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  • HASC Rejects Administration's Request to use Leftover Plutonium Facility Funds to Implement New Plan, press release, 12 Oct 2012
    This request appears to provide congressional endorsement for what look very much like new line items but without line item responsibilities management requirements and without sufficient preliminary planning Study Group Executive Director Greg Mello There is no legal barrier that bars NNSA from spending FY2013 funds as it chooses over the next six months under the Continuing Resolution CR without any further congressional action assuming it does so in compliance with other laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act NEPA Leftover CMRR NF funds which apparently total about 120 million can be reclaimed in FY2014 appropriations We advocate returning those funds to the Treasury Construction of CMRR NF is not necessary feasible or appropriate NNSA s Weapons Activities account is bloated with wasteful programs and the country has far more urgent needs Some further discussion of why the Study Group believes CMRR NF is no longer feasible was given in a letter to Study Group supporters of October 1 2012 The HASC letter made approval of the reprogramming request contingent on a long list of submittals Many of the proposed submittals were inappropriate unprecedented premature or even impossible but a few were not and echoed prior concerns expressed by the Study Group These included requests for detailed cost estimates for the alternative strategy details of how the 120 million reprogramming request would be spent a FY 2013 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan and a FY 2013 2017 Future Years Nuclear Security Program These latter two are unfulfilled statutory legal requirements the absence of which augurs poorly for the timely and cost effective success of NNSA s many projects and programs For the most part the HASC letter like the SASC letter which preceded it appears to be premised on obsolete or mistaken ideas continued Mello As is typical of the majority in this committee the letter gratuitously politicizes what should be non partisan The House Armed Services Committee disagrees with the Administration about a few areas of nuclear policy but this letter like the Committee s markup of this year s Defense Authorization Act goes far beyond differing policy into the terrain of partisan posturing When you do that all claims to be representing national security ring hollow ENDS with background following Indefinite deferral of CMRR NF and the outline of a different plutonium sustainment strategy are announced Revised Plutonium Strategy Supplemental Information for the President s FY 2013 Budget Request pdf 276KB FY2013 Budget Guidance on the CMRR NF Memorandum from Donald Cook to Kevin Smith Los Alamos Site Office and Dr Charles McMillan Los Alamos National Laboratory Feb 13 2012 pdf 678KB Cuts Consolidation and Savings pg 26 pdf 694KB Interagency and military support for the new approach in place since 2011 is formalized and recorded Joint Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration and Department of Defense Programmatic Realignments Memorandum for members of the Nuclear Weapons Council Mar 27 2012 pdf What is the Nuclear Weapons Council LANS LLC the management and operating contractor at LANL

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2012/press_release_12Oct2012.html (2016-02-16)
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  • House Armed Services Committee Not on Board with CMRR Reprogramming, NWMM, 12 Oct 2012
    included in the House version of the Fiscal Year 2013 Defense Authorization Act to reform the NNSA and late last month he introduced a bill that would have the military provide security at weapons complex sites in the wake of the July 28 security breach at the Y 12 National Security Complex Given the atrophied condition of the U S nuclear deterrent now is the time for bold action and outside the box thinking to reevaluate everything from the management budget and appropriations process for nuclear weapons to the current bifurcated two department relationship between those who set nuclear weapons requirements and those who are charged with ensuring they are met McKeon wrote He said the deferral of the project represented evidence that the Administration was backing off of promises made during debate on the New START Treaty Most critically the deferral of CMRR NF indicates that the administration is no longer pursuing its own policy as outlined in its April 2010 Nuclear Posture Review NPR to create a responsive and revitalized infrastructure A High Bar to Clear The Administration will have a high bar to clear in order to satisfy the committee s demands The information being sought by the committee includes requests on 12 issues surrounding CMRR NF and the 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 pit production capacity and how that might impact life extension options Details of how the 120 million reprogramming request would be spent Details on the consequences of deferring the W78 and W88 life extension programs An explanation of the decision to shut down the CMRR NF project without Congressional approval Cost and schedule estimates for immediately reconstituting the CMRR NF project team Details on analysis conducted before Feb 13 2012 that supports the CMRR NF deferral decision and Funding from FY2014 to FY2018 that would be needed if CMRR NF was restarted The committee noted that the agency only asked Los Alamos to study alternative plutonium strategy options on Feb 13 the day that the Obama Administration released its FY 2013 budget and formally deferred the CMRR NF project Given 60 days to study the issue the lab said its effort should not be a substitute for 10 years of planning Fundamentally NNSA s path forward for sustaining robust plutonium capabilities is little more than a conceptual aspiration The committee has been provided with negligible

