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Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request for Nuclear Weapons Programs - Blog #3

Tuesday, February 9, 2015
Posted by Marylia Kelley

Budget Favors Provocative New Warhead Development

The DOE budget request for nuclear weapons activities reveals the policy direction that President Obama wants to hand over to his successor. That trajectory is not merely in conflict with Obama’s 2009 “Prague speech” pledging leadership toward a world free of nuclear weapons. It’s an outright repudiation. Instead, it increases spending to “improve” nuclear war-fighting capabilities.

Make no mistake. The FY 2017 budget request is a down payment on $1 trillion in upgrades to U.S. nuclear weapons over the next thirty years. While much of that spending will be in the Pentagon for new submarines and planes, its driving force is found in the DOE budget request, which contains the funding for the new U.S. nuclear bombs and bomb plants.

Here are some “top line” numbers from the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration’s FY 2017 budget request for nuclear weapons.

The FY 2017 request for Atomic Energy Defense Activities is nearly $19 billion, up slightly from FY 2016. Of that, the request for Nuclear Weapons Activities is $9.24 billion, up nearly $400 million (or 4.5%) from the lavish $8.84 billion that Congress appropriated for these activities in FY 2016 (See DOE NNSA Budget Request, Volume 1, page 1).

In the “outyear” plans, the Nuclear Weapons Activities budget is slated to continue rising each year, reaching more than $10.5 billion in FY 2021 (page 3).

In contrast, the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation request is reduced in the FY 2017 request, from just over $1.9 billion (FY 2016 enacted) to $1.8 billion. Part of that decrease is a welcome termination of the plutonium MOX plant at the Savannah River Site (see blog #1). However, the overall paucity of this budget line demonstrates the continuing dominance of “weapons activities” (e.g., new nuclear weapons development) over “nonproliferation.” The difference is more than five-fold (page 1).

Within the Nuclear Weapons Activities budget, there is a major increase requested for the development of a new Long-Range Stand Off (LRSO) warhead, also referred to as the W80-4 Life Extension Program, which will be done primarily at Livermore Lab.

In FY 2015, the LRSO warhead development began at Livermore with $9 million. That rose to $195 million in FY 2016 and the LRSO warhead development now stands at $220.25 million in the FY 2017 request, an increase of more than $25 million (page 61). While the LRSO warhead “will ramp up at a slower pace than planned” (page 57), its budget will skyrocket, increasing to more than $636 million by FY 2021 (page 77).

The W80-4 LRSO warhead’s first production unit is scheduled for 2025, but the Budget Request’s outyear plans only extend 5-years from the present (to FY 2021). The estimated cost of both the new W80-4 LRSO warhead and the new air-launched cruise missile that the W80-4 would sit atop comes in at around $30 billion.

It is also instructive to look at the sheer number of new nuclear weapons development projects that the DOE NNSA has in the works.

The FY 2017 funding request includes: the B61-12 Life Extension Program ($616 million), the W76 Life Extension Program ($222.88 million), and the W88 Alteration ($281 million), all in the Directed Stockpile Work budget line. The total for these life extensions and major alterations in the request is $1.34 billion. Directly below that on page 76 is an additional set of budget lines with an additional $443 million-plus for Stockpile Systems.

The FY 2017 budget request also contains $575 million for a new bomb plant for uranium “secondaries” - the H-bomb part of nuclear weapons - at Y-12 in TN called the Uranium Processing Facility (page 253).

The request also moves ahead with a “modular” approach to building a new plutonium bomb plant at Los Alamos Lab in NM. However, it stops shy of putting certain specifics in place, such as mandating underground production facilities. The request does include Plutonium Sustainment activities totaling nearly $185 million, which is up more than $10 million from last year (page 115). And, the budget request continues all of the plutonium activities on the trajectory toward production at Los Alamos Lab of 10 war reserve plutonium bomb cores in FY 2024, 20 war reserve bomb cores in FY 2025 and 30 war reserve bomb cores in FY 2026 (page 109).

Both the Uranium Processing Facility and the new facility to boost production of plutonium bomb cores (also called plutonium pits) are directly related to the development of new U.S. nuclear weapons. Thus, we will seek to rein in the new bombs and bomb plants simultaneously.

Note: We at Tri-Valley CAREs are continuing a deep dive into the FY 2017 budget request for nuclear weapons. Check our website for blog #4 on the National Ignition Facility, to be followed by blog #5 on cleanup and other activities. Plus, our next edition of Citizen’s Watch will include additional budget analysis and related action alerts. Stay tuned! Join us!

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