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Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor

Vol. 19 No. 45 • Dec 4, 2015

LANL Plutonium Modular Approach CD-0 Approved

Alissa Tabirian
NS&D Monitor

The mission need Critical Decision (CD)-0 for the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL) modular approach to
plutonium manufacturing has been approved, according to Department of Energy documents shared with NS&D

The plutonium modular approach (PMA) project will provide the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
with “high-hazard, high-security laboratory space” for LANL’s plutonium operations, according to the Nov. 25
approval memorandum for the program intended to replace the suspended Chemistry Metallurgy and Research
Replacement Nuclear Facility project with separate, less expensive facilities. The memo from Deputy Secretary of
Energy Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall to NNSA Administrator Frank Klotz said the project’s cost range is $1.3 billion
to $3 billion and its expected completion date is between 2025 and 2027.

The fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act authorized the NNSA to design a modular building that would
meet its plutonium pit production requirements and support its maintenance of the nuclear weapons stockpile for
over 30 years. In an Oct. 27 memorandum, Sherwood-Randall recommended approval of CD-0, noting the NNSA
had developed a plutonium infrastructure strategy in which the first two steps would “maximize the use of the
recently constructed laboratories within the Radiological Laboratory/Utility/Office Building (RLUOB) and
repurposes existing space in the Plutonium Facility (PF-4),” while the final step would add modules “to address the
need to conduct plutonium operations over the long term.”

The PMA project is intended to extend the life of the PF-4 and support the pit production requirements that have
been developed alongside the Department of Defense, the approval memorandum said.

NNSA spokeswoman Shelley Laver previously said CD-0 approval would be followed by the development of an
analysis of alternatives, which according to Department of Energy regulations covers planning activities such as
design and requirements analyses. Authorization to begin the project will depend upon the approval of the next
phase of planning, CD-1, or “Approve Alternate Selection and Cost Range.”

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