From the newspaper this week, a look at the bargain that was struck to win support for the New START nuke deal with the Russians (sub/ad req), which includes money for a new plutonium lab at Los Alamos to replace its aging CMR building – despite dramatic cost increases and schedule delays since the project was first proposed:
In the short term, the deal ensures money to keep patching up the old CMR building, now 58 years old and well past its “best used by” date. Nuclear weapons scientists analyze plutonium samples in a building long ago labeled unsafe by federal nuclear auditors.
In the long term, there will be money — quite a lot, it appears — to build a replacement.
At this point, in the topsy-turvy politics of Washington, where a deal became the most important thing and damn the details, money appears to have been no object.
What is the sense of this deal?
Who for instance, might work in this building since nuclear weapons science is not exactly a growth industry and many of the people who have the experimental talent to work in such a facility are retired or dead?
What might the facility be used for if it is not needed for nuclear weapons? The LANL BSL-3 facility comes to mind, which, as far as I know, was completed years ago and has never been used.
Decommisioning the old one will be quite interesting and might even account for the majority of the $$
Eli – You raise a great point that I’ve glossed over in my recent stories. In fact the numbers I cite explicitly exclude decommissioning and decontamination of the old building. A very preliminary estimate back in 2004-05 put the cost of that piece at $200m to $350m, but they’ve backed off of that number and now simply plug “to be determined” in the budget documents.