Wallace: Plutonium Decision Big Vote Of Confidence For Los Alamos National Laboratory

LANL Director Dr. Terry Wallace
Los Alamos Daily Post

Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Dr. Terry Wallace told Lab staff today in an internal memo obtained by the Los Alamos Daily Post that the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) has given the Lab “a big vote of confidence”.

“They are investing an additional $3 billion in new mission space, which includes people, infrastructure and equipment. This is a significant opportunity to continue contributing to the nation’s security by drawing on our unique expertise in plutonium science,” he said.

Wallace said as the nation’s R&D Plutonium Center of Excellence, Los Alamos will be expected to be involved in the design of a next-generation plutonium processing facility, conducting development activities for new manufacturing methods and assisting in training a new plutonium workforce.

“I want to highlight this last point. The nation will look to us to help train the Savannah River Site workforce as NNSA brings up this new capability. I expect our workforce will draw on our rich history of training and our ability to transfer knowledge to help our partners in South Carolina,” he said. “Throughout all of this, we must continue to keep focus on meeting our mission requirements safely, securely, and compliantly. Attention to detail will be critical because our customers expect nothing less from us.”

Wallace said it is his intention to set the Lab on the path to significantly increase our plutonium capability by accelerating our investment and resources in the Weapons Program.

“We have a very talented workforce in Northern New Mexico and will continue to grow and invest in that workforce as we move forward,” he said.

Wallace said the understand the uncertainty of the pit manufacturing decision has resulted in a lot of stress for many Lab employees, himself included, and that he thinks they are “in a stronger position today”.

He told Lab staff that as more details are fleshed out regarding increased activities at TA-55, he will keep them informed because this will most certainly be a Lab-wide effort.  He concluded by thanking each and every employee for everything they do every day to make the Lab successful.

Los Alamos County Council Chair David Izraelevitz told the Post Thursday that the expanded role of LANL in pit production is consistent with the Lab’s historical role in supporting our national security, and the unique capabilities the Lab has in material science research and development, as well as having staff with the specialized training required for this mission.

“I can appreciate the decision to have a production capability at multiple locations, and I am confident that LANL scientists and engineers will work closely with their counterparts at the Savannah River Site to share the knowledge and experience necessary for this complex mission,” he said.

Izraelevitz said the expanded pit production mission will definitely have a positive economic impact on Los Alamos County and Northern New Mexico even if the County doesn’t have a clear estimate if that impact at this point.

“Combined with the increased hiring that the Lab has already been engaging in, it will put even more demands on our community for better put even more demands on our community for better housing, school resources and community amenities,” he said. “The decision by NNSA motivates the Council to focus even more diligently on these issues in the future. Hopefully, the new Lab contract will be structured in such a way to preserve the financial resources that the county needs to apply to these issues.”

Council Vice Chair and secretary of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities Board Christine Chandler said the NNSA’s decision is not only good for the long term mission of the Lab and its future but for the region. 

“This means additional well-paying jobs for the local workforce,” Chandler told the Post this morning.

Los Alamos County Council passed a resolution Feb. 28 in support of plutonium research and development and the production of pits for the nuclear stockpile as well as the Lab’s competition for expanded work in this area.