A looming series of across-the-board federal spending cuts would force a number of U.S. nuclear arms sites to place employees on unpaid leave for weeks or months, Democratic House Appropriations Committee members said in an analysis made public on Wednesday.
The Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee would have to furlough 700-1,000 personnel for as much as six months.
"Clearly, these layoffs will adversely impact efforts to improve security" at the facility where three peace activists last July reached a secured area that houses weapon-grade uranium, the Knoxville News Sentinel quoted the document as saying.
The lawmakers added: "The Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas will furlough up to 2,500 employees for three weeks. Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico will furlough over 500 for about two weeks. And Sandia National Labs will lay off up to 100 positions and forgo hiring staff to support the B-61 [nuclear gravity] bomb life extension program."
"Efforts to refurbish and extend the life of several weapons systems would be delayed, including the B-61, leading to increased costs and impacts to deployment and readiness in the future. Sequestration would erode the security posture at sites and facilities by layoffs, work force reassignments and project deferrals. Sequestration would hamper the internal oversight function of [Energy Department] nuclear facilities and reduce the depth and frequency of audits and evaluations needed to ensure ongoing robust security operations."
The National Nuclear Security Administration is readying plans to handle the mandated spending reduction "should Congress not act to avoid it," agency spokesman Joshua McConaha said. He declined to elaborate.