Who wants the pits?
Over the past few months, three members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation – U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján – have been fighting to keep the manufacture of the plutonium cores of nuclear weapons at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
LANL is the only place the grapefruit-size “pits” have been made since the Rocky Flats facility in Colorado – which cranked them out for the Cold War – shut down in 1992. And it’s the only U.S. site that meets security and hazardous materials protocols for the job.
But no pits have been made since 2011, when LANL completed the last of 29 for Navy submarine missiles. The most ever made at Los Alamos in a year is 11. Congress and the Department of Defense, however, want to ramp up production to 80 pits annually, part of a vast weapons modernization plan started under the Obama administration (as a trade-off for a new arms control treaty) and which has an estimated (some say under-estimated) cost of roughly $1.2 trillion. There are reports that President Trump soon will propose an even more hawkish plan.