New Mexico labs hold steady for rest of FY09

-A A +A
By Roger Snodgrass

First glimpses of an appropriation bill for the remainder of the fiscal year suggest a large measure of continuity for the nation’s nuclear weapons programs, including Los Alamos National Laboratory.


The laboratory’s high priority Chemistry and Metallurgy Replacement Facility is in for another installment at $97.2 million.


Funds are also included for rebuilding the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center accelerator ($19.3 million) and upgrading the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility ($19.7 million).


“It’s just the beginning of the process,” said Kevin Roark, a laboratory spokesman this morning, “We’re going to be looking at the bill in detail and we would reserve further comment until it’s is further along.”


Laboratory officials have said they would consider a flat budget to be a favorable result under the current economic circumstances.


Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., released selected numbers related to funding for New Mexico late Monday, emphasizing that the FY 2009 Omnibus Spending Bill would first be considered by the House of Representatives before it is taken up in the Senate.


According to a top line summary, the bill currently contains $6.38 billion for maintaining the nuclear stockpile and $1.48 billion for the nuclear non-proliferation program, which tracks and secures loose nuclear materials around the world. In New Mexico, both LANL and Sandia National Laboratories are major recipients from these funding accounts under the Department of Energy.


Bingaman’s announcement also noted that LANL’s cleanup budget for the year would grow to $231.67 million, a figure that does not include extra funding that was contained in a multi-billion stimulus package, passed earlier in the month.


A spokesman for Bingaman said the cleanup funds contained in the stimulus bill were aimed to meet milestones under the Consent Order between the laboratory and the New Mexico Environment Department and covered a two year period through next fiscal year.


Senate staffers explained that the current spending figures are based on the lower numbers in the appropriation bills from the two chambers last year.


If the current bill passes, agencies will subtract the amount of money they have spent so far, from the amount in the bill to derive how much they have to spend for the rest of the year. There are typically no “new starts” under a continuing resolution.


No funds were included for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, following last year’s House appropriation proposal.


Other items bulleted in the announcement, included these:


• $6.6 million for advanced analysis of “Matter-Radiation Interactions in Extremes” at Los Alamos to understand how materials behave under intense conditions of pressure and radiation;


• $12 million for facilities at Los Alamos to perform R&D on nuclear energy and medical isotopes;


• $7.6 million for upgrades to the LANL TA-55 radiological materials facility to make it safe and secure; and


• $44.6 million for upgrades to security system at Los Alamos to secure nuclear materials began.


President Barrack Obama will announce his budget proposal for next year, Fiscal Year 2010, Thursday.