* Two reports released recently analyze the future of the Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons program and associated environmental cleanup efforts according to the proposed fiscal year 2006 budget. The reports conclude that, as weapons funding surpasses that of the Cold War, environmental management funding is drastically reduced.
Dr. Robert Civiak, a former member of the federal Office of Management and Budget, produced a report on behalf of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment (CAREs) that analyzes the proposed budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which is the part of DOE that manages weapons programs. The report states, "The NNSA has become an entrenched bureaucracy that maintains an outdated spending program solely for its own benefit."
Civiak notes that the $6.63 billion budget request by NNSA for fiscal year 2006 is one and one-half times the average annual spending during the Cold War, despite the fact that the U.S. no longer faces a Cold War adversary. Civiak says, "…[T]he [U.S.] is conducting a one-nation arms race against itself to upgrade its nuclear weapons and capabilities."
The report outlines the current and projected nuclear weapons programs. These include the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, or bunker buster, increased readiness to resume underground weapons testing and the Modern Pit Facility. Civiak recommends cutting these programs altogether, which would save a combined $2 billion in spending.
Civiak also notes that weapons spending is increasing as other programs within DOE, including environmental cleanup, are being drastically cut.
A report released by Don Hancock, of Southwest Research and Information Center, outlines the potential consequences of the $549 million budget cut for DOE’s environmental management program.
Hancock argues that, as a result of the cut, "The DOE [environmental management] program does not meet legal, regulatory or policy commitments." According to Hancock, the budget cuts would undermine DOE’s pledges to timely and adequately funded cleanup efforts.
For example, Hancock estimates that closure deadlines for the Mound and Fernald facilities in Ohio would not be met due to budget cuts.
Further, at Hanford, budget cuts would violate agreements between the State of Washington, the Environmental Protection Agency and DOE.
Hancock also notes that DOE is preparing to move responsibility for some of its sites from the environmental management program to weapons programs. Hancock says, "[T]he transfer is part of a long-term plan to abolish the [environmental management program] and downgrade the cleanup mission of DOE, even though major contaminated sites would not be adequately cleaned up."
Hancock recommends that nearly $430 million be restored to environmental management. He also recommends that cleanup programs not be transferred to weapons programs, as the environmental management program can provide accountability, expertise and accessibility to the public and state and local governments.
Marylia Kelly, of Tri-Valley CAREs, says, "There’s a direct correlation between the escalating budget to produce new and modified nuclear weapons and the decreasing budget for cleaning up the toxic and radioactive legacy of weapons development. Reading these reports side by side makes that correlation crystal clear. We need cleanup technologies to be modernized, not nuclear weapons."