House committee cuts nuclear weapons projects
ROGER SNODGRASS Monitor Assistant Editor
The House Appropriations Committee Wednesday zeroed out funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead and a plutonium pit production center, marking an important milestone in the budget process, but not the final bill.
Altogether, the DOE budget blueprint was raised by $1.3 billion over the current fiscal year and $900 million more than the president's request.
The priorities for the energy department, according to a statement by Rep. Peter Vizclosky, D-Ind., the energy and water appropriations subcommittee chair, were given to addressing gas prices, reducing dependence on foreign oil, confronting the energy crisis and addressing climate change.
In the nuclear weapons area, priorities were adjusted toward confronting a terrorist nuclear threat and reducing the size of the nuclear weapons complex.
Members of the northern New Mexico Congressional delegation were disturbed in varying degrees by the budget numbers for Los Alamos National Laboratory and, to a lesser degree, for Sandia National Laboratories.
Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., newly appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, but not a member of the energy appropriations panel, said he would work to enable New Mexico's national laboratories to compete in those areas where the energy department funding was going up.
"I strongly believe it is necessary to direct increased funding toward energy efficiency and renewable energy programs as included in the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill," he said in an announcement. "I support that vision but I voiced my opposition in the committee to the manner in which it is being proposed because I want to ensure that as we transition the role for our national labs, the outstanding scientists at LANL are not unfairly disadvantaged in the process."
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee emphasized the provisional status of the House committee bill.
"These proposed cuts are serious, particularly at Los Alamos National Laboratory," he said in an announcement after the vote. "But I will be working with Rep. Udall, Sen. Domenici and others in Congress to ensure that LANL and Sandia have the funding they need to protect our nation's stockpile and provide the best science in our nation's interest, while supporting the economic vitality of the communities that are home to the labs."
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., ranking member of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee that will write the Senate version of the DOE funding bill, called the House plan "stunningly punitive," compared to increased funding for other DOE laboratories including Livermore, Idaho and Oak Ridge.
"I am surprised by the extent to which the House Appropriations Committee has gone out of its way to single out Los Alamos, and to some extent Sandia," he said. "The House bill is stunningly punitive in its treatment of Los Alamos. This bill would be devastating for Los Alamos, surrounding communities and New Mexico overall," Domenici said.
Domenici said the DOE weapons program would be cut by $600 million, eliminating all funding for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMMR) facility (-$95 million); recommends a nearly 50 percent cut for pit manufacturing (-$131.2 million), and cuts the Nuclear Material Safeguard and Security Upgrade-Phase II (-$50 million).
Domenici also highlighted a $50 million cut in Advanced Scientific Computing, which would block funding needed to support the Roadrunner High Performance Computer acquisition for LANL.
A Congressional staffer said a positive note in the LANL budget was an additional $60 million added to the cleanup budget, raising the total for that category to $200 million.