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FYI Number 73: May 23, 2005

Appropriators Take Issue With Administration's Nuclear Weapons Initiatives

The Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill which the House Appropriations Committee has passed is at considerable variance with the Bush Administration's FY 2006 request for various nuclear weapons initiatives. The subcommittee that wrote H.R. 2419 is chaired by David Hobson (R-OH); the Ranking Member is Peter Visclosky (D-IN).

House Report 109-086 provides the subcommittee's recommendations for various weapons activities of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Selections from the report regarding a congressionally-mandated review of the weapons complex, the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, Nevada Test Site readiness, Inertial Confinement Fusion, Advanced Simulation and Computing, and a modern pit facility follow. There is considerable report language beyond that excerpted below; the entire report may be viewed at http://thomas.loc.gov/; see National Nuclear Security Administration - Weapons Activities. The Senate has not drafted its bill, which can be expected to be more favorable to the Administration's request.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS COMPLEX WIDE REVIEW:

"The Committee tasked the previous Secretary of Energy with conducting an independent assessment of the Department of Energy's infrastructure requirements for the nuclear weapons complex over the next twenty-five years. The Secretary established a Task Force within the Secretary of Energy's Advisory Board (SEAB) to conduct the Nuclear Weapons Complex Infrastructure Study. The Committee is encouraged by the preliminary work of the Task Force but will not act on any recommendations until the final report is finished this summer. The Committee will consider the Task Force recommendations in the fiscal year 2006 Conference Report this fall. The Committee notes the timeliness of the Task Force study based on the distribution of funds requested in the fiscal year 2006 budget request. The budget request for direct stockpile support by weapon tail number is only ten percent of the total Weapons Activities request. Too much of the remaining 90 percent of the budget request supports a residual Cold War capacity within the weapons complex which is not needed for the long term sustainable stockpile. . . . "

ROBUST NUCLEAR EARTH PENETRATOR (RNEP) ("BUNKER BUSTER"):

"The Committee recommendation provides no funding for RNEP. The Committee continues to oppose the diversion of resources and intellectual capital away from the more serious issues that confront the management of the nation's nuclear deterrent, primarily the transformation of the Cold War nuclear weapons complex and existing stockpile into a sustainable enterprise. The Committee has been disappointed at the bureaucracy's adherence to an initiative that threatens Congressional and public support for sustainable stockpile initiatives that will actually provide long-term security and deterrent value for the Nation. It is the understanding of the Committee that, instead of conducting an RNEP study at a DOE national laboratory, the Department of Defense will conduct a non-nuclear penetrator study at a Department of Defense facility."

CAMPAIGNS:

"Campaigns are focused efforts involving the three weapons laboratories, the Nevada Test Site, the weapons production plants, and selected external organizations to address critical capabilities needed to achieve program objectives. The Committee recommendation is $1,911,686,000, a decrease of $168,758,000 below the budget request of $2,080,444,000. The Committee's recommendation takes into consideration the reduced scope of the Life Extension activities and the existing Science-based Stockpile Stewardship program to restructure the weapons program to transition to a Sustainable Stockpile configuration."

"Science campaigns.--The Committee recommendation for science campaigns is $216,905,000, a reduction of $45,020,000 from the budget request. The Committee's recommendation takes into consideration the reduced scope of the Life Extension activities and the existing Science-based Stockpile Stewardship program to restructure the weapons program to transition to a Sustainable Stockpile configuration."

TEST SITE READINESS:

"The Committee provides $35,179,000 for the primary assessment technology subprogram, a reduction of $10,000,000 from the request. The Committee recommendation includes $15,000,000 for the Test Readiness subprogram, a reduction of $10,000,000 from the budget request. The Committee continues to oppose the 18-month test readiness posture and refers the Department to the unambiguous language provided in the reports accompanying the fiscal year 2004 and 2005 Appropriation Acts requiring the Department to maintain the current 24-month test readiness posture. The initiation of the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program designed to provide for the continuance of the existing moratorium on underground nuclear testing by insuring the long-term reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile obviates any reason to move to a provocative 18-month test readiness posture. . . ."

INERTIAL CONFINEMENT FUSION (ICF) IGNITION AND HIGH YIELD:

"The Committee recommends $541,418,000 for the inertial confinement fusion and high yield program, which maintains the program at the current year level and is an increase of $81,000,000 over the budget request.

