Thethat oversees U.S. nuclear research and bomb-making has signed off on the first planning and design phase for a multibillion-dollar project to manufacture critical components for the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
The agency did not articulate what exactly that money would be spent on, nor does it include the cost of other preparations needed for Los Alamos National Laboratory to begin producing 30 plutonium cores per year. The push to resume production of the nuclear triggers has spanned multiple presidential administrations, with supporters arguing that the U.S. needs to ensure the stability and reliance of its arsenal givensecurity concerns. The nuclear agency also has said most of the cores in the stockpile date back to the 1970s and 1980s.
Democratic members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation have supported production at Los Alamos because of the billions of dollars inand thousands of jobs that are at stake. But watchdog groups have sounded alarms over the potential for more New Mexico lab and the potential for environmental contamination. Another concern is the that would be generated by the work. Watchdog groups have said that the cost estimate outlined by the agency in its decision is about .
Greg Mello with the Los Alamos Study Group said the ballooning budget and uncertainty over whether the lab can meet themandated production schedule “throw further doubt on the wisdom of proceeding with industrial pit production” at Los Alamos. “LANL’s facilities are simply too old and inherently unsafe, its location too impractical,” he said. “Even with a much smaller stockpile, LANL could not undertake this mission successfully.”
Somethe U.S. Energy Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration, saying a more comprehensive review should have been done on producing plutonium cores in Los Alamos and at the Savannah River Site in . They argue that nearby communities already have been saddled with legacy contamination from previous defense work.
Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico called the federal“unnecessary and provocative,” saying more production will result in more waste and help to fuel a new arms race. The nuclear agency, in a statement, said it expects to set cost and schedule baselines in 2023 as part of the ongoing process. It also plans to and timeline estimates. Lab Director Thom Mason is scheduled Thursday evening to host a to talk about the lab’s work, including projects related to space exploration, the coronavirus pandemic, water supplies in the arid West, and wildfires.