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FY 2013 Appropriations Committee Reports: National Nuclear Security Administration

Richard M. Jones
Number 67 - May 15, 2012  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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House and Senate appropriators have completed work on the FY 2013 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill.  The House and Senate reports contain approximately 57 pages of funding and policy recommendations for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).   Language within each report stands, unless there is a conflict that will be resolved in the final conference report.  This final conference report, likely to be written in late fall, will also resolve differences in recommended funding levels. Percentage changes shown below are calculated compared to the current year. 

Selections of particular interest from the reports follow; readers are urged to consult pages 90 – 107 and a table on page 148 in the Senate report, and pages 111 – 129 and tables on pages 151 - 163 in the House report.

National Nuclear Security Administration:

FY 2012 appropriation is $11,000.0 million
FY 2013 Administration request is $11,535.9 million
FY 2013 Senate recommendation is $11,510.9 million, an increase of $510.9 million or 4.6 percent
FY 2013 House recommendation is $11,275.0 million, an increase of $275.0 million or 2.5 percent

Senate report:

“The Committee has provided significant increases to the NNSA budget over the last 3 fiscal years to respond to important national security imperatives, which include accelerating efforts to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials by December 2013 and modernizing the nuclear weapons stockpile to sustain a safe, secure, and reliable nuclear arsenal without testing.

Poor Project Management. -- The Committee is concerned about NNSA’s record of inadequate project management and oversight.  The Committee is worried that large funding increases will make NNSA more vulnerable to waste, abuse, duplication, and mismanagement if NNSA does not take the necessary steps to address project management weaknesses.”

JASON Study on Surveillance Program. -- According to NNSA’s 2011 Strategic Plan, NNSA will complete a transformation of the weapons stockpile surveillance program by 2014 to better detect initial design and production defects for life extended weapons, materials aging defects, and predictive performance trends for the enduring stockpile. The Committee understands that this change in the surveillance program involves greater emphasis on more extensive testing of weapons at the component level to improve early identification of defects due to aging and testing fewer weapons at a system-level.

“However, the Committee is concerned about the consequences of this change on annual assessments to the safety, security, and reliability of the stockpile. The Committee directs the JASON group of scientific advisers, which has not reviewed the surveillance program in more than a decade, to submit to the Committee by April 1, 2013 an assessment of NNSA’s surveillance program. The assessment should determine whether NNSA’s changes to its surveillance program raise any significant problems in the annual assessment of the stockpile and whether NNSA’s approach is appropriate for a smaller and aging stockpile.

Plutonium Mission. -- The Committee understands that construction of a new plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory, known as the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility [CMRR], has been delayed by at least 5 years.

“However, the Committee is troubled that NNSA has failed to put forth an alternative plutonium strategy. While it has identified funds for some aspects of plutonium research and sustainment requirements, NNSA does not have a comprehensive plutonium plan including research and surveillance requirements needed to support pit reuse, transportation, storage, and security.”

Improving Relationship Between NNSA and Nuclear Weapons Laboratories. -- The Committee is concerned about recent findings in a February 2012 National Research Council study that concluded that the overall management relationship between NNSA and its national security laboratories is dysfunctional. The Committee recommends that NNSA and the laboratories identify and eliminate unnecessary bureaucratic functions that affect the quality of science and engineering at the labs and detract from primary mission goals. The elimination of these functions shall not undermine operational goals related to safety, security, environmental responsibility and fiscal integrity. The NNSA shall notify the Committee of the functions that are to be eliminated. According to the National Research Council, many of the bureaucratic problems are within the power of the labs to address or driven by governance strategies that can be changed. The Committee also recommends that NNSA establish a technical advisory committee to resolve technical disputes on science and engineering matters between
NNSA and the laboratories.”

Weapons Activities:

FY 2012 appropriation is $7,214.1 million
FY 2013 Administration request is $7,577.3 million
FY 2013 Senate recommendation is $7,577.3 million, an increase of $363.2 million or 5.0 percent
FY 2013 House recommendation is $7,512.3 million, an increase of $298.2 million or 4.1 percent

Senate report:

“The Committee recommendation would fund all of the highest-priority activities for nuclear weapons modernization, including continuing production of refurbished W76 warheads, continuing design and engineering work for the B61 life extension program, continuing the life extension study for the W78, replacing critical components, such as neutron generators and gas transfer systems, on many of the currently deployed weapons, sustaining funding for a strengthened surveillance program, and accelerating construction of a new uranium facility at Y–12.”

Under Campaigns:
Inertial Confinement Fusion Ignition and High-Yield Campaign. -- The Committee recommends $460,000,000 as requested.  The Committee understands the importance of the National Ignition Facility [NIF] and supports NNSA’s efforts to ensure the long term viability of the facility when the National Ignition Campaign ends.”

“Also within the funds for inertial confinement fusion, at least $62,000,000 and $55,000,000 shall be used for inertial confinement fusion activities at the University of Rochester’s Omega facility and Sandia National Laboratory’s Z facility, respectively. The Committee also recommends at least $5,000,000 as requested for the Naval Research Laboratory to continue operating laser facilities focused on laser plasma interactions, target hydrodynamics, materials, and advanced ignition concepts.

