Inadequate DOE Funding for Cleanup at LANL
December 28, 2007
The Department of Energy (DOE) did not request enough funding from Congress
for cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for the fiscal year
beginning October 1, 2007. DOE requested approximately $140 million, but
LANL officials recently reported that $220 million was needed to meet the
requirements of the cleanup order between DOE, LANL and the New Mexico
Environment Department (NMED). The shortfall may result in additional fines
and penalties to DOE and LANL under the cleanup order.
Through the work of New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici, the cleanup funding
was increased to $153 million. In a statement Domenici said the funding
"provided for environmental cleanup at Los Alamos means that the lab will
need cooperation from the state [environment department]."
But NMED is unwilling to renegotiate the cleanup order or reduce the
requirements due to DOE budget issues. NMED Secretary Ron Curry said, "Our
job is to make sure cleanup proceeds."
DOE also released its Fiscal Year 2007 Financial Report. The report
estimates that unfunded liabilities for cleanup across the nuclear weapons
complex may be as high as $264 billion. DOE states that the unfunded
liabilities represent "one of the most technically challenging and complex
cleanup efforts in the world. Estimating this liability requires making
assumptions about future activities and is inherently uncertain. The future
course of the [DOE] environmental management program will depend on a number
of fundamental technical and policy choices, many of which have not been
made. The cost and environmental implications of alternative choices can be
The DOE Inspector General also found that there were deficiencies "in the
process to identify and record environmental liabilities accurately,
completely and in a timely manner." The Inspector General cited the DOE’s
use of flawed assumptions and out-of-date information, inconsistent
reporting of data across the DOE sites and inadequate management review of
information supporting cleanup decisions. These deficiencies magnify the
problems with estimating the unfunded environmental liabilities.
For the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2006, DOE spent approximately $6
billion on environmental cleanup across the weapons complex. DOE has a huge
cleanup responsibility for the sites involved in nuclear weapons research,
development, production and testing. Over two million acres were devoted to
these activities, an area equal to the combined size of Delaware and Rhode
Generally, it has been stated that the environmental liabilities at LANL may
be at least $1 billion, depending on the actual level of cleanup. The
cleanup costs for the safest option for our water supplies, which is the
removal of all of the 18 million cubic feet of buried waste, has not been
estimated. DOE and LANL currently plan on leaving most of the waste buried
and installing a cap over many of the dumpsites.
Scott Kovac, of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, stated, "The amount of unfunded
DOE environmental liabilities is already astronomical. Given the
uncertainties and flawed assumptions made by DOE about cleanup, it is
necessary for New Mexicans to support the NMED to ensure that actual cleanup
is one of the main budgetary priorities at LANL."