Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
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Budget Dispatch #3 - NUCLEAR AGENCY WITHHOLDS CRITICAL BUDGET DOCUMENTS; WATCHDOG GROUP DECRIES DELAY, PROVIDES OVERVIEW OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS, NONPROLIFERATION & CLEANUP FUNDING REQUEST BASED ON AVAILABLE DOCUMENTS
This is the third in a series of Tri-Valley CAREs' dispatches from deep within the FY 2015 budget request documents for the Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). This dispatch will conclude our remarks on the budget documents released today. The NNSA's detailed budget submittal to Congress has yet to be made public. We will resume these dispatches when key details become available, which may not be until March 11, 2014.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 4, 2014, 5PM
Tri-Valley CAREs celebrated important budget victories in the placement of the Mixed Oxide Plutonium Fuel (MOX) program into "cold standby" and the 5-year deferment, amounting to cancellation, of the new W78/88-1 "interoperable" nuclear warhead (see dispatches #1 and #2). The overview of the entire nuclear weapons budget request is far less rosy, however.
The "top line" request for DOE NNSA nuclear weapons activities rises to $8.3 billion, an increase of nearly $534 million, or about 7%, above the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 level, which was already far too high. Notably a major increase is requested in FY2015 for "directed stockpile work" (mostly to combine 4 versions of the B61 into a new B61-12 nuclear bomb, a risky enterprise that is neither desirable nor necessary). Additionally, the related increase in NNSA's "readiness campaign" was also attributed to the B61-12. (See pages 12 and 13 in the DOE Budget Highlights).
While the NNSA budget detail is being withheld, on a call-in with NNSA management for reporters and stakeholders that included Tri-Valley CAREs, the agency officials stated that the FY 2015 funding request for the B61-12 stood at $643 million, which is $106 million greater than the $537 million lavished on the program in 2014.
Tri-Valley CAREs' Executive Director, Marylia Kelley, said, "There is no need to create a new B61-12 nuclear bomb. It's high time to put the brakes on this elaborate 'make work' program for nuclear weapons designers." The total estimated cost for the B61-12 has risen from $3.9 billion to at least $10 billion, not including an additional $1 billion in Defense Dept. funding for a new tail kit. At this price each of the new B61-12 nuclear bombs will cost twice its weight in solid gold, according to an estimate by the Ploughshares Fund.
The budget highlights show that NNSA's "Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) and High Yield Campaign" will enjoy continued high funding, with nearly $513 million requested. This represents a nearly imperceptible dip of only 0.2% from FY 2014, despite the National Ignition Facility's (NIF) continued failure to achieve ignition. Further, the NIF failed to complete more than half its tier-one "stockpile stewardship" experiments last year, according to the Livermore Lab Performance Evaluation Report. What cannot be ascertained with precision in the absence of the NNSA budget detail, however, is exactly how much of the $513 million for ICF is destined for NIF. Stay tuned!
Also notable is that the "top line" numbers for the NNSA nonproliferation accounts appear to have been raided to pay for the increase in nuclear weapons activities. The "top line" for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation is down about 20%, from nearly $2 billion in FY 2014 to $1.555 billion in the FY 2015 request (See page 15 in the DOE Budget Highlights). A portion of that decrease is due to a welcome reduction in the "fissile materials disposition" budget line that funds the MOX program, and reflects its placement in "cold standby." But, that is not the entire story. The Global Threat Reduction Initiative budget line that helps secure vulnerable nuclear materials around the world is slashed from $442 million to $333 million, a 25% reduction. Other nonproliferation budget lines are likewise reduced in the FY 2015 budget request.
Scott Yundt, Tri-Valley CAREs' Staff Attorney, called the precipitous drop in the nonproliferation budget "a danger signal," adding that, "the NNSA likes to talk about reducing nuclear dangers. Yet, the agency is cutting the funds to properly accomplish that mission. The U.S. and the world need to better safeguard, package and store dangerous bomb-usable materials, not build new nuclear bombs like the B61-12. Indeed, what is President Obama going to say to the international community at the upcoming nuclear materials security summit, an initiative he began in 2010?"
According to the budget highlights, the DOE Environmental Management funding by site would drop slightly, from $5.83 billion to $5.63 billion, or 3.6%. What remains to be seen in the budget detail is exactly which sites' obligations and cleanup milestones may be slated for deferment or a reduction in quality. The funding for the Superfund cleanup at the Livermore Lab comes mostly from the NNSA nuclear weapons budget and partly from the Environmental Management budget. Until the budget request details are released, it is not possible to conclude with certainty whether the cleanup monies request for Livermore Lab will cover all of the activities necessary to do the job. Initial verbal reports from NNSA have been encouraging, but the proof is in the final numbers - and they are yet to be released.
Also of note in the FY 2015 budget request process is that the agency has a new funding "wish list" called the "Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative (OGSI)." This would bust the budget caps and lavish additional funding disproportionately on nuclear weapons activities. "Congress should reject the OGSI entirely and, instead, move a significant portion of the funds requested for weapons activities into nonproliferation and environmental management as the budget process unfolds in the coming weeks and months," said Kelley.
Additional dispatches will follow on a variety of NNSA programs as more detailed budget justification documents become available. Stay tuned.
Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs: (925) 443-7148 firstname.lastname@example.org