House Committee Cuts Funding for Plutonium Lab

Written by on July 1, 2011 in Nuclear - No comments
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Citing concerns about spending and design, the House Appropriations Committee has recommended a $100 million cut from a budget request for a plutonium research and storage facility at Los Alamos.

The committee recommended a $200 million allocation to the National Nuclear Security Administration for the construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The NNSA’s request was for $300 million. The committee said the $200 million recommendation will be enough to finish design activities but not to start early construction activities.

“While the importance of modernization is understood, the economic crisis requires that the NNSA proceed with its modernization activities in a responsible manner and the committee is seriously concerned with the recent

cost growth reported for construction of the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) and the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project,” the committee’s report reads.

The estimated cost of constructing the facility has increased from around $500 million in 2003 to between $3.7 and $5.8 billion today.

Officials from the labs have said the increase is mostly related to improved safety and design features at the facility.

Part of these changes were directly related to improved data on earthquake potential at the facility site.

In its report, the House committee referenced safety concerns that it would like to see resolved before construction begins.

“The NNSA is not prepared to award that project milestone (construction) since it must first resolve major seismic issues with its design, complete its work to revalidate which capabilities are needed, and make a decision

on its contracting and acquisition strategies.”

Though the funding recommendation for the CMRRNF was cut, the U.S. nuclear

weapons program saw a 3 percent increase in its overall recommendations from the committee.

The House committee represents only one of four committees that will determine the NNSA’s overall budget.


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