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2012/NWMM_12Oct2012.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Costly LANL project falling farther from realization, SFNM, 30 Sept 2012
    A document prepared for Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen Carl Levin D Mich from the Department of Energy earlier this month contained specific reprogramming language to recoup the 120 million not spent on CMRR NF while adding 120 million for facilities operations at LANL The funds would be used for set up activities and additional plutonium capabilities in the Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building That smaller building in the complex will become operational in November and has been enlisted to fill part of the gap created by the deferral of the larger nuclear facility In a transmittal letter to Levin a DOE official reopened the question of how long the CMRR NF deferral might last The Administration will continue to evaluate options for the modernization of our infrastructure including further analysis of the length of time we should defer construction of the CMRR NF wrote Joanne Choi DOE acting deputy chief financial officer Levin responded to the request protesting that a five year delay of the nuclear facility would add 25 percent to the cost of the CMRR NF and with the addition of another 1 billion in stop gap expenses would raise project costs to between 5 6 and 7 2 billion The sheer size of the cost escalation he wrote could lead to an inability to construct the CMRR NF Levin concluded that the committee would not act on the request at the moment but that it would look forward to renewed discussions with the executive branch to meet both short and long term needs Local community groups expressed their concerns about the project s conditional status at a meeting with laboratory managers this week Jay Coghlan executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico challenged what he interpreted as the official presumption that there would not be

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2012/SFNM_30Sep2012.html (2016-02-16)
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  • LASG letter to Congress re: DOE reprogramming request concerning NNSA plutonium sustainment, 28 Sep 2012
    obligations which have not been fully resolved Given the lack of a published plan it is unclear whether environmental analysis is needed under NEPA Where federal actions that could significantly affect the environment are proposed NEPA requires assessment of the environmental impacts of all reasonable alternatives to the proposed action at the earliest possible time In such cases it is not only unwise but may also be illegal to irreversibly commit funds to specific alternative actions prior to such analysis and the formal record of decision which would follow if such expenditures foreclose alternatives or bias the agency s choice It is no longer feasible to re initiate the full Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility CMRR NF project This would be true for any new project on that scale apart from those already supported by NNSA There is no foreseeable future funding stream that could be applied to such a project It would be unwise to follow the approach suggested by Senator Levin in his letter of September 19 namely to somehow keep the project alive Levin didn t define in his letter how he wanted the agency to keep CMRR NF alive but the panel is believed to want the agency to keep the project team alive in some form exploring alternate or less costly designs keeping the facility s safety basis updated and maintaining design contracts with companies like Jacobs Engineering and Merrick that expire at the end of the year Keeping design teams alive for several years in the absence of a clear mission need is irresponsible expensive distracting and will not produce any useful or coherent result Momentum for momentum s sake is not we believe what NNSA needs at this time Senator Levin s approach assumes there is a valid environmental impact statement EIS for the CMRR NF project This is currently under litigation in New Mexico Delay of the project means among other things that the project s NEPA compliance rests on a 2003 EIS as modified but not replaced by a 2011 Supplement which will be at least 15 years old when and if the project resumes This could prove to be a non trivial hurdle to CMRR NF construction in the absence of de novo environmental analysis of alternatives to the project The Administration s approach as announced in February which was one of deferral accompanied by a reexamination of project requirements is sound provided NNSA conducts a de novo NEPA analysis when project requirements which will depend on stockpile requirements and other future decisions are set What is important now is to carry forward the overall agency planning and budgeting process so long delayed and now with potential budget cuts looming so the requirements for existing and any hypothetical future facilities can be most accurately and wisely defined Much of this is inherently federal policy making activity At the most this could involve prime contracts but not design subcontracts managed by the very contractor which would benefit from any future construction project NNSA needs to become far more clear about program requirements prior to engaging design contractors as implied by the present Request In any event NNSA is certainly empowered to let contracts for existing programs and projects as it pleases in the absence of this reprogramming To repeat the present Request would create congressional authority for what look very much like new line items without line item responsibilities or management requirements Thank you for your attention Greg Mello Executive Director Los Alamos Study Group Nuclear Weapons and Material Monitor 9 28 12 AS LANL CLOSES OUT CMRR NF SOME IN CONGRESS LOOK TO KEEP PROJECT ALIVE The Senate Armed Services Committee appears willing to support a National Nuclear Security Administration plan to reprogram 120 million in Fiscal Year 2012 funds for an alternate plutonium sustainment strategy with a catch that the agency use part of the money to keep the deferred Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility alive Suggesting he was disappointed that NNSA undermined Congress by deferring the project Sen Carl Levin D Mich the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and an opponent of the Administration s plan to defer construction of CMRR NF for at least five years said in a Sept 19 letter to acting Department of Energy Deputy Chief Financial Officer Joanne Choi that the panel views the NNSA s deferral of the project as a cancellation In his letter Levin said the committee was deferring action on the Sept 13 reprogramming request but he left the door open for support and suggested the panel would work with the NNSA and the Pentagon to ensure that resources adequately meet both our near term alternative plutonium sustainment and the long term CMRR NF needs The Committee is willing to provide funding for the alternative plutonium strategy as long as a portion of the 120 million is utilized to reconstitute the CMRR NF facility in support of the New START Treaty Levin wrote in the letter The House Armed Services Committee which like its counterparts in the Senate balked at the decision to defer work on the CMRR NF earlier this year is believed to be preparing a similar letter NW M Monitor has learned The NNSA needs approval from four major Congressional committees to proceed with the reprogramming including the House and Senate Appropriations committees Both appropriations committees have supported the NNSA s alternate plutonium strategy Levin didn t define in his letter how he wanted the agency to keep CMRR NF alive but the panel is believed to want the agency to keep the project team alive in some form exploring alternate or less costly designs keeping the facility s safety basis updated and maintaining design contracts with companies like Jacobs Engineering and Merrick that expire at the end of the year Since February Los Alamos National Laboratory officials have been working to wrap up the project and Los Alamos Site Office official Steve Fong said this week at a meeting

