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Last week, President Barack Obama signed the FY13 defense authorization law and in that bill, there is a little bit of life for the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement facility.
The legislation permits up to $70 million in new funds for the building’s construction in the budget year that runs through Sept. 30, and it makes available $120 million in money previously appropriated for the project.
The bill also establishes a $3.7 billion spending cap for the structure, which is intended to assume the responsibilities of PF-4.
The text would require the Energy Department to give lawmakers a “detailed justification” for any projected CMRR spending in excess of the threshold.
“We’ll move forward and get a plan in place as the law requires,” National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Josh McConaha said in a statement. “At this point, we still need funding from Congress to ensure continuity of important mission capabilities, and we’re working with them to get it done. Either way, it’s too early to know what the plan will entail or what our final approach will be.”
In February of last year, the Obama administration and the NNSA deferred the project for five years and Los Alamos National Laboratory has been closing down the project.
The White House released a statement of administrative policy regarding the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2013 in December and Obama vowed at that time to veto any appropriations bill that funds the CMRR project.
The administration made 18 objections to the defense bill proposed by the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement facility project is listed seventh on the list.
The statement read: “the Administration strongly objects to section 3111, which would require construction of the CMRR facility to begin in 2013. The Departments of Defense and Energy agree that, in light of today’s fiscal environment, CMRR can be deferred for at least five years and funds reallocated to support higher priority nuclear weapons goals.
“An interim strategy will be implemented to provide adequate support to plutonium pit manufacturing and storage needs until a long-term solution can be implemented. Further, Senate bill 3254 would require funding for the CMRR in FY 2013 to be taken from other National Nuclear Security Administration priorities, creating undue risks for other parts of the program, including delays to critical infrastructure modernization, underfunding operations of the nuclear complex, and curtailing science, engineering and key nonproliferation initiatives.
“Finally, section 3111 specifies an operational date but caps total funding at the low end of the agency estimate, which may not be achievable.”
After Obama signed the defense bill, the White House released the following statement.
“Even though I support the vast majority of the provisions contained in this Act, which is comprised of hundreds of sections spanning more than 680 pages of text, I do not agree with them all. Our Constitution does not afford the President the opportunity to approve or reject statutory sections one by one. I am empowered either to sign the bill, or reject it, as a whole. In this case, though I continue to oppose certain sections of the Act, the need to renew critical defense authorities and funding was too great to ignore.”
The defense bill also
• Defines the CMRR-NF as the project now partially designed and indefinitely deferred;
• Requires DOE and NNSA to seek assistance from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command with respect to CMRR-NF management, oversight, and design;
• Prevents spending on any plutonium strategy not involving operation of CMRR-NF by 2026; and
• Requires study by the Deputy NNSA Administrator for Naval Reactors of any alternative (non-CMRR-NF) plutonium strategy, to be submitted to the armed services committees (not NNSA) within 18 months from today.
“This is indeed a strange situation, where the two armed services committees stand entirely alone in their support for the CMRR-NF. The strategy of deferral for at least 5 years has been endorsed by the Pentagon, the U.S. Strategic Command, the DOE and NNSA, and all White House offices,” Los Alamos Study Group’s Greg Mello said.