"The Committee supports the Department's response to the Congressional concern expressed last year regarding the fiscal year 2005 budget request proposed schedule slip to the program goal of ignition demonstration in 2010 for the National Ignition Facility (NIF). The Committee continues to view ignition demonstration as the primary benchmark for success in this program. The Committee commends the Department's effort to projectize the ICF program consistent with DOE Order 413.3, and to manage the ignition, diagnostic, cryogenic and experimental programs as projects incorporating a work breakdown structure to track scope, cost, and schedule milestones, within a project management control system. The Committee directs the NNSA to report quarterly on the milestone cost and schedule variance within the respective experimental programs on progress toward the NIF 2000 rebaselined program.

"The Committee recommendation includes a total of $69,623,000 for Facility Operations and Target Production, of which $15,000,000 shall be available to accelerate target fabrication. The Committee believes that a target that meets all the NIF ignition criteria should be produced and characterized in a cryogenic environment. NNSA should provide the Committee with a detailed schedule by March 2006 to accomplish this requirement. Should fabrication of the new beryllium target prove too high risk to ensure meeting the NIF milestones, NNSA is required to provide the Committee with the alternative that will be pursued in order to keep to the 2010 ignition schedule. The Committee recommendation includes $25,000,000 to continue development of high average power lasers and supporting science and technology within the Inertial Fusion Technology program line; within that amount, the Committee includes $2,000,000 for the high density matter laser at the Ohio State University Technology Park. The Committee recommendation includes $15,000,000 for the Naval Research Laboratory, and $71,558,000 for the University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE), an increase of $26,000,000 over the budget request. The LLE is the principal research and experimentation laser facility for NNSA Science-based Stockpile stewardship activities. The Committee increase includes an additional $4,000,000 for OMEGA operations to provide additional shots to support the ICF campaign goal of an ignition demonstration in 2010 and an additional $22,000,000 to accelerate the OMEGA Extended Performance capability project, a four beam super-high-intensity, high-energy laser facility to support the nation's stockpile stewardship program. The Committee notes that the University of Rochester is providing $21 million for the building to house the OMEGA EP. The Committee recommendation provides $141,913,000 for construction of the National Ignition Facility (NIF), the same as the budget request."

ADVANCED SIMULATION AND COMPUTING (ASCI):

"The Committee recommendation for Advanced Simulation and Computing is $500,830,000, a reduction of $160,000,000 from the budget request. The Committee has consistently supported ASCI funding based on the assumption that spending three quarters of a billion dollars every year on high-end computing power at the three weapons laboratories; Los Alamos, Sandia, and Livermore was required to maintain the safety and reliability of the nuclear stockpile without underground testing. However, Congressional testimony by NNSA officials is beginning to erode the confidence of the Committee that the Science-based Stockpile Stewardship is performing as advertised. The Department continues to argue for an 18 month test readiness posture because of the possibility of unanticipated problems in the existing stockpile due to aging that ultimately will impact confidence in the reliability of the nuclear deterrent. The Department's argument for building a ‘responsive infrastructure' is also based on the need to respond to unforeseen problems in the existing stockpile. The Committee recommendation recognizes the Department's inability to achieve the promises of the Stockpile Stewardship effort and redirects ASCI funding to maintain current life extension production capabilities pending the initiation of the Reliable Replacement Warhead program. . . ."

PIT MANUFACTURING AND PIT CERTIFICATION:

"The Committee recommendation for pit manufacturing and certification campaign is $241,074,000, a reduction of $7,686,000 from the budget request. The Committee commends the Los Alamos National Laboratory for its work restoring the pit production capability to the nuclear weapons production complex. The Committee continues to oppose the Department's accelerated efforts to site and begin construction activities on a modern pit facility and urges the Department to continue to concentrate its management attention on meeting the fiscal year 2007 schedule for a certified pit ready for the stockpile. The Committee provides $120,926,000 for W88 Pit Manufacturing and $61,895,000, for W88 Certification, the same as the budget request. The Committee recommendation for pit manufacturing capability is $23,071,000 the same as the budget request.

"The Committee does not provide the requested $7,686,000 for the modern pit facility (MPF) pending the outcome of the Nuclear Weapons Complex Infrastructure Study and the accelerated plutonium aging experiments. The Committee recommends the NNSA focus its efforts on how best to lengthen the life of the stockpile and minimize the need for an enormously expensive infrastructure facility until the long-term strategy for the physical infrastructure of the weapons complex has incorporated the Reliable Replacement Warhead strategy, and the potential for a significantly reduced out-year stockpile requirement, and the expanding TA-55 pit production capacity at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The post-2025 stockpile size and the evolving responsive infrastructure strategy for the weapons complex should dictate the timing and location of a pit production facility. The Committee will consider a modern pit facility site and design only when the detailed analysis of the pit aging experiments and the concomitant capacity requirements tied to the long-term stockpile size are determined. The Committee provides the budget request for Pit Campaign support activities at the Nevada Test Site."

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3095

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