LANL 70yrs

Office of the Director
P.O. Box 1663, A100
Los Alamos, New Mexico 87545                               Date: July 1, 2013
505-667-5101/Fax 505-665-2997                              Symbol: DIR-13-182

Dr. Ernest Moniz
Secretary of Energy
US Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave., SW
Washington,DC 20585

Dear Secretary Moniz:

In light of our recent conversation on matters pertaining to the maintenance of the stockpile, and given the leadership transition currently underway at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), I wanted to make you aware of a significant concern.

Recently, both appropriations subcommittees in Congress that are charged with determining our funding allocations have completed their initial legislative markups. Based on my analysis of the marks, I am deeply concerned that both bills contain plutonium (Pu) program limits and reductions that ultimately will prevent the Lab from meeting the nation’s 2021 pit production requirements.

From our conversation last Friday, I know that you are aware NNSA has been working with Congress on a reprogramming request of $120 million from the deferred Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR NF). These funds would be used to begin work on the initial steps of an alternative Pu strategy, and a more formalized examination of a long-term Pu strategy should the deferment of CMRR become permanent. I believed NNSA was close to satisfying the questions from the various committees needed to approve this reprogramming. Instead, the legislation from the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development contains language that rescinds this funding. Reducing this funding would mean that the initial steps to support pit manufacturing will not be accomplished. This increases the risk that there will be no path forward for our Pu activities once the 61-year-old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) facility ceases programmatic operations in 2019.

In addition, the House version seems to place additional limitations on our operations at our Technical Area-55 related to processing Pu metals because of seismic concerns. Los Alamos has made significant structural upgrades to PF-4 and more are planned. As part of our Pu sustainment strategy, we have also sought to reduce the Material at Risk (MAR) on the production floor and improvements to the fire suppression are underway.

Although the Senate version of the Energy & Water Development legislation does not rescind the $120 million NNSA reprogramming request, it does not provide funding for Pu metal processing. This funding reduction, together with the funding reductions in the House, poses a very serious challenge to Los Alamos meeting our mission requirements. 

Mr. Secretary, Los Alamos will continue to do everything possible to keep our people and programs intact should these funding reductions come to pass, but I am very worried that these FY14 Pu program reductions will place the mission on an unrecoverable trajectory. With the 2019 closure of CMR and significant underfunding of Pu infrastructure, we will simply not have the capability to produce much more than the current pit output.

I look forward to working with you and your new leadership team at NNSA to develop a path forward for this very complex problem. I also stand ready to assist you however I can in providing the relevant committees in Congress with the answers they need to approve the Pu strategy reprogramming request.



Charles F. McMillan

Cy: Mr. Frank Kendall
      Gen C. Robert Kehler
      Mr. Bruce Held
      Dr. Donald L. Cook
      IRM-RMS, A150