LANL selected for pits

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By The Staff

As expected, Los Alamos National Laboratory has been designated the site within the nuclear weapons complex where plutonium triggers and other plutonium research will be concentrated.

According to a formal record to be published this week, plutonium stockpiles are to be removed from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in Livermore, Calif., where concerned citizen groups have protested their presence in a facility surrounded by suburban neighborhoods. Highly enriched uranium already has been taken from the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The Energy Department has given final approval to a program to limit the most dangerous nuclear material to five sites, improving safety and security, and consolidating management of the country’s nuclear weapons.

The proposals to scale back the nuclear weapons complex and its activities had been in the works for more than a year. They reflect the significant decline in the number of warheads being maintained and an expectation of further reductions.

Thomas D’Agostino, head of the department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, said Tuesday the consolidation will “improve the safety and security of the infrastructure that maintains U.S. nuclear weapons” as nuclear material is consolidated and facilities are modernized.

Representatives of President-elect Barack Obama have been briefed on the program, NNSA spokesman John Broehm said.

While there is little disagreement over the general thrust of the consolidation — which will define the direction for the government’s nuclear weapons research, development and testing programs — decisions on budgets, timeline or the size of specific facilities will be determined by the Obama administration.

The department gave preliminary approval to consolidation in October.

The program includes limiting plutonium, highly enriched uranium and production of tritium — a gas that makes warheads perform more efficiently — to just five sites, compared with seven currently.

The government also would close 600 buildings and structures at the facilities and reduce the number of workers involved in weapons programs by 20 to 30 percent. None of the seven primary weapons complex facilities, including three nuclear weapons research labs, will be closed. But activities will be combined, in many cases.

In addition, the plan would:

—Focus uranium manufacturing, dismantlement and research at a new center within the Y-12 Oak Ridge complex.

—Continue plutonium warhead assembly and disassembly at the Pantex facility near Amarillo, Texas. It also would take over some warhead surveillance work now done at Lawrence Livermore.

—Concentrate at the Savannah River complex near Aiken, S.C., the production of tritium. The site also is designated for storage of plutonium.

The other sites affected by the plan are the Nevada Test Site; Sandia, with locations in New Mexico and California; and the Kansas City Plant in Missouri.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


On the Net:

National Nuclear Security Administration: http://nnsa.energy.gov/