The Administration’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has been released and it tops $2.5 billion for the first time. The Lab’s overall budget is up 5% over the FY24 Annualized Continuing Resolution (a measure of the budget during 2024 which was passed in piecemeal with “continuing resolutions” every few months until March 2024.) Tri-Valley CAREs has long advocated for Livermore Lab to grow its civilian science mission and shrink its weapons focus. This year’s budget request shows that we have our work cut out for us by throwing money at the new nuclear arms race, while limiting funds for civilian sciences and cleanup projects.

The Winners

And as you can see in the pie chart above, almost 85% of the Lab’s budget is for Nuclear Weapons Activities. In the detail of the budget request it is revealed that the Lab is getting a 64% increase in funding for its work on the W87-1 Modification Program in FY25 to $82.85m. This is the warhead that will sit atop the new Sentinel Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, which was recently found to be 37% over its cost estimates (not including the warhead costs) and deeply behind schedule. Also, the need for this new generation of ICBM’s has increasing come into question.

Additionally, Livermore Lab’s the newly designed W87-1 will be the first which will be the first wholly new warhead developed since the end of full-scale nuclear testing in Nevada in 1992, and will require new plutonium pits. In fact, it will be the recipient of at least the first 800 plutonium pits set to be delivered by the in-development plans for enhanced Plutonium Pit Production occurring at two other sites, Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico (where capacity for building up to 30 pits per year is being developed) and Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina (where capacity for building up to 50 pits per year is being developed).

The cost estimate for the SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant – which the government calls the “SRS Plutonium Processing Facility,” has skyrocketed up to $25 billion! At this rate the facility will be the most expensive building ever built in US history.

As you may know, Tri-Valley CAREs, Savannah River Site Watch and Nuke Watch New Mexico are plaintiffs in litigation brought against the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) under the National Environmental Policy Act in South Carolina District Court arguing that the agency failed to “programmatically” evaluate the environmental impacts of its proposed enhanced pit production development plans. The law requires the Agency to analyze in an environmental impact statement the full impacts of its plans across the nuclear weapons complex, including the impacts at Livermore Lab.

The FY25 budget request highlights some of these unanalyzed impacts at Livermore Lab with a nearly 50% increase in funding for “Enterprise Pit Production Support” to $97.35m. The work is happening to support pit production already at Livermore, and the potential impact of this new activity was not directly analyzed in the recent Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS). However, pit production support activities can be extrapolated to be the likely source of the 5x increase the administrative limits for plutonium mixtures at the Lab for the next decade and the purported need for new facilities like the proposed Advanced Hydrotest Facility at Site 300, which a weapons designer once referred to as “a nuclear weapons designer’s dream machine” for its capacity to help design new plutonium primaries (aka pits).”.

The Losers

Let’s compare the funds for Nuclear Weapons Activities to the Lab’s budget request for (non-weapons) Science, which is a mere 2% of the total. And, as you can see from the pie chart, research on Energy Efficiency and Renewables doesn’t even crack 1% of the request. And Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation is struggling at the 10.6% mark.

This is a budget request that supports and accelerates a new global nuclear arms race. While this may not surprise, the lack of consideration given to public safety and the environment, via cleanup and Decontaminating & Decommissioning (D&D) contaminated buildings, is shocking.

In April of 2014, the DOE identified its most “High Risk” excess buildings requiring priority D&D – and four were at Livermore Lab! This included Building 280, the old, contaminated (with radiation and other toxins) nuclear reactor located just within the Lab’s fence line off Vasco Road and Westgate Drive. This old reactor has huge cracks in the walls and shielding that can be seen with the naked eye.

Tri-Valley CAREs members have raised the alarm in Washington, DC and locally about these heavily contaminated, abandoned buildings at Livermore Lab and other sites in the nuclear weapons complex year for over year for a decade now. Yet the funding for the D&D of these building stayed flat at $35m each year (less than 2% of Livermore’s budget every year). The result of this lows funding?  The D&D of the “High Risk” buildings has proceeded at a snail’s pace.

In a display of what a low priority it is to deal with these facilities, which are noted to put the public at risk, the FY25 budget has $0 for D&D of “High Risk” buildings. We are told that it is because there is a “carryover” of previous funds. However, there is still much to do. Building 280 demolition still has not occurred (only the reactor has been removed.) Additionally, a bunch of other “High Risk” projects remain, including Building 175 slab and soil removal, Building 251 demolition to slab, Legacy Slab and Building 212 demolition. It’s infuriating that the government is letting this worker and public risk persist while simultaneously throwing money at the development of new nuclear weapons.

We have a long way to go in transforming Livermore into a “Green Lab” dedicated to a civilian science mission and the moral obligation to clean up the environment from decades of nuclear weapons programs. In fact, the FY25 budget request rapidly moves LLNL in the opposite direction. But we will continue to challenge this momentum. Our work in in the coming months and years will seek to change what gets funded at Livermore Lab.

A democratic society can be judged by what it spends its tax dollars on, and Livermore Lab’s budget shows that our priorities are seriously flawed. Tri-Valley CAREs aims to centrally change Livermore Lab’s mission and, in doing so, achieve safer, healthier future for our planet. Join us!