“The Committee remains concerned about NIF’s ability to achieve ignition - the primary purpose of constructing the facility - by the end of fiscal year 2012 when the National Ignition Campaign ends and the facility is to transition to regular ignition operations and pursue broad scientific applications. The Committee directs NNSA to establish an independent advisory committee as soon as possible to help set a strategic direction for inertial confinement fusion and high-energy density physics research and determine how best to use current facilities to advance this scientific field. If NIF does not achieve ignition by the end of fiscal year 2012 using a cryogenically layered deuterium and tritium target that produces a neutron yield with a gain greater than 1, the Committee directs NNSA to submit a report by November 30, 2012 that (1) explains the scientific and technical barriers to achieving ignition; (2) the steps NNSA will take to achieve ignition with a revised schedule; and (3) the impact on the stockpile stewardship program.

“To meet the complex and increased mission requirements of the Inertial Confinement Fusion and Science Campaigns at a period of constrained funding, the Committee urges the Department to continue its activities to ensure a multiple vendor base capable of cost effectively developing and fabricating the full range of targets for inertial confinement fusion facilities that support the stockpile stewardship program.”

House Report:

“Although the overall request for Weapons Activities in fiscal year 2013 has been reduced by the Administration from previous estimates, the request includes substantial increases for modernization activities supporting full scale engineering development for the B61 life extension program, continuation of design activities for a common warhead for the W78/W88, construction of the Uranium Processing Facility, and the initiation of numerous infrastructure maintenance and repair projects. The Committee will continue to assess the merits of requested activities as they individually support advancement of the modernization goals outlined in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review. To ensure that nuclear modernization remains a priority, the recommendation includes full funding for these modernization activities. However, the Committee remains concerned about the NNSA's ability to fully account for the costs of the modernization or to anticipate the full scope of activities that will be needed to ensure the nation's nuclear stockpile remains reliable and effective.

“Furthermore, the Committee is concerned about reports that the Administration is considering what could be drastic reductions in U.S. nuclear forces. With fiscal constraints becoming a stark reality for all national security activities, the NNSA has yet to resolve its plans for modernizing the stockpile against likely funding levels. Without a coherent plan to sustain an aging nuclear stockpile or a national consensus on this critical strategic asset, it is premature to make any further reductions. The Committee provides no funding in fiscal year 2013 to plan for or reduce stockpile levels below New START levels.

“The Committee provided direction to the NNSA in the fiscal year 2012 report to actively pursue cost reduction strategies for its major modernization projects. The fiscal year 2013 budget request includes programmatic changes which presumably attempt to make the modernization program more affordable, such as the five-year delay to the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building Replacement-Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) and selection of a lower cost option for the B61 life extension program. While the Committee has determined these decisions will not adversely impact sustainment of the stockpile in the near term since alternatives are available, they have confused and muddled the path forward and ultimately reveal the lack of alternatives previously considered. By not fully considering all available options, millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent for work which will not be needed until a much later date. Considering the importance of the nuclear modernization efforts, the short timelines to produce the needed replacement components, and the current fiscal environment, there is neither the time nor resources for pursuits which will not bear fruit for many years.”

Under Campaigns:
Inertial Confinement Fusion and High Yield Campaign. -- The Committee recommends $480,000,000, $3,726,000 above fiscal year 2012 and $20,000,000 above the budget request. Within these funds, $62,500,000 shall be for the OMEGA Laser Facility at the University of Rochester, $2,250,000 above the request.

“As the first ignition campaign comes to a close in fiscal year 2012, it is a distinct possibility that the NNSA will not achieve ignition during these initial experiments. While achieving ignition was never scientifically assured, the considerable costs will not have been warranted if the only role the National Ignition Facility (NIF) serves is that of an expensive platform for routine high energy density physics experiments. The Committee continues to support the pursuit of ignition and urges the NNSA to develop a cost-effective strategy for future experimental activity as the next phase of scientific effort begins. The recommendation supports a lower, though still robust, level of experimental activity on the NIF in fiscal year 2013 given the completion of major diagnostic acquisitions and the shift in experimental tempo.”

Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation:

FY 2012 appropriation is $2,295.9 million
FY 2013 Administration request is $2,458.6 million
FY 2013 Senate recommendation is $2,458.6 million, an increase of $162.7 million or 7.1 percent
FY 2013 House recommendation is $2,276.0 million, a decrease of $19.9 million or 0.9 percent

Senate report:

“The Committee commends NNSA for making significant progress in meeting the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials within 4 years. Since April 2009, when President Obama announced the 4-year goal, NNSA has removed from international locations over 1,200 kilograms of highly enriched uranium and plutonium -- enough material for approximately 50 nuclear weapons. As part of this effort, in just 3 years NNSA has removed all highly enriched uranium from eight countries, including Mexico and Ukraine in March 2012. NNSA also removed over three kilograms of plutonium from Sweden in March 2012 in its first shipment of plutonium to the United States. Further, NNSA has completed security upgