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  • NNSA gets $11.7B from FY15 budget -- updated, LA Monitor, 6 Mar 2014
    the first quarter of FY 2020 and delays the Long range Standoff warhead by three years to 2027 while evaluating the option for a future budget request to fund an earlier FPU if national priorities deem it necessary In the budget there is no money earmarked for the deferred Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement facility at LANL I m pleased the Administration is committed to solid funding levels for our national laboratories to carry out their critical missions Senator Martin Heinrich said Sandia and Los Alamos national labs employ some of the best and brightest minds in the country and are indispensable to our national security Nuclear Watch New Mexico director Jay Coghlan weighed in on the Obama proposed weapons budget He said it was upside down It s common knowledge that NNSA s nuclear weapons programs have a staggering track record of cost overruns schedule delays and security breaches It s less well known that these programs may undermine stockpile reliability by introducing unneeded incredibly expensive changes to existing nuclear weapons that have been extensively tested and are known to be even more reliable than originally thought Clearly NNSA s nuclear weapons programs should be cut to help pay for the expansion of nonproliferation programs that actually enhance national security and cleanup programs that actually create jobs Coghlan said Coghlan pointed out that the NNSA is finally putting the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina on cold standby The MOX program was an attempt to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium The MOX Program s costs are an estimated 30 billion and NNSA is now studying cheaper alternatives This has major positive impacts on LANL which was slated to process 2 5 metric tons of plutonium every year as feedstock for

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/LAMonitor_6Mar2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Obama budget boosts NM labs, ABQ JRNL, 5 Mar 2014
    numbers the Obama administration submitted a supplemental spending package that would require Congress to modify previously adopted spending caps If Congress approves that would bump total nuclear weapons spending to 8 8 billion a 13 percent increase over the current year The budget numbers are suggestions that the president sends to Congress annually In the months ahead the House and Senate will reconcile his requests with their own priorities before sending Obama final spending bills that he can sign into law or veto At a budget briefing with reporters in Washington U S Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said it was challenging to find money for a 7 percent increase in the nuclear weapons budget That was not easily come by in these constrained times Moniz said We had to make this investment in order to stick to this program in all of its areas the weapons life extension programs the rebuilding of infrastructure and the continuation of the science and engineering base that we will need for certification in the long term When all is said and done our key responsibility here is to certify the safe and reliable stockpile without testing as long as we have nuclear weapons Moniz added Moniz said the budget would ensure that the B 61 bomb Life Extension Project a key program for Sandia would remain essentially on schedule Sen Tom Udall D N M said he was relieved to see budget boosts for the B61 and the stockpile stewardship program in New Mexico Udall said the money will enable important work to continue at Sandia and Los Alamos national labs and help keep our nation s stockpile safe secure and effective Moniz conceded that he was disappointed in cuts to nonproliferation programs Nuclear nonproliferation I m afraid is not such a great story

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/ABQJRNL_5Mar2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • New budget for LANL does not include money for plutonium facility, SFNM, 4 Mar 2014
    construction of a facility in Aiken S C to process plutonium pits from old nuclear warheads into fuel for nuclear power plants The facility is part of a plan to break down and process 34 metric tons of plutonium materials from Russia and the U S Just one portion of the project has run 3 billion over budget and the full life cycle cost was projected at 30 billion Los Alamos National Laboratory was helping to break down the plutonium pits and converting them to plutonium oxide as feedstock for the Savannah plant The lab was planning to process at least 10 metric tons by 2018 but that will be delayed NNSA officials said they ll spend at least the next year reviewing the best way to process the plutonium Los Alamos National Laboratory also is the only site processing plutonium into new pits for nuclear warheads The lab and NNSA have been trying for years to build a new facility for testing and making the pits The lab has two main plutonium facilities one that is aging and scheduled to be closed by 2019 and the other PF 4 needs work to make it safer The administration is looking at revamping the pit production program at the lab in three phases The first phase in 2015 doesn t involve any new facility money according to Don L Cook NNSA deputy administrator for defense programs Any request for new funding to retool the existing Plutonium Facility 4 at the lab and potentially build small production modules would occur in 2016 in the third phase he said Greg Mello of the watchdog Los Alamos Study Group said the Department of Energy budget and its impact on the lab is a reminder In New Mexico it is a big mistake to depend

