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Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor

Vol. 19 No. 12 • Mar 20, 2015

NNSA Releases Update to Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan

Todd Jacobson
NS&D Monitor
3/20/2015

The National Nuclear Security Administration released this week the latest update to its Stockpile Stewardship and
Management Plan
, outlining a plan that it says balances near- and long-term stockpile, infrastructure and science
and technology needs—as long as Congress provides necessary funding for the program. “NNSA has great
confidence in its ability to execute the program described in this document if funded at the requested levels,” the
agency said. “The [life extension programs] underway are on schedule and, with minor exceptions, on budget. …
With Congress’ support, the safety, security, and effectiveness of the stockpile can be maintained, and the
Nation’s stewardship sustained.”

The 314-page document provides an overview of the agency’s plans to maintain the stockpile, detailing cost
estimates for each of the agency’s warhead refurbishment efforts: the W76-1, B61-12, W80-4, W88 Alt 370, three
planned interoperable warheads, and a refurbishment of the B61-12 that will be known as the B61-13. This year,
the Obama Administration accelerated work on the W80-4—which will be used on the Air Force’s new nuclear
cruise missile—by two years, pushing up a First Production Unit on the warhead to 2025, and expanded the scope
of the W88 Alt 370 to include a refresh of the warhead’s conventional high explosive. It also staggered work on the
first interoperable warhead, with a FPU for the Air Force portion of the warhead slated for 2030 and a FPU for the
Navy portion projected for 2035.

The agency left some wiggle room for changes to the plan, saying “unforeseen technological challenges, new
requirements, and geopolitical events may occur that could affect the priorities on which this strategic plan is built.”

‘Potential Affordability Issue’ Projected From FY 2021 to FY 2025

Funding for the NNSA’s weapons program under the plan is estimated to peak at between $14-$16 billion by FY
2040, but the plan notes that there could be a “potential affordability issue” from FY 2021 through FY 2025 when
the agency is working on four or five life extension programs and several major construction projects, including the
Uranium Processing Facility. Funding needs from FY 2021 to FY 2025 could be as high as $11-12 billion,
according to the plan. The affordability problem coincides with the start of major work on DoD strategic delivery
systems, including the Ohio Class ballistic missile submarine replacement, and Nuclear Weapons Council
Chairman Frank Kendall earlier this month suggested the nation could have problems affording modernization
plans during that time frame.

The NNSA did not respond to a request to answer questions about the plan, but Administrator Frank Klotz said in
a statement that the Congressionally required plan “serves as a valuable resource for anyone who wants to better
understand the NNSA and how it accomplishes its vital national security missions through the unique scientific,
engineering and technical expertise resident in our national laboratories and production plants. These world-class
capabilities also support a host of other national security and nonproliferation activities.”

LEP Costs on the Rise

Overall, the total cost of refurbishing the B61, W88 Alt 370, W80-4, and three interoperable warheads is estimated
to cost $67.6 billion, up from $61.3 billion last year. That figure does not include Department of Defense work on
the warheads. The plan notes that estimates for the agency’s three planned interoperable warheads have grown
“substantially,” because the Air Force and Navy will develop separate fuzes for the warheads. DoD work on the
first interoperable warhead is estimated to cost between $1.5 billion and $4.5 billion, while DoD work on the
second and third interoperable warheads will cost between $1.7-$4.9 billion and $2-$5.9 billion, respectively. The
NNSA said the increase was attributable to a decision to develop separate fuzes for the Air Force and Navy
portion of the warheads.

The NNSA portion of the work on the interoperable warheads has also grown. A year ago, the agency estimated
that the cost of the first interoperable warhead, which would consolidate the W78 and W88 warheads, would cost
between $10.2-$12.5 billion, but this year that estimate has been increased to between $12.5-$16.4 billion.
Likewise, the estimate for the second interoperable warhead has grown from between $13.4-$15.8 billion to
$14.6-$19 billion. The projected cost of the third interoperable warhead has dipped from $17.6-$21.8 billion to
$16.1-$20.4 billion.

‘Early-Stage LEP’ Estimates Uncertain

The estimated cost of the W80-4 refurbishment also grew from between $5.8-$7.6 billion to between $7-$9.5
billion. The NNSA noted that there is considerable uncertainty in the cost estimates for work on the W80-4 and
interoperable warheads. “All programs have unforeseen technical issues, budget fluctuations, and even the level of
component maturity available at a future date,” the NNSA said. “The published ranges account for this.” The
agency said “early-stage LEPs can experience occasional but significant scope additions or redefinitions, possibly
resulting in substantial cost range changes. This potential for differences in planning assumptions exists because
LEPs in Phase 6.1 or 6.2 operate with considerable design uncertainty.”

The NNSA said the current W80-4 estimate accounts for a moderate nuclear explosives package refurbishment,
but it said the scope could change as the design is refined. “Major differences in year-to-year planning
assumptions will hopefully be minimal and exclusively for early-stage programs, but if and when they occur NNSA
will publish them in the subsequent SSMP,” the NNSA said.

Refurbishing a Refurbishment?

For the first time, the document also mentions another refurbishment of the B61 bomb, even though the agency is
only in the engineering and design phase of the current refurbishment of the bomb, which is known as the B61-12.
Work on the B61-13 would begin in 2038 with an initial study of refurbishment plans, according to the document,
and would cost between$8.6 and $11.3 billion in current dollars—or between $17.8 and $23.3 billion in “then-year”
money.


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