Federal officials will unveil a proposal today to make Los Alamos National Laboratory the nation’s center for nuclear weapons plutonium research, consolidating work now done at other sites around the country.
The proposal, to be unveiled at a news conference in Oak Ridge, Tenn., lays out a road map for the future of the nation’s nuclear weapons research and manufacturing complex.
“We believe that Los Alamos will, in fact, be the nation’s center of excellence for plutonium,” Robert Smolen, head of the nuclear weapons program at the National Nuclear Security Administration, said in an interview.
But the proposed designation comes as lab and federal officials scramble to provide the necessary lab space to do the work.
Los Alamos’s 56-year-old plutonium laboratory, which government nuclear safety experts have called a “significant risk” to workers and the public, will have to last a few years longer, federal and lab officials have concluded.
Construction of a replacement has been delayed, so a plan completed by the lab in August calls for continued nuclear operations in parts of the old lab for as long as a decade.