NNSA releases its stewardship plans

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DOE > Facilities at LANL described as ‘adequate’ or ‘good’ for mission

By The Staff

The National Nuclear Security Administration released its Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (SSMP) for the 2016 fiscal year Thursday.
The NNSA, which is part of the Department of Energy, is tasked with managing the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile.
The 2016 plan is similar to the one proposed by the NNSA last fiscal year, but the new report did not some significant changes. One of those changes directly affects Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Specifically, additional resources have been devoted by the NNSA to executing the country’s plutonium strategy.
That will change the timeline of work at the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research building at LANL to cease programmatic operations by 2019.
Activity from the CMR building will be moved to the new Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility. The goal for the change is to bump up war reserve production capacity to as many as 80 plutonium pits by 2030.
Funding for CMRR was deferred by the federal government in 2012.
Preparing for CMR shutdown will include maximizing the use of the RLUOB facility by installing additional plutonium-handling equipment and repurposing underused space at PF-4.
NNSA stated it may also take the step in the future to construct additions to TA-55 to aid in the transfer.
In the next fiscal year, the NNSA has a budget layout of $1.62 billion for weapons activities at LANL. More than a third of that money would go toward stockpile stewardship and nearly 20 percent toward readiness in technical base and facilities.
Along with those proposed changes, the report also said it had plans for investment for infrastructure at LANL.
Some of those budgeted projects include the replacement of the TA-55 wet vacuum material handling system and upgrades to environmental testing equipment and to DARHT.
The report also calls for upgrades to facilities at LANL for seismic and safety considerations, including potential upgrades in the event of seismic activity in the area, such as earthquakes, as well as the CMR closure.
NNSA stated in the SSMP that LANL’s facilities were “adequate,” basing that on the ratio of the lab’s deferred maintenance backlog to the replacement plant value.
Facilities that support defense-related programs were rated as “good.”
The estimated cost for deferred maintenance projects is nearly $2 billion, that according to LANL’s 10-year site plan ranging from 2014-2023.
There are also some discussion in the plan about the NNSA’s efforts to maintain its workforce, which the report states is “threatened by the competitive high-tech job market,” specifically with private companies offering better salaries and benefits packages.
Currently, the federal and management and operating (M & O) partners combine for a workforce of approximately 37,000 people. The report notes that the workforce has a high number of M & O employees, roughly 13,000, that are between the ages of 51-60 and close to 4,000 that are older.
At LANL, nearly 1,500 of its 6,739 employees are between the ages of 51-55, the largest demographic of its workforce. The next-largest section is between ages 55-60, that group consisting of just under 1,200 employees. More than 10 percent of the workforce is age 61 or older.
According to the SSMP, LANL “should pursue normal replacement hiring for the next several years” to replace those who will become eligible for retirement within the next 5-7 years.
In the last two years, there has been a nearly 200-person net reduction in LANL’s workforce. Nearly 500 people have been hired, but slightly more have either retired or left on a voluntary basis.
The projected workforce needs at LANL will remain relatively stable for the next 5 years, remaining between 6,500 and 7,000 employees.
The report said the NNSA is making efforts to recruit younger workers by offering “technically challenging work that is critical to national security,” as well as career mobility and “relatively stable employment, even during economic downturns.”
Another major change noted in the SSMP, the NNSA’s cruise missile life extension program has a different designation and the first production unit of the missile has been moved ahead by two years — to 2015 — to align with the United States Air Force’s plans for it carrier missile stockpile.