House Appropriations Committee Increases DOE Weapons Budget; Cuts Cleanup, Non-proliferation and Energy Efficiency Programs

June 3, 2011

Nuclear weapons received an almost three percent increase over this year's Department of Energy (DOE) budget from a U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee this week. A more than one percent increase for nuclear energy programs and $160 million for loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants accompanied the $195 million boost. The increases were at the expense of about a $470 million cut, or more than eight percent, to the proposed Fiscal Year 2012 cleanup budget. Compared with the current budget, other cuts included an eight percent decrease, or nearly $217 million, to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons programs; about a 10 percent cut, or $48 million, for cleanup of uranium enrichment plants; and a more than 27 percent decline, or $490 million, to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

The subcommittee action begins the congressional process to debate, amend, and rewrite the President's proposed 2012 budget for DOE. The fiscal year begins October 1, 2011.

Despite the recent ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by the Russian Duma and the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House committee members gave more taxpayer dollars to nuclear weapons and nuclear power and less to cleanup of DOE sites and renewable energy and energy efficiency. The new Treaty requires the reduction in the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads for each country to below 1,550 by 2018, though the Russians have already reduced to that level.

Less funding will impact the ability of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to meet its cleanup commitments under the March 2005 Consent Order with the New Mexico Environment Department. The Consent Order requires the investigation of certain large dumps at LANL and the opportunity for public participation in the cleanup decisions. Budget cuts could limit the cleanup options for large sites, such as Area G, a 63-acre dump that has been in operation since 1963 for the disposal of radioactive, toxic and hazardous wastes in unlined pits, trenches and shafts dug into the volcanic tuff. Evidence of pollution leaking from the dumps has been found in groundwater below Area G.

Now is the time for New Mexicans to get involved in the budget process. Don Hancock, of Southwest Research and Information Center, said, "Increasing funding for nuclear weapons will create more waste and reduce needed dollars for cleanup; increasing funding for nuclear energy and fossil fuels and cutting money for energy efficiency and renewable energy also are the wrong priorities."

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