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Project on Government Oversight

POGO: Scrap Unnecessary Multi-Billion Dollar Nuclear Weapons Facility

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January 18, 2012

The Obama Administration and Congress should eliminate funding for a multi-billion dollar nuclear research facility that has ballooned in cost and is unnecessary in a time that the U.S. is reducing its nuclear weapons arsenal, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) recommended in a report issued today.

“This facility is a poster child for government waste,” said POGO Senior Investigator Peter Stockton. “Why are we designing a multi-billion dollar facility that has no clear mission?"

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement-Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is part of a broader project that was originally supposed to cost taxpayers $375 million. CMRR-NF’s projected costs have now spiraled to an estimated $3.7 to $5.9 billion, and that doesn’t include maintenance costs, which are estimated to be more than 15 times the cost to maintain the building it is replacing.

President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta have both pointed to the nuclear arsenal as a source of budget cuts. Given that the White House just announced plans for $450 billion in defense cuts over the next ten years, the U.S. can no longer afford to waste taxpayer dollars on this behemoth of overspending, the POGO report argues.

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which entered into force in February, calls for the U.S. to draw down the number of its deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550. In contrast, CMRR-NF’s mission has expanded to support the increased production of plutonium pits that form the core of nuclear warheads. A growing body of scientific and policy experts are questioning the need for this increased pit production, especially since there are over ten thousand pits in storage that could be used.

“Moving forward with CMRR-NF completely defies logic and our current budgetary realities,” said Mia Steinle, a POGO investigator. “It also runs contrary to U.S. nuclear strategy.”

POGO’s report outlines other concerns with the facility, including the fact that it faces a higher risk of earthquakes than previously thought, DOE’s abysmal track record in finishing nuclear facilities on time and on budget, and the fact that the facility does not create any permanent jobs.

Read POGO’s latest report, U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Energy Department Plans to Waste Billions of Dollars on Unneeded Los Alamos Lab Facility

Read POGO’s accompanying blog post, Eight Reasons to Scrap CMRR, the Energy Department's Billion-Dollar Nuclear Facility

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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