.....Advertisement.....
.....Advertisement.....

Budget roller coaster opens season

-A A +A
By Roger Snodgrass

President Bush released a $3 trillion budget proposal for next year that includes a 7 percent increase for defense, plus additional costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan War.Of special interest to Los Alamos was the presentation of the Department of Energy budget by Secretary Sam Bodman Monday, which included requests for Los Alamos National Laboratory and the nuclear weapons complex.Los Alamos, according to one breakdown of the DOE budget, request would receive $1.838 billion in Fiscal Year 2009, a reduction of less than $15 million from the current year. After all the dramatic events related to the LANL budget last year, including plans for layoffs and voluntary self-selections, the laboratory break-out reveals that LANL actually received $50 million more in its FY 2008 appropriation, $1,852,802 compared to $1,800,324 in FY 2007.Overall, the Department of Energy Budget is positioned to go up by $1.073 billion next year, a 4 percent increase.The National Nuclear Security Administration budget would increase by $267 million or 3.3 percent. Weapons activities would increase by 5.1 percent, under the proposal.In a press statement, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said the budget overall was “good for the labs,” but he predicted close scrutiny and substantial changes before the appropriation process comes to a close.On first review, he noted that the budget plan includes $162 million for environmental cleanup at LANL and $100 million to continue work on the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Facility.He highlighted the following details:• Los Alamos National Laboratory: DOE proposes spending $1.83 billion in FY2009, a decrease of $14.5 million below FY2008 requested level; • Weapons Activities – $1.37 billion, up $12 million;• Nonproliferation – $173 million, down $45.84 million; • Directed Stockpile Work - $375 million, up $185 million;• Advance Simulation and Computing – $139 million, down $69 million;•  TA-55 Reinvestment Project - $7.9 million;• Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility – $19 million; and• LANSCE Refurbishment – $5 million to study upgrade. In another other area of the budget Domenici noted the Forest Service has zeroed out funding for the Valles Caldera National Preserve for next year, after the Caldera received $6.8 million in funding for the current year.He saw a more positive development in the National Park Service budget, where there are plans to give the visitors center at the Bandelier National Monument a $3.17 million face lift.Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has called Energy Secretary Bodman before the committee Wednesday.Bingaman welcomed signs that funding for the American Competes Act has grown along with several energy technology programs. At the same time, he noted that the administration’s priorities for energy activities were not the same as those Congress had in mind last year. He objected to cuts in funding for solar energy research, hydropower and industrial energy efficiency.Bingaman objected to DOE’s apparent abandonment of a $220 million weatherization program that, he said, increases energy efficiency and lowers energy costs for heating dwellings occupied by low-income Americans. Laboratory critics were wary of many signs that the transformation of Los Alamos into a nuclear pit manufacturing facility was becoming a foregone conclusion.In a white paper analyzing the factory scenario at Los Alamos, Greg Mello, executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group, called into question the gap between the signed commitments by nuclear nations to cease the arms race and the American determination to invest heavily in nuclear weapons infrastructure.Rather than continue with the billions of dollars in new construction at Los Alamos, he proposes using the pits that are available from the weapons dismantlement program at the Pantex site in Texas.“(Pantex) Pits are fully certified, they don’t have any waivers or program risks,” he said. “They would have highly positive non-proliferation impacts, vastly reduced environmental impacts and no additional waste and they are exactly the pits that would provide redundancy for existing stockpile systems.”Jay Coghlan and Scott Kovac of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, pouring over the hundreds of pages of budget documents, also noted the first official mention of the new cost estimate for LANL’s Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building Replacement, a key facility for the pit manufacturing mission at LANL.Once budgeted at under $1, the NNSA budget request notes as a “significant change,” the estimated total project costs for the CMRR is now currently above $2 billion.