DOE Awards More than Three Million Dollars to Community Reuse Organizations

Congress Debates Bunker Busters

* The Department of Energy (or DOE) recently awarded more than $3 million to various Community Reuse Organizations (or CROs) around the nation, including the Regional Commission of Eddy and Lea Counties, the Eight Northern Indian Pueblo Council, and Next Generation Community Reuse Organization, all located in New Mexico. CROs work with DOE's Task Force on Worker and Community Transition, which was established in 1993 to compensate communities surrounding DOE facilities for economic losses suffered due to closure of facilities or mission change.

For example, a CRO in Tennessee worked to facilitate the conversion of the K-25 Site at Oak Ridge National Laboratory from a gaseous diffusion plant and uranium enrichment facility to office space for Lockheed Martin and DOE.

Communities surrounding DOE facilities are required by DOE to maintain a CRO. However, the projects on which the CRO chooses to spend its grant can vary. For example, the $957,000 grant awarded to Next Generation, which is located in Albuquerque and addresses issues at Sandia National Laboratory, will be used to establish a web-based application to stimulate the economy through information about the regional workforce, employment, education, and training opportunities. The $345,000 grant awarded to the Eight Northern Indian Pueblo Council will fund the startup of the organization. In Lea and Eddy Counties, the grant will be used to construct public infrastructure in support of the establishment of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute in the Carlsbad area.

Energy Secretary Abraham said, "[DOE] is a good neighbor to the communities surrounding our sites. We will continue to work with ... [CROs] around the country to retain, expand, or create jobs for workers affected by restructuring efforts."

* Congress is continuing the discussion over whether U.S. weapons laboratories should begin developing a new hydrogen bomb, called the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (or RNEP), which is a small, nuclear-tipped weapon designed to burrow through dozens of feet of earth before destroying underground targets. The argument comes as Congress attempts to draft a military spending bill for Fiscal Year 2003, which begins October 1st. The House apportioned $15 million to study the weapons earlier this summer, while the Senate refused to fund the proposal.

Republican representatives argue that the proposed weapon, also called the bunker buster, is necessary to destroy underground bunkers in which biological or chemical weapons may be stored. Opponents of the plan worry that development of such a weapon could lead to resumed testing of nuclear weapons. Also, as California Representative Ellen Tausher, said, "We have a menu of options that satisfy our need to penetrate some of these hardened targets. [Putting nuclear tips on them] is a little ... overkill."

If Congress decides to allow development of the RNEP, Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories would work on the project. Despite the 1994 law that prohibits the production of nuclear weapons smaller than 5 kilotons, House Republicans claim that these so-called mini-nukes, are necessary for deterrence. But, as one Congressional staffer said, "The real question is, who is the target?"

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