Trump Budget seeks to boost nuclear weapons and reduce cleanup
On March 11, the Trump administration released its overall budget for Fiscal Year 2020 that includes a $1.3 billion increase to $12.4 billion for nuclear weapons, while reducing cleanup funding by $517 million to $5.5 billion, compared with current spending. The 11.8 percent increase for nuclear weapons is for “modernization” and to support the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. Among other things, that nuclear weapons policy intends to “[p]rovide the enduring capability and capacity to produce plutonium pits at a rate of no fewer than 80 pits per year by 2030.” Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is the only site currently that manufactures the plutonium pits that are the core of nuclear bombs. But in addition to increasing pit production at LANL, the budget will support development of new pit manufacturing capacity at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
The dramatic increase from the current production of from 0 to a few plutonium pits per year to 80 pits would also result in more dangerous activities for workers, and significantly more radioactive and toxic chemical waste production. Nonetheless, the Budget Request reduces cleanup spending at LANL from $220 million to $195 million, or more than 11 percent.
Sandia National Laboratory’s nuclear weapons work would increase to about $2 billion (a few million dollars more than LANL), while its $2.6 million cleanup budget would remain about the same amount and would not fund clean up of the Mixed Waste Landfill, which is a significant public concern in Albuquerque.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), New Mexico’s third major Department of Energy site, which is the repository for transuranic or plutonium-contaminated nuclear weapons waste, would have a funding increase of about $23 million to $363 million. The increase is for continuing efforts to expand the amount of waste at the site and extend its operational lifetime for decades.
Congressional committees will debate the budget for several months with the goal of passing authorization and appropriations bills by September 30 to fund all of the federal government, including the nuclear weapons and cleanup activities. Senator Tom Udall is on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which writes the appropriation bills. Senator Martin Heinrich is on the Senate Armed Services Committee that develops the National Defense Authorization bill that includes nuclear weapons and cleanup. Representatives Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres-Small serve on the House Armed Services Committee that originates the defense authorization bill.
Whether the nation’s, and New Mexican’s, priorities are more nuclear weapons and nuclear waste and less cleanup will be part of the congressional debate over the next few months. People are encouraged to contact their Representative and Senators about these important issues.
- More detailed budget requests are at:
- The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review is at:
- The Budget Request for the entire federal government is at: