Dec 18, 2007

Los Alamos: U.S. Plutonium Center of the Future

From John Fleck's Albuquerque Journal Science and Technology blog.

Link to the story is here.

Written by John Fleck
Tuesday, 18 December 2007
Los Alamos National Laboratory will be the nation's plutonium center of the future, federal officials will announce today.

The National Nuclear Security Administration will have a news conference at 11 a.m. to announce plans for its "complex transformation" - an effort to rejigger the U.S. nuclear weapons design and manufacturing complex to make it cheaper to run.

The most important feature of the plan is the decision by federal weapons program managers to abandon plans to build a new consolidated nuclear materials research and manufacturing center. Instead, the bulk of that work will be done at two places: Los Alamos for plutonium work and Oak Ridge's Y-12 plant for uranium work.

I'll have more this afternoon, but among the other relevant details from the quick look I've had at the plan:

  • Los Alamos as the sole U.S. center for plutonium R&D and manufacturing
  • Sandia's California lab site "transitioning ... to a multi-agency lab"
  • both Sandia and Los Alamos seeing their nuclear weapons staffs shrink by 20 percent over the next decade
  • work on the CMR Replacement (the big new plutonium lab at Los Alamos) to continue


John Fleck said...

FYI, NNSA has posted the fact sheets and other info, allowing y'all to cut out the journalist middleman:


Anonymous said...

From today's NNSA presentation on Complex Transformation...

For staffing, LANL, LLNL, and SNL will have a reduction of 20% in staff involved with weapons activities over the next decade.

Here are the new Missions for the three R&D weapon labs:

----------- LANL -----------------

The Los Alamos National Laboratory will be the Center of Excellence for Nuclear Design and Engineering and the Center of Excellence for Plutonium, and its mission will be enhanced by:

* Supercomputing platform host site;

* Plutonium pit production R&D with TA-55 including a Chemistry & Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR), Nuclear Facility;

* Detonator production and contained HE R&D; and

* Materials research with the Matter-Radiation Interaction in Extremes facility as potential science magnet.

------------- LLNL ----------------

LLNL will be a Center of Excellence for Nuclear Design and Engineering as well as Center of Excellence for High Explosive R&D, and its mission will be enhanced by:

* Supercomputing platform host site;

* HE R&D with the High Explosive Applications Facility (HEAF) for formulation, processing, and confined testing (<10kg); and

* High-energy density physics with the National Ignition Facility (NIF) as a science magnet.

-------------- SNL ----------------

SNL will be the Center of Excellence for Non-Nuclear Design and Engineering and the Center of Excellence for Major Environmental Testing, and its mission will be enhanced by:

* Microelectronics & Engineering Science Applications (MESA) complex as an engineering magnet;

* Major weapons environmental testing with TA-3 and other NM facilities;

* Energetic Devices R&D with the Explosives Test Facility; and

* Neutron generator design and manufacturing facilities.

You can find out more at the NNSA web site (

Anonymous said...

Any more questions about NNSA's plans for LANL, and why they don't include broadening our mission?

Anonymous said...

LANL would agree to do anything as long as they got to be called a "Center of Excellence" (and, as long as LANS continues to get its annual fat award fee).

LANL, Center of Excellence for Crapping Up the Environment with Plutonium Fabrication Byproducts.

Any pride I once felt about having worked at LANL is pretty much long gone.

Anonymous said...

It's obviously "Pits 'R Us" time for Los Alamos.

The overall importance of the pit production task is going to over-ride *all* other activities at LANL over this next decade.

Anonymous said...

Do you think I can sell my house now?

Anonymous said...

Oh, goody! It looks like NNSA is now firmly on the MaRIE bandwagon. This should do wonders in helping LANL to diversify our project portfolio (not!).

NNSA is going to do nothing to help LANL lessen our dependence on their quickly declining budgets. In fact, you can probably count on NNSA using all sorts of ways to hinder more outside work at the lab.

Anonymous said...

LANL staff have been given a breather. Those who don't want to be involved with plutonium pit production work can use the next 8 months to find other work elsewhere.

But you know what: 8 months from now when the FY'08 budget shows another large reduction, we are going to be hearing the same wailing about how unfair life is by those who will be facing next year's RIFs.

The "best and brightest" still don't get it.

Anonymous said...

The new NNSA documents state that SNL is going to officially become a "Multi-Agency" lab.

Guess we know where all the WFO work will be migrating to over the next few years. NNSA will want it dumped off at SNL.

Anonymous said...

"...we are going to be hearing the same wailing about how unfair life is by those who will be facing next year's RIFs."

I conclude from this that you won't be facing next year's RIFs?

Anonymous said...

Correct, 12:35. I saw the writing on the wall back in 2004, when all the powers that be supported Nanos and his disastrous shutdown decision. LANL's "transformation" has been several years in the making, but it wasn't hard to see coming.

Anonymous said...

About that announced 20% reduction in the LANL workforce over the next 10 years..

Expect it to be front-loaded over the next 2 years due to the political mine field and fiscal budgetary pressures that LANL (and the whole nation) now faces.

John Fleck said...

12:34 If you'll read my original post and the underlying documents on which it was based, you'll see that it is Sandia *California* that would become a multi-agency lab, not Sandia as a whole.

Anonymous said...

Talk about hurt feelings. Of the 8 sites listed, only KCP is not a "Center of Excellence".

Anonymous said...

Now its officially;

Los Alamos Pit Production Plant, e.g. LAPPP.

Anonymous said...

Well the cats out of the BAG now so nothing more to say anymore. It is now time to move on people. You are going to be given this next year to leave, so if you get the opportunity elsewhere by all means take it! You can get better jobs elsewhere!

Anonymous said...

Make that LAPPPP.
Los Alamos Plutonium Pit Production Plant

Anonymous said...

This is just too funny - Do you think we'll get to see Mikey do a LAPPP dance??

Anonymous said...

John Fleck, you are right about the "Multi-Agency" thing. I thought I heard D'Agostino mention the term in regards to SNL at today's meeting, but the handouts make it clear that it only relates to SNL/CA.

Anonymous said...

At least the rest of us can still work for the "other" Los Alamos. I mean the onw that will be run by Terry Wallace and Doug Beason. Except without those big handouts from the weapons funds, how will we be able to do science? As for MaRIE, let's see if it ever gets any funding. Saint Pete was very effective in fixing the budget this FY. I wonder how Lord Tom (Udall) will be in terms of getting billions for science given his ideas for future transformation of the Laboratory? Perhaps he could start by reducing the overhead rate so one FTE doesn't have the burden for paying for 2 or 3 other people.

Anonymous said...

If this announcement would have been made 2 weeks ago LANS would have got the full 750 people for the voluntary separation and then some.

Anonymous said...

Forget about having a multi-disciplinary science lab. It's going to be weapons and pits and a rapidly declining budget, says NNSA. That's my take from Tuesday's presentation.