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"Forget the Rest" blog

For Immediate Release March 2, 2007 12:15 MST

Executive Branch Chooses Design for New Navy Warhead

Conservative California Design Wins
Competition over
Los Alamos

Decision to Build Warhead Years Away;
Billions in New Factories Required Sooner

Decision Could Help Solidify Los Alamos Role as
Plutonium “Pit” Factory

Contact: Greg Mello, 505-265-1200 or 505-577-8563

Albuquerque and Los Alamos, NM – Today the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that the design proposed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California for what is being called the “Reliable Replacement Warhead” (RRW) is being selected over that of the Los Alamos rivals.  The selection was made by the Nuclear Weapons Council, an interagency committee of NNSA, the Department of Defense (DoD), and the military. 

LLNL will join with Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), which has a large facility in Livermore as well as its much larger facility in Albuquerque, to complete the design, with input from all 6 other NNSA sites as well, including Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). 

The decision is likely to further cement LANL’s nascent mission as a plutonium warhead core (“pit”) production facility, although serious safety and infrastructure deficiencies have been flagged at LANL by outside auditors and may stall production or cause it to fail completely. 

Today’s decision does not address whether or not to build the new warheads, which NNSA has said will eventually replace “all” the warheads in the U.S. arsenal.  This decision merely narrows the design possibilities so that more detailed design, pre-production engineering, and preliminary cost estimates can be created. 

Senior cognizant officials have told us the RRW cannot be manufactured in the current complex of nuclear weapons plants.  In fact, one of the RRW’s stated purposes is to serve as a reason to “revitalize” the weapons complex (as well as to “exercise” design teams).

Study Group Director Greg Mello: “The NNSA and the weapons labs have made many claims, both explicit and implied, about the virtues of the RRW.  Some are contradictory; some are flat-out not true; others are exaggerated.  Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests have revealed that the public relations narrative based on sales themes of “reliable” and “replacement” goes back more than a decade.     “The very name “RRW” implies that the RRW will be more reliable than current warheads in the coming years, which cannot yet be responsibly asserted even in the most optimistic case.  The RRW will, in fact, be untested in its precise current configuration, although the LLNL design is said to have been chosen for its conservatism.   

“Very few congressional staff fully understand how RRW will gravely damage prospects for the CTBT; how expensive it already is, let alone how expensive it will soon become; how it will lower the reliability of U.S. warheads with no significant system-wide gains in security; and how hugely damaging it will be to U.S. security overall.  And in its rush to manufacture pits in the face of serious safety and infrastructure problems, NNSA may unwittingly be pushing LANL to failure.”

This latest decision to proceed with RRW has been long expected.  Opposition to RRW can now be expected to increase, as more people and organizations are understanding the scope and scale of NNSA’s ambitions. 

No press release can encompass any full critique of the technical errors in the RRW sales pitch.  Please call for further topic-specific information.

***ENDS***


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