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/SFNM_4Mar2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Analysis offers options for plutonium pit production, SFNM, 3 Mar 2014
    maintains the nuclear weapons Greg Mello of the watchdog Los Alamos Study Group said there have been eight different projects proposed since 1988 to increase the lab s plutonium pit production Every attempt has been characterized by the failure to prove need failure to examine prudent alternatives and basically a triumph of ideology contractor self interest and pork barrel politics over sound policy decisions Mello said That s why they have all failed The federal Nuclear Posture Review that lays out the nation s goals for its nuclear arsenal says the U S won t develop new nuclear warheads but will simply extend the life of the existing arsenal The Department of Defense and the Department of Energy say new plutonium pits will be needed to maintain the arsenal as some components degrade or are modified Plutonium pits form the core of a warhead Surrounded by other explosives they are the trigger for blowing up a thermonuclear weapon But plutonium is a highly radioactive metal and tough to work with requiring highly specialized buildings and security Plutonium is manufactured from uranium fuel rods into different isotopes Medalia called plutonium quirky Former Los Alamos lab director Siegried Hecker called it an element at odds with itself capable of becoming as brittle as glass or flexible like aluminum Instead of shrinking when it becomes solid it expands Given it s odd nature plutonium has to be mixed with other materials to make it more stable inside warheads Handling plutonium and mixing the materials is inherently dangerous If inhaled as more than a dozen workers did during a recent leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project near Carlsbad radiation from the particles can cause lung cancer In addition buildings with plutonium need high security to prevent terrorists from attempting to steal the metal

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/SFNM_3Mar2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Report details pit options, LA Monitor, 1 Mar 2014
    the Modern Pit Facility viewing excessive the capacity range DOE studied 125 450 ppy Then in 2012 the Obama administration deferred construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility at LANL on grounds of availability of interim alternatives and affordability Reports suggest that more than 500 million already had been used in the design of CMRR and cost estimates to complete the project were more than 5 billion In his report Medalia examines the remaining options And ironically his first option is to build CMRR NF But in his report he said Congress mandated it in the FY2013 cycle but provided no funds for it then and permitted consideration of an alternative in the FY2014 cycle Here are other options Remove from PF 4 tasks not requiring high Material At Risk and security Casting pits uses much plutonium that an accident might release MAR and requires high security Making 80 ppy would require freeing more MAR and floor space in PF 4 for casting Provide regulatory relief so RLUOB could hold 1 000 grams of plutonium with few changes to the building Medalia said the analytical chemistry AC for 80 ppy needs much floor space but not high MAR or high security Move plutonium 238 work to Idaho National Laboratory or Savannah River Build concrete modules connected to PF 4 This would enable high MAR work to move out of PF 4 so PF 4 and modules could do the needed pit work At issue are modules needed at what cost and when Several options have the potential to produce 80 ppy and permit other plutonium activities at relatively modest cost in a relatively short time with no new buildings and with minimal environmental impact Determining their desirability and feasibility would require detailed study Medalia then offered the

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/LAMonitor_1Mar2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Red Cross to the World: Eliminate Nuclear Weapons ‘Once and For All’, War is Boring,
    Crescent Movement for those affected would be virtually impossible The inability to ensure safe access for rescue teams would further complicate relief operations for the affected populations Suinaga added The debate about nuclear weapons must be shaped by a full grasp of the short medium and long term consequences of their use ICRC vice president Christine Beerli said We welcome the fact that states are expanding the discourse on nuclear weapons beyond military and security interests to focus on such essential issues this week Well some states anyway While more than 100 countries are taking part in the second conference of its kind which kicked off Thursday and includes survivors of America s atomic bomb drops on Hiroshima and Nagasaki there are notable absences The United States Britain France Russia and China the five powers allowed to have nuclear weapons under the The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty have skipped out Global Post reports Meanwhile unless my Google News algorithm is screwy it doesn t look like any big American media outlets are covering the conference in Mexico Not so for the winter Olympics in Russia for what it s worth Today however The New York Times has a big piece about a recent meeting between U S Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese officials and that country s apparent willingness to pressure North Korea to abolish its nuke program And while U S Pres Barack Obama has said he wants to shrink America s nuclear arsenal we reported last year how a privatized U S atomic weapons production industry could defy attempts by politicians and activists to do that That said at least one nuclear weapons watchdog says she sees the tide shifting toward a global ban on nuclear weapons During the conference I was taking notes and tweeting as

