FOR immediate release: February 6, 2020
For use with DOE’s scheduled budget release on Monday, February 10, 2020
For more information, key contacts are listed below.
According to media reports, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency within the Department of Energy (DOE), has persuaded President Trump to increase its weapons budget by more than 20% in one year. NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty has claimed that a failure to give her agency that huge increase would amount to “unilateral disarmament” despite the U.S. having thousands of nuclear warheads ready to launch on a moment’s notice.
The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a 33-year-old network of groups from communities downwind and downstream of U.S. nuclear weapons sites, strongly opposes this unnecessary and dangerous spending that promotes a new global nuclear arms race. In addition, Trump’s FY 2021 budget request is expected to cut or hold flat cleanup, nonproliferation, dismantlement and renewable energy programs that meet real national needs to pay for more unneeded nuclear weapons. To compound all this, DOE’s nuclear weapons and environmental management programs have been on the Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement and waste of taxpayers’ dollars for 27 consecutive years.
The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) and its member groups will be analyzing the following critical issues. For details, contact the ANA leaders listed at the end of this Advisory.
• Will NNSA’s “top line” budget request jump to $20 billion, as per media reports? If so, that topline number would be up from $16.5 billion in FY 2020, $15.2 billion in FY 2019 and $14.7 billion in FY 2018 (a 36% increase in three years).
• Will that expected $3.5 billion increase for FY 2021 be mostly or entirely for nuclear weapons programs under “Weapons Activities,” particularly for new nuclear warheads under “Life Extension Programs” and expanded production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores for those new warheads? [Note: The other three NNSA budget categories are Federal Salaries and Expenses, Nonproliferation and Naval Propulsion.]
• Will the FY 2021 budget start another new-design nuclear warhead, such as the vaguely-named “Next Navy Warhead Life Extension Program” that NNSA introduced in its FY 2020 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan? If so, what is the true need for this new-design warhead?
• How much greater will requested funding be for the W87-1 above the $363 million projected last year for FY 2021? Does the NNSA budget disclose the role, cost and reliability risks of its novel-design plutonium pit? [Note: The W87-1 is NNSA’s proposed replacement for the Air Force’s existing W78 ICBM warhead. $112 million was appropriated for the W87-1 in FY 2020 and $53 million in FY 2019.]
• Will requested funding for the W80-4, the new warhead for a new “Long-Range Stand Off” air-launched cruise missile, top $1 billion for FY 2021? [Note: $898.5 million was appropriated in FY 2020 for the W80-4 and $645.8 million in FY 2019.]
• Expanded plutonium pit production is NNSA’s declared #1 priority. Will funding in its “Plutonium Sustainment” account jump from $710 billion in FY 2020 to $1 billion or more in FY 2021? Will most of that increase fast track the new Plutonium Bomb Plant at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina to make 50 or more plutonium pits per year? What portion will be for upgrades to the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s aging plutonium facility so the Lab can produce more than 30 pits per year?
• Is the rationale for expanded plutonium pit production changing from being a “hedge” against technical and geopolitical surprise to replacing all pits in all ~4,000 active and reserve nuclear weapons over the next 50 years? Why is expanded plutonium pit production needed to begin with when the U.S. already has more than 15,000 pits in storage and independent experts have found that pits last at least a century?
• NNSA directed $410 million in FY 2020 to “repurpose” the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at SRS into a Plutonium Bomb Plant following cancellation of the boondoggle MOX program. Will NNSA continue to fund termination costs of the MOX project? Will Congress investigate the fraud and mismanagement of 8 billion taxpayer dollars that led to the cancellation of the MOX program?
• Will NNSA increase funding to nearly $1 billion in FY 2021 for the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 Plant near Oak Ridge, TN despite the revelation that its enriched uranium program (of which the UPF is a key part) will indefinitely rely upon two older facilities previously slated for closure that do not meet environmental and seismic standards? Are operating costs for those two old facilities included or not in NNSA’s budget cap of $6.5 billion for the UPF?
• Will NNSA’s dramatic budget increase seek adequate funds to address excess high risk buildings in Oak Ridge, Livermore and other nuclear weapons sites, or will officials continue to ignore the “ever increasing risk” (the DOE Inspector General’s description) to workers and the public until it’s too late?
• Will the Budget Request comply with the law (National Defense Authorization Act of FY 2020, Sec. 4409) and include for Fiscal Years 2021-2025 annual estimates of the costs of meeting legal cleanup milestones at each DOE site? DOE has never provided such cost estimates, which would demonstrate that the budget request is many tens of millions of dollars short of what is required by legal agreements with host states.
