Los Alamos National Laboratory would receive about $1 billion for plutonium operations at the heart of its effort to produce 30 nuclear bomb cores by 2026, according to a partial budget the White House released Friday.

The amount would be more than a 20 percent jump from the $837 million being spent this year on the lab’s plutonium work, a clear signal that President Joe Biden will echo his predecessors’ calls to modernize the nuclear stockpile to deter China, Russia, Iran and other adversaries that have growing first-strike abilities.

The lab’s $837 million plutonium budget this year was 2.7 times larger than the prior year’s allocation of $308 million.

The lab’s plutonium funding was part of the draft budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration, the federal agency in charge of the country’s nuclear weapons program.

The budget also requests $603 million — a 37 percent increase — to move the Savannah River Site in South Carolina toward producing 50 pits a year.

A critic of the lab’s nuclear spending said the budget contains no surprises.

“That’s kind of what we expected,” said Greg Mello, executive director of the nonprofit Los Alamos Study Group. “They’re not at the peak yet at Los Alamos, and they’re just getting into it at Savannah River.”

The National Nuclear Security Administration would receive nearly identical funding as it did this year, more evidence that Biden doesn’t plan, at least for now, to ratchet down nuclear spending.

The White House is requesting about $19.7 billion for the agency, a slight increase of $11 million from this year’s budget.

“The funding enables NNSA to execute its long-standing nuclear modernization efforts begun under the Obama-Biden administration, advances global nonproliferation efforts ... and supports United States leadership in science and technology,” Charles Verdon, the agency’s acting administrator, said in a statement.

Nuclear nonproliferation programs would be funded at about the same level of $2.26 billion.

The Obama administration amped up nuclear modernization, partly as a bargaining chip to get the then-GOP-controlled Congress to ratify the START pact. The treaty limits Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals and was recently renewed by Biden.

The Obama administration set a goal of having the country produce 50 to 80 pits by 2030. The Trump administration went further, requiring Los Alamos lab and Savannah River to crank out a combined 80 pits yearly by 2030.

But making 80 pits a year within the next decade has been called into question.

Lisa Hruby, Biden’s pick to lead the nuclear agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the Savannah River plant is unlikely to produce 50 pits yearly until sometime between 2030 and 2035.

Mello said the 2030 target was always in doubt, but it became “the mantra.”

“Most parties were skeptical, but they stuck with the story,” Mello said. “Now, Jill Hruby has said the more realistic deadline.”

Another lab critic said if Savannah River is delayed in reaching its pit-making goal, Los Alamos lab could be pressured to produce more than 30 pits a year.

“All of this may boomerang on Los Alamos lab, which has been incapable of making a pit for the nuclear weapons stockpile since 2011,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Coghlan was referring to a contract in which the lab made 11 pits in one year for Navy missiles a decade ago. That was the lab’s highest pit production, which soon ceased.

The budget states that the needed equipment would be installed to produce the first pit by 2023. Three years later, production would escalate to 30 pits yearly.

(9) comments

mark Coble

Pay to play reward for MLG being a shill for scamdemic.

Dee Finney

The end is near.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Be not further deceived, Dee Finney: The End for some, The Beginning for others. Be blessed Dee - and let not your good heart be troubled.

Prince Michael Jauregui

This arrogant and needless squander of U.S. tax-payer dollars by an inept, long-corrupted career-politician is another spat upon the numerous, heartlessly ignored Tularosa-basin Downwinders (See: "Trinity Site"). Be clear: This wicked and cruel crime against innocent Americans cannot and shall not go unanswered. Not for LANL, the current White House "administration", nor the U.S. "Government".

"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They are brought down and fallen; but we are risen and stand upright." Psalm 20:Seven - 8

Signed, Prince Atomic Number 2Seven (Co).

Khal Spencer

Yeah, the Downwinders definitely took one for the team, and never got the credit they were due, but I would bet you dollars to donuts that they wouldn't have wanted to swap places with the folks hitting the beaches or sitting in ships at Okinawa and Iwo Jima. A lot of people took one for the team and some came back in boxes, if they came back at all.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Khal, you've always seemed to be an honest and fair-minded man. So, I'll try to be civil:

On this Memorial Day Weekend, I salute all the Men and Women who sacrificed so much -some their lives- on behalf of Freedom, Liberty and their Countrymen. Still, as a second-generation service-member, with an extended family of former service-members, we all knew what we signed-up for, and the vast, potential risk.

On July 16, 1945, a desperate and reckless U.S. "Government" detonated the first Atomic Bomb at the blasphemously named "Trinity Site" New Mexico. According to one author, when "President" Truman asked the head of the Manhattan Project, the wicked J. Robert Oppenheimer for a worst-case scenario, Oppenheimer said his evil creation "might kill a few thousand Mexicans". Shamefully and arrogantly marginalizing the lives of numerous Hispano-Americans, Native-American, Basque-Americans and Anglo-Americans, all unsuspecting and never forewarned U.S. Citizens living in the towns surrounding "Trinity Site".

Thousands of innocent Men, Women and Children were issued a de facto death sentence due to the immeasurable levels of Radioactive fall-out. Imagine Chernobyl - times 100. So Khal, unlike the brave patriots at Okinawa and Iwo Jima, the people of the Tularosa Basin were never given an option, much less a warning by their oppressive and evil "Government".

Khal, I know you're another transplanted East Coaster, -for which you'll be mostly forgiven- but, we have a saying here in New Mexico, that My Late, Beloved Grandmother Jauregui taught me as a small boy: Dios lo ve todo.

Be clear: Justice, however overdue, shall be surprising and severe for a wicked, unrepentant, false "god" U.S. "Government". No excuses. No exceptions. No warnings. No defenses - CONFIRMED.

Khal Spencer

I'll leave the philosophical arguments out of this response since we will have to agree to disagree (or not) but as far as the relative size of the mess of the Trinity device vs. Chernobyl:


"Compared with other nuclear events: The Chernobyl explosion put 400 times more radioactive material into the Earth's atmosphere than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima; atomic weapons tests conducted in the 1950s and 1960s all together are estimated to have put some 100 to 1,000 times more radioactive material into the atmosphere than the Chernobyl accident." ("Ten years after Chernobyl: What do we really know?" of the PDF official document: http://www.iaea.org/inis/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Public/28/058/28058918.pdf)

The Downwinders should have been evacuated immediately and compensated. That much is true.

Khal Spencer

I find it absurd that it takes more than ten years to get Savannah River site up to speed when we could go, in about three years, from never having built a nuclear weapon or even having broke ground for a nuclear weapon facility to using them in combat. This, back when people were using slide rules and tube-powered instruments.

Something's seriously silly with this picture.

Ann Maes

Sure, let’s build more nuclear bombs so we can show Russia and China we can destroy the Earth more times than they can. The tragedy is they are saying the same thing. And these are our world leaders who never learn how to play in the same sandbox together!

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.