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  • Research shows nuke weapon pits age gracefully, LA Monitor, 8 Dec 2012
    results the research teams determined that the minimum lifetime for plutonium pits was at least 85 years 25 to 40 years longer than previously estimated Now six years later these same naturally aged samples are 50 years old and the accelerated alloy samples have reached an equivalent age of 150 years Both sample lots continue to age gracefully and extremely sensitive tests and high resolution electron microscope images by Livermore chemists validate the confidence building conclusions of the earlier study The 2006 report was a work in progress said chemist Pat Allen the deputy program leader for enhanced surveillance and leader of the plutonium aging study The 2006 report and recent work continue to show no alarming trends and serve to validate our theories about how plutonium ages However we need to keep running tests on naturally aged specimens to see further into the future and make sure there are no surprises Allen said that ongoing monitoring of the accelerated alloys is useful to establish the location of any aging cliff where changes would severely affect performance even if the cliff did not occur in the near term The Los Alamos National Laboratory released the following statement on the findings The article in Science and Technology Review summarizing Livermore s plutonium aging study along with an earlier study at Los Alamos reaffirms the DOE decision not to build a large capacity Modern Pit Facility and instead pursue a limited manufacturing capability in existing and planned facilities at Los Alamos A continued limited manufacturing capability is essential as noted in the article the statement said It s important to note that this study of plutonium aging is only one area of many that could determine pit lifetimes Extending the observations from plutonium aging as representative of pit lifetimes neglects to take

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2012/LAMonitor_8Dec2012.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Lawrence Livermore analysis suggests 150-year plutonium life, NWMM, 7 Dec 2012
    aging is done by spiking weapons grade plutonium 239 with the plutonium 238 isotope which undergoes more rapid radioactive decay That allows scientists to measure the buildup of defects in the material caused by the decay which creates helium as a byproduct that builds up into microscopic bubbles One key question has been whether the accumulation of those bubbles would cause changes in key material properties that would impact weapon performance In addition to the helium inclusions the decay process also can damage the plutonium s crystal lattice structure in a way that could potentially affect weapon performance The accelerated aging plutonium samples tested at Livermore have now reached the equivalent of 150 years in age along with naturally aged plutonium that is now in excess of 50 years old and the problems scientists had feared have not materialized in a way that could degrade the plutonium s performance according to the report Clearly the findings indicate that lattice damage and helium in growth are not leading to catastrophic aging effects such as void swelling said Livermore chemist Brandon Chung who has been working a variety of tests of the aged plutonium s properties for more than 10 years The results provide confidence in the NNSA s plans to reuse existing pits in remanufactured nuclear weapons without the need to make new ones Livermore officials said The results add to the evidence that new plutonium pit manufacturing is not needed said Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group whose organization publicized the Livermore Science and Technology Review article Pit production for the stockpile is not needed unless somehow a grossly uneconomical scheme is devised in which the present inventory of roughly 5 000 backup pits beyond the roughly 5 000 pits now in the nuclear stockpile is deemed insufficient

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2012/NWMM_7Dec2012.html (2016-02-16)
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  • LASG comments on LANS ltr, 12 Dec 2012
    backup pits beyond the roughly 5 000 pits now in the nuclear stockpile is deemed insufficient LANL This statement makes a key assumption that excess pits in existence can universally be re used No if we had made that statement we would have used a larger number of excess pits over l5 000 We supplied a table pdf p 19 as a reference with the estimated population by type of the pits we chiefly meant The facts are that all pits are not equal and some are more difficult than others to promote in order to achieve modern safety requirements These requirements include the use of insensitive high explosives IHE the resistance to plutonium dispersion in the event of a fire and others intended to minimize the consequences in the event of an accident These are not requirements They are preferences to be applied in selected cases The Navy chose not to use IHE in the W76 1 One of the most frequent ways unnecessary nuclear weapons spending is generated for the contractors is by the artful use of tacit unexamined assumptions LASG Barring such artificial created needs no large new plutonium pit manufacturing capability is needed to maintain an extremely large diverse nuclear stockpile for the foreseeable future for generations LANL Overall an accurate statement depending upon a common definition of large and interpretation of maintain Good I could also have accurately said that a large diverse stockpile can be maintained without any near term stockpile pit production at all The NNSA faced the decision to construct a large meaning a capacity of hundreds of pits per year production facility in 2007 and the project known as either the Modern Pit Facility MPF or the Consolidated Plutonium Complex CPC was terminated The article in Science and Technology Review summarizing Livermore s plutonium aging study along with an earlier study at Los Alamos re affirms the DOE decision not to build a large capacity Modern Pit Facility and instead pursue a limited manufacturing capability in existing and planned facilities at Los Alamos A continued limited manufacturing capability is essential as noted in the S T article The efforts to maintain the existing stockpile include life extension programs which will require pits to achieve higher safety standards than may be possible through exclusive reuse of existing pits Not will require The proper verb is might require This is the same problem LANS hopes that repetition of unexamined tacit assumptions will hammer them home for most busy distracted readers They will then be much as General Groves described President Truman s decision making in 1945 like a little boy on a toboggan This could lead to pit manufacturing at the limited rates determined by the NNSA through the NEPA process and described in the SSMPEIS Yes it could It could also lead to lower rates of stockpile production or to no stockpile production at all LASG It would be counterproductive to plan or design for such a large facility now because the

