* The proposed fiscal year 2006 budget released this week by the Bush Administration would increase federal appropriations for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) by $20 million dollars. LANL is budgeted $1.8 billion for nuclear weapons research and design activities, environmental management and other sciences. The entire Department of Energy (DOE) complex in New Mexico is slated to receive nearly half of the overall federal nuclear weapons budget of $9.4 billion.
The increase includes $40 million for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Building project, which was proposed by LANL in 2003, but suffered budget cuts in fiscal year 2005. Additionally, pit manufacturing and certification at Technical Area-55 at LANL is slated to receive more than $180 million. The pit manufacturing program at LANL produced four pits in 2004. The budget also includes $7.7 million for the Modern Pit Facility, which was also removed entirely from the 2005 budget.
Jay Coghlan, of Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, said, "Plans for a Modern Pit Facility are the height of hypocrisy while the U.S. preaches to others about weapons of mass destruction."
The budget also includes $13.3 million for other controversial weapons projects, including a reliable replacement warhead, which is a successor to the advanced concepts initiative, and the robust nuclear earth penetrator. Senator Jeff Bingaman responded to this proposal, saying, "The Pentagon already has the capability to destroy deeply buried targets, so I view the [robust nuclear earth penetrator] as a poor investment of taxpayer dollars. But even more important is the dangerous precedent developing a new nuclear weapon would set for other countries."
LANL also received $143 million for environmental cleanup, which is a 22% increase above 2005. The increase is a response to the Order on Consent released by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) in 2004, which requires site-wide investigation and cleanup of contaminated sources at LANL. NMED Secretary Ron Curry said that he will discuss with LANL Director Pete Nanos the cleanup schedules proposed in the budget, which indicate that LANL cleanup will be complete by 2015. Curry said, "There's a possibility that the funding the [DOE] needs to push forward on this order could be cut."
However, the majority of DOE sites received deep cuts to cleanup funding. Funding to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, near Carlsbad, received a $12.5 million cut. DOE proposes to ship more than 10,000 cubic meters of transuranic waste in 2006. The largest of those shipments is expected to be from LANL, although LANL has not shipped waste to WIPP in more than a year.
The environmental cleanup cuts concern many activist groups nationwide, who argue that management of nuclear waste and contamination is a critical component of the national security mission. Gerry Pollet, of Heart of America Northwest, which oversees the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, said, "Homeland security includes protecting our waterways ... from contamination. The [DOE] has an obligation to ask for the funds required to protect our water and meet its cleanup schedules, on which our region's safety depend."