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/WarIsBoring_HINW14_15Feb2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • IG targets security project, LA Monitor, 15 jan 2014
    in February The project began in 2009 and while LANL retained the option to perform some of the work it divided the bulk of the project into five firm fixed price subcontracts that were awarded to one design company and three construction contractors Due to favorable contract bids in April 2011 NNSA reduced the estimated total project cost from 245 million to 213 million The project which consisted of more than 2 200 scheduled activities was expected to be completed in January 2013 In September 2012 LANL issued stop work orders to contractors due to ongoing quality concerns with construction and on Oct 23 2012 suspended work on the project due to its inability to complete it within budget In January 2013 LANL submitted a revised estimate to NNSA that increased the total project cost to 254 million and extended project completion to December 2013 Subsequent to its submission of the revised estimate and as part of a settlement agreement LANS agreed to reimburse NNSA 10 million in unallowable project costs NNSA approved the incremental funding required to complete the project in January 2013 and work resumed The DOE IG office then issued a special report and results of the audit stated the following Specifically neither NNSA nor LANL had ensured that Work scope was fully and accurately planned In particular LANL contracted for construction work based on designs that either did not reflect actual site conditions or were incomplete For example LANL awarded a contract in 2010 to construct a North Security Fence without ensuring that the design reflected up to date site conditions A 2007 site survey determined that there was sufficient supporting soil to construct the fence However the land subsequently eroded due to environmental conditions after the completion of the survey and LANL had not updated the subcontracted design To address this issue LANL authorized the construction of a retaining wall After construction began project officials discovered that they had failed to identify that the retaining wall foundations were in the path of an existing radioactive liquid waste line As a result an additional retaining wall was required The additional unplanned retaining wall increased project costs by 11 7 million Construction contractors were required to promptly correct inferior work During our review we observed and learned from LANL officials of many examples of substandard work performed by construction contractors These deficiencies included the failure to install rebar dowels that tie one section of poured concrete to the next and several quality problems related to fencing Fencing problems included problems related to post spacing post alignment post hole centering height of concrete crowns and grading for drainage Management systems provided a transparent clear and consistent view of the project s schedule and cost performance LANL s schedule was not accurate or fully integrated and as a result the schedule masked the impact of project delays by assuming unrealistic future performance For example the project s December 2011 schedule reported that it would complete the remaining scope of

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/LAMonitor_15Jan2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • LANL revenues uncertain as nuclear stockpile costs rise, SFNM, 12 Jan 2014
    like the National Nuclear Security Administration say they are needed to keep the nuclear arsenal in fighting shape and deter attacks on the United States and its allies Critics say the agency and Congress must take a harder look at the need for some of those projects and their costs Eight facilities make up the United States nuclear weapons complex including LANL and Sandia National Laboratories Together the facilities oversee maintenance of existing nuclear warheads replacing parts as needed designing new systems and testing them Funding for the facilities and nuclear projects comes from the Department of Energy s National Nuclear Security Administration and the Department of Defense The United States government is determined to maintain and improve its nuclear triad which consists of bombers carrying ballistic missiles intercontinental ballistic missiles and ballistic missile submarines according to the Congressional Budget Office report and the White House Nuclear Posture Review from 2010 But the stockpile program has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as cost overruns on nuclear stockpile programs and security breaches have plagued some of the facilities including LANL A 213 million project to improve security around the lab s plutonium facility at Technical Area 55 was delayed a year and cost an additional 41 million due to poor construction and management problems A multimillion dollar plan to increase production of plutonium pits at the lab has stalled A U S Government Accountability Office report in the fall found 10 major projects were 16 billion over budget and a combined 38 years behind schedule Other projects already in the works were canceled because they were too expensive Meanwhile the lab has grappled with reduced revenues of 457 million in the last two years Only the revenues for nuclear programs increased To deal with the budget decrease the lab has reduced staff by more than 1 300 employees through layoffs or attrition including contractors and career staff The Congressional Budget Office released a report in late December projecting the costs of the U S nuclear forces from 2014 to 2023 at an estimated 355 billion Line by line the Congressional Budget Office staff combed through the long term budgets of the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy looking at the costs associated with nuclear programs The analysis only included the costs of maintaining and modernizing the nuclear weapons that can be launched from air land and sea The agency also looked at the probable unbudgeted costs for the programs based on the historical overruns Those costs don t include another 215 billion to clean up the legacy radioactive waste from past nuclear activities defense missile programs threat reduction and arms control More than 74 billion of that is estimated for cleanup efforts alone like those occurring at Los Alamos National Laboratory Nuclear watchdog groups such as the Los Alamos Study Group which usually find such reports lacking applauded this one This report is by far the best and most authoritative on nuclear weapons costs over the coming

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/SFNM_12Jan2014.html (2016-02-16)
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