Reading Room

For immediate release: February 1, 2007

What to Look for in the U.S. Department of Energy Fy 2008 Budget Request

for more information, contact:
Susan Gordon, ANA, (206) 853-6399
or local contacts listed at end of advisory, including Tri-Valley CAREs, Livermore, CA

The Department of Energy (DOE) FY 2008 budget request will be released on Monday, February 5, 2007. The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), a national network representing communities downwind and downstream from U.S. nuclear weapons facilities, is concerned that spending on nuclear weapons and energy will divert funds away from environmental cleanup, radiation health programs and plutonium disposition.

While the United States accuses other countries of pursuing nuclear weapons, the DOE budget proposal will demonstrate that the U.S. is massively retooling its own nuclear weapons research, testing, and production infrastructure to create new weapon designs and maintain thousands of warheads for many decades to come, in direct contradiction to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

ANA is concerned about the following likely FY 2008 budget proposals.

Nuclear Weapons Activities

The nuclear weapons budget will likely increase, due to anticipated funding for "Complex 2030." We expect that the DOE FY 2008 request will likely increase due to the funding needed to rebuild the nuclear weapons complex under the "Complex 2030" plan. DOE claims that this transformation will cost $150 billion over the next twenty-five years, yet this figure does not take into account life-cycle costs, including operations and cleanup.

DOE will receive $6.28 billion for "Total Weapons Activities" in the FY 2007 Continuing Resolution. This includes the Stockpile Stewardship Program which has certified the reliability of the current nuclear arsenal for the last ten years.

The Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) Program. Congress created the RRW Program to provide reliable component replacements for existing warheads. Even though DOE has stretched the boundaries of the program and is using it as a rationale for transforming the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal and designing new weapons, Congress has shown a willingness to increase funding.

The DOE FY 2008 request will be $50 million or higher while the Department of Defense will request $80.1 million for its RRW activities. It is expected that DOE's initial request will be a "placeholder" amount and that they will seek more funding for RRW as the budget process unfolds.

Increased funding for plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). An independent study by expert scientists concluded that plutonium pits (the "triggers" for nuclear weapons) last a century or more. This finding seriously undercuts DOE's claimed need for more pits, but not its desire to radically expand production. DOE is expected to ask for more than the $238 million it requested in FY 2007 for pit production and a new facility at LANL. Increased pit production at LANL is a response to Congress' repeated rejections of a "Modern Pit Facility" and is a key component of "Complex 2030."

Dismantlement vs. "Life Extension Programs. In FY 2007, House appropriators tried to add $30 million for warhead dismantlement to DOE's request of $75 million, but even that increase pales in comparison to $1 billion-plus spent on "Directed Stockpile Work" to upgrade and modernize nuclear weapons. Ongoing "Life Extension Programs" crowd out dismantlement because warhead assembly and disassembly are both performed at the same facilities at the Pantex Site. DOE will likely request less money for dismantlement in FY 2008, despite their stated goal of a smaller arsenal under the RRW Program.

Nuclear Waste & Plutonium Disposition

More money for Yucca Mountain. DOE is expected to ask for a significantly larger amount than last year's request of $544.5 million to support a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. DOE may also request funding for interim storage of commercial spent fuel, either as part of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership or as part of the nuclear waste disposal program. ANA supports reducing the Yucca Mountain budget because of the site's flaws and because no adequate license application can be submitted in 2008.

Plutonium disposition still in limbo. In the Continuing Resolution for FY 2007, Congress did not allow DOE to fund construction of the Mixed-Oxide (MOX) Fuel Facility at the Savannah River Site before August 1, 2007. Nevertheless, ANA expects that DOE will again request hundreds of millions of dollars for construction of the plutonium MOX fuel facility. Instead, DOE should request funding for immobilization because much of the plutonium can not be used as MOX reactor fuel.

Environmental Cleanup

The environmental cleanup budget will be substantially cut. The administration has consistently underfunded DOE's Office of Environmental Management, despite the fact that the 2007 Budget Request showed that almost $100 billion is needed to fund currently identified waste management and environmental remediation programs so that they are completed by the 2012 and 2035 milestones. In the Continuing Resolution for FY 2007, Congress is providing more than $300 million more than the request. Nevertheless, ANA is concerned that, once again, the Budget Request will not adequately fund those programs, which will likely lead to violations of cleanup agreements in Washington and New Mexico, and perhaps other states. Delayed, underfunded cleanup threatens water supplies and human health.

Hanford cleanup shortchanged again. Although DOE estimates that tens of billions of dollars are needed to cleanup Hanford, the most contaminated area in the western hemisphere, DOE will likely again try to reduce the budget, rather than providing needed increased funding. DOE has adopted "target budgets" extending over several years to slash funding for Hanford cleanup, even as deferred work loads grow and contamination spreads more rapidly than was believed possible. The FY 2008 Request will need to increase funding for High-Level Nuclear Mixed Waste Tank and cleanup of chronic leaks, the remediation of massive unlined burial grounds and contaminated groundwater to comply with legal cleanup schedules and hazardous waste laws.

Cuts in cleanup funding at the Idaho National Laboratory. A cut of around $30 million is expected at INL, and it is feared that the expected cuts could slow construction of the treatment facility for high-level tank waste and delay the targeted retrieval of legacy radioactive waste in the burial grounds.

The plutonium reprocessing budget will be substantially increased. The budget request may double the $120 million requested in FY 2007 for a multi-billion dollar reprocessing plant as part of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. Reprocessing should not be funded because it is uneconomic, encourages nuclear proliferation, creates enormous environmental contamination, and diverts resources from cleanup.

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Local Contacts:

Mavis Belisle, Director, Peace Farm Panhandle, TX - (806) 341-4801

Beatrice Brailsford, Program Director, Snake River Alliance Pocatello, ID - (208) 233-7212

Glenn Carroll, Director, Nuclear Watch South, Atlanta, GA - (404) 378-4263

Jay Coghlan, Executive Director, Nuclear Watch of New Mexico Santa Fe, NM - (505) 989-7342

Lisa Crawford, President, Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety and Health Harrison, OH - (513) 738-1688

Don Hancock, Nuclear Waste Program Director, SW Research & Information Center Albuquerque, NM - (505) 262-1862

Peggy Maze Johnson, Executive Director, Citizen Alert Las Vegas, NV - (702) 796-5662

Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment Livermore, CA  (925) 443-7148

Gerry Pollet, Field Director, Heart of America Northwest Seattle, WA - (206) 382-1014

Lou Zeller, Administrator, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League Glendale Springs, NC - (336) 982-2691

ANA: Seattle Office: 1914 North 34th St., Suite 407, Seattle, WA 98103, 206/547-3175, Fax: 206/547-7158

Washington, DC Office: 322 4th Street NE, Washington, DC 20002, 202/544-0217, Fax: 202/544-6143

Mason Lowe Operations Director Alliance for Nuclear Accountability phone 206.547-3175 fax 206.547-7158

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