(i.e. plutonium pits)
Bottom line: The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has requested $1.58 billion for expanded plutonium pit production in FY 2021 alone, when at least 15,000 pits are already stored at the Pantex Plant and independent experts have concluded that pits last at least a century (the average age now of pits in the active stockpile is less than 40 years). NNSA’s request is more than doubled from $712.4 million in FY 2020 for the comparable program “Plutonium Sustainment” that preceded Primary Capability Modernization.
No plutonium pit production is scheduled to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing stockpile. Instead, future pits will likely be heavily modified from tested designs for use in speculative new-design nuclear weapons. This could raise reliability issues and/or prompt the US to resume full-scale nuclear weapons testing.
All NNSA sites are involved in expanded plutonium pit production (except Y-12). Nevertheless, NNSA refuses to prepare a nation-wide programmatic environmental impact statement on radically increased production as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
NNSA’s requested funding is meant in part to “repurpose” the failed MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site (SRS) into the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility for plutonium pit production. The MOX Facility wasted ~$7 billion taxpayers’ dollars before it was terminated. The Department of Energy (which includes NNSA) has been on the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk list for project mismanagement for 27 consecutive years. Independent experts have dismissed NNSA’s announced plan to produce at least 30 pits per year at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and at least 50 pits per year at the Savannah River Site by 2030 by concluding that “No available option can be expected to provide 80 ppy by 2030.”
Unnecessary expanded plutonium pit production is virtually guaranteed to waste billions more of taxpayers’ money. At the same time, it could possibly degrade national security by fielding untested plutonium pits and encouraging an escalating nuclear arms race.
NNSA requested FY 2021 funding for expanded plutonium pit production by site:
Kansas City Plant 37,993,000
Los Alamos National Laboratory 884,599,000
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 62,361,000
NNSA Albuquerque Office 364,000
Nevada National Security Site 14,500,000
Pantex Plant 30,409,000
Sandia National Laboratories 66,700,000
Savannah River Site 441,896,000
DOE Wash Headquarters 42,962,000
Y-12 Plant 0 (instead 370,860,000 for Secondary Capability Modernization)
Sources: DOE FY 2021 “Laboratory Tables” at https://www.energy.gov/cfo/downloads/fy-2021-budget-justification
Independent Assessment of the Two-Site Pit Production Decision: Executive Summary, Institute for Defense Analysis, May 2019, https://nukewatch.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/IDA-With-cover-page.pdf