Issue Date: October 20, 2008
Weapons Lab Overhaul Advances
After years in the works, a plan to overhaul the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons complex finally was released in mid-October. “The world is changing, and we are changing along with it,” said Thomas P. D’Agostino, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the eight-facility complex. He noted that the number of U.S. nuclear weapons is shrinking, budgets are flat or declining for this work, and the labs need a smaller, more secure, more efficient infrastructure. The plan would remove some 600 buildings and reduce the complex’s workforce by 20 to 30% with the goal of no layoffs and no increased costs. None of the current facilities would be shut down, but redundancy would be eliminated, D’Agostino said. As part of the change, weapons-grade materials would be consolidated from seven sites to five, including removal of such material from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Los Alamos National Laboratory would be responsible for plutonium R&D and manufacturing, uranium R&D and manufacture would be limited to the Y-12 Nuclear Security Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and tritium R&D would be consolidated at the Savannah River Site. NNSA’s announcement is not the end of the planning process, however; next year, NNSA is expected to announce a 10–year implementation plan for transforming the complex.
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