No doubt Los Alamos National Laboratory officials are anxiously anticipating May 11.
That’s when Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the newly confirmed administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, is set to deliver a report to Congress revealing the agency’s plans for the future of plutonium pit production at Los Alamos and/or possibly elsewhere.
Gordon-Hagerty told Congress at a hearing last month that the manufacture of plutonium pits – traditionally the job of Los Alamos National Laboratory – would be her “No. 1 priority” in modernizing the NNSA infrastructure. Plutonium pits, about the size of a softball, are the fission cores that trigger a nuclear bomb. In part because of safety lapses, LANL hasn’t produced any since 2011.
In December, an NNSA study suggested the agency’s 80-pits-a-year goal could be reached faster and cheaper at Savannah River in South Carolina instead of at Los Alamos. You could practically hear the collective shudder within the LANL organization and the state’s congressional delegation. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, told Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Thursday he was concerned that final report due May 11 won’t give adequate consideration to Los Alamos. He also said if the NNSA is going to meet its goal of 30 new pits by 2026 and 80 by 2030 it doesn’t have time to dilly-dally with new plans.