The Department of Energy recently approved plans to ramp up production of plutonium “pits” at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Pits are the cores that trigger nuclear weapons. The increase could lead to more warhead refurbishment work at the Pantex Plant northeast of Amarillo, reports Amarillo.com.
The changes follow directives from the Department of Defense and Congress to upgrade the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. The number of plutonium pits will go from an approved level of 20 per year up to 80. The strategy will eventually ramp up to a war reserve production capacity of 50 to 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030.
Some critics have questioned the need for a war reserve capacity of plutonium. The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in an October report that, “Building new warheads would send the wrong message to the rest of the world.”