Worrying photos of leaking ceilings and collapsed walls at US nuclear security facilities have emerged as officials beg for money to upgrade the sites.
Congress has been urged to back the administration to invest in $3.7billion worth of maintenance to repair crumbling old laboratories and power plants which are ‘vital to national security missions’.
More than half of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s 6,000 properties are over 70 years old, Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz told the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces yesterday according to CNN.
Many of the buildings were built in World War II as part of the Manhattan Project – a research and development drive that produced the first nuclear weapons during the war – and were only designed to run for a decade.
Charles McMillan, director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, said: ‘Because it is more difficult to bring new facilities online, we are continuing to operate these facilities longer than we anticipated when they were originally built.’
Photos from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico show tarps strung to the ceiling to catch water from leaking roofs.
‘In Los Alamos today, we have trailers that were put into place 30 years ago. In some of those trailers we have leaking ceilings and water damage, we have problems with rodents,’ Mr McMillan said.
More than 10,000 employees work at the site – the birthplace of the US nuclear weapons program.
After the end of the Cold War, Los Alamos’s primary mission shifted from developing new warheads to maintaining the safety, security and reliability of the existing nuclear stockpile.
At the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, there are collapsed ceilings and rotting floors.
At the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, which is the United States’ only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility and is charged with maintaining the security of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, there are also rotting ceilings and walls.
Morgan Smith, president and CEO of Consolidated Nuclear Security, said: ‘The primary concern with knowingly deferring maintenance is that a major, unforeseen failure could occur.’
During the hearing on Wednesday it was pointed out that Russia has been upgrading their nuclear capabilities and making ‘provocative’ statements about using nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, at a speech at Oxford University, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter accused Russia of sowing seeds of global instability.
‘Despite the progress that we made together in the aftermath of the Cold War, Russia’s actions in recent years – with its violations of Ukrainian and Georgian territorial integrity, its unprofessional behavior in the air, in space, and in cyberspace, as well as its nuclear saber rattling – all have demonstrated that Russia has clear ambition to erode the principled international order,’ Carter said.
Carter accused Russia of being driven by ‘misguided ambition and misplaced fear.’ He said Moscow understandably wants to be seen as an important world power, but is undercutting its case by undercutting the work of others.
‘It lashes out, alleging that it fears for its own viability and future,’ even though it should know that no country, including the US, is trying to constrain its potential.
He seemed to allude also to suspected Russian involvement in hacking Democratic National Committee computers in the United States and otherwise trying to influence the American presidential election.
‘Let me be clear, the United States does not seek a cold, let alone a hot war with Russia. We don’t seek an enemy in Russia. But make no mistake – we will defend our allies, the principled international order, and the positive future it affords all of us.
‘We will counter attempts to undermine our collective security. And we will not ignore attempts to interfere with our democratic processes.’