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President Barack Obama’s FY15 budget had a little something for everybody in the Department of Energy.
The DOE requests $27.9 billion in discretionary funds and of that total, $11.7 billion was earmarked for the National Nuclear Security Administration.
The NNSA budget has $8.3 billion for weapons acivities, $1.6 billion for nonproliferation activities and $1.4 billion for naval reactors programs.
The totals for the Los Alamos National Laboratory have not been released but in the past, LANL has operated on a budget of around $2.2 billion.
In addition, the budget request provides $5.6 billion for environmental management.
“When it comes to New Mexico’s federal installations, there is some very good news. Increased funding for the B61 life extension project and the stockpile stewardship program will enable important work to continue at Sandia and Los Alamos national labs and help keep our nation’s stockpile safe, secure and effective,” Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said. “I’m also pleased the administration is responding to my requests to make cleanup at Los Alamos a priority. The president’s budget proposes stable funding for Los Alamos and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. While this is positive, I will keep fighting for the resources that LANL and WIPP need to keep cleanup on track and ensure the Department of Energy keeps its promise to New Mexico.”
The language with the budget request said the revised strategy achieves the B61-12 LEP First Production Unit (FPU) by FY 2020 and completes production of the W76-1 warhead by FY 2019. The strategy defers the W78/88-1 Life Extension Program by five years, achieves the W88 ALT 370 FPU in the first quarter of FY 2020, and delays the Long-range Standoff warhead by three years to 2027 while evaluating the option for a future budget request to fund an earlier FPU if national priorities deem it necessary.
In the budget, there is no money earmarked for the “deferred” Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement facility at LANL.
“I’m pleased the Administration is committed to solid funding levels for our national laboratories to carry out their critical missions,” Senator Martin Heinrich said. “Sandia and Los Alamos national labs employ some of the best and brightest minds in the country and are indispensable to our national security.”
Nuclear Watch New Mexico director Jay Coghlan weighed in on the Obama proposed weapons budget.
He said it was upside down.
“It’s common knowledge that NNSA’s nuclear weapons programs have a staggering track record of cost overruns, schedule delays and security breaches. It’s less well known that these programs may undermine stockpile reliability by introducing unneeded, incredibly expensive changes to existing nuclear weapons that have been extensively tested and are known to be even more reliable than originally thought. Clearly, NNSA’s nuclear weapons programs should be cut to help pay for the expansion of nonproliferation programs that actually enhance national security and cleanup programs that actually create jobs,” Coghlan said.
Coghlan pointed out that the NNSA is finally putting the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina on “cold standby.” The MOX program was an attempt to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium.
The MOX Program’s costs are an estimated $30 billion, and NNSA is now studying cheaper alternatives.
“This has major positive impacts on LANL, which was slated to process 2.5 metric tons of plutonium every year as feedstock for the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility. It also further undermines the need to build massive new plutonium facilities at LANL,” Coghlan said.
Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group said, “With these changes, an important workload ‘gap’ or ‘breather’ begins to open up in the 2020s at the weapons labs. We believe the weapons labs are even now greatly oversized for their missions, and today’s budget, with the changes noted, advances the possibility of a gradual downsizing of overall warhead effort, even without the stockpile shrinkage that is long overdue.
“In New Mexico, it is a big mistake to depend on Cold War weapons programs as a prop for our economy, let alone as a source of growth. There just isn't going to be significant growth in those programs, ever, and eventually there will be decline in real terms. Even when there has been growth, the record shows New Mexico has not benefitted as a result. Nuclear weapons are an economic and political liability for the state, along with our severe inequality, poverty, and our poor educational outcomes.
“The plutonium industry, if it were to expand, would be particularly negative for Santa Fe and the region.
NNSA officials, meanwhile, seemed satisified with the budget request.
“NNSA’s budget reaffirms the President’s commitment to nuclear security and nonproliferation. The FY15 request provides the resources we need to modernize and maintain an aging nuclear weapons stockpile and supporting infrastructure, keep dangerous nuclear material out of the hands of proliferators and terrorists, respond to a nuclear or radiological emergency and ensure that our nuclear Navy has the power it needs to sail the globe,” said NNSA Acting Administrator Bruce Held.
“NNSA has an enduring responsibility to steward the taxpayer’s dollar effectively and efficiently, which is why we are pursuing mission-effective and cost-efficient solutions to the most high risk nuclear security challenges facing our country.”