- Associated Press - Saturday, January 23, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The Los Alamos National Laboratory could resume production of plutonium pit triggers for nuclear weapons.

The Department of Energy endorsed lab changes listed by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a Congressional oversight agency, the Albuquerque Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1QkZFl2).

Plans also call for increased plutonium capacity.

A Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration statement says the board’s report references steps toward achieving annual production capacity of about 50 to 80 plutonium pits by 2030.

“NNSA pursues a plutonium strategy that optimizes existing facilities and addresses future program needs to create a responsive infrastructure.

“The FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) states that a modern, responsive infrastructure, which includes the capability to produce up to 50 to 80 pits per year, is a national security priority,” the statement says. “The memos referenced in the DNFSB report document steps along the way to meet this need.”

The statement goes on to say that “NNSA continues to ensure that all our activities are executed safely, securely and in a manner consistent with applicable regulatory requirements.”

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico said there is no need for expanded production in terms of the safety and reliability of the current stockpile, but that it is needed for future designs.

Greg Mello of the watchdog Los Alamos Study Group pointed to a stockpile that will last until around 2080, with another 10,000 surplus pits stored in Texas.

“NNSA claims about ‘optimizing existing facilities’ and executing all projects ‘safely, securely and consistent with applicable regulatory requirements’ are ambitions, not realities,” Mello said. “They need a large grain of salt.”

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, https://www.abqjournal.com

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