GAO: Pit plans in flux

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By Roger Snodgrass

A Government Accountability Office report found discrepancies between shifting plans and subsequent expenses in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s effort to reestablish a national capability for pit manufacturing. GAO said pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory was a positive step.

“However, NNSA’s long-term strategy for the pit manufacturing mission, and its attendant cost and schedule, is in a state of flux,” the report concluded.

The capability to make the first-stage plutonium detonation devices, known as pits, for nuclear weapons was lost when the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado ceased operations while working on line of pits for the W88 warhead in 1989.

In 1996, the Department of Energy designated Los Alamos National Laboratory as the interim pit manufacturing facility, capable of making 10 pits a year and up to 50 pits per year by 2005. The GAO report, released Monday, noted that, LANL pits were to be made under the restrictions of a nuclear testing moratorium that has been in effect since 1992, unlike pits made at Rocky Flats, which were tested.

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