Committee OKs $43M for NNSA request

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Lab > Reprogramming funds will be used for alternative plutonium strategy

By The Staff

The House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee took up the issue of the NNSA request to reprogram $120 million from the deferred Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement-Nuclear Facility.
According to a letter obtained by the Los Alamos Monitor, the reprogramming request was for more work at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which would establish an alternate plutonium capability.
 The Sept. 18 letter from Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) to the Department of Energy finance office, stated that $43.3 million of that request was approved.
In the letter, Frelinghuysen and Kaptur stated that the money can be used for planning and pre-conceptual design work on an alternate plutonium strategy, as well as to relocate equipment from the existing Chemistry and Metallurgy Research facility and to achieve operational readiness of LANL’s Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building.
The committee members said the money can’t be used to “perform construction activities, including reconfiguring PF-4 to meet enduring plutonium infrastructure requirements.” Frelinghuysen and Kaptur said NNSA should request work needed to upgrade the lab’s Plutonium Facility as a new line-item construction project.
According to a report in the Nuclear Weapons Materials Monitor, the NNSA and the Nuclear Weapons Council sent a spend plan to the House Armed Services Committee in August for the $50 million the panel had authorized.
The approval by the House appropriators appears to encompass $23.3 million from that spending plan, including: $6.9 million for planning and integration work for the modular strategy, which includes $3 million to begin designing a tunnel from Los Alamos’ Plutonium Facility to RLUOB. Also included, according to the trade publication, was $5 million to relocate materials characterization activities from the existing CMR to PF-4, and $11.4 million to prepare RLUOB to undertake a larger part of the mission previously targeted for the CMRR-NF.
The Senate Armed Services Committee authorized NNSA to reprogram $60 million, while the House Armed Services Committee authorized $50 million. The Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee approved the entire amount. The reprogramming request was sent to Congress last September.
Back in February, acting NNSA administrator Neile Miller made the following comments to Congress in regard to the reprogramming request of $120 million.
“In consultation with the Department of Defense (DoD), the NNSA deferred construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) for at least five years in FY 2013,” Miller told the Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development House Committee on Appropriations.
“While this decision allows the NNSA to focus on execution of the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) project and other significant priorities, it requires investments in existing infrastructure to maintain critical plutonium support capabilities. Over the past year, NNSA developed an interim plutonium strategy in coordination with the DoD and our national labs; your approval of our reprogramming request ($120M) will allow us to fund the interim strategy’s near-term investments and maintain continuity in our plutonium capabilities across sustainment, production and qualification activities.
“It is important to understand we remain committed to supporting the nation’s only plutonium capability, and while we have facilities in place today that support the plutonium needs critical in our LEP activities — including pit production and qualification —we must look to the future for an enduring strategy and planning is underway.”
Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group said, “From where I sit, it looks as if the NNSA reprogramming request assumes RLUOB can and will be eventually converted into a Nuclear Facility irregardless of current DOE regulations, the absence of an applicable EIS, any analysis of alternatives, and endorsement of a long-range plan by Congress. “