• Will DOE include the lifecycle cost estimate to clean up its nuclear sites? Chronic underfunding of DOE environmental programs leads to ever-increasing lifecycle clean-up costs — from $341.6 billion in FY 2016 to $388.2 billion in FY 2018 to $413.9 billion in FY 2019 to providing no lifecycle costs in FY 2020.
• Does the budget include any money for Yucca Mountain? For each of the last three years the Trump budget has included funding for this technically flawed site that is strongly opposed by the public and Nevada officials and for which Congress has refused to appropriate funds.
• Does the budget again include funding for “Consolidated Interim Storage” for commercial irradiated fuel (AKA lethal high-level radioactive wastes)? Previous Trump budgets have included that money even though DOE funding of private storage sites is prohibited by federal law and Congress refuses to appropriate the funds.
• How much funding is provided for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)? [Note: $100 million appropriated in FY 2020.] Such funds are a bailout to the failing nuclear energy industry since SMRs are not technically or financially viable.
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The annual Department of Energy Congressional Budget Requests are typically available on the scheduled release date by 1:00 pm EST at https://www.energy.gov/cfo/listings/budget-justification-supporting-documents
For information about specific DOE nuclear weapons sites and programs, contact:
Los Alamos Lab Pit Production and Life Extension Programs-
• Jay Coghlan: 505.989.7342, [email protected]
Livermore Lab and Life Extension Programs-
• Marylia Kelley: 925.443.7148, [email protected]
Uranium Processing Facility and Dismantlements –
• Ralph Hutchison: 865.776.5050, [email protected]
Pit Production and MOX Plant at the Savannah River Site –
• Tom Clements: 803.240.7268, [email protected]
Environmental Management, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and Yucca Mountain –
• Don Hancock: 505.262.1862, [email protected]
*** immediate release *** 4 February 2020
Marylia Kelley, 925.255.3589, [email protected]
Jay Coghlan, 505.989.7342, [email protected]
Tom Clements, 803.240.7268, [email protected]
Multiple sources indicate the FY2021 budget request from the Trump Administration will seek a dramatic increase in funding for nuclear weapons—an unprecedented leap of 20% over current spending levels, bringing the total for The National Nuclear Security Administration to $20 billion. Reportedly, the increase is earmarked principally for modernization programs for warhead design and plutonium pit manufacturing facilities.
News reports have included outlandish statements from NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty who suggested providing any less that $20 billion would amount to “unilateral disarmament,” a claim no truer than the since discredit declaration of a missile gap with the Soviets in 1962.
The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a nationwide coalition of grassroots watchdog groups from every major US nuclear weapons facility, notes that the current US nuclear stockpile has been certified reliable and is expected to be reliable for at least forty more years.
ANA released a letter to Congressional leadership calling for a hard look at the budget request when it arrives, scheduled for February 10, and encouraging House and Senate members to reject the increase as unjustified and unwise.
“The United States retains possession of nearly 4,000 stockpiled and deployed nuclear warheads and bombs. This is hardly disarmament,” said Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CAREs in Livermore, California. “Moreover, a 20% increase for weapons activities would perilously escalate an already dangerous new arms race. Rather than speed the design and production of new warheads, such as the W87-1, the country would be better served by cleaning up the contamination impacting our communities from the first cold war.”
ANA has tracked spending on nuclear weapons programs for more than thirty years.
“It will be important for the House and Senate committees that discuss this budget to be anchored in reality,” said Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “There is no justification for a surge in nuclear weapons spending at this time. It is a brazen attempt by the NNSA and its contractors to exploit the last year of the Trump Administration; they want to gorge on taxpayer dollars while the trough is controlled by Republicans.”
The increase in spending would be used in part to fund new bomb production facilities, including two new facilities to produce plutonium pits—one at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina and one at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. ANA members point out that funding these facilities in the FY2021 budget is premature.
“NNSA is required by a court order and by environmental law to conduct a full Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement review on expanded pit production. The recent announcement that they will not prepare the required analysis means they could well be facing a challenge in federal court” said Tom Clements, director of Savannah River Site Watch in Columbia, SC. “NNSA hasn’t demonstrated the need for producing 80 plutonium pits per year, much less explained why they need duplicate facilities to do it. Clearly they are setting the taxpayer up for another boondoggle on the scale of the failed MOX project at Savannah River.”
ANA will work to inform committee staff and members about the reality behind the President’s budget request and to debunk the false claims being made by the Administration.
“Major corporations rake in billions in profits from weapons production activities every year,” said Coghlan. “We’re on the other end of that pipeline. We’re the taxpayers. And we depend on Congress to spend our money wisely.”
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CLICK HERE for a copy of the ANA letter distributed to congressional committees with jurisdiction over the nuclear weapons budget.