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Editor’s Note: At press time Thursday final details remained in flux, however when the formal press statements were issued the story was updated on lamonitor.com. That story is being published today that also includes comments from the Los Alamos Site Office Manager.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) issued a formal decision this week to push ahead with the Nuclear Facility portion of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement project (CMRR-NF).
The NNSA issued an amended Record of Decision (ROD) after consulting with members of Congress and other top officials in Washington.
“CMRR is central to the Laboratory’s ability to continue serving our national interests well into the future” Said, Los Alamos Site Office Manager Kevin Smith. “The Record of Decision reflects a dedicated effort to listen and learn from all the project’s institutional and regional stakeholders. That commitment, and a concurrent commitment to environmental and operational safety, will continue to characterize the project moving forward.”
Following a supplemental environmental impact analysis and public input process, NNSA has selected the Modified CMRR-NF Alternative described in the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to proceed forward with the design and construction of the nuclear facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
As described in the final SEIS, the facility will be constructed at Technical Area 55 and co-located with the other component of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement project - the recently completed Radiological Laboratory/Utilities/Office Building (RLUOB). RLUOB was constructed directly east of the prospective CMRR-NF site consistent with the 2004 ROD.
NNSA has incorporated updated seismic safety design information into development of the Modified CMRR-NF design that is described in the final SEIS.
Two construction options were considered and analyzed under this alternative: the Deep Excavation Option and the Shallow Excavation Option. NNSA will select the appropriate Excavation Option for implementing the construction of this building after initiating final design activities, when additional geotechnical and structural design calculations and more detailed engineering analysis will be performed to support completing the facility design.
The CMRR-NF and RLOUB will replace the 60-year-old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building and consolidate existing research capabilities at LANL to ensure continuous support of NNSA stockpile stewardship and strategic objectives. The new facility will provide labs for analytical chemistry, materials characterization and actinide research and development activities that not only support the safety, security, and reliability of existing nuclear weapons but also benefit nonproliferation, fundamental physics, basic science, medical isotopes, and technology development for waste treatment and minimization.
Controversy has swirled around the project since planning for a replacement began in 1999 for the aging 550,000 square-foot CMR building that was originally completed in 1952.
Ground was broken for the CMRR in early 2006, but delays have plagued construction due to cost escalations and attempts to block the project came from environmental and anti-nuclear groups.
In the final SEIS, the public comments and NNSA responses took up two fully bound books.
Critics have taken on a number of issues with the project including earthquakes, safety and most notably cost. Costs for completion of the project have ranged from $3.7 billion to $5.8 billion.
Tuesday, a group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill called on the congressional “super committee” to slash tens of billions of dollars from efforts to modernize the nation’s nuclear weapons complex.
“America needs a new nuclear weapon as much as Lady Gaga needs another new outfit,” Representative Edward Markey, D-Mass. said at a news conference.
Markey, along with 64 other House Democrats, sent a letter urging the 12-member, bipartisan committee to look at a major atomic arsenal rollback, saying that the country could spend more than $700 billion on nuclear weapons over the next 10 years.
“We call on the super committee to cut $20 billion a year, or $200 billion over the next 10 years, from the U.S. nuclear weapons budget,” the message states.
Meanwhile, a group of roughly 50 nongovernmental organizations, including arms control advocates, and social policy and religious groups, distributed a letter asking members of Congress to support Markey’s recommendations.
The proposal met stiff resistance from House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner, R-Ohio, an ardent supporter of nuclear weapons funding.
“Congressman Markey should be more careful before irrationally proposing policies that would gamble with our national security. At a time when Russia and China are engaging in significant nuclear modernization programs and North Korea and Iran continue their illegal nuclear weapons programs, what Mr. Markey proposes amounts to unilateral disarmament of the U.S.,” Turner said in a statement.
He said Markey’s $700 billion figure is “simply not factual” and that the total investment in the nuclear arms complex would come out to roughly $212 billion over the next decade.
Martin Matishak, Global Security Newswire contributed to this report.