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National Lab Details $13B Building Plans

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

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The Los Alamos National Laboratory has announced a 10-year, $13 billion construction program, aimed at upgrading its Los Alamos, New Mexico-based facility.

The informational meeting for potential contractors in regard to the project was attended by hundreds of construction company representatives from across the United States.

Project Plans

According to the Associated Press, LANL is preparing to increase production of plutonium cores for the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. Currently, the lab employs 12,000 people, but in order to follow production plans, LANL has announced 1,400 openings and intends on hiring an additional 1,200 workers by 2026.

“It’s a busy time at the lab,” Lab Director Thomas Mason said. “We’re probably busier than we have been since the height of the Cold War.”

Due to the growing workforce, The Washington Post reports that the LANL upgrades will include various housing projects, parking garages and even a potential new highway to reduce commute times for a recorded 60% of employees that live outside of Los Alamos County.

chapin31 / Getty Images

The Los Alamos National Laboratory has announced a 10-year, $13 billion construction program, aimed at upgrading its Los Alamos, New Mexico-based facility.

Other potential transportation infrastructure upgrades include the possibility of converting the existing Omega Bridge—which is owned by the federal government—into a “greenway” over the Los Alamos Canyon and constructing a new bridge nearby.

Mason claims that discussions about what to do with the bridge has been a long-term debate.

Additionally, the lab has set aside $3 billion for improvements at its existing plutonium facility for the projected increase in core work. However, the lab is also planning an accelerator project and the purchase of a new generation supercomputer, both of which are slated to be major investments.


Because the National Nuclear Security Administration has been placed under a mandate by Congress and the Department of Defense to create 80 plutonium pits (also known as “fissile cores” used to trigger thermonuclear weapons) a year by 2030 as part of the modernization project for the nation’s nuclear arsenal, some watchdog groups have already expressed concern over the increased production and the lab’s safety track record.

Reported earlier this summer by the Albuquerque Journal, the LANL’s new $1 billion Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building discovered leaks in the building’s radioactive liquid waste system. However, initially predicted to be a defect in the valves themselves, the issue proved to be that the valves were made from carbon steel, a material that is incompatible with the radioactive waste.

Because of this mistake, activists are concerned that there isn’t enough proper oversight to safely carry out plutonium expansions.

Greg Mello with the Albuquerque-based Los Alamos Study Group said, “Everywhere pit production has been done, in every country, has been an environmental disaster.”

Originally, the pits were made at Rocky Flats, Colorado, but were shut down in the 1990s as a result of an environmental scandal. But the NNSA claims that if current production practices aren’t increased now, the U.S. will not be able to maintain its nuclear deterrent.

What’s Happening Now

In a congressionally funded study, overall plans to ramp production estimate a cost of $14-28 billion, casting doubt on the project all together. The study went on to say, “eventual success of the strategy to reconstitute plutonium pit production is far from certain.”

Regardless, the NNSA’s plan intends on producing 30 pits a year at the Los Alamos laboratory and 50 pits a year at the U.S. Energy Department’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina to meet its 80 pits-per-year goal.

The LANL's operator Triad National Security, LLC also recently announced a $500,000 grant that it has provided through loans and a tribal diversity fund for small businesses across the Northern New Mexico region through the Regional Develpment Corporation.


Tagged categories: Commercial Construction; Commercial contractors; Construction; Contractors; Department of Defense (DOD); Expansion; Facility Managers; General contractors; Maintenance + Renovation; NA; North America; Project Management; Projects - Commercial; Renovation; Residential; Residential Construction; Residential contractors; U.S. Department of Energy; Upcoming projects

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