Today and Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee will have the opportunity to put their foot down on some wasteful nuclear weapons projects proposed by the Department of Energy (DOE). Saying “no more” to these projects will not diminish the national security mission of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, and in fact, will make the complex safer by not creating additional unnecessary security risks and costs.
While the House has already eliminated funding for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement - Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), there are indications that this may not happen in the Senate. There is no need for such a facility, when existing LANL buildings can be refurbished and expanded, such as Plutonium Facility (PF-4). CMRR-NF is estimated to cost $2.6 billion--more than four times the initial estimate in 2003--and is still growing. Such an investment is unwise, as the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board (DNFSB) recently found that the seismic hazard in the area was 50 percent larger than geologists had previously thought.
The Senate should also zero out the $90 million that the House kept in for the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. DOE has provided no clear rationale for such a facility. In fact, construction of a new building gives the Department of Energy (DOE) an out from actually downblending the hundreds of metric tons of excess highly enriched uranium (HEU) that DOE is storing at great cost and risk. HEU needs to not be stored, but downblended, as it is highly desirable to nuclear terrorists who could use it to quickly and easily create a crude nuclear device. Also, UPF will likely have soaring construction costs, as did its neighbor, the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF), with costs ballooning from $97 million to $549 million.
Finally, Senators should join their House colleagues by voting down the Reliable Replacement Warhead program (RRW), as has been recommended by numerous public interest groups. It is likely that an amendment will be offered in the Senate to fund RRW, which would create a new generation of unnecessary and wasteful nuclear weapons. The RRW series as planned does not have a nuclear test pedigree that even approaches the extensive test pedigree of the existing stockpile.