CMRR funding still alive

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Politics: NDAA bill up for crucial vote

By John Severance

After a House Rules Committee vote, funding for the proposed Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement facility is still alive for FY2013

The battle in Washington continued this week in the House as Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sponsored an amendment that would have nixed Rep. Mike Turner’s (R-Ohio) amendments from last week that would breathe new life into the CMRR project.

Markey’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act did not make it out of the House Rules Committee. The entire bill, however, is being debated in the House.

Turner’s amendments, meanwhile, made it through.

The amendments, which would authorize $160 million to the project, passed even though the White House and the House Energy and Water Appropriations Committee decided to zero out CMRR funding this year.

“So, he not only gave the project funding, but he is also trying to get around Energy and Water by making CMRR a defense project that would probably be covered by a defense appropriations committee,” Project on Government Oversight investigator Mia Steinle said.

Turner’s first amendment that would require that two defense nuclear facilities currently being designed by DOE/NNSA (including CMRR), and any future similar facilities, be transferred to the Department of Defense and that the Secretary of Defense utilize military construction authorities to build these facilities.

The second amendment from Turner would require the construction of the CMRR nuclear facility so that it achieves full operational capability by FY24 and limit any funds from being spent on an alternative plan that does not include CMRR.

The lab, meanwhile, continues to operate under the assumption that the project has been shelved for five years, and takes its cue from the National Nuclear Security Administration.

“NNSA approved the CMRR closeout plan and budget in April.  The closeout plan work will be substantially complete at the end of FY12, consistent with the approved plan.

“There will be some activities (e.g., archival of records and closure of trailers used by the project team) by a small group that extend to the end of December. Costs associated with final closeout tasks are well within the total budget allotted,” the lab’s statement read.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s Jay Coghlan continues to keep a close eye on the situation in D.C.

“The Obama Administration has decided to defer the CMRR-Nuclear Facility at the Los Alamos Lab for at least five years, which the House and Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittees have agreed to. But the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has authorized funding for it, which can possibly undermine what the Pentagon most wants and is paying for, which is the refurbishment of existing nuclear weapons through Life Extension Programs,” Coghlan said in a statement.

“HASC also seeks to make an end run around the Energy and Water Subcommittees by transferring design and construction of the CMRR-NF to the Defense Department in FY 2014, which could compete with other needed military construction and threaten veteran benefits.

“In addition, HASC seeks to keep the CMRR-Nuclear Facility alive in the short term by authorizing the use in FY 2013 of $160 million in prior years funding, when it is not clear that any remaining prior years funding even exists. The Senate Armed Services Committee and the Energy and Water Subcommittees of both chambers should oppose these proposals and continue to provide no funding for the CMRR-Nuclear Facility.”