Trump request contains funding for LANL upgrades, projects

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By Tris DeRoma

The White House’s 4.7 trillion budget request contains a $1.1 billion increase over fiscal year 2019 budget request for the Department of Energy.

Trump is requesting funding that supports the Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration’s plans to increase plutonium pit manufacturing at the lab, the lab’s weapons life extension programs, infrastructure upgrades, funding that fully supports the lab’s mission of maintaining and securing the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

“Specifically, the budget completes development and production of the W76-2 warhead, begins production of the B61-12 and the W88 Alteration 370, and continues development of the W80-4 and the W87-1,” a statement in the request said. “The budget also continues support of the underlying Stockpile Stewardship Program, which facilitates stockpile modernization while advancing scientific understanding that can be applied to other national security missions.”

According to DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, the budget request includes $16.5 billion for the NNSA, she said. That’s an increase of $1.3 billion above the adopted NNSA budget for fiscal year 2019.

“The President’s budget request reflects the Trump Administration’s strong commitment to ensuring that U.S. nuclear capabilities are second to none,” Gordon-Hagerty said. “This vital funding will enable us to continue modernization of the Nuclear Security Enterprise to face 21st century threats.” 

In a fact sheet provided by the DOE, Trump’s proposal includes $8 billion to sustain and modernize the U.S. Nuclear stockpile, $3.2 billion to modernize aging infrastructure, $1.2 billion for physical security, information technology and cybersecurity, $1.6 billion for nuclear proliferation, $400 million for counterterrorism and emergency operations, $1.6 billion for integrated nuclear propulsion systems to the U.S. Navy and $400 million for salaries and expenses.

The budget also includes a request that may have some impact on the county’s power grid.

Los Alamos County buys hydropower from the Western Area Power Administration. Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities spokeswoman Julie Williams-Hill said Los Alamos County’s Department of Public Utilities said the impact to the department and its customers should be small.

“If that part of the proposal is approved by both House and the Senate, it would affect us, but minimally.  This is simply because our federal hydropower through WAPA is a fairly small percentage of our energy portfolio,” Williams-Hill said.

A week ago, the lab announced that it put out requests for proposals to help usher in the next phase of supercomputing with its “Cross Roads” computer, a more advanced super computer that will eventually replace the lab’s Trinity supercomputer.

“The Budget provides $5.5 billion for the Office of Science to continue its mission to focus on early-stage research, operate the national laboratories, and continue high priority construction projects,” a statement in the request read. The request would set aside $500 million for the Department of Energy’s supercomputing program.

The budget also contained good news for LANL’s aging infrastructure.

In April 2018, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency released a report documenting the DOE’s issues with LANL’s stockpile stewardship infrastructure.  

The budget also acknowledged facilities within the DOE’s nuclear enterprise are aging, half being over 40 years old, and need upgrades.

As part of the NNSA’s goals of getting 30 plutonium pits annually from LANL by 2026, the DOE has proposed expanding the lab’s PF-4 facility in Tech Area 55. In his request, the president mentions LANL’s partner in plutonium pit manufacturing, the Savannah River Site. The NNSA wants the site to produce 50 pits a year.

Regional environmental and safety groups were critical of Trump’s proposed funding for the country’s national labs.

“We don’t think the NNSA or the lab needs more money to do their job. It’s important for LANL facilities to be safe, but we don’t think investments of expanding to 30 pits per year are supported by a National Environmental Policy Act analysis, that they’ll be effective, or necessary,” Los Alamos Study Group Executive Director Greg Mello said.

However, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) did not like that Trump’s proposed budget asked for decreases in funding for clean energy, Medicare and Medicaid.