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/LASG_comments_LANS_ltr_12Dec2012.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Administration vows to veto CMRR funding, LA Monitor, 1 Dec 2012
    million in funding The administration said it agrees with numerous provisions of the act but if it makes its way to the president in its present form the bill would get vetoed The statement read the Administration strongly objects to section 3111 which would require construction of the CMRR facility to begin in 2013 The Departments of Defense and Energy agree that in light of today s fiscal environment CMRR can be deferred for at least five years and funds reallocated to support higher priority nuclear weapons goals An interim strategy will be implemented to provide adequate support to plutonium pit manufacturing and storage needs until a long term solution can be implemented Further Senate bill 3254 would require funding for the CMRR in FY 2013 to be taken from other National Nuclear Security Administration priorities creating undue risks for other parts of the program including delays to critical infrastructure modernization underfunding operations of the nuclear complex and curtailing science engineering and key nonproliferation initiatives Finally section 3111 specifies an operational date but caps total funding at the low end of the agency estimate which may not be achievable Former NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks meanwhile has an interesting take on the deferment of the CMRR facility Earlier this month Brooks a senior adviser for the Center for Strategic and International Studies spoke at a security forum on Capitol Hill I m extremely disturbed by the delay in the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research and Replacement Facility in Los Alamos but not for the reason most people are I m disturbed because the political class including those who work within a few blocks of where we re standing keeps telling the executive branch you need to make hard decisions So my successor Thom D Agostino made a hard decision He didn t

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2012/LAMonitor_1Dec2012.html (2016-02-16)
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  • LANL Security Fix Now at $41M, Albuquerque Journal North, Nov 9, 2012
    included in the 41 million estimated cost overrun The system was to have used sensors cameras and other technology to protect one of the lab s most sensitive sites But when lab staffers were going through final checkout of the system while preparing to turn it on they found that duct work that was supposed to carry data from the sensor systems to computers used to manage the system was improperly installed Because the project had already spent its entire budget by the time the problems were discovered the lab was legally obligated to shut down work until an agreement can be reached with the federal government regarding additional money needed to correct the problems Because we are not authorized to make this type of change in funding the project remains in suspended status until Congress or NNSA directs us otherwise McMillan wrote in the lab staff memo Located on wooded mesas west of Santa Fe Los Alamos is one of the nation s three nuclear weapons design labs Since the end of the Cold War the lab also has taken on a growing role in manufacturing nuclear warhead components The security system at the lab s Technical Area 55 protects what is arguably its most sensitive site a 1970s era concrete blockhouse where the lab s work with dangerously radioactive plutonium is done Because of plutonium s usefulness for nuclear weapons and its attractiveness as a terrorist target Technical Area 55 has seen heightened security since the terrorist attacks of September 2001 A public road near the site has been closed and in 2005 the lab launched a major security upgrade An NNSA spokesman said this week no decisions have been made about how the agency will make up the cost overruns Congressional action may be needed because of

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2012/ABQ_JRNL_north_9Nov2012.html (2016-02-16)
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  • McMillan memo to LANL employees, Nov 7, 2012
    report to you today We have delivered a revised cost estimate for the project to NNSA We believe the total project costs will rise from approximately 213 million to approximately 254 million Because we are not authorized to make this type of change in funding the project remains in suspended status until Congress or NNSA directs us otherwise With the assistance of the LANS board I have asked three senior experienced leaders to assume responsibility for the NMSSUP project 1 Tyrone Ty Troutman will be the NMSSUP project manager Ty is the construction functional manager for Bechtel Systems and Infrastructure Although NMSSUP will remain a project of the Principal Associate Directorate for Capital Projects Ty will report directly to me 2 Jimmie L Willman will manage procurement activities Most recently Jimmie was vice president deputy program manager and Business Services manager for Kwajalein Range Services LLC 3 Toby Wilson currently managing Project Controls for LANL s Environmental Programs directorate will be assigned to NMSSUP in the same capacity The team is taking on this top priority issue at my request I ask that you support Ty Jimmie and Toby as they assemble the people processes and controls necessary to complete

