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Los Alamos National Laboratory director Charlie McMillan was in Washington last week to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.
McMillan provided an update on recent Los Alamos technical and scientific achievements; the proposed plutonium strategy under evaluation in numerous national security circles; and, Los Alamos budget realities that pose challenges to meeting our mission requirements.
The following came from the Senate website and this was McMillan’s written testimony to the subcommittee.
McMillan first talked about the lab’s accomplishments in the past year.
“In regard to our weapons program, we again completed, on time, my letter to the Secretaries of Energy and Defense regarding the 2013 Annual Assessment. We successfully conducted two B61 hydrodynamic shots, which were executed as planned and within committed budget levels,” McMillan wrote.
“Los Alamos executed the important subcritical experimental series, Gemini, and I am pleased that the FY15 request recognizes this success by including an increase for the Los Alamos subcritical experiments at Nevada.”
McMillan said the lab successfully completed production of three W87 development pits and also developed a plutonium strategy in lieu of the NSNA deferring the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement facility for at least five years and possibly forever.
“Over the course of the year, Los Alamos responded to several technical issues on the W76‐1 that enabled continued production to remain on schedule. Los Alamos provided lead design agency support for the first successful lot of PBX 9502 (Insensitive High Explosive) produced in over 20 years that will benefit both DoD and the Department of Energy (DOE). Each of these demonstrates that weapons program mission execution remains our key focus, but I’d also like to spotlight some remarkable accomplishments from our scientists and engineers that go beyond our core mission.”
McMillan then detailed some of the lab’s accomplishments.
• Los Alamos scientists put several pieces of significant hardware and power sources on the Mars Curiosity Rover.
• Members of the Earth Sciences team at Los Alamos have released research over the last several years outlining the causes of large scale forest mortality.
• Los Alamos biologists continue to play a key role in the development of a vaccine for the AIDS virus.
Then McMillan talked about the progress LANL made on two issues related to the plutonium facility.
First up was the Nuclear Materials Safeguards and Security Upgrades Project (NMSSUP) II.
“This complicated, multi‐layered technology security project challenged the laboratory on many dimensions. But I can tell you today that working with NNSA, we have completed this important upgrade. The new integrated security systems are now operable and protecting assets,” McMillan said.
Then he addressed criticality safety concerns at the facility.
“We are making significant progress in resolving the criticality safety concerns at our plutonium facility that caused us to pause operations. We have improved our criticality safety posture and are in the process of resuming our important activities and deliverables,” he said.
McMillan then gave the subcommittee an update on the cleanup to remove 3,706 cubic meters of transuranic waste from the site by June 30.
“It has been one of the largest and most complex waste cleanup challenges the laboratory has undertaken. As of February when the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) experienced issues and suspended incoming shipments, we were at 85% Campaign completion. Today, box and drum processing is complete for the remaining 120 shipments, and we have identified alternate temporary storage for them. Shipment to Waste Control Specialists in Texas commenced the first week of April and completion of the 3,706 Campaign by the deadline is again on track. We will continue to support WIPP in their investigation efforts so this important resource will once again be available in the future.”
On Thursday, the Los Alamos Monitor will chronicle McMillan’s proposed plutonium strategy that he unveiled to the subcommittee.