NNSA approves transformation

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By Roger Snodgrass

The federal agency that oversees the national nuclear weapons complex announced a milestone Thursday in its efforts to transform the sprawling $10-billion-a-year operation into a modern enterprise.

The National Nuclear Security Administration is locked into a static budget for the third year in a row. Congress has not given a financial endorsement to the attempted overhaul and many aspects are disputed as the country prepares for a change at the top.

Thomas D’Agostino, NNSA administrator said he was comfortable about passing the recommendations along to the next administration, partly because of a process of independent analysis that has gone into developing the alternatives.

“These can be politically charged projects,” he said. “I’m not going to rush a decision because it has to be done before Jan. 20.”

The complex transformation plan, formally a Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (SPEIS) assigns Los Alamos National Laboratory primary responsibility for consolidating plutonium research, development and manufacturing capabilities, under a preferred alternative scenario. But what that actually means has been left to future decisions.

D’Agostino said congressional concerns about using pit-making capacity as a bounding criterion was reflected in the document.

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