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The Modern Pit Facility

Detailed Information Bulletin on the Modern Pit Facility (pdf format, 12 pp.)

Modern Pit Facility Environmental Impact Statement

Additional resources on the Modern Pit Facility

The Modern Pit Facility: Mass-Producing Weapons of Mass Destruction

The United States is proposing to build the Modern Pit Facility (MPF), a new factory to make plutonium pits, the nuclear explosive "triggers" at the heart of modern thermonuclear weapons. Construction of this facility, now in the early planning and design phase, would begin in 2011 or after. The pit factory could be designed to produce as many as 450 pits per year in normal single shift operation, and considerably more if the government chose to operate a second shift. The government also is considering smaller capacity plants, with single shift capacities of 125 or 250 pits per year. This new factory would add to the pit production facility now being established at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, which has a capacity of 50 or more pits per year.

The MPF is justified by the government as necessary to maintain a U.S. arsenal comprised of thousands of nuclear weapons and to assure a capability to mass produce nuclear weapons for many decades to come. It will be designed to allow fabrication not only of existing designs but "to produce pits of a new design in a timely manner."(1)

Maintaining thousands of nuclear warheads on alert across the planet still poses the everyday risk of nuclear catastrophe by accident or miscalculation, and the central role that nuclear weapons play in the military stance of the United States, the most powerful country on earth, legitimates the possession, or the acquisition, of nuclear weapons by all countries.

The new nuclear capabilities now being considered by the United States include powerful earth penetrating nuclear warheads intended to destroy underground facilities, "agent defeat" weapons to destroy chemical and biological weapons and support facilities while limiting damage from both release of hazardous materials and the nuclear explosion itself, and new variants of relatively "low-yield" nuclear weapons intended to make nuclear weapons more useable in ordinary warfare. These types of nuclear weapons, however, are likely to be "small" only in comparison to the city-busting bombs and warheads that make up most of the current active nuclear stockpile, and would be likely to cause widespread death and long lasting environmental damage if used. In the context of an aggressive U.S. policy that envisions preventive wars against countries that are even suspected of having or seeking to acquire chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, the push for new kinds of nuclear weapons, even more than the continued possession of substantial parts of the Cold War arsenal, legitimates nuclear weapons as an instrument of state power, and provides arguments for their acquisition by other states. Further, the growing role of nuclear weapons in a variety of U.S. warfighting plans makes it more likely that they will be used again in warfare.

These policies are inconsistent with U.S. obligations under the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT), in which the U.S. and the other four original nuclear powers agreed to negotiate in good faith towards the elimination of their nuclear arsenals. This obligation was reaffirmed by the United States at the NPT review conference in 2000, at which the United States and the other original nuclear powers agreed to a new set of commitments from the nuclear weapons states to take concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament.(2) These commitments included an unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals; the principle of irreversibility as applied to nuclear disarmament and related arms control and reduction measures; concrete measures to reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons; and a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies. Despite these commitments, the U.S. is researching new missions and capabilities for nuclear weapons. And despite its commitment to "the principle of irreversibility to apply to nuclear disarmament," the United States today is proposing to build the Modern Pit Facility, a factory that will allow it to mass produce the core component of nuclear weapons into the second half of the 21st century.

For a detailed discussion of the Modern Pit Facility in the broader context of U.S. nuclear weapons programs and policies, see
Mass Producing Weapons of Mass Destruction: U.S. Plans for a New Nuclear Weapons Factory and the Global Resurgence of Nuclear Arms Andrew Lichterman, Western States Legal Foundation and Los Alamos Study Group Information Bulletin, Summer 2003 pdf download
The Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration has published a Draft Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on Stockpile Stewardship and Management for a Modern Pit Facility.
The full document is available on the web at http://www.mpfeis.com/ To submit comments on the Modern Pit Facility Draft Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement via the web or to obtain information on how to submit comments by mail, click here. The comment deadline is August 5, 2003.
Additional resources on the Modern Pit Facility
Alliance for Nuclear Accountability Modern Pit Facility Page

Extensive resources including legislative analysis, talking points, sample post cards, EIS comments and other commentary on theModern Pit Facility by a variety of organizations, links to relevant congressional documents, and links to organizations around the country opposed to construction of the Modern Pit Facility.

For additional information on plutonium pits and related issues, see Greg Mello, Los Alamos Study Group, “Why Make More Plutonium Pits?” November 2002.

1. U.S. Department of Energy, Draft Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on Stockpile Stewardship and Management for a Modern Pit Facility, 2003, p.S1

2. 2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Final Document, NPT/CONF.2000/28, 22 May 2000.

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