Lab budget up 7 percent

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LANL > DOE spending proposal requests $1.96B

 Los Alamos National Laboratory would see a 7 percent budget increase, while spending for Sandia National Laboratories would remain basically flat under the Obama Administration budget plan unveiled on Wednesday.
The Department of Energy spending proposal requests $1.96 billion for Los Alamos and $1.8 billion for Sandia in fiscal 2014. In FY13, Los Alamos was operating on a $1.83 billion budget.
Officials with the National Nuclear Security Administration say that given the tight budget times, they are also going back to reevaluate what might be done to more affordably upgrade the plutonium research facilities at Los Alamos.
The administration last year proposed putting on hold any further work on a controversial $6 billion project known as the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility.
On Wednesday, the acting administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration, Neile Miller, said the lab is “clearly not affordable” and alternatives are being studied.
The proposed budget also calls for a 5 percent cut for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, to $203 million.
U.S. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said he was “encouraged that Los Alamos and Sandia labs are well-supported in the President’s budget proposal.”
“Securing funding for the labs and our military installations ensures that New Mexico can fulfill its key national security missions, and strengthens our economy by providing quality jobs in our state,” he said in a statement.
Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said the president’s budget request is overall positive news for New Mexico.
“It replaces harmful sequester cuts with a more balanced approach and calls for investments in Pre-K and manufacturing to help bolster the middle class. He is also recommending funding increases for New Mexico’s labs, military installations and to reduce the backlog at the Veterans Administration, which I strongly support.
“While his proposal contains good points, there is also room for improvement. Funding for DOE’s cleanup activities at LANL and WIPP need urgent improvement to meet DOE’s commitment to New Mexico. I am also concerned about proposed changes in Social Security benefits, which seniors paid into and depend on to meet essential living expenses.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee as we negotiate our spending priorities and continue moving through the budget process.”
Total spending for cleanup of radioactive waste at Los Alamos would rise 16 percent, to $215 million. Presently, LANL is operating on a $188 million cleanup budget. Udall and Heinrich had asked for $255 million for cleanup at LANL.
“The President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request of $5.622 billion provides the resources to clean up the Cold War legacy and maintain momentum in the world’s largest environmental remediation effort,” EM senior advisor David Huizenga said. “We embrace this challenge in this tough budget climate and continue to apply innovative environmental cleanup strategies to complete work safely, on schedule and within cost, demonstrating our continued value to the American taxpayers.”
Watchdog groups also weighed in on Obama’s budget.
Los Alamos Study Group’s Greg Mello said the proposed budget reflects bad management, bad priorities for the nation, and a lack of political courage and even savvy on the part of the President, his party, and his appointees.
“There are good people in the White House and NNSA, but they are not sufficiently empowered or motivated to cut through the greed and just plain nonsense that inflates this budget. It is a real disappointment, a travesty of management and policy,” Mello said.
“Overall, NNSA makes its management job a good deal harder than it needs to be. It does this in many ways, for example by enlarging its program far beyond what is actually needed, and doing so prior to any defensible idea of what the work will really cost. Then the agency places itself in a terribly weak position vis-à-vis its contractors, who do essentially all the work and control nearly all the information. “
New Mexico Nuclear Watch Jay Coghlan added this statement.
“The overall NNSA budget request, 13 percent above FY 2013 sequester levels, is divorced from national fiscal realities. This is best exemplified by the half-billion-dollar-plus request for refurbishing the B61, by which time this nuclear bomb will literally cost more than its weight in gold, mostly for the archaic mission of forward deployment in Europe against what threat?
“The proposed NNSA budget as a whole is indicative of the self-appointed exceptionalism of the nuclear weapons community that assumes it should continue to receive ever-rising taxpayers appropriations while the general public below them suffers cuts.
“Specific to LANL, the proposed 23 percent funding increase in hands-on work to indefinitely preserve existing nuclear weapons, while also giving them new military capabilities despite government denials, shows that the Lab continues to bet its future on the wrong horse. Nuclear weapons research and production programs will almost inevitably diminish over time, while at the same time the Lab’s exorbitant cost of business seriously handicaps its ability to compete for other missions. As counterpoint, it’s pathetic to see that renewables energies R&D is a miniscule 00.7 percent of total proposed DOE funding.”