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AT LOS ALAMOS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . MCMILLAN LAYS OUT NEEDS FOR PU STRATEGY

With a 2019 deadline to get out of the aged Chemistry and Metallurgy Research facility looming five years from now, Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan this week outlined key requirements for the lab’s plutonium strategy. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, McMillan said the lab needed a steady funding stream and a smoothed-out project management process to ensure that it can modernize its plutonium capabilities and get out of CMR by 2019. After the deferral of the multi-billion-dollar Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement-Nuclear Facility, the lab is pursuing a plan that would involve using existing facilities and building small modular facilities to maintain its plutonium work, but that plan remains in its infancy.

McMillan said the lab needs $90 million in Fiscal Year 2014, $38 million in FY 2015, and then a steady funding profile of about $85 million a year to 2019 for the plutonium strategy. “We need to get the money in that kind of sequence and we need to work very closely with NNSA so we don’t have the process getting in the way,” McMillan told NS&D Monitor on the sidelines of the hearing. “If we can do those things I have high confidence we can meet a 2019 date. If we hiccup anywhere along that it’s now a very tightly wound system, and then I can’t say what I just said. We’re going to be in a position where success is not nearly as likely.”

Pu Missions Could Be Jeopardized

McMillan’s written testimony was more dire in its analysis of the potential impact of not getting out of CMR by 2019. “Because of the delays in project start-up since the decision to defer CMRR-NF, I am concerned that we will miss the target date to terminate program operations in CMR by 2019,” he said. “Should we be forced to terminate CMR operations before they can be transferred to CMRRRLUOB and PF-4, our ability to execute plutonium missions will be jeopardized.”

Phase one of the plan involves modifying the existing Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building to increase the amount of radiological material allowed in the facility, and McMillan said in his prepared testimony that the lab was currently in the process of outfitting RLUOB with equipment that will allow it to take advantage of the increased material allowed in the building. Phase two involves reconfiguring the lab’s Plutonium Facility so that additional space can be devoted to analytical chemistry and materials characterization work, and phase three involves the construction of new “modular” facilities to handle either a plutonium storage vault, a pit processing facility, or a radiological diagnostics suite. “We will need space for these operations after we determine which is least appropriate for inclusion in our existing plutonium facility,” McMillan said in his prepared testimony.


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