SANTA FE – John Benner has been named the new associate laboratory director for weapons production at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the lab announced Thursday.
Benner, whose new position takes effect Jan. 3, is currently executive officer for the weapons program. Benner replaces Dave Eyler, who retired in the fall.
“John is a proven leader who can provide strategic vision, maintain stability, and meet deliverables for Weapons Production as we continue to ramp up our 30-pits-per-year and other important national security missions,” Bob Webster, deputy laboratory director for the weapons programs, said in the news release.
The weapons production program has 1,400 employees who “are responsible for a diverse production portfolio that includes the production and evaluation of plutonium pits, nuclear weapon detonators, and other non-nuclear components,” the release said.
Pits are the bowling ball-size plutonium shells that are the key components in nuclear warheads.
“Due to factors including plutonium aging, safety and security advancements, global risk, and weapons modernization, these pits need to be replaced from time to time, but for nearly three decades, the United States has not had the ability to produce them in the quantities required for the nuclear weapons stockpile,” according to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s website.
Weapons production is also responsible for overseeing the manufacturing of power supplies for NASA deep-space missions, plutonium processing, surveillance, materials management and waste operations.
“With nearly 30 years of experience, John is respected across the nuclear security enterprise for his deep understanding of weapons engineering, particularly the relationship between the design and production agencies,” Webster said. “Those skills, and that respect, are essential of the success of (the weapons production) as we continue production of war-reserve detonators and as we move into rate production of war-reserve pits.”