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Huge investments intended for additional plutonium infrastructure at Los Alamos National Laboratory raise equally big questions. Specifically, will current plans make the best use of the growing billions of dollars now claimed necessary to do the job? Can these enormous costs really be justified?
Or is there already evidence that these projects are simply out of control?
The centerpiece in LANL’s plutonium expansion is the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) project. This project would add two buildings to Technical Area 55, connected by tunnels to the existing main plutonium facility, Building PF-4.
The first of the CMRR buildings is the $363 million Radiological Laboratory, Utility, and Office Building (RLUOB). RLUOB includes 19,500 net square feet of new lab space, limited to small quantities of radiological materials. An equipped RLUOB building is expected to be complete in the spring of 2013.
The second CMRR building, the far grander Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF), would house something like a million times more plutonium than the RLUOB. The Administration’s FY2011 budget request estimated the CMRR-NF’s cost at $4.21 billion, including a budgeted $782 million for contingencies.