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NNSA Announces Decisions to Transform National Security Enterprise

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The plan to transform and downsize the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA's) infrastructure moved forward today as the head of NNSA signed two formal decision documents to begin its implementation.  That action allows the agency to continue the process of moving from an aging, Cold War-era nuclear weapons complex into a 21st century national security enterprise.

"We can now start moving forward on much-needed consolidation and reductions throughout our national security enterprise, shifting to more cost effective operations that will save the taxpayer money," said NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino. "This will improve the safety and security of the infrastructure that maintains U.S. nuclear weapons, helps prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and material, and responds to potential nuclear terrorism or other emergencies."

The records of decision, signed by the administrator today, are the final steps in a several year-long process – one that involved unprecedented input from the public.  The plan, known as "Complex Transformation," calls for a consolidation of missions and facilities within the existing NNSA sites, known as distributed centers of excellence.  While not eliminating any sites, NNSA would eliminate redundancies in missions, capabilities, and facilities at all of them, eventually reducing costs.

The decisions will appear in the Federal Register on Friday, December 19.

In December 2007, D'Agostino announced the draft Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.  Since that announcement, thousands of citizens attended more than 80 hours of public hearings and provided more than 600 oral comments regarding the proposed transformation plan.  During the public comment period there were a total of 20 public hearings at NNSA sites and other locations. In total, NNSA received over 100,000 comments.

The records of decision define directions for major nuclear, research, development, and testing facilities supporting NNSA activities, including:

  • Consolidate high-security special nuclear material to five NNSA sites and at fewer locations within these sites will continue;
  • Plutonium operations will be consolidated at NNSA's Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico;
  • Uranium operations will be consolidated at NNSA's Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee;
  • Assembly and disassembly of nuclear weapons and high explosives production and manufacturing will remain at NNSA's Pantex Plant in Texas;
  • Tritium operations will be consolidated at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina;
  • Flight testing operations will continue at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada in a more limited scope that relies on a reduced footprint for NNSA operations.
  • Major environmental test facilities, where weapon components are exposed to different temperatures and mechanical stresses typical of the different types of environments they would be exposed to, will be consolidated at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.

While outlining a path forward for the enterprise, the records of decision do not commit to a specific budget, timeline, size or capacity for any related facility.  They also maintain current operations related to weapons support functions at Sandia National Laboratories in California as well as high explosives research and development and hydrodynamic testing facilities.

This plan reflects a smaller nuclear weapons stockpile –  President Bush has reduced it by half since he came into office, with a further 15% reduction scheduled by 2012.  Currently the stockpile is at its lowest level since the Eisenhower administration.

"Complex Transformation is not just about our physical infrastructure," added D'Agostino.  "This is also about how we perform our missions and the people who do it.  We must recruit a new generation of talented scientists and engineers for our national security."

In June of this year, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman approved a new direction for the national security laboratories.  The science, technology and engineering capabilities within the laboratories and the Nevada Test Site will serve a broader national security mission in the future, recognizing that NNSA's roles in nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear counterterrorism are growing.  Through agreements with other federal agencies, NNSA will contribute to national security more broadly than in the past.

The broad range of research and development activities at the NNSA laboratories, which include sensor and detection technology, high-performance computing, microsystems, chemical and biological technology, and explosives science, will continue to ensure that the nation is equipped to deal with technological surprises and anticipate new national security threats.

Furthermore, NNSA is changing the way the enterprise is run.  Just as important as having an infrastructure that works for the 21st century is running it in a way that demonstrates 21st century thinking.  Administrator D'Agostino has begun to integrate project management best practices throughout NNSA.

One example of this effort is a program that recently won the General Services Administration Achievement Award for Real Property Innovation.  NNSA streamlined the management of its roofs by implementing its first multi-site construction activity – a program that in the past would have required multiple projects.  Doing so saved an estimated $7 million in construction costs while replacing 1.9 million square feet of roof with more energy efficient sustainable roofs.

"Over the past several years, I have taken a long hard look at the current nuclear weapons complex and where we need to be," said D'Agostino.  "I am convinced that our plan is the best path, and that the need for change is urgent.  We must act now to adapt for the future and stop pouring money into an old, Cold War weapons complex that is too big and too expensive.  I am proud to announce today these steps towards achieving this goal."

NNSA's national security enterprise consists of the eight major facilities across the country that work together to keep the nation's nuclear weapons safe and reliable without underground nuclear testing.  The facilities are: Los Alamos National Laboratory (NM), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (CA), Sandia National Laboratories (NM and CA), Pantex Plant (TX), Y-12 National Security Complex (TN), Kansas City Plant (MO), Savannah River Site (SC), and Nevada Test Site (NV).

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation's national security enterprise.  NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the 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 U.S. and abroad.

Media contact(s):
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371