Reading Room

DOE Budget Questions

for use with Monday, February 12, 2018 DOE budget release


The Trump Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) will drive increased spending for nuclear weapons programs that make America increasingly less – not more – secure. Cleanup, nonproliferation, and renewable energy programs are expected to be cut or held flat to help pay for weapons. The February 12 release of DOE’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget highlights will begin to put dollar signs behind the new nuclear arms race being escalated at the expense of programs that meet the country’s real needs.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), a 31-year-old network of groups from communities downwind and downstream of U.S. nuclear weapons sites, will be analyzing the following issues. For details, contact the ANA leaders listed at the end of this Advisory.

- Will the “top line” budget request for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) jump to $15 billion, as inside sources tell ANA? That topline number would be up from $13.9 billion in FY 2018, and $12.5 billion in both FYs 2017 and 2016.

- Will that expected $1.1 billion increase be mostly or entirely for nuclear weapons research and production programs under “Weapons Activities”? (The other three NNSA budget categories are Federal Salaries and Expenses, Nonproliferation and Naval Propulsion.)]

- Will there be immediate funding to jump-start a low-yield submarine-launched warhead for “limited” nuclear war, as called for in the President’s Nuclear Posture Review? What is the military utility of that new warhead, which, if fired, would give away a strategic sub’s position and force the target to react quickly without knowing the warhead’s yield? What does the FY19 budget justification say?

- Will the request define the scope and cost of the “W78 warhead replacement program,” which is to be accelerated to FY19 according to the Nuclear Posture Review? What are the FY19 and long-term costs for a “replacement program”?

- Will the budget request further boost spending on a new, de-stabilizing Long-Range Stand Off warhead to ride atop a new air-launched cruise missile? ($399 million in FY 2018)

- Will funding for transforming the B61 bomb into the world’s first “smart” nuclear weapon remain at about $778 million annually? Is NNSA still on track to produce the first B61-12 in 2020?

- Will the dismantlement budget increase beyond its current, inadequate $52 million given that there is an estimated backlog of 2,000 nuclear weapons awaiting disassembly?

- Will more than $300 million be provided for Livermore Lab’s National Ignition Facility (NIF), which repeatedly failed to achieve ignition even though taxpayers have spent more than $10 billion on it so far? Or will the Inertial Confinement Fusion budget, specifically NIF, be cut in recognition of its failure?

- What is the request for the plutonium fuel (MOX) project at Savannah River, which DOE admits is financially unsustainable: zero, cold standby (~$200 million), or enough to barely survive ($300+ million)?

- Will the budget continue to fund the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) bomb plant in Oak Ridge, TN, without requiring a formally approved plan? Given that more than $2 billion has been spent on designing UPF, when will the Administration tell taxpayers how much more it intends to spend?

- Does the budget increase funding for expanded production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores at Los Alamos or reveal movement toward relocating pit production to Savannah River? Why is more production needed when the U.S. has more than 15,000 pits, which experts conclude are durable?

- Does the Environmental Management (EM) cleanup budget (currently $5.4 billion) increase to meet all legally mandated milestones? States say agreements at a dozen DOE sites are underfunded.

- What is the lifecycle cost estimate to clean up nuclear weapons production? Chronic underfunding of DOE environmental programs leads to ever-increasing lifecycle clean-up costs — from $308.5 billion in FY 2013 to $341.6 billion in FY 2016 to $388.2 billion in FY 2018.

- Does the Hanford budget (more than $2.3 billion) protect workers from toxic chemical exposures, and fund construction of new double-shell tanks to replace the leaking ones?

- Does the budget include any money for Yucca Mountain? For FY 2018 the Trump administration requested $120 million for this technically flawed site that is strongly opposed by Nevada officials and the public.

- Does the budget increase funding (currently $30.87 million) for the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) to provide independent oversight of DOE projects that have many cost over-runs, schedule delays, safety culture issues and technical problems?

- Is funding for design and licensing of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) (currently $95 million) increasing again even though SMRs are not technically or financially viable? Will the budget include DOE sites buying expensive and speculative SMR electricity in the future?

For information about specific DOE nuclear weapons sites and programs, contact:

Los Alamos Lab and Life Extension -- Jay Coghlan:

Livermore Lab, NIF and Life Extension -- Marylia Kelly:

UPF and Dismantlement -- Ralph Hutchison:

Savannah River and MOX Plant -- Tom Clements:

Environmental Management, Yucca Mountain -- Don Hancock:

Hanford – Tom Carpenter:
(206)292-2850 x 22

Idaho National Lab – Beatrice Brailsford: