American nuclear security facilities are in an alarming rate of disrepair, according to nuclear officials who are pursuing Congressional approval to bring the system up to code.
According to CNN, officials painted a picture of failing safety systems, decrepit infrastructure and utilities, and failed efforts to keep many of the sites in order until funding can be allocated towards an overhaul.
“Safe, reliable and modern infrastructure at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s national laboratories and production plants is absolutely essential to the accomplishment of our vital national security missions,” NNSA Administrator Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz told the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces on Wednesday.
Photos from several of the sites -from the Y12 facility in Tennessee to the Pantex facility in Texas- show concrete ceilings crumbling away, gaps between walls and doorways and loose insulation.
“Many facilities and their supporting infrastructure have exceeded or far exceeded their expected life,” said Morgan Smith, , president and CEO of Consolidated Nuclear Security. “Major systems within the facilities are beginning to fail.”
Half of the 6,000 property assets belonging to the NNSA are over four decades old, with 30% of those facilities dating back to World War II.
“The primary concern with knowingly deferring maintenance is that a major, unforeseen failure could occur,” Smith said.
However, the primary concern is monetary in nature. According to nuclear officials, the Office of Management and Budget projected nuclear budget for fiscal years 2018 to 2021 “doesn’t reflect the funding that we estimate is necessary.” Officials requested an additional $5.2 billion, complaining that the OMB proposal “ignores or underfunds” the actual needs of America’s nuclear program..
“Events elsewhere in the world reaffirm the seriousness of the threat environment in which we live,” one official wrote, “and underscore the need for a credible nuclear security program portfolio.”
The modernization woes stand in dark contrast to the Russians, who are not only modernizing their nuclear program, but deem the limited use of nuclear weapons an acceptable action.
Air Force Global Strike Command commander General Robin Rand said he was “acutely aware” of the risks posed by the crumbling infrastructure and thought about it when considering certain operations
“There will come a point when I can’t do it with existing capabilities,” Rand said. “We need to modernize.”
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