What GAO Found[Click here to download the full report.]
NNSA achieved its major goals for reestablishing its pit manufacturing capability at LANL as defined by the agency in 2002. Specifically, NNSA’s goals were to create a capability to manufacture 10 pits per year starting in 2007 and to deliver a single W88 war reserve pit to the stockpile in 2007. War reserve pits must meet stringent specifications, while other types of pits, such as pits destructively tested for production quality control, may not meet the same standards. NNSA estimated that this effort would cost about $1.55 billion for fiscal years 2001 through 2007. According to NNSA, LANL produced 11 pits in 2007, eight of which were W88 war reserve pits, and spent about $1.29 billion for fiscal years 2001 through 2007. However, GAO found that NNSA did not establish clear, consistent goals for the number of W88 war reserve pits it planned to produce. Specifically, some NNSA documents, including budget requests to Congress, called for delivering 10 W88 war reserve pits per year starting in 2007. In addition, NNSA’s cost estimate did not include estimates for a variety of activities that directly and indirectly supported the pit manufacturing mission at LANL between 2001 and 2007. These support activities, which included scientific experiments and facility operations and maintenance, totaled over $1 billion.
Because of three major constraints on pit manufacturing operations at LANL, NNSA will not be able to substantively increase its current pit manufacturing capacity for the foreseeable future. Specifically, GAO found that LANL’s building for performing analytical chemistry, which deals with the separation and identification of the components in a pit sample, has major operational and structural limitations. LANL’s ability to store pits and associated waste is also constrained by limited vault storage space. Finally, a lack of available floor space in LANL’s main nuclear facility limits its ability to install a large scale, efficient production line for manufacturing pits.
NNSA’s plans for future pit manufacturing are still being developed and, as a result, no reliable cost estimates exist. Originally, NNSA and the Department of Defense (DOD) had planned to develop the capability to produce RRW pits beginning about 2014, pending the outcome of a RRW design definition and cost study in 2008. However, in fiscal year 2008 all of NNSA’s RRW funding was eliminated. While NNSA and DOD continue to support the RRW program, in the short run, NNSA plans to maintain the existing pit manufacturing capability at LANL. Over the long term, NNSA is planning, with DOD’s concurrence, to upgrade the existing LANL facility to achieve a production capacity of up to 80 pits per year. However, NNSA has not established a cost and schedule baseline to support its projected effort.