WASHINGTON, D.C. – The public comment period for the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA's) proposal to transform the Cold War nuclear weapons complex into a smaller 21st century national security enterprise has been extended through April 30, 2008, according to NNSA's administrator. The public comment period was originally to end on April 10, 2008.
"Although we have provided more than double the time required by law to comment and held more public hearings than we have ever held for this type of activity, we have decided to extend the deadline in order to ensure that everyone has enough time to submit their comments," said NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino. "We want to give people every opportunity to adequately express their point of view about NNSA's proposal to make the nuclear weapons complex smaller, safer, more secure and more cost effective."
Thousands of citizens attended more than 80 hours of public hearings and provided more than 600 oral comments regarding NNSA's proposed transformation plan. NNSA officials said that during the official 90 day public comment period, there were a total of 20 public hearings over a 36 day span at NNSA sites and other locations, and that it has already received more than 85,000 comments.
While NNSA is required to provide 45 days for public comment on these types of documents, it decided at the start of the process to allow 90 days due to the complexity of the draft proposal. In addition, NNSA made the executive summary of the draft available in December 2007 – almost a month before the public comment period started.
The proposal, in the form of a draft Complex Transformation Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (SPEIS), evaluates four alternatives: maintaining the status quo, distributed centers of excellence, consolidated centers of excellence, and a capabilities-based complex. The SPEIS identifies NNSA's preferred alternative, the distributed centers of excellence, which would consolidate missions and facilities within the existing NNSA sites. This means that NNSA would eliminate redundancies in missions, capabilities, and facilities, eventually saving money in the future.
The preferred alternative for the future complex would:
- Consolidate special nuclear materials at five sites by the end of 2012, with reduced square footage within those sites by 2017;
- Close or transfer from the weapons activities budget about 600 buildings or structures, many by 2010;
- Cease NNSA operations of two major testing sites supporting its laboratories by 2015;
- Reduce the square footage of buildings and structures supporting weapons missions by as much as one-third, going from greater than 35 million to less than 26 million square feet;
- Employ 20-30 percent fewer workers directly supporting weapons missions, consistent with a smaller, more efficient complex; and
- Dismantle weapons at a significantly faster pace.
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a separately organized agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the United States and abroad.
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