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Eight U.S. senators — six Republicans, a Democrat, and an independent— wrote a letter recently to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, urging the resurrection of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement project at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The senators point out that the Senate and House Armed Services Committees have shown that the “national security imperative for CMRR-NF justifies the prioritization of this key modernization project. Both the SASC and HASC direct construction of CMRR-NF while prohibiting the expenditure of funds for the hastily conceived alternative approach, which could cost in excess of $1 billion and does not meet DoD requirements. “We believe that the administration should begin the necessary planning to include in the FY14 budget and beyond funding for CMRR-NF’s completion.”
In the letter, the senators urge the administration and the National Nuclear Security Administration to continue design activities this year and build an out-year budget to support construction and operation by 2024.
They also urge the administration to work with congressional appropriators to secure funding for CMRR-NF in FY 13 and they write that the current NNSA alternative strategy does not meet critical national defense mission requirements.
The letter was signed by Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.),and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).
Los Alamos Study Group Executive Director Greg Mello said: “Given the letter’s reliance on decisions made in the Senate Armed Services Committee, the absence of Chairman Levin’s signature is notable. “With only eight senators, three of whom are just months from retirement, this letter is a relatively weak showing for Senator Kyl. In 2009 he could get 41 signatures, including all the Senate’s Republicans.
“It’s very likely that most of the letter’s signatories don’t even know that the military and DoD do not want this facility built right now – that in their studied opinion it threatens other NNSA operations and deliverables.
Mello also claims that the letter is based on false information and made the following points.
• CMRR-NF is a “key part of the nuclear stockpile stewardship program.” Senators are certainly entitled their opinions, but all the expert national security agencies believe otherwise and have so testified or concurred, Mello said.
• CMRR-NF is “necessary to meet DoD pit requirements.” There are no such requirements at present, as DoD has testified, Mello said.
▪ The letter claims the SASC bill prohibits the expenditure of funds on any alternative to CMRR-NF. In fact it does not do so, Mello said.
▪ The current strategy “does not meet critical national defense mission requirements.” If that were the case why has this strategy been selected by the Nuclear Weapons Council? Mello queried.