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FYI Number 94: June 22, 2005

Senate Armed Services Report Language on RNEP and Rare Isotope Accelerator

The report accompanying the Senate Armed Services Committee bill, S. 1042, contains language regarding the controversial request to research the feasibility of a Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP), or as it is sometimes called, a "Bunker Buster." Last year, Congress followed the lead of House appropriators in deciding not to fund an RNEP study. This year, the House Armed Services Committee took a different approach, taking "nuclear" out of the weapon's configuration, and moving funding for the program from the Department of Energy to the Department of Defense (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/078.html .) House appropriators provided no Department of Energy funding for RNEP in the FY 2006 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/073.html .)

The following are selections from the Senate Armed Services Committee report (106-69) regarding RNEP, as well as report language regarding possible nuclear weapons applications of research involving the Department of Energy's Rare Isotope Accelerator.

ROBUST NUCLEAR EARTH PENETRATOR:

AIR FORCE:
"The budget request included $15.2 million in PE 64222F for development of nuclear weapons support, including $1.0 million for the development of nuclear weapons and counterproliferation technologies to support joint Air Force and National Nuclear Security Administration efforts associated with logistics and aircraft integration for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP). The committee notes that the evaluation of RNEP feasibility by the Department of Energy is not scheduled to be completed prior to 2007. Therefore, the committee recommends a decrease of $1.0 million in PE 64222F for efforts associated with logistics and aircraft integration for the RNEP."

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY:
"The committee recommends $4.0 million for the robust nuclear earth penetrator (RNEP), the amount of the budget request. Funding is provided to prepare and execute the sled track impact test at Sandia National Laboratories on the feasibility of case hardening and target penetration. The committee has received testimony from the Secretary of Defense and the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, on the continued proliferation of hard and deeply buried targets and the resulting military utility of completing the RNEP feasibility study.

"The committee notes that section 3117 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Public Law 108-136) prohibits the Secretary of Energy from commencing the engineering development phase (Phase 6.3) of the nuclear weapons development process, or any subsequent phase, of a robust nuclear earth penetrator unless specifically authorized by Congress. The funding requested is for Phase 6.2 feasibility study only.

"The committee has not included the $4.5 million requested within the Air Force budget for the development of logistics, integration, and hardware requirements for carriage of the RNEP on the B-2 aircraft. The committee does not believe that these activities are necessary to evaluate the feasibility of RNEP."


RARE ISOTOPE ACCELERATOR:

"Subtitle A – National Security Programs Authorizations
National Nuclear Security Administration (sec. 3101)

"National security implications of the Rare Isotope Accelerator

"The committee is aware that the Rare Isotope Accelerator (RIA) is a high priority civilian science facility under study by the Department of Energy Office of Science. The committee understands that RIA would allow precise measurements of nuclear physics phenomena through the development of beams of isotopes that are 10 to 100 times more powerful than those available today and in many cases not available at all. The committee believes such research into the fundamental structure of matter may have possible utility in the analysis of nuclear weapons physics.

"The committee directs the Secretary of Energy to report to the congressional defense committees no later than 90 days after enactment of this Act on the potential utility, if any, of data from the RIA on issues concerning national security and on any duplication between the potential capability of the RIA and any capabilities being developed with atomic energy defense funds."

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

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