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New NNSA complex near Kirtland gets green light

The new Albuquerque Complex of the National Nuclear Security Administration is expected to be completed in summer 2022. (Courtesy of NNSA)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Construction on a new complex has been authorized by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration to replace 25 aged and dilapidated buildings currently located near Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Laboratories.

Some of the structures were built as far back as the 1950s and require routine and costly maintenance work.

“It was clear that the current NNSA Albuquerque Complex is too large, too old, and too costly to continue to effectively meet the needs of the agency,” U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said in a statement.

“Through my role on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I’m proud we were able to secure $98 million in funding this year to start construction of the new NNSA Albuquerque Complex Project and am pleased to welcome this important step in making that a reality.”

Heinrich accompanied then-NNSA Administrator Frank Klotz on a tour of the existing facility in 2016 to illustrate the need for a new complex.

The new building, to be located on Eubank adjacent to Kirtland Air Force Base, will house around 1,200 NNSA federal and contract employees.

According to Department of Energy documents, the facility will be built outside of Kirtland’s east fence line but will be encompassed once construction is complete.

NNSA spokeswoman Lindsey Geisler said construction on the $174.7 million project is expected to begin in July and finish in the summer of 2022.

The three-story, 333,000-square-foot structure will be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold Standard specifications.

The main office buildings were originally built in 1951 as barracks, described in DOE documents as “64-year-old, unreinforced concrete block buildings” that have violated the Uniform Building Code for the last 15 years.

“The buildings do not meet seismic requirements, have extremely inefficient single pane windows along with inadequate heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and require new roofs,” Geisler said. “The water and electrical distribution systems are antiquated and the sewer system is unreliable.”

The current complex has nearly $40 million in deferred maintenance, according to DOE documents.

Two of the 25 buildings currently being leased from the Air Force will be returned, while the remaining structures will be demolished.

“This project will replace NNSA’s outdated facility and cement the agency’s presence in New Mexico for years to come,” U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.

The NNSA is a semiautonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy that is responsible for the highly classified work of enhancing national security through nuclear science.

The NNSA oversees operations at Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory.