Modernizing the nuclear security enterprise [electronic resource] : new plutonium research facility at Los Alamos may not meet all mission needs : report to the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate.
[Washington, D.C.] : U.S. Govt. Accountability Office, 
Title from cover screen (viewed on Mar. 29, 2012).
Plutonium, a man-made element produced by irradiating uranium in nuclear reactors, is vital to the nuclear weapons stockpile. Much of the nation's current plutonium research capabilities are housed in aging facilities at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. These facilities pose safety hazards. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has decided to construct a multibillion dollar Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR) to modernize the laboratory's capabilities to analyze and store plutonium. GAO was asked to examine (1) the cost and schedule estimates to construct CMRR and the extent to which its most recent estimates reflect best practices, (2) options NNSA considered to ensure that needed plutonium research activities could continue, and (3) the extent to which NNSA's plans reflected changes in stockpile requirements and other plutonium research needs. GAO reviewed NNSA and contractor project design documents and visited Los Alamos and another plutonium facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. GAO is making recommendations to improve CMRR's schedule risk analysis and to conduct an assessment of plutonium research needs. NNSA agreed with GAO's recommendations to assess plutonium research needs, but disagreed that its schedule risk analysis should be revised, citing its recent decision to defer the project. GAO clarified the recommendation to specify that NNSA should take action when it resumes the project.