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When Did NNSA Know About Higher LANL Plutonium Lab Costs?

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The National Nuclear Security Administration revealed last November that internal design reviews of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s new plutonium laboratory had risen to an estimated range of $3.7 billion to $5.8 billion. It was an important and controversial set of numbers, coming just three years after the agency had told Congress it was confident the building could be built for just $800 million.

We learn via this week’s federal budget release that the agency had known about and declined to make public the new, higher numbers for at least seven months:


In April 2010, the CMRR Los Alamos National Security LLC (LANS) contractor completed an updated cost range estimate that reflected 45 percent engineering design maturity, changes in the assumptions for site seismic data, incorporation of lessons learned from previous nuclear projects in nuclear quality assurance construction, resolution of safety concerns identified by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, and incorporation of commercial data on material costs and estimated escalation assumptions. The updated LANS cost range estimate based on 45 percent design is between $3,710,000 and $5,860,000, and is under review by NNSA.


Source: National Nuclear Security Administration Fiscal Year 2012 budget request to Congress, page 225 (pdf here)


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