House of Representatives Cuts 2005 Nuclear Weapons Budget

* The U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee this week voted to cut all funding for new nuclear weapons research and designs, preparation for enhanced test readiness at the Nevada Test Site and the Modern Pit Facility (MPF).

The vote eliminates funding for research and development of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, or bunker buster, and low-yield nuclear weapons, or mini-nukes. The Subcommittee also voted to double the funding directed toward nuclear weapons dismantlement in support of nuclear disarmament and increased funding to enhance security at nuclear weapons sites nationwide.

Subcommittee Chair, Ohio Representative David Hobson, said that the Department of Energy (DOE) "needs to take a time-out on new initiatives" and analyze the nuclear weapons complex in relation to national security needs.

DOEšs total requested nuclear weapons budget for fiscal year 2005 is more than $6 billion, which approaches nuclear weapons funding at the height of the Cold War. Of this amount, DOE requested $1.4 billion for weapons research and design at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

Representative Hobson also advocated cuts to the budget for the MPF in 2003. The MPF, which is proposed for one of five sites nationwide, including LANL and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, would have produced upwards of 500 new nuclear weapons per year.

Representative Hobson, when arguing against funding for the MPF, said, "Unfortunately, DOE continues to ask Congress to fund a Cold War nuclear arsenal, and the nuclear weapons complex necessary to maintain that arsenal, even though we no longer face a Cold War adversary...."

Representative Hobson has garnered praise from activists nationwide, particularly the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a national network of 32 organizations located downwind and downstream of DOE nuclear weapons facilities. Marylia Kelly, of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment in Livermore, California, and a member of the Alliance, said, "Eliminating these programs will increase both our national security and community safety."

The Subcommittee also addressed current proposals by DOE to abandon millions of gallons of high-level liquid radioactive waste buried in South Carolina, Idaho and Washington State. DOE proposed to restrict funding to clean up this waste in its 2005 budget request unless the states agreed that DOE could reclassify the waste as low-level. Senator Lindsey Graham moved to accept this proposal in South Carolina. However, the Subcommittee issued its opposition, saying, "The [Subcommittee] does not support partial solutions...." Beatrice Brailsford, of Snake River Alliance, Idaho's nuclear watchdog, responded, saying, "It is critical that full funding be provided for the needed cleanup in order to protect the vital water supplies that are threatened by those wastes."

The modified budget will now be considered by the House Energy and Water Appropriations Committee, the entire House of Representatives and the Senate before the changes can become final. Susan Gordon, of the Alliance, said, "We congratulate the House and now will turn our attention to the Senate to make sure these dangerous and proliferation-provocative nuclear weapons programs are not funded, period."

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