Los Alamos National Laboratory officials are welcoming a joint announcement today that in order to produce 80 plutonium pits a year by 2030, pit production activities at LANL will be maximized to at least 30 pits a year.
The announcement was made by Ellen M. Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment and Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, Department of Energy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Lord chairs the Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC) of which Gordon-Hagerty also is a member.
“We are gratified by the NNSA’s decision to continue full-scale production of plutonium pits at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and to create a surge capability at the Laboratory of up to 80 pits per year,” LANL Director Terry Wallace said today. “In reaffirming the Laboratory’s status as the Nation’s Plutonium Center of R&D Excellence, the NNSA has given the Laboratory a big vote of confidence today.”
Wallace said this commitment by the government to expand the plutonium mission reiterates the critical role LANL plays in ensuring the nation’s security and that pit manufacturing is central to that.
“We have been called upon to serve the nation, which we will do in the same tradition of excellence that has defined our contributions for the last 75 years,” he said.
The announcement states that an evolving and uncertain geopolitical landscape calls for the U.S. to recapitalize its defense plutonium capabilities.
“The Nuclear Weapons Council has certified that the National Nuclear Security Administration’s recommended alternative for recapitalization of these capabilities is acceptable and represents a resilient and responsive option to meet Department of Defense (DoD) requirements,” the announcement reads.
To achieve DoD’s 80 pits per year requirement by 2030, NNSA’s recommended alternative repurposes the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to produce plutonium pits while also maximizing pit production activities at LANL.
“This two-prong approach – with at least 50 pits per year produced at Savannah River and at least 30 pits per year at Los Alamos – is the best way to manage the cost, schedule, and risk of such a vital undertaking,” the announcement states. “Furthermore, by maintaining Los Alamos as the Nation’s Plutonium Center of Excellence for Research and Development, the recommended alternative improves the resiliency, flexibility, and redundancy of our Nuclear Security Enterprise by not relying on a single production site.”
NNSA conducted an analysis of alternatives, an engineering assessment and a workforce analysis by both internal and external experts to develop the recommended alternative. The approved plan is the result of effective interagency collaboration between DoD and the NNSA, the announcement states.
“We share a deep commitment to recapitalizing the capabilities the United States needs to deter its adversaries and assure our allies and partners. Plutonium pit production is a priority for both of us, and through the NWC, we will regularly coordinate and monitor the progress,” it concludes.