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U.S Nuke Parts Site Nearly Half Done

One year after work began, construction is roughly 45 percent complete for a facility in Kansas City, Mo., that will produce non-nuclear parts for the U.S. strategic arsenal, the Kansas City Star reported on Monday (see GSN, May 17).

The 1.57 million square foot complex is set to replace the Bannister Federal Complex plant, which opened in 1949. Work on the new Kansas City facility is projected to finish in November 2012. The $1 billion plant, expected to be fully operational in 2014, is being built by private developer CenterPoint Zimmer LLC, for Honeywell Federal Manufacturing and Technologies.

That company has an agreement with the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration to produce 85 percent of the non-nuclear pieces in an atomic warhead. The replacement complex, which will include five concrete structures, is expected to operate until at least 2042, according to one federal estimate.

"It's rockin' and rollin'," according to Jason Klumb, regional administrator for the General Services Administration.

The skeleton of the 350,000-square-foot, three-level administration building has been erected and windows are being put in. Meanwhile, work continues on the 750-square-foot manufacturing site, the central utility building and two other structures. Kansas City Power and Light is in the process of building a substation for the project.

"We are extremely pleased with the progress that is being made at our new facility," said Mark Holecek, NNSA Kansas City Site Office Manager. "Every time I visit the construction site I am amazed at how quickly the buildings are going up and how much activity is taking place."

The Kansas City plant will be the only NNSA site privately constructed and owned. The Energy Department owns the other seven facilities that make up the country's nuclear complex.

Congress approved the deal that will allow the semiautonomous branch of the Energy Department to lease the complex from a private developer. The agreement is expected to cost $4.76 billion over the first 20 years, an audit by the Government Accountability Office found. That figure includes construction, equipment, lease payments and operations at the plant.

The existing facility mostly performs work to maintain the W-76 warhead, which is carried on Trident ballistic missiles, government auditors said.

The project has encountered resistance from the some in the local community.

In May a protest led to 53 arrests after opponents blocked the gate to the construction site. That same month an activist organization, the Kansas City Peace Planters, gather over 4,300 signatures for a petition in favor of a November voter initiative to halt construction of the facility.

The Kansas City Council refused to include the initiative on the ballot, claiming it was unconstitutional. The opposition groups eventually dropped a lawsuit aimed at reversing the decision.

However, another signature-gathering effort has begun for two new ballot initiatives to block construction in a way that could bypass the city council's arguments.

"I'm all for economic development but not at the expense of doing something immoral and our community having a hand in the total destruction of the world," said Ann Suellentrop, a facility opponent. "It's the same as if they were building an abortion clinic or a place where people engaged in prostitution. It's immoral and wicked."

Kansas City Councilman John Sharp argued that if work on the new plant were to stop, it likely would continue elsewhere.

"The unfortunate thing about the efforts to stop this project is it would have no impact on national defense policy," he said. "It would just shift the construction jobs and thousands of other jobs to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and national policy would not have been affected one iota" (Kevin Collison, Kansas City Star, Oct. 17).

Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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