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/CMRR/McMillan_memo_7Nov2012.html (2016-02-16)
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  • LASG letter to Congress, Nov 8, 2012
    with more money The New START bargain has thus ended not with a bang but a whimper It is not a good record Lest we forget the two terms of the G W Bush administration were also subject to multiple proposed project and program reversals The Bush Administration used a neoconservative rhetoric of grandiose nuclear ambition that attracted effective opposition and was ultimately futile The first Obama Administration used a vague rhetoric of nuclear pacifism that also attracted considerable opposition and was never meant to guide current policies as was explicit in Prague but largely ignored Despite fine efforts by many people including all of you Congress has not done better than this in recent years being nearly unable even to pass appropriations bills and at loggerheads with itself on key NNSA issues not just between parties and chambers or from one session to the next but also within a chamber and a party during a single session There are plenty of factual misrepresentations clouding the air in the news media and from the corporate lobbyists who have sometimes succeeded in getting strange tales accepted by the armed services committees So there is plenty of blame to go around It is a very challenging time for us too Now with the presidential election in the rear view mirror and as many months as there can be until the next one and with no additional term in the offing there is every reason to quickly reform NNSA both as to management and as to programs Neither reform can succeed without the other We believe the time is right to stress ambitious reforms that can be initiated if not implemented entire without significant new legislation but which will garner at least some measure of bipartisan support and respect The present fiscal crisis which will not go away begs a closer look at programs and management than we have heretofore seen There is a storm coming NNSA and DOE are like trees that need pruning The problem is not just the dead wood but also the strength of the weak branches that contribute little More sober defensive risk oriented management is necessary Optimism is a disease in these agencies Reshuffling leadership should that occur as is often the case after elections is necessary but will not be enough as any new appointees would be subject to the same daunting challenges as their predecessors in the absence of more substantive reforms Given the present and prospective Senate composition after 2014 we do not believe there can be any new arms control treaties ratified under this President Therefore there should be no impetus in either party to bargain in that context This situation too allows management and fiscal issues to present themselves in a relatively depoliticized context To foster the discussion we need it s very important now to end the insularity and de facto secrecy that have marked the Administration s nuclear weapons management That insularity has been somewhat understandable given the opposition of

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/LASG_ltr_Congress_8Nov2012.html (2016-02-16)
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  • HASC wants CMRR decision reassessed, LA Monitor, 20 Oct 2012
    20M to 25M Procure additional Analytical Chemistry equipment for RLUOB to increase utilization of laboratory space any potential additional equipment identified as a Major Item of Equipment will adhere to the appropriate notification requirements before procurement begins approximately 20 million to 30 million Accelerate the relocation of AC sample management preparatory capabilities from the existing Chemistry and Metallurgy Research building to Plutonium Facility approximately 20 million to 25 million Relocate Material Characterization equipment from CMR to PF 4 consistent with ongoing execution of plans to exit CMR approximately 20 million to 30 million Design a cost effective material transfer system between RLUOB and PF 4 approximately 15 million to 25 million The committee supports the goal of a responsive and modern nuclear infrastructure and believes a 5 year deferral of CMRR NF is a mistake with grave implications for the future of the U S nuclear deterrent and overall national security policy McKeon wrote Modern plutonium science capabilities and the pit production they support are essential for an uncertain future In his letter McKeon made 12 requests of the NNSA and LANL concerning the CMRR NF and alternative plutonium strategy Detailed cost estimates for the alternative strategy and the cost of deferring construction of CMRR NF A description of how the alternative strategy would help the lab produce 30 pits per year and the risk to warhead refurbishment efforts if that rate can t be achieved Risk mitigation plans for if 30 pits are unable to be produced a year or the reuse of pits proves impractical for any future warhead refurbishment efforts A detailed plan to confirm pit reuse is viable for future life extension programs A detailed plan using pit replacement if pit reuse is found to be impractical A description of the deferral of CMRR NF on

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2012/LAMonitor_20Oct2012.html (2016-02-16)
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