Wednesday, January 9, 2013

NNSA: 1% of Budget Reduces US Nuke Number

As the new year begins, federal budgets for FY2013, passed by the previous Congress, are being signed into law by the President. Although a few federal programs will shrink, NNSA's budget for FY2013 will increase by 4.9% to approximately $11.5 billion. Quoting from NNSA's website (, these monies will be allocated as follows:

"The FY 2013 budget provides $7.58 billion to implement the President’s strategy for the stewardship of the nuclear weapons stockpile in coordination with our partners at the Department of Defense. It includes $2.24 billion for facility operation and maintenance, and construction projects, helping NNSA modernize Cold War-era facilities, with increases are requested for the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 National Security Complex and the TRU Waste Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)."

"$51.3 million is provided in FY 2013 to continue reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the United States’ stockpile. NNSA has committed to completing the dismantlement of all warheads retired as of FY 2009 by FY 2022. In FY 2011, NNSA completed the dismantlement of the last B53 nuclear bomb, one of the largest ever built, ahead of schedule and under budget. NNSA also eliminated the W70, the last warhead in the US Army’s arsenal."

"$2.46 billion is requested to help achieve the President’s nonproliferation objectives and NNSA works toward meeting his four-year goal to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world. This funding will help complete the removal or disposal of 4,353 kilograms of highly enriched uranium and plutonium in foreign countries, and provide NNSA with the necessary support to equip approximately 229 total buildings containing weapons-usable material with state-of-the-art security upgrades by the President’s deadline."

"The President also continued to request funding for the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility and Waste Solidification Building at the Savannah River Site, critical nonproliferation construction projects. The $569.5 million requested for MOX and related activities this year will lead to the permanent elimination of enough plutonium for at least 8,500 nuclear weapons."

"The FY 2013 budget request gives NNSA the resources needed to maintain its one-of-a-kind emergency response capabilities, which allow NNSA to respond to a nuclear or radiological incident anywhere in the world. In FY 2011, NNSA was able to assist the U.S. military, military families, and the Japanese people by deploying its unique emergency response assets in the aftermath of devastating tsunami that affected the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant." 

"To power the nuclear navy, the budget request includes $1.1 billion for the Naval Reactors program, which will support the OHIO class submarine replacement and modernize key elements NNSA’s infrastructure."

(These separate allocations sum to $11.76 billion.)

It may be of interest to note that NNSA's FY2013 budget provides just $51.3 million "to continue reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the United States’ stockpile", but $7.58 billion to "implement the President’s strategy for the stewardship of the nuclear weapons stockpile in coordination with our partners at the Department of Defense"; i.e., the amount of money assigned to maintain and/or improve the current nuclear weapons stockpile is 148x greater than the amount of money assigned to reducing the size of the stockpile.

Meanwhile, $2.46 billion is assigned to the nuclear non-proliferation program and $569 million "for MOX  and related activities"; but, the MOX program, as advertised, is itself a non-proliferation activity.

No money is assigned by NNSA to the cleanup of legacy nuclear waste; i.e., nuclear wastes which are a legacy of the nuclear weapons program. Rather, this is included as a $5.65 billion line item in DOE's $27.45 billion budget for FY2013. The itemized DOE budget for FY2013 is compared with its budgets for the two preceding years at Money assigned to the cleanup of legacy nuclear waste will be 1.1% less than in FY2012. DOE's total (discretionary) budget will increase by 3.2% relative to FY2012.

It is curious that Sec. of Energy Steven Chu, in his public remarks, dated Dec 21, 2012, celebrating the career of retiring NNSA chief administrator Tom D'Agostino, said (see Press Release section of NNSA's website):

"Under his [D'Agostino's] watch, we have eliminated or secured hundreds of nuclear weapons worth of nuclear materials.  We have reduced the number of deployed warheads to the lowest level since the 1950s—an approximate reduction of 85% from the darkest days of the Cold War – while successfully maintaining the safety, security, and effectiveness of a shrinking stockpile.  Through Environmental Management, we have permanently cleaned up 690 square miles of contaminated land—an area more than 30 times the size of Manhattan—and completed the cleanup of 22 transuranic waste sites across the nation, permanently eliminating an environmental risk at these sites and reducing the cost of monitoring and storing this waste."

But, Sec. Chu chose here to mention only those NNSA operations that tend to "reduce nuclear dangers at home and abroad" by shrinking the size of the nuclear weapons stockpile, even though this is only 1% of NNSA's annual budget. Moreover, the cleanup of lands contaminated by the accumulated detritus of the nuclear weapons program, to which he referred, is a DOE, but not an NNSA, responsibility. Oddly, too, Chu referred only indirectly to the dominant part of NNSA's current mission which is to "maintain the safety, security, and effectiveness of the remaining weapons"; i.e., the Stockpile Stewardship Program, which eats up 2/3 of NNSA's annual budget.

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