U.S. Nuclear Lab Wraps Up Security Update ‘Under Budget,’ Despite Surprise Costs

A U.S. flag seen in 2000 at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The National Nuclear Security Administration said a security upgrade at the site was completed under budget, despite millions of dollars in unplanned costs.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
Add to Briefcase
Diane Barnes
April 4, 2014, 9:44 a.m.

Nuc­le­ar-arms of­fi­cials said a Los Alam­os Na­tion­al Labor­at­ory se­cur­ity up­date was done un­der budget, des­pite mil­lions of dol­lars in un­planned costs.

The U.S. Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion on Thursday said it spent $1 mil­lion less to im­prove pro­tec­tions at a sens­it­ive area of the New Mex­ico site than its “ori­gin­al budget” had al­loc­ated.

However, the pic­ture is a bit more com­plic­ated than that; pro­gram costs went down in April 2011, only to skyrock­et anew later on as se­cur­ity boosts were in­stalled at aging Los Alam­os lab fa­cil­it­ies that handle plutoni­um us­able in nuc­le­ar arms.

Fix­ing the is­sues ul­ti­mately re­quired tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in un­planned ex­penses and more than a year of ad­di­tion­al work, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­por­ted.

A nuc­le­ar agency of­fi­cial ac­know­ledged in a Thursday state­ment that the ef­fort to up­grade de­fenses at Tech­nic­al Area 55 — the coun­try’s sole site for man­u­fac­tur­ing plutoni­um nuc­le­ar-bomb trig­gers — was a “troubled pro­ject.”

The com­ment by NNSA As­so­ci­ate Ad­min­is­trat­or Bob Raines was an al­lu­sion to flaws dis­covered in the late stages of the new sys­tem’s de­liv­ery. His agency — a semi­autonom­ous branch of the En­ergy De­part­ment — re­vealed the prob­lems in late 2012, sev­er­al months be­fore the pro­ject was ori­gin­ally slated for com­ple­tion.

The nuc­le­ar agency could still say that the pro­ject wrapped up “un­der budget,” though, be­cause its earli­est cost es­tim­ate was far great­er than a pro­jec­tion it ad­op­ted later on.

“Due to fa­vor­able con­tract bids in April 2011, NNSA re­duced the es­tim­ated total pro­ject cost from $245 mil­lion to $213 mil­lion,” En­ergy De­part­ment In­spect­or Gen­er­al Gregory Fried­man said in a re­port earli­er this year.

The cost of fix­ing the sys­tem’s prob­lems ap­par­ently elim­in­ated most of the earli­er-an­ti­cip­ated sav­ings. Still, the pro­ject came in just short of the ini­tial $245 mil­lion es­tim­ate, ac­cord­ing to an NNSA news re­lease.

What We're Following See More »
New Emails Discovered in Anthony Weiner Investigation
5 minutes ago

The new emails related to Hillary Clinton, which FBI Director James Comey referenced in a Friday letter to Congress, came to light in the midst of an investigation of Anthony Weiner, former New York Congressman and estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Weiner is being investigated for allegedly sexting with an underage woman.

FBI To Investigate New Clinton Emails
1 hours ago
Trump Kicks in $10 Million of His Own Money
1 hours ago

Donald Trump "wired $10 million of his own money into his presidential campaign Friday morning," which "will be used to buy $25 million in new TV advertising in key battleground states." He's now put in a total of $66 million to his campaign.

TO AIR OCT. 31 & NOV. 1
Stein, Johnson to Participate in PBS Candidate Forum
2 hours ago

It was announced on Friday that Gary Johnson and Jill Stein will participate in a candidate's forum, to be filmed live on Oct. 31 and air in two parts. The forum will air on PBS's Tavis Smiley. Additionally, there will be a 30 minute discussion available exclusively online with questions selected from social media.

Obama: Michelle Will Never Run for Office
3 hours ago

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.