Not a Forgone Conclusion

The cost of extending the life of the Air Force’s B61 nuclear bombs might not reach the $10 billion figure cited by Defense Department independent cost estimators, said Neile Miller, acting head of the National Nuclear Security Administration. The Energy Department’s own cost estimate is about $2 billion less, and the Pentagon officials acknowledge it’s not “a foregone conclusion” that the cost “will go to $10 billion,” she told the Senate Appropriations Committee’s energy and water development panel on April 24. The Obama Administration has settled on the option for the life extension program that “maximizes the reuse of nuclear and non-nuclear components,” state her prepared remarks. This work will consolidate the four current bomb variants into the B61 Mod 12 configuration. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), panel chair, said the LEP would “refurbish 400 bombs.” Originally projected to cost about $1.5 billion with the first unit refurbished in 2017, the project’s schedule now has that milestone in 2019, she said. However, budget sequestration will cause a schedule slip of “another six months” to March 2020, and a cost increase of “another $200 million,” said Feinstein. (See also Streamlining the Nuclear Stockpile and Air Force Moves Forward on Nuclear Bomb Modification.)