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Government & Policy

January 12, 2009
Volume 87, Number 2
Web Exclusive


A Shrinking Weapons Complex

Jeff Johnson

The Department of Energy intends to cut the workforce and the physical size of its nuclear weapons complex by 20 to 30% over the next 20 years. No facility now operating will be closed, but the focus of these facilities and their size will be reduced.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous part of DOE that runs the weapons complex, says its goal is to transform the facility by removing old buildings, eliminating some staff, consolidating similar operations, and changing the complex into a "sleek, modern science and manufacturing center."

Currently, the weapons complex consists of eight sites: two weapons design labs (Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories); a weapons engineering lab (Sandia National Laboratories); a weapons assembly/disassembly facility (Pantex plant, in Texas); a nonnuclear manufacturing site (Kansas City plant); a tritium production facility (Savannah River Site, in South Carolina); a uranium components production site (Y-12 plant, in Tennessee); and an explosives testing and R&D facility (Nevada Test Site).

NNSA has an annual budget of about $9 billion, which includes $6.3 billion for weapons and another $1.5 billion for nuclear nonproliferation activities. Most of the remainder goes to security and administrative activities.

In all, about $15 billion of DOE's $24 billion annual budget supports nuclear-weapons-related work. About one-third of this $15 billion is spent each year to clean up the environmental degradation from weapons manufacturing.

At its zenith, the weapons complex consisted of dozens of industrial facilities and labs across the country, including some 16 major facilities and huge reservations of land in California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington.

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Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2009 American Chemical Society

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