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CMRR funding in limbo

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LANL: Top brass remain mum on the project’s future

By John Severance

What’s next for the future of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility in the next fiscal year is just about anybody’s guess.

Last week, an article in the Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor, said Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) officials are bracing for a “massive cut” to the proposed CMRR facility.

“We’re not expecting funding for CMRR (in FY2013),” a LANL manager told the trade publication.  “Right now, we’re planning to go without.”

In FY 12, the project did receive $200 million in funding but the final Congressional report said that no construction activities were funded.

The Los Alamos Monitor submitted a list of 10 questions concerning the CMRR project to the NNSA Los Alamos Site Office on Jan. 18.

The following day, an email came back, stating the questions were forwarded to Washington.
As of this morning, there has been no response to the questions, almost two weeks since the list was forwarded to the D.C. office.

Here are the questions:
• What is your overall view concerning the CMRR-NF and the controversy circulating around it?
 • How far along is the NNSA in the design work of the CMRR-NF?
 • What was your reaction when Congress mandated that construction could not begin in FY 12?
 • What are you doing with the Request For Proposals from the contractors that were slated to begin construction on the project? How are you handling the situation? And is there some kind of timeline?
 • What kind of economic impact will the CMRR-NF have on the area if construction ever begins?
 • Do you believe the tide is turning at all regarding the CMRR-NF in Washington in terms of funding (or lack of funding)?
 • Do you think Congress will resume funding the CMRR-NF?
 • Do you think the CMRR-NF will eventually get built?
 • What do you tell those “experts” that challenge the need for CMRR-NF?
 • With these tough economic times, do you think there is a need for the project?

The Albuquerque Journal recently caught up with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who was visiting Sandia National Laboratories.

Chu was asked about the CMRR project and his response was terse.

“I prefer not to comment on anything specific,” Chu said. “I know New Mexicans are very concerned about that. But let me just say that this will be reflected in the budget. The president and his cabinet recognize that there is a deficit problem that we have to address. The other thing we have to recognize is that you have to prioritize things.”

On Feb. 13, the administration will announce its budget release. At that point, the NNSA will make public what sort of money it will be asking for to continue work on the project.

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) released a report two weeks ago and its top recommendation was that the administration and DOE cancel the CMRR-NF and zero out funding for the project in the upcoming budget.