The Government Accountability Office issued a report last summer raising concerns about Y-12’s stockpile of purified lithium for use in refurbishing nuclear warheads, saying the demand had tripled and suggesting the Oak Ridge plant could run out of the weapons material by 2018 if something wasn’t done to bolster supplies. In December, the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General issued a critical report that echoed some of the GAO’s concerns.
However, during a tele-briefing with reporters on Wednesday, top officials with the National Nuclear Security Administration said other sources of lithium had been identified as part of a “bridging strategy” to ensure needs are met until a new lithium production capability comes online (reportedly planned for the 2025 timeframe).
“We are now projecting we have enough lithium to get through 2028 without any concern,” Brigadier General Stephen L. Davis, the NNSA’s acting deputy administrator for defense programs, said in response to questions about the lithium issue.
Administrator Frank G. Klotz said the NNSA is working on an analysis of alternatives for lithium production as part of a “structured discipline process” on how to there and expects to complete that analysis by the end of the year.
There is reportedly some initial design funding in the FY 2017 budget.
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