SANTA FE – A federal agency announced Monday that it will prepare a full-blown environmental impact statement on production of plutonium “pits” at a South Carolina site but will perform only a lesser review, for now, of ramping up pit-making to 30 units a year at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The National Nuclear Security Administration will conduct a “supplement analysis” at LANL, following on a 2008 environmental impact statement there, and provide “site-specific documentation” for proposed authorization of expanded production of pits — the cores of nuclear weapons — at the Los Alamos lab.
Depending on the results, NNSA may announce an amended “record of decision” for the prior environmental impact statement at LANL or could prepare more National Environmental Policy Act documentation for pit-making there.
NNSA said in Monday’s statement that LANL, based on prior reviews, is at this point authorized to make no more than 20 pits annually.
NNSA, which oversees the nation’s nuclear weapons labs, is under a mandate from Congress and the military to make 80 plutonium pits a year by 2030 as part of plans to modernize the nations’ nuclear weapons arsenal.
The U.S. made many pits during the Cold War but only a handful have been produced in recent decades, all at Los Alamos. Critics point to studies that say thousands of old pits in use or storage now can last for many decades.