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Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor


NNSA Moving Forward With Pu Capabilities Project at LANL, Requests $155.6 Million in FY 2016

Todd Jacobson
NS&D Monitor

The Obama Administration is moving forward with a new strategy to maintain the plutonium capabilities at Los Alamos National Laboratory, requesting $155.6 million for the work in Fiscal Year 2016, an increase of $119.9 million from FY 2015 enacted levels. The project has emerged from the ashes of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement-Nuclear Facility, which was cancelled due to ballooning costs. In its place, the National Nuclear Security Administration plans to use existing facilities, including the existing Radiological Laboratory/Utility/Office Building (RLUOB) and Plutonium Facility (PF-4), while relying on smaller “modules” for additional space needed for plutonium work. The NNSA is expected to be out of the existing Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) building by 2019.

The NNSA is taking a phased approach to the project, establishing three subprojects. The first, known as REI Phase 2, transfers part of the analytical chemistry and material characterization work from the CMR by adding new equipment to the recently built Radiological Laboratory/Utility/Office Building. The Department of Energy authorized the procurement of long lead equipment and site preparations to begin in late December with a cost range of $505-$675 million. The project is expected to be completed by the first quarter of FY 2020.

Remaining analytical chemistry and material characterization work will be transferred to PF-4 through the PF-4 Equipment Installation Subproject, which includes modifying parts of PF-4, removing contaminated equipment and purchasing new equipment. The cost range of the second project is $995 million to $1.4 billion, and work is expected to be completed by FY 2024. The REI Phase 2 subproject will be implemented by the lab through design-bid-build construction contracts; the PF4 Equipment Installation Subproject will be excuted through a lab-issued final design, with the work being self-performed in PF-4. Some non-nuclear work will be conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to the budget documents.

Funding for Modular Strategy Unclear

No construction funds are requested for building the modules, but the budget documents indicate that Program Readiness money would be used to fund the development of early project documentation and pre-conceptual planning for the modular concept. The budget documents do not indicate how much money was requested specifically for work on the modular concept, which is expected to cost in excess of $2 billion. The NNSA said it is expected to build no less than two modules that will “achieve full operating capability not later than 2027.”

Other Construction Projects

The Administration also requested $40.9 million for work on the Transuranic Liquid Waste Facility at Los Alamos, a $33.5 million increase from FY 2015 levels; and $11.5 million for the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility Upgrade Project at LANL, which received no funding in FY 2015. Another $18.2 million was requested for the TA-55 Reinvestment Project (Phase 3) at Los Alamos, a $2.1 million increase over FY 2015.

No money was requested for the High Explosives Science and Engineering Facility at Pantex due to rising costs for the project. The Administration said a “less competitive” construction environment has forced it to revamp the total estimated cost of construction, and it now estimates construction will cost $97.3 million, up from a previous estimate of $72.2 million. The estimate for the total cost of the project, which includes demolition of existing facilities and other costs, is $100 to $155 million, and the project is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of FY 2023. The Administration projects spending $19.5 million for the project in FY 2017, $27.4 million in FY 2018, $19.9 million in FY 2019, and $17.7 million in FY 2020.

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