Scarcity of lithium could impede the US’ plan to replace and expand its nuclear arsenal.
NNSA officials told General Accountability Office report (GAO) in April 2015 that due to additional recent increases in demand, its supply of currently qualified lithium for using in weapon systems in refurbishment will run out by 2018.
The GOA report that was issued on Monday warned that various challenges in its lithium production strategy that are likely to impact its ability to meet demand for lithium in the future. The NNSA may have insufficient supply of lithium material for defense program requirements.
US lithium production operations are carried out at the NNSA's Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
However the GAO warned, “the existing lithium production facility and equipment are at risk of catastrophic failure.” An isotope of lithium is a key component of nuclear weapons and is essential for their refurbishment, the GAO pointed out.
“NNSA halted certain aspects of its lithium production operation… in May 2013 due to the condition of the site's 72-year old lithium production facility,” the report acknowledged.
The US Government Accountability Office is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress and investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.