Letter urges Senate to kill CMRR

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LANL: Armed Forces Committee has earmarked $150M for project

By John Severance

The Los Alamos Study Group, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and the Project on Government Oversight sent a letter to the ranking members of the Senate Armed Forces Committee and other organizations, urging them to cancel the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement facility at Los Alamos.


The letter was sent to ranking Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman and ranking member respectively of the Senate committee that granted funding for fiscal year 2013.  

“We are concerned that your Committee chose to fund the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, even though President Obama requested no funding and the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittees in both Chambers provide no funding for this project.

“The Administration, the Appropriators, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory itself believe that this nearly $6 billion proposed facility is not needed at this time. We would go further and say the facility is not needed at all; it is a waste of taxpayer money and should be canceled.

“We urge you to consider new information from the Laboratory and from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), both of which support alternative strategies to CMRR-NF,” the letter stated.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s Jay Coghlan said Saturday morning, “I’m in Washington, D.C. now, and I can confirm that the appropriators will not fund this wasteful $5 billion project despite the pressures being brought to bear by the Armed Services Committees.

“The House Committee has put politics above national security by telling the Administration that it must build the CMRR, which the appropriators wisely won’t fund, and then at the same time House Armed Services forbids any alternatives to the CMRR.

“So overall we could end up with no CMRR and no alternative to CMRR, which means no clear way for the nation to manage its nuclear weapons plutonium. This puts the President in a clearly untenable position, which in an election year is perhaps the political aim of the House Armed Services Committee to begin with.”

Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group also has been keeping a close eye on the situation.

“Please make no mistake: it is the DoD (Department of Defense) and uniformed military — STRATCOM — which, with NNSA, are deferring CMRR-NF,” Mello said Friday night. “It is the Nuclear Weapons Council that wants this project deferred, because it causes too much management risk for life extension programs and other infrastructure projects which are far more important to them.  As people in Washington tell me, “There is no way on God’s green earth this project can go forward at the same time as these others.”  

Back in February, the President and the NNSA made the decision to delay the project by five years. They noted that “existing infrastructure” can accommodate the missions that were to go to CMRR-NF — manufacturing and sustaining plutonium pits, a primary component of nuclear weapons.

The House and Senate appropriation committees for Energy and Water agreed several months later and zeroed funding for the project.

House and Senate authorizers, however, granted the project $150 million for FY 13.

The POGO letter, meanwhile, cited a new report from LANL and a forthcoming report from NNSA that will shed light on the CMRR-NF project “so that Congress can make smart funding decisions.

“The Los Alamos report — which is available to the senators, but not to the public — concludes that the lab does not need CMRR-NF to carry out its national security missions; and the forthcoming NNSA report will likely identify existing buildings that can handle these missions … It’s time for the Senate to kill this monstrous facility, once and for all.”

The lab has been operating under the premise that the CMRR-NF project will be deferred for the next five years.
Recently, though, lab director Charlie McMillan said that the CMRR-NF is vital to the nation’s national security.

“When we are asked to provide technical alternatives, we do,” McMillan said. “We are committed to delivering the best scientific and technical solutions to ensure the safety, security and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear deterrent.”
He called the decision to defer work on the CMRR building “a painful one for Los Alamos.”

“I continue to maintain that the capabilities of the proposed CMRR facility are vital to national security,” McMillan said in a statement provided to Global Security Newswire.
NNSA spokesman Josh McConaha said recently, “The decision to defer (CMRR) by at least five years was made by

(NNSA) Administrator Tom D’Agostino, Principal Deputy Administrator Neile Miller, and Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Don Cook. It came after significant consultation with the directors of Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia national laboratories.”

The letter to the Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, ended this way.

“Given that viable secure, safe, and effective alternatives to CMRR-NF are available at a lower cost, we hope that you join the President and Appropriators in saving taxpayer dollars by ending this nuclear boondoggle. We would welcome an opportunity to discuss this with you.”

The letter was signed by Friends Committee on National Legislation, Rio Grande Foundation, Los Alamos Study Group, Rutherford Institute, National Taxpayers Union, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Tri Valley CARES (Livermore), and POGO.