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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

LANL plutonium mission

From the Los Alamos Monitor

By The Staff
Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 4:20 pm (Updated: August 24, 7:26 pm)

Los Alamos National Laboratory director Charlie McMillan reportedly sent a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in July warning of dire consequences for the plutonium mission if sufficient funding is not secured.

According to a letter obtained by the Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor, McMillan cited the lack of action on a $120 million reprogramming request from the NNSA to begin work on an alternative plutonium strategy and the funding cuts included in both versions of the FY 2014 Energy and Water Appropriations bills.

Congress has not signed off on the reprogramming request, which came about when the decision was made to defer the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility.

There have been reports the lab is considering an alternative strategy based on a modular approach to maintain the nation’s plutonium capabilities.

“Los Alamos will continue to do everything possible to keep our people and programs intact should these funding reductions come to pass, but I am very worried that these FY 14 Pu program reductions will place the mission is on an unrecoverable trajectory,” McMillan reportedly wrote in the July 1 letter. “With the 2019 closure of CMR and significant underfunding of Pu infrastructure, we will simply not have the capability to produce much more than the current pit output.”

The trade publication reports that parts of the reprogramming request would go to studying that approach while other money would allow the lab to begin purchasing materials and equipment for existing facilities that will play a larger role in the plutonium strategy, which is expected to enable the lab to produce up to 30 pits by 2021.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

When will Director McMillan announce the need for more staff reductions?

With sequestration looking like it will continue throughout FY2014, it appears that LANL will need to continue reducing the head count to manage the declining budgets. Perhaps another VSP by early spring to get rid of another 500 to 700 employees?

Anonymous said...

Yep and it's going to continue until the $17T is paid off in full. Get use to it people. The American tax payer has far more important places to put it tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

Slow death at LANL, you know when the Director writes letters (The sky is falling) you can bet your ass we are in deep do do. Don't you think?

Anonymous said...

McMillan said, “With the 2019 closure of CMR and significant underfunding of Pu infrastructure, we will simply not have the capability to produce much more than the current pit output.” The current capacity is 20 pits/year. LANL produces fewer than that each year because there is no demand for more. Is the sky really falling if LANL cannot increase production to 30/year? No evidence of sky-falling has been produced to date - only the announcement that it will. Send money?

Anonymous said...

Funny, McMillan did not mention to Moniz that Pu Operations were 'paused', again, due to continuing safety and criticality concerns.

http://www.nukewatch.org/watchblog/?p=1557
Excellence Unfulfilled at LANL’s Plutonium Facility
A Los Alamos National Laboratory fact sheet touts the Lab as a plutonium “center of excellence”. However, the Laboratory Director paused operations in the Plutonium Facility on June 27, 2013. The pause was based on issues identified during safety reviews and findings from recent assessments. For one, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (Board) performed a review of the Criticality Safety Program at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in May 2013. This review identified significant non-compliances with DOE requirements and industry standards in the Lab’s Criticality Safety Program (CSP). In addition, this review identified criticality safety concerns around operations at the Plutonium Facility. The Board noted that some of these deficiencies are long standing and indicated flaws in federal oversight and contractor assurance. Much plutonium work, especially work with a high potential for criticality, will be stopped through the rest of 2013.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Let's not have a criticality accident upwind of White Rock. Please?

Anonymous said...

It seems as though there may be a few" cuts" to LANL's ever increasing budget. Hey welcome to the future of no more expansion!

Anonymous said...

Los Alamos is doing a lot of hiring this year.

Anonymous said...

Los Alamos is doing a lot of hiring this year. (6:31pm)

...followed by a lot of firing next year.

Anonymous said...

It was a love fest with Ernie Moniz this morning.

Anonymous said...

From what I am reading here you people need to have a 50% RIF

By John Fleck
September 3, 2013
Albuquerque Journal

Energy boss says B61 nuclear bomb work could be delayed further

New Mexico’s national labs face significant questions about funding for the coming year, newly appointed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told reporters during a visit to Sandia National Laboratories on Tuesday.

“We’re all suffering under a lot of uncertainty on the budgets,” Moniz said at the end of a day of visits to Sandia and Los Alamos labs.

Among the biggest unsettled questions are a proposed budget increase for the labs’ work refurbishing the nation’s B61 nuclear bombs and funding for upgrading the buildings at Los Alamos used to do the research and manufacturing work with plutonium, a radioactive metal used in nuclear bombs.

With less than a month left in the current fiscal year, Congress has yet to act on its budget for the coming year, creating uncertainty about how much money will be available for critical programs beginning Oct. 1.

It is a common problem. The last time Congress completed an appropriations bill for the labs on time was 1999, according to Library of Congress records. The typical approach, which appears likely this year, is a “continuing resolution” that allows spending at current year levels into the new fiscal year while Congress sorts out its disagreements over the budget.

The open question is whether the administration, as it has in the past, will push to have any continuing resolution approved by Congress make an exception for the nuclear weapons program, allowing the nuclear weapons budget to rise to cover the new work the Department of Energy and Department of Defense have laid out.

Moniz in an interview with the Journal acknowledged that such a move, known in Washington budget parlance as “an anomaly,” was “a potential approach,” but said he could not discuss internal deliberations about whether the administration was committed to pursuing one.

With congressional consideration of the spending measures now stalled, Moniz acknowledged in the interview that there is a risk that the project’s schedule, already delayed by budget problems, could slip further.

Another major uncertainty, according to Moniz, involves funding for plutonium work at Los Alamos. Much to the consternation of some on Capitol Hill, the Obama administration last year indefinitely delayed work on a new multibillion dollar plutonium laboratory at Los Alamos, a project that had been one of the administration’s commitments when the December 2010 Russian arms deal was signed.

In the year since that decision was made, Los Alamos and its federal managers have been working to come up with an alternative approach involving use of existing buildings, along with construction of some smaller new facilities, to support current and future manufacturing of a limited number of plutonium cores for U.S. nuclear weapons.

Moniz said he is “full supportive of pursuing the so-called ‘modular strategy,’ ” but acknowledged that his agency still has failed to persuade key members of Congress to support spending shifts in the Department of Energy’s budget that are needed for the work to proceed.

“We’re still working that,” he said.

September 4, 2013 at 10:35 AM

Anonymous said...

The B61 bomb refurb project doesn't need to be "gold plated" with an expensive modification to the tail fins of the existing bomb. It's good enough as it is.

The labs (SNL in particular) have been allowed to milk the B61 refurb project to ridiculous levels. Some common sense and cost savings are badly needed.

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