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Wednesday, February 07, 2007  
Livermore Lab may see cut in federal funding

By: Betsy Mason
Published In: Inside Bay Area

SUBTITLE: Department of Energy asks for 8 percent less for next year, but most programs to remain intact

ARTICLE: Lawrence Livermore Laboratory would see a small cut in funding under President Bush's budget request for the Department of Energy for 2008, but most major lab programs would remain largely intact.

The DOE has requested $1.15 billion for the lab in fiscal year 2008 ? 8 percent less than the $1.25 billion request for 2007.

If approved by Congress, the total DOE budget would expand by $700 million, or 3 percent, to $24.3 billion in 2008.

"We have had to take stock of where we are and where we want to be," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said in a Washington press conference Monday. "And in so doing, I believe that we have been able to fund those activities which show the greatest promise and support this department's mission while maintaining essentially flat funding when considering the rate of inflation."

The DOE plans to spend $2.7 billion, 26 percent more in 2008 on alternative energy, including nuclear, biomass, solar, hydrogen and clean coal, a move the DOE says will strengthen U.S. energy security by reducing the need for foreign oil. The budget includes $405 million for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.

"We're looking at a doubling, roughly, of the demand for electricity in our country," Bodman said. "I do not see how we're going to be able to satisfy that demand without nuclear power. We need to get that up and running."

The project to replace the aging nuclear stockpile with updated weapons that would not require testing, known as reliable replacement warheads, would gain 220 percent, to $88.8 million. The DOE is expected to announce the winner of a design contest for the new weapons between Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national labs as soon as the Department of Defense approves the DOE's choice.

The biggest loser in the budget request is environmental cleanup of DOE sites, which Bodman attributed mostly to the finish of cleanup at seven sites.

At Livermore Lab some money will be shifted toward energy research, particularly nuclear energy, which stands to receive a boost from $400,000 to $8 million. Meanwhile, funds for nuclear nonproliferation would drop $10 million to $69.5 million.

The lab's total spending on weapons is slated to drop

$86 million to just more than $1 billion. The biggest cut, $51 million, would come from the budget for the DOE's campaign to achieve nuclear fusion ignition to help maintain the nuclear weapons stockpile without testing the weapons.

Direct spending on the lab's National Ignition Facility would take an expected drop from $255 million to $147 million, as the project will have acquired most of the necessary parts and will be focused on assembly. The 192-beam superlaser project is currently scheduled to be completed in 2009.

Another $23 million would be cut from other weapons stockpile work. The advanced computing program, which performs simulations of nuclear weapons explosions, would also lose $23 million.

On the winning side would be general weapons science, safeguards and security, as well as nuclear weapons incident response. Research on the plutonium pits that trigger nuclear warhead explosions would also go up $11.4 million for a total of $28.8 million in 2008.

"This is a substantial increase in plutonium activity at the lab," said Marylia Kelley of the watchdog group Tri-Valley CARES. "Instead Livermore Lab should be focusing on safely packaging the plutonium for removal," a move the DOE has said will be done by 2014.

Also on the losing end would be nuclear waste disposal, down $3.3 million to $14.1 million, and environmental cleanup for Livermore's Site 300, down $2.9 million to $8.6 million.

The DOE's request for Lawrence Berkeley Lab for 2008 is up 4.5 percent to $435 million. The biggest increases go to energy research and advanced scientific computing.

Contact Betsy Mason at (925) 847-2158 or

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