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/budget/LASG_ltr_reprogramming_28Sep2012.html (2016-02-16)
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  • As LANL closes out CMRR-NF, some in Congress look to keep project alive, NWMM, 28 Sept 2012
    would go toward relocating analytical chemistry sample management preparatory capabilities from the existing CMR facility to the lab s Plutonium Facility PF 4 and 20 30 million would be needed to relocate material characterization equipment from CMR to PF 4 The agency also said 15 25 million would be needed to build a tunnel between PF 4 and the RLUOB The funds come from unspent money from the CMRR NF project It should be noted that these activities will maintain near term continuity of capabilities for plutonium support functions and represent the first phase of work that will complement future potential equipment procurements that may be needed to increase pit production capacity in PF 4 the NNSA said in the request The reprogramming allows for initial investments in the infrastructure at LANL that will enable all future production scenarios while minimizing impacts to ongoing operations Levin however was unconvinced A central tenant of our arms control policy is that as we draw down to fewer numbers of warheads we will reduce the hedge or backup warheads relying instead on an ability to reconstitute the hedge based on a sound plutonium science capability provided by the CMRR NF Levin wrote The cancellation decision and this associated reprogramming runs counter to the policy of relying on responsive infrastructure and stockpile stewardship science rather than deployed or hedge warheads Levin suggested that coupled with the 800 million to 1 13 billion estimated cost of the alternate plutonium strategy the five year delay would drive the facility s price tag up to between 5 6 and 7 2 billion The facility is currently estimated to cost between 3 7 and 5 8 billion The sheer size of this cost escalation could lead to an inability to construct the CMRR NF as proposed by the NNSA five years from now an unacceptable worst case scenario that leaves our nation worse off in its ability to conduct plutonium science and engineering at Los Alamos Levin wrote Stephen Young a senior analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists noted that the House and Senate Armed Services Committees largely stand alone in their opposition to the deferral of the project The Administration including the Pentagon the NNSA the weapons labs and the Congressional appropriations committees all support the delay Young wrote in an article published on allthingsnuclear org If I were a betting man I d side with the appropriators and the Pentagon as that is a fairly powerful combination that usually gets its way But the final word is not yet spoken and will undoubtedly await Congressional approval of the alternative plutonium plan Project Team Finds Freezing Point In the Los Alamos meeting Fong said that the project had tried to find a logical freezing point for the major design systems like the fire protection system or the electrical system We take that to a logical point where we draw all the information together and leave that information for the next design team that comes in five

