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Report

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Energy Department Plans to Waste Billions of Dollars on Unneeded Los Alamos Lab Facility

Executive Summary

The Department of Energy (DOE) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) are proceeding with plans to construct the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement – Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). At the same time, nuclear policy experts and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are raising serious questions about the CMRR-NF’s mission, cost, and design:

  • A growing body of scientific and policy experts challenge the need for the CMRR-NF.
  • The House Appropriations Committee recommended that construction of CMRR-NF be delayed, noting in a report for the fiscal year 2008 budget, “The CMRR facility has no coherent mission to justify it unless the decision is made to begin an aggressive new nuclear warhead design and pit production mission at Los Alamos National Laboratory.”
  • A former Sandia National Laboratories vice president, Bob Peurifoy, said in an affidavit about CMRR-NF, “Nowhere have I found a concise, objective description justifying its need…the Nuclear Facility might just sit there with nothing to do.”
  • Former chair of the State Department’s Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Advisory Board and member of the highly respected JASON advisory group, Dr. Richard Garwin, said of CMRR-NF before a House appropriations committee, “I would suggest that one look at doing without the nuclear facility.”
  • CMRR-NF is counter to the U.S. government’s commitment to shrinking its nuclear arsenal through the New START agreement and the President’s strategic guidance for a “smaller nuclear force.”
  • The entire CMRR was originally supposed to cost taxpayers $375 million, but the estimated costs for the CMRR-NF alone have now ballooned to an estimated $3.7 billion to $5.9 billion.
  • The facility is unlikely to have any significant impact on job creation in the LANL region, creating no new permanent jobs.
  • DOE and NNSA have failed to seriously consider less expensive alternatives to building CMRR-NF. They dismissed one plan largely on the basis that employees would have to “travel by vehicle” between two buildings that are about one mile apart.
  • Many of the planned functions for CMRR-NF could be carried out at existing facilities in the nuclear weapons complex at a lower cost to taxpayers.
  • CMRR-NF will not be fully operational until at least 2023, by which time most nuclear warheads will have gone through the Life Extension Program.

Recommendations

  1. The Administration and DOE should cancel CMRR-NF and zero out funding for the project in the upcoming budget.
  2. If the Administration and DOE fail to act, Congress should cancel funding for CMRR-NF in its next appropriations bill.
  3. NNSA should continue using existing facilities, at LANL and elsewhere, in the nuclear weapons complex to meet credible nuclear modernization requirements.
  4. Congress should amend Section 3114 of the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, “Notification of cost overruns for certain Department of Energy projects,” to reflect the stronger provisions in the current Nunn-McCurdy Act in order to improve the oversight of major cost overruns and schedule delays at the DOE.
  5. Congress should require independent cost estimates of major DOE construction projects at an early milestone in those programs so there is more realism in estimating the costs of those projects.

Click here to read the full report.