Nuclear weapons design lab Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), the design agency for programs to modernize warheads for next-generation cruise missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles, paused enforcement of its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, a labs spokesperson said Wednesday.

“Enforcement of the mandate at LLNL is paused until further notice,” the Livermore spokesperson said. “However, our current COVID-19 safety controls remain in place. We’re currently at 580 total cases, our vaccination rate is approximately 90 percent and about 65 percent of our employees are coming on site each week.”

Livermore is the design agency for the W80-4 nuclear warhead that will tip the planned Long Range Standoff Weapon and for the W87-0 and W87-1 nuclear warheads that will tip the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent missiles, the replacement for the Minuteman III fleet. Each of the missiles is supposed to deploy around 2030.

Of the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) nuclear weapon sites that had returned queries as of Wednesday, more sites had lifted their mandates than not, in the wake of a U.S. district court judge’s early December decision to temporarily block enforcement of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors. 

Livermore joins the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in suspending its mandate. The California lab is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, a team led by the University of California and Bechtel National. Pantex and Y-12 are each managed by Consolidated Nuclear Security, a Bechtel-led team.

On the other hand, the operations contractors for the Sandia National Laboratories and the Nevada National Security Site have each said that they will keep their vaccine mandates in effect. 

Sandia prime National Engineering and Technology Solutions of Sandia is a Honeywell [HON] subsidiary. Mission Support and Test Services at Nevada is a team of Honeywell, Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] and Jacobs [J].

Los Alamos National Laboratory prime Triad National Security and Kansas City National Security Campus contractor Honeywell Federal Management and Technologies did not reply to multiple requests for comments about the status of their vaccine mandates. 

Triad, a team of the University of California, Battelle and Texas A&M University, was the first NNSA site to mandate vaccines for employees. The lab put the mandate in place even before the Biden administration’s Sept. 9 executive order requiring vaccines for those doing business with the federal government. Kansas City mandated vaccines only afterward.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), the Fluor [FLR]-led management and operations contractor for the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., is the only other Department of Energy site doing NNSA weapons work that put a vaccine mandate in place before the Biden administration’s executive order, and the company has kept the mandate in effect.

SRNS has also gone further than other nuclear-site contractors to defend its mandate, arguing in federal court that the company is a private entity that can require vaccines as a condition of employment, whether the federal government mandates vaccines or not.

Generally at DoE nuclear weapon sites, vaccine mandates required employees to either get vaccinated, get a religious or medical exemption to the mandate, or get fired. Religious exemptions typically were limited to unpaid leave.