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Modernization of Arms Facilities to Be Spread Over 20 Years : $81-Billion Upgrade of A-Plants Sought

Associated Press

The Department of Energy is proposing an ambitious 20-year program that will cost an estimated $81 billion to clean up and modernize this country’s trouble-plagued nuclear weapons production complex.

“The cost of modernization and environmental restoration will require a significant increase in funding for the next two decades,” said a report prepared by the Department of Energy for submission to Congress.

Of the $81-billion total, $52 billion is projected for modernizing outdated facilities, some of which are more than 30 years old, and $29 billion would go toward efforts to deal with radioactive and chemical contamination at many sites throughout the weapons complex.

The long-range plan would involve building new facilities in South Carolina and Idaho as well as phasing out weapons production activities in Washington state, Colorado and Ohio.

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Called ‘2010 Report’

The Energy Department so far has refused to release any parts of the classified document, known as the “2010 Report” because it looks ahead as far as the 2010 fiscal year.

Gail Bradshaw, deputy chief spokesman for the department, said this week that the department could not release the report’s unclassified executive summary until it had received permission to do so from the National Security Council.

A copy of the summary was obtained by Morris News Service and made available to the Associated Press.

Energy Secretary John S. Herrington said on Dec. 22 that the next Administration faces “hard choices” in dealing with the problems of the nuclear weapons complex.

He told a National Press Club audience that cannibalization of some warheads to build or upgrade others is something that “we must look at to keep our options open.” But Herrington said that, as things now stand, “I do not anticipate the need” to resort to such methods.

The possibility of cannibalizing warheads has been raised in view of the fact that safety and equipment problems have shut down the three reactors that produce the nation’s supply of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Because tritium decays at a rate of 5.5% a year, it needs to be replenished regularly to keep warheads at peak explosive power.

Herrington has said that it will possibly be as late as summer before any of the three reactors at the Savannah River Plant near Aiken, S.C., can be restarted.

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The “2010 Report” raises questions about whether the Savannah River reactors can in fact be brought back to efficient production of tritium.

It noted that “all three reactors are shut down for safety system improvements and are not expected to be fully operational until late 1989. Despite these improvements and increasingly extensive maintenance, the reactors may not be able to achieve acceptable production efficiencies.”


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