Reading Room

Livermore Lab Budget Request – Funding the New Arms Race

Monday, March 25, 2019
Posted by Scott Yundt and Marylia Kelley

The Department of Energy Budget Request for Livermore Lab for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) has been released. The pie chart above shows the Trump Administration’s priorities in action at Livermore Lab – and it includes more money for the development of new and modified nuclear weapons.

The one bright spot in the budget request involves new funding to address heavily contaminated buildings on-site that had been left to rot (called “High Risk” facilities in a report by the Inspector General).

Here are a few details to go along with the pie chart we created from the numbers in the DOE FY20 budget “Laboratory Table.”

The overall DOE budget request for Livermore Lab in FY20 is $1,841,887,000 (i.e., about $1.842 billion). The request is $278,535,000 (i.e., about $279 million) more than the Lab received for the same programs last year.  

Nearly $167 million (i.e., the lion’s share) of that increase is for Nuclear Weapons Activities. As you can see in the pie chart, the FY20 request for Nuclear Weapons Activities is $1,511,576,000 (more than $1.5 billion).

Indeed, Nuclear Weapons Activities comprise more than 82% of all the money requested for Livermore Lab in FY20. Compare that to the budget request for Science at the Lab, which is a mere 2% of the total. Research on Energy Efficiency and Renewables doesn’t even crack 1% of the request. And Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation is struggling toward the 8% mark.

This is a budget request that supports and accelerates a new global nuclear arms race, in line with the Trump Nuclear Posture Review released last year.

We did promise you one bright spot, and here it is.

Last year only $25 million was allotted to tackle the huge challenge of Decontaminating & Decommissioning abandoned, heavily contaminated buildings at Livermore Lab.

For context, visualize an old, contaminated nuclear reactor located just within the fence line off Vasco Road and Westgate Drive, and now visualize growing cracks in the walls and shielding that can be seen with the naked eye. That’s just one of the “High Risk” buildings on site.

The FY20 request for Livermore Lab to address these buildings is $128 million, an increase of $103 million over last year. For some years now, Tri-Valley CAREs members have raised the alarm in Washington, DC and locally about the “High Risk” buildings at Livermore Lab and other sites in the nuclear weapons complex. It’s gratifying to see this increase.

True, $128 million is only a start. And, it’s small potatoes compared to the Nuclear Weapons Activities budget.

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. And, changing what gets funded at Livermore Lab is central to changing its mission.  

Click here to read the DOE FY20 Budget Request “Laboratory Table”