Source: Stars and Stripes | Robbie Gramer | March 18, 2017
President Donald Trump wants the United States to be at the “top of the pack” with nuclear weapons. But his goal already hit a snag: The infrastructure that supports the country’s nuclear weapons is crumbling to “alarming” levels, a Congressional panel warned Thursday.
Much of the infrastructure that supports the U.S. nuclear weapons programs, including labs, production facilities, and weapons storage complexes themselves were built six decades ago.
The aging buildings require constant upgrades and renovations to ensure the safety of the government employees handling the weapons – and secure the weapons themselves. But it’s not happening.
There’s a $3.7 billion backlog in deferred essential repairs to the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure, overseen by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous arm of the Department of Energy. The maintenance problems are “quite alarming” and “pose the risk of a dangerous nuclear accident,” said Congressman Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), during a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing on infrastructure needs of the nuclear security enterprise.
The warnings come as the U.S. government begins to pour over $1 trillion into modernizing its nuclear weapons stockpile over the next 30 years. It’s a top priority for Energy Secretary Rick Perry – who once ran a presidential campaign that called for abolishing the Department of Energy entirely – but the sorry state of NNSA facilities may bog down modernization efforts from the start.