What Does DOE’s Nuclear Weapons Budget Request Say?
On Friday evening, before the long three-day Memorial Day weekend, the Department of Energy (DOE) released its Fiscal Year 2022 congressional budget request for nuclear weapons activities, including production of plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). https://www.energy.gov/cfo/articles/fy-2022-budget-justification The line item for Total Weapons Activities totals $15.48 billion, a slight increase over the congressional appropriation in Fiscal Year 2021 of $15.35 billion. Of that, DOE requests $1.01 billion under the “Los Alamos Plutonium Modernization” line item for the nuclear bomb production plant.
It is essential to note that for the past 28 years, the DOE’s programs for nuclear weapons and environmental management have appeared on the Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement and waste of taxpayers’ hard earned dollars. https://prod.drupal.gaotest.org/high-risk-list
Further, last month the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its 10-year review of the projected costs for nuclear forces administrated by the Department of Defense (DOD) and DOE. Nuclear forces include ballistic missile submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons laboratories and supporting activities. CBO produces the legally required review every two years.
For the period 2019 to 2028, CBO projected a nuclear forces cost of $494 billion. Two years later, for the period 2021 to 2030, CBO projects a 28 percent increase to $634 billion, or an increase of $140 billion. https://www.cbo.gov/publication/57130
The previous administration increased LANL’s annual budget by about $1 billion for fabrication of 30 plutonium triggers in the next couple of years. This funding remains in the Biden Administration’s budget request. Even though these plans have been on the table for years, it is unlikely LANL will be able to accomplish this task. As a reminder: LANL is the only facility in the USA capable of fabricating plutonium triggers.
See also May 18, 2021 presentation by LANL Operations Manager Kelly Beierschmidt to the Los Alamos County Council (Agenda Item No. 7B) about recent construction and future plans. https://losalamos.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2377 – at 1:10:25 Beierschmidt states, “We’ve almost added an entire other national lab to the mission space of Los Alamos.” Powerpoint slides at https://losalamos.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4955888&GUID=E033E97E-3563-4637-918F-5D912049C6F4&Options=&Search=
The previous administration proposed that a second facility be established at the Savannah River Site, located in South Carolina, for fabricating 50 plutonium triggers annually. In 2018, DOE estimated the cost to be $4.6 billion. As a clear example of why DOE is on the GAO’s High Risk List, the projected cost has more than doubled to over $11 billion. https://srswatch.org/doe-admits-in-fiscal-year-2022-budget-request-that-cost-of-srs-plutonium-bomb-plant-soars-to-11-1-but-annual-funding-levels-not-enough-for-project-viability-billion/
Like administrations going back to President Clinton, the Biden administration has pledged to conduct a nuclear posture review, which is a review of whether the USA’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective to protect the country, our allies, and deters adversaries. It is unknown how the review will impact the nuclear weapons budget. https://srswatch.org/new-nuclear-posture-review-npr-to-assess-need-for-new-nuclear-warheads-and-plutonium-pit-plan-including-proposed-srs-plutonium-bomb-plant/
Joni Arends, of CCNS, asks whether Congress will hear the nation’s pleas for funding social concerns over fabricating more nuclear weapons.
We are Podcasting!
1. Every Friday from noon to 1 pm– Protest LANL signing a 10-year lease (for the former Descartes building) to establish itself “permanently” in Santa Fe at the corner of Guadalupe and W. Alameda. JOIN Veterans for Peace, CCNS, Nuclear Watch NM, and others. We’ll have banners. Please bring a sign.
2. Monday, June 7th from 9:30 am to 12:45 pm – First Virtual Meeting of the NM Legislature Interim Radioactive & Hazardous Materials Committee. Agenda items include a discussion of the 2021 Interim Work Plan & Meeting Schedule and a 75-minute presentation by NM Environment Department Secretary James Kenney – Overview of the NMED’s Regulation of Radioactive & Hazardous Materials. Public comment is scheduled to begin at 12:15. https://nmlegis.gov/Committee/Interim_Committee?CommitteeCode=RHMC
3. Wednesday, June 16th from 2 to 4 pm – Individual Stormwater Permit for LANL Virtual Public Meeting. Presentations by Communities for Clean Water and N3B about Draft Permit Update and Monitoring Plan Overview, Proposal for Site-specific Copper Water Quality Criteria, and Enhanced Controls – 2021 Plans. The last 30 minutes is devoted to Questions & Answers. https://ext.em-la.doe.gov/ips
Tags: CBO, CCNS, Congressional Budget Office, Department of Energy, DOE, GAO, Government Accountability Office “High Risk List, Joni Arends, LANL, LANL Operations Manager Kelly Beierschmidt, LASG, Los Alamos County Council, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos Plutonium Modernization, Los Alamos Study Group, NPR, nuclear forces, Nuclear Posture Review, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, NWNM, plutonium triggers, Savannah River Site, Savannah River Site Watch, Total Weapons Activities