The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) delivered its 2021 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (SSMP) to Congress this week, laying out a specific path to producing 80 plutonium pits annually and delivering first-time production units for various programs.
The administration, which is a part of the Department of Energy, uses the annual SSMP to lay out safety and efficacy plans for the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. It also addresses the need for engineering tools, capabilities, and infrastructure that keep the Nuclear Security Enterprise working, providing an outline for lawmakers.
“Nuclear deterrence has been, and remains, the cornerstone of our Nation’s security posture, and its credibility serves as the ultimate insurance policy against a nuclear attack. DOE/NNSA is the only organization that can sustain the Nation’s nuclear stockpile, as well as the nuclear propulsion systems of the U.S. Navy’s submarines and aircraft carriers,” Dr. William Bookless, Acting DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator, said. “The SSMP outlines our strategy for maintaining the range of capabilities necessary to meet the needs of the deterrence mission now and into the future.”
In its 2021 report, the NNSA is pushing to produce 80 plutonium pits per year beginning in 2030. It also aims to produce the first units of the W80-4 Life Extension Program and W87-1 Modernization Program in fiscal years 2025 and 2030, respectively. First production units of the B61-12 Life Extension Program and the W88 Alteration 370 warheads are also expected in the coming years. All of this is based around the concept of a modern, flexible, and resilient nuclear security infrastructure the agency has pushed for since 2018.
The W87-1 is a replacement warhead for the W78, on which design resumed in 2019. This year, the NNSA also closed out the W76-1 Life Extension Program and provided the W76-2 low-yield ballistic missile warhead for initial deployment.
According to the NNSA, nuclear security efforts are at their busiest since the Cold War.