WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The US government is running short of lithium which will be a key bottleneck in its ambitious plans to replace and expand its nuclear arsenal, a General Accountability Office (GAO) report said.
“The National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) has identified various challenges in its lithium production strategy that may impact its ability to meet demand for lithium in the future,” the report, issued on Monday, warned.
It noted that the NNSA may not have a sufficient supply of lithium material for defense program requirements.
“NNSA officials told GAO in April 2015 that, due to additional recent increases in demand, its supply of currently qualified lithium — lithium approved for use in weapon systems in refurbishment — will run out by 2018,” the report noted.
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.