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2012/NWMM_28Sep2012.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Anti-nuclear activists question plan for shipping plutonium from warheads to NM, Associated Press, Aug 22, 2012
    That proposal has raised concerns about whether that waste would take up space needed for disposing of thousands of barrels of low level radioactive waste that have been sitting for years above ground at a Los Alamos dump Potential threats from that waste drew attention when a massive wildfire lapped at lab property in 2011 During the initial hearing Tuesday night in Los Alamos activists questioned the safety of bringing more plutonium to the 1970s era Los Alamos lab known as PF 4 A federal oversight board has said the facility remains structurally unable to safely withstand a major earthquake The lab was built over fault lines that were later found to have the potential for more severe earthquakes than previously thought Additionally the Defense Nuclear Safety Facilities Board recently said officials had significantly underestimated how much radiation would be released if there were a major earthquake and fire at Los Alamos Activist Greg Mello executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group said he couldn t understand why using the lab was a preferred option when these very basic problems have not been resolved We are talking about a very large new mission a type of mission for which this building was not designed he said during the hearing Mello said the government should simply look at ways to safely bury the plutonium David Clark a chemist and plutonium expert at the lab countered that the facility is ideally suited for the project They are disassembling pits today he said They are doing it right now It is already part of the mission They have the knowledge Clark said he worked at the lab for 10 years and has no concerns about safety And like other top lab officials have said the PF 4 building is where he would

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2012/AP_22Aug2012.html (2016-02-16)
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  • As plutonium options become more clear, Kehler softens concern, NWMM, Aug 10, 2012
    on the web via the Department of Energy s Office of Science and Technical Information which hosts a large archive of lab documents The documents elaborate on information already published in the Senate Armed Services Committee s report accompanying its Fiscal Year 2013 Defense Authorization Act which had to date provided the most detailed publicly available information on the National Nuclear Security Administration s approach to rejiggering its plutonium strategy with CMRR NF off the table According to the briefing documents the lab proposed strategy includes Closing out design work on CMRR NF this year Entering a broad integrated nuclear planning effort that would extend to 2107 Startup of operations at RLUOB with a maximum material limit of 6 grams of plutonium in 2012 13 Expansion of RLUOB material limit to 26 grams of plutonium in the 2013 15 time frame Design and construction of a tunnel connecting RLUOB with the lab s Plutonium Facility PF 4 to permit easy movement of nuclear material between the two facilities and Installation of additional equipment in RLUOB and PF 4 over the 2013 20 time frame to handle larger quantities of plutonium once destined for CMRR NF The proposed strategy also includes continued work in the old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building which dates to early in the Cold War through the early 2020s including the cleanout of explosives containment vessels work that was already planned for the old CMR s large hot cells even when CMRR NF was still scheduled for completion Shipments to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for some plutonium analysis there would begin in the 2014 time frame and shipments to other labs would get underway in 2016 A notional budget profile prepared by the Los Alamos 60 day study team has the annual cost peaking in the 120 million to 130 million per year level in 2014 16 Notably the plan appears to include no contemplated restart of work on CMRR NF Kehler Increased Risk Becoming More Tolerable In Congressional testimony and several speeches earlier this year Kehler was vocal in expressing concern about the lack of a new plutonium strategy and the potential that the NNSA might not be able to meet the Department of Defense s requirement for 50 to 80 pits a year But that concern appears to be softening as more details of the plan become firmed up There is increased risk doing it this way but the more we discuss this the more we learn the more comfortable that I think we can get with an interim solution Kehler said We will need an interim solution regardless of the outcome of the investment plan for the rest of the enterprise but I think that we re beginning to close on some viable solutions Kehler said that it did not matter to the DoD whether the pit requirement was filled through newly produced pits or reused pits an approach that is currently being studied by the NNSA What StratCom says to NNSA is you

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2012/NWMM_10Aug2012.html (2016-02-16)
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  • LANL Plan B Cost $800M, Albuquerque Journal North, Aug 8, 2012
    needed Much of the work is currently done in the lab s 60 year old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research building which officials have acknowledged for more than a decade is subject to extreme earthquake risks But plans to replace the building have been repeatedly delayed in the face of rising cost estimates In February the Obama administration recommended that Congress indefinitely postpone building the new building and asked the lab to come up with a Plan B for carrying out the work in existing facilities The resulting proposal lab officials warned in recent briefings carries with it the risk that the nation would have limited capacity to build new nuclear weapon components the plutonium pits at the core of warheads and bombs Critics argue the lab is overstating that risk A National Nuclear Security Administration official released a statement saying the agency is still studying the lab s proposal and finalizing its response The revised plutonium strategy will utilize existing facilities at multiple sites spokesman Josh McConaha said in the statement It is likely but not certain that we will use Superblock at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory the Device Assembly Facility in Nevada and the new Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building at Los Alamos National Laboratory However nothing has been settled and we are working to finalize the details at this point The lab s study of alternatives to building the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement lab was completed in April Its details have remained closely guarded as federal officials sort out what to do after deciding the replacement building s rapidly rising costs were busting the National Nuclear Security Administration s budget But in a pair of briefings in June one for an internal lab oversight committee and a second to congressional staff senior lab managers outlined the details

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2012/ABQ_JRNL_north_8Aug2012.html (2016-02-16)
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