FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

FY 2009 Senate Appropriations Language: DOE Nuclear Weapons Program

Richard M. Jones
Number 80 - July 22, 2008  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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The Senate and House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittees have completed their FY 2009 appropriations bills. Both bills have been approved by the full committees, although the House Appropriations Committee has not filed its report.

The Department of Energy budget contains funding for the development, manufacture and testing of the nation's nuclear stockpile. In 2000, these activities became the responsibility of a separately organized agency within DOE known as the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). NNSA designs, produces, and tests nuclear weapons, provides nuclear propulsion plants to the Navy, and is responsible for the nation's nonproliferation program. The Department of Energy requested a total budget of $25 billion for FY 2009, of which 36 percent or $9.1 billion was for the programs of the NNSA. Within the NNSA budget, $6.6 billion was requested for the weapons program.

There are striking differences in the approaches that the House and Senate subcommittees took in the report language accompanying their versions of the FY 2009 bill. The House language is more challenging in its approach to nuclear weapons policy, and consequently is much longer. This FYI focuses on the language found in Senate Report 110-416 that accompanies S. 3258; see page 120-129 of the PDF version of the report that can be accessed here for the complete text.

FYI #81 will provide the comparable House language.

NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION -- WEAPONS ACTIVITY:

The current budget is $6,297.5 million
The Administration requested $6,618.1 million
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $6,524.6 million, an increase of 3.6 percent or $227.1 million.

There was no overall committee report language regarding the NNSA.

A section of the Senate Committee report is entitled DIRECTED STOCKPILE WORK. A Department of Energy document describes this as follows:

"Directed Stockpile Work activities ensure the operational readiness of the nuclear weapons in the nation’s stockpile through maintenance, evaluation, refurbishment, reliability assessment, weapon dismantlement and disposal, research, development, and certification activities. The FY 2009 request is organized by Life Extension Programs, Stockpile Systems, Reliable Replacement Warhead, Weapons Dismantlement and Disposition, and Stockpile Services. The request places a high priority on accomplishing the near-term workload and supporting technologies for the stockpile along with the long-term science and technology investments to ensure the capability and capacity to support ongoing missions."

The Senate report states:

"Life Extension Programs: The Committee recommends $211,385,000 for the Life Extension Program, the same as the budget request."

"Stockpile Systems: The Committee recommends $338,682,000 for the Stockpile Systems account, the same as the budget request."

"Reliable Replacement Warhead: The Committee recommends no funds for the Reliable Replacement Warhead." Note that there is no funding for this program in the current budget; the Administration requested $10.0 million for FY 2009.

There was also language on Weapons Dismantlement and Stockpile Services.

Another section of the Senate report described the appropriators' recommendations regarding CAMPAIGNS. The report describes this activity as follows:

"The campaigns provide the foundation for the experimental science-based activities that support the NNSA Stockpile Stewardship mission. Research supported by the programs provide data that is used with the super computing capabilities at each of the laboratories needed to support the life extension program and to certify to the President the confidence of the nuclear deterrent."

A section of rather extensive language regarding the Science Campaign explains:

"The Committee continues to support the Advance Certification program to increase the confidence in changes to warhead design to increase the safety and reliability margins of the stockpile without underground testing. The Committee recommends $20,000,000 for Advanced Certification activities."

Another section on the Engineering Campaign explains:

"The Committee believes the Engineering Campaign offers the best opportunity to explore, develop and deploy state-of-the-art use control and surety devices to our stockpile. The Committee has provided the resources to rapidly develop innovative engineering solutions to support advanced use denial as well as weapons surveillance sensors that will allow for more accurate assessment of the safety and reliability of the stockpile."

In addition, the Senate report states:

"Inertial Confinement Fusion Ignition and High Yield Campaign: The Committee recommends $453,242,000 for the ICF campaign activities. This is an increase of $32,000,000.

"Ignition: The Committee recommends $103,644,000, consistent with the budget request.

"NIF [National Ignition Facility] Diagnostics, Cryogenics and Experimental Support: The Committee provides $68,248,000 as requested.

"Pulsed Power Inertial Confinement Fusion: The Committee recommends $10,920,000, an increase of $2,000,000 to support for development of the Linear Transformer Driver concept.

"Joint Program in High Energy Density: The Committee supports the budget request to fund a joint program with the Office of Science to support joint research utilizing NNSA facilities.

"Facility Operations and Target Production: The Committee recommends $210,384,000, an increase of $30,000,000. Of this increase $15,000,000 is for National Ignition Facility operations and target production and an increase of $15,000,000 to support single shift operations on the Z machine and to explore advanced concepts.

"NIF Assembly and Installation: $56,899,000 is provided, as requested, to support this budgeted activity.

"Construction: No funding is provided for NIF construction, consistent with the request.

"Advanced Simulation and Computing: The Committee is frustrated by the lack of information regarding the computing strategy for the NNSA laboratories in this budget. The budget lacks specifics regarding the acquisition priorities and budget to support new computing platforms. How computing time will be allocated and the existing computing workload divided among the labs remains unclear. The Committee requests that the NNSA provide a written report outlining its shared computing strategy to address these issues. The Committee expects this strategy to have the benefit of an independent review and be submitted to the Senate Energy and Water Development Subcommittee within 6 months after enactment.

"While the Office of Science supports a strategy to expand its leadership in computing capabilities and capacity, the Committee is concerned about the declining NNSA investment in computing platforms needed to sustain the computing capability at each the three national security labs. Advanced computing capabilities are critical to each of our national laboratories, enabling a wide range of programmatic activities. The Committee has recommended new climate change modeling responsibilities for the national labs, and computational modeling and simulation will play a very big role in the success of this program. It is imperative the NNSA labs have the capability to support this and other missions. The President has requested $171,000,000 for computational systems, which is $13,000,000 below current year levels. Even more troubling is the out-year funding proposed in this budget which falls to an average of $126,000,000 during years 2010 to 2014. This is nearly $60,000,000 below current year levels and is insufficient to meet our needs in the areas of national security, advanced engineering, climate change, nuclear physics and biology, all major scientific priorities for the Department of Energy and NNSA." The committee report included additional language about the Sequoia and another computer system.

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