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The construction of an expensive new plutonium pit facility has been abandoned. Will it be replaced a collection of smaller buildings?

By Russ Wellen

Thanks in large part to lawsuits filed by the Los Alamos Study Group, last year the Obama administration halted the construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The research for which it was earmarked was  on plutonium pits, which is where the chain reaction of a nuclear weapons occurs. Even if you believe in nuclear weapons, the need for new pits is nonexistent because they’re noted for their longevity. Read the rest of this entry »


By Russ Wellen

“In crisis lies opportunity” is more than just a cliché (and we’re not just talking about Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine.)  For instance, what could be a better time than the recess-depression in which we’re mired to rethink the whole concept of a growth economy, which has become unsustainable in the face of climate change and dwindling resources? At the very least, it’s a chance to trim our defense budget. In fact, it might not be foremost in the minds of most Americans, or even of much consolation, but cuts to our nuclear-weapons program constitute a silver lining to our economic crisis.

If you’ll recall, earlier this year, the New START treaty was held hostage by Senate Republicans under the direction of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). By way of ransoming it, the Obama administration forked over a proposal to spend $88 billion during the next decade on nuclear-weapon modernization. (As if to show the futility of that approach, while it was ultimately passed, Kyl still didn’t vote in favor of New START.) That figure represents a 20 percent increase above funding levels proposed during the Bush administration. Read the rest of this entry »

By Russ Wellen

As those who read Focal Points regularly know, a facility intended to provide technical support for the production of the plutonium pits for nuclear warheads is under construction at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The pit — which, one ventures to guess, makes the warhead the fruit of our nuclear-weapons program — is where the chain reaction occurs. To Focal Points’ surprise, the New York Times addressed the facility in an editorial on October 29 titled The Bloated Nuclear Budget, which began:

Twenty years after the end of the cold war, the United States still has about 2,500 nuclear weapons deployed and 2,600 more as backup. The Obama administration, in an attempt to mollify Congressional Republicans, has also committed to modernizing an already hugely expensive complex of nuclear labs and production facilities. Altogether, these and other nuclear-related programs could cost $600 billion or more over the next decade. The country does not need to maintain this large an arsenal. … especially when Congress is considering deep cuts in vital domestic programs. … President Obama [should speed up] already negotiated reductions in deployed weapons and committing to further cuts, unilaterally if necessary. Read the rest of this entry »

By Russ Wellen

Regular readers are aware of how alarmed we are by the construction of a facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico intended, in large part, to help produce something known as plutonium pits. Before examining the latest development in attempts to halt it, first some background on the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) from recent posts.

1. Plutonium pits are the living, breathing heart of a nuclear weapon, where the chain reaction occurs. In other words, mad science at its most extreme.

2. The CMRR-NF’s projected cost, adjusted for inflation, may be greater than all the work done on the Manhattan Project in New Mexico during World War II.

3. The land the building will occupy is seismically, uh, challenged (subject to seismic shocks as great as those experienced at Fukushima). Read the rest of this entry »