An anti-nuclear watchdog group contends the pits’ main purpose is to be fitted into the new warheads — not to upgrade existing weapons — and expanding the arsenal requires more pits than the lab can make.
“The commission ill-advisedly wants a replacement for LANL’s plutonium pit production facility to help fuel the new nuclear arms race with new-design nuclear weapons,” Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, wrote in an email. “This is so tragic and unnecessary when no future pit production is scheduled to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing, extensively tested stockpile.”
A congressional commission foresees eventually replacing Los Alamos National Laboratory’s plutonium facility — despite the billions of dollars being spent to refurbish it — as part of its recommended strategy to bolster the U.S. nuclear arsenal to keep pace with Russia and China.
The Congressional Strategic Posture Commission has released a 160-page report that pushes for the U.S. to boost its nuclear capabilities and conventional military to deter what it describes as increasingly aggressive and well-equipped adversaries, namely Russia and China.
One section calls for improving and expanding infrastructure to research, develop and make better weaponry at a higher volume — and buried in a footnote is a statement of how the upgrades would include replacing the lab’s plutonium facility, known as PF-4, for production and science.
No timeline is given for when PF-4 might be phased out, but the document confirms anti-nuclear critics’ longtime contention the federal government is spending billions of dollars on a facility with a finite life.
At the moment, this is the only facility in the country that can produce the bowling-ball-sized plutonium cores, or “pits,” to detonate warheads. Nuclear security officials want the lab to make 30 pits a year by 2030, saying they’re needed to modernize the arsenal and equip two new warheads being developed.