Reading Room

Questions on the Dep't of Energy Upcoming FY2017 Budget Request for Nuclear Weapons and Cleanup

Wednesday, February 3, 2015
Posted by Marylia Kelley

The Obama Administration’s nuclear weapons policy is revealed much more by its spending plans than its rhetoric. On February 9, the Fiscal Year 2017 Department of Energy (DOE) budget request will illuminate the programs that President Obama wants to pass on to his successor.

Will it increase funding for additional nuclear weapons programs despite warnings that “modernization” is leading to a new arms race? Will the President keep faith with communities harmed by nuclear weapons activities and request the funds needed to stabilize nuclear materials and clean up contaminated land and waters at DOE sites across America?

The DOE Fiscal Year 2017 budget request will answer these and other questions of great importance to the American people and the world. The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), a 29-year-old network of groups from communities downwind and downstream of U.S. nuclear sites, will be looking at the following issues. For details, contact the ANA leaders listed at the end of this Advisory.

- Will the “top line” budget request for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) rise to support nuclear weapons “modernization” and the new bomb plants necessary to fulfill that scheme?

- Does the budget request boost spending on a new Long-Range Stand Off warhead to ride atop a new air-launched cruise missile, with a combined $20-$30 billion cost and incalculable proliferation risks?

- Will funding for transforming the B61 bomb into the world’s first “smart” nuclear weapon remain at about $640 million annually? Is NNSA on track to produce the first B61-12 in 2020?

- Will the dismantlement budget increase beyond its current, inadequate $50 million given that there is an estimated backlog of 2,000 nuclear weapons awaiting disassembly?

- Will more than $300 million be provided for Livermore Lab’s National Ignition Facility (NIF), which repeatedly failed to achieve ignition even though taxpayers have already spent nearly $9 billion?

- What is the request for the plutonium fuel (MOX) project at Savannah River, which DOE admits is financially unsustainable: zero, cold standby (~$200 million), or enough to barely survive (300+ million)?

- Will the budget continue to fund the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) bomb plant in Oak Ridge, TN, without requiring a formally approved plan? Given that more than $2 billion has been spent on designing UPF, when will the Administration tell taxpayers how much it intends to spend?

- Does the budget increase funding for expanded production of plutonium “pit” bomb cores at Los Alamos? Why is more production needed when experts conclude that existing pits are durable?

- Does the Environmental Management (EM) cleanup budget (currently $5.3 billion) increase to meet all legally mandated milestones? States say agreements at a dozen DOE sites are underfunded.

- Why did the budget savings from DOE facilities that had a quick cleanup, such as Rocky Flats and Fernald, go to new weapons rather than to other cleanup sites as promised?

- Does the budget include $0 for Yucca Mountain? No funding is consistent with past requests that terminate this technically flawed site that is strongly opposed by Nevada state officials and the public.

- What are the lifecycle cost estimates to clean up the legacy of past nuclear weapons production? Chronic underfunding of DOE environmental programs is factor leading to ever-increasing lifecycle clean-up costs — from $308.5 billion in FY 2013 to $341.6 billion in FY 2016.

- Why is there increased funding for the shut down Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) when its re-opening is behind schedule and over budget? How much more money is requested for the Idaho National Lab, Los Alamos, Savannah River, and Oak Ridge because of the shutdown?

- Does the Hanford budget (more than $2.3 billion) protect workers from toxic chemical exposures, provide an Operational Readiness Review of Waste Treatment Plant safety, and fund construction of new double-shell tanks to replace the leaking ones?

- Does the budget increase funding (currently $29.15 million) for the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) to provide independent oversight of DOE projects that have many cost over-runs, schedule delays, safety culture issues and technical problems?

- Is funding for design and licensing of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) (currently $62.5 million) increasing again even though SMRs are not technically or financially viable? Since private financing is lacking, will DOE reaffirm that it will not finance SMR construction?

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