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Some Senators Want to Waste Big Bucks on Unnecessary Nuke Facility

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Congressional attempts to fund a new nuclear weapons facility are “alarming,” given that experts say the facility is unnecessary, according to a letter the Project On Government Oversight sent yesterday to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

Several senators did an end-run around Chu earlier this summer when they wrote letters to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta urging him to fund the nuclear weapons facility, known as the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement-Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Chu’s Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) oversee the nation’s nuclear weapons complex.

The facility, which would enable the nation to increase its production of a primary component of nuclear weapons, has seen its estimated cost increase from $375 million to nearly $6 billion over the course of a decade. And experts—including former nuclear weapons facility officials—have said the facility is not necessary to ensure national security, POGO reported in January.

Earlier this year, DOE and NNSA seemed to take this all into account when they proposed zeroing out funding for the nearly $6 billion facility, saying that existing facilities could meet their needs. Members of the congressional committees that make funding decisions about nuclear weapons followed their lead and did not appropriate money for the facility.

The senators who are trying to pour money back into CMRR-NF aren’t members of these committees and shouldn’t be making decisions about nuclear weapons facilities. Simply put, we should be listening to those in the know when it comes to CMRR-NF. As POGO’s letter put it:

Given that experts throughout the Administration are putting their support behind delaying CMRR-NF, and given that the NNSA has said viable alternatives exist for the brand-new facility, we find these congressional attempts to fund this boondoggle alarming. To spend almost $6 billion on a facility the country cannot afford and does not need would be a serious mistake.

By: Mia Steinle
Investigator, POGO

Mia Steinle, Investigator Mia Steinle is an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight and the civil society coordinator for the U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Her work focuses on government management of the oil, gas, and mining industries.

Topics: National Security

Related Content: Budget, DOD Nuclear Weapons, Los Alamos National Lab, Nuclear Weapons Complex Oversight, Waste

Authors: Mia Steinle

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