NNSA Moves to Expand Plutonium Pit Production
The National Nuclear Security Administration said last week that it will proceed with a plan to sharply expand production of plutonium “pits” — the explosive triggers for thermonuclear weapons — without performing a full “programmatic” environmental review.
NNSA envisions producing “no fewer than 80 pits per year by 2030,” including a minimum of 30 pits per year at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a minimum of 50 pits per year at the Savannah River Site. Currently, “less than 20 per year” are produced, all at Los Alamos.
It is “NNSA’s determination that no further NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] documentation at a programmatic level is required,” the agency said in a January 8 Federal Register notice. (Site-specific assessments will still be prepared for plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Lab and the Savannah River Site.)
Environmental and anti-nuclear groups cried foul. “NNSA’s refusal to complete programmatic environmental review before plunging ahead with plans to more than quadruple the production authorization for plutonium bomb cores flies in the face of our country’s foundational environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act, and a standing federal court order mandating that the government conduct such a review,” said Marylia Kelley of Tri-Valley CAREs.
In response to public comments challenging the basis for increased pit production, NNSA said that it is obliged by law to pursue the goal of producing “no fewer than 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030.” (The exact numbers are classified.)
“These requirements are contained in federal law and national policy,” the agency said. “Contentions that there is no need for new pits are not consistent with federal law, the 2018 NPR [Nuclear Posture Review], and national policy.”
That doesn’t mean that the new …read more