Council: LANL Cleanup Order Must Be Strengthened and Expanded and Plutonium Pit Production Suspended Until Safety Issues Are Resolved

Santa Fe, NM.

On the evening of Wednesday October 25, the Santa Fe City Council passed a resolution requesting that the New Mexico Environment Department strengthen the revised Los Alamos National Labs cleanup order to call for additional characterization of legacy nuclear wastes, increased cleanup funding, and significant additional safety training. The resolution also called for the suspension of any planned expanded plutonium pit production until safety issues are resolved.

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Some Background on Plutonium Pit Production at the Los Alamos Lab

Santa Fe, NM

The Washington Post has published the first in a series of articles on nuclear safety lapses in plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab. Plutonium pits are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons that when imploded initiate the thermonuclear detonation of modern weapons.

By the way, did you know? Plutonium facilities at LANL are, in principle, designed to withstand a serious earthquake of a degree expected to occur only once every 10,000 years. The last serious earthquake near the Lab is believed to have occurred 11,500 years ago.

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Inside a nuclear weapon

A Preview of Trump’s Budget: More Nuclear Bombs and Plutonium Pit Production

Santa Fe, NM.

The proposed level of funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA)’s Total Weapons Activities is $10.2 billion, a full billion above what was requested for FY 2017. In March, Trump’s “skinny budget” stated NNSA’s funding priorities as ‘moving toward a responsive nuclear infrastructure’, and ‘advancing the existing warhead life extension programs’.

Concerning Life Extension Programs, rather than merely maintaining and extending the lives of existing nuclear weapons as advertised, they are being given new military capabilities, despite denials at the highest levels of government. A current example is the B61-12 Life Extension Program, which is transforming a “dumb” nuclear bomb into the world’s first highly accurate “smart” nuclear bomb.

With respect to the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), “responsive infrastructure” no doubt means accelerating upgrades to existing plutonium facilities and likely building two or three new underground “modules”, all for the purpose of quadrupling plutonium pit production from 20 to 80 pits per year. (Plutonium pits are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons.)

Read More…

Resources

Jay Coghlan


Jay Coghlan, Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commenting on the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Nuclear Facility in the plutonium production complex at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Scott Kovac


Scott Kovac, Operations and Research Director, Nuclear Watch New Mexico debunking the argument that the economic impact of the proposed new nuclear facility at Los Alamos is an efficient use of $6 billion.

Quotes

colin powell

Colin Powell

“Today I can declare my hope, and declare it from the bottom of my heart, that we will eventually see the time when the number of nuclear weapons is down to zero and the world is a much better place.”...