DOE Proposes Expanded Nuclear Weapons Manufacturing at LANL
December 21, 2007
The Department of Energy (DOE) recently released a draft Executive Summary
of its proposal to expand nuclear weapons manufacturing at Los Alamos
National Laboratory (LANL). DOE proposes to increase the annual number of
plutonium pits to 80. A plutonium pit is the core of a nuclear weapon.
Currently, LANL is allowed to manufacture 20 pits per year.
The proposal is part of a DOE effort to transform the nuclear weapons
complex. The proposal was first announced in April 2006 and called "Complex
2030" for the year DOE envisioned it would be completed. DOE will release a
draft environmental impact statement for public comment in mid-January.
Forced to scale back its original plans, DOE now expects to transform the
nuclear weapons complex at LANL, Sandia National Laboratory, Nevada Test
Site, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Kansas City Plant, Y-12
National Security Complex, Savannah River Site and the Pantex Plant. The
draft Executive Summary is available at http://nnsa.energy.gov/
After receiving over 33,000 public comments about the proposal, DOE changed
the name to "Complex Transformation." The draft Summary reports "[t]he
majority of the comments expressed opposition to the nuclear weapons program
and U.S. national security policies. Many of the comments stated that the
U.S. is violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Many of the
comments stated that [DOE] should assess an additional alternative --
disarmament in compliance with the NPT -- and not design or build new
At the same time, Congress acted on the nuclear weapons budget by passing a
$500 billion Omnibus Bill. The funding may result in fewer job cuts at the
national laboratories located in New Mexico.
But the funding also allows for continuing construction of the first phases
of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Building (CMRR) at
LANL. The CMRR is a three-phase project, potentially costing over $1
billion. It was originally slated to support plutonium pit production, but
now under "transformation" is proposed to take on direct pit production.
Congress funded $75 million for the construction of the Radiological
Laboratory, Utility, and Office Building and design of the Nuclear Facility,
both of which are well underway. Through September 30, 2007, LANL received
over $350 million for the CMRR project. DOE plans to wait to request
further funding for the construction of the Nuclear Facility until after the
Complex Transformation final decisions are made.
DOE has scheduled four public hearings in New Mexico for the draft Complex
Transformation environmental impact statement for March 2008. The hearings
will begin on March 10 in Socorro. A second hearing will be held on March
11 at the Albuquerque Convention Center. On March 13, the final hearings
will be held in Los Alamos and Santa Fe.
Jay Coghlan, of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said, "DOE has always argued that
pit production at LANL is needed because there are no spare pits for
stockpile surveillance of the W88 warhead. However, DOE admits only one W88
pit is destructively analyzed each year. Moreover, independent experts have
concluded that pits last a century or more. Therefore, increased pit
production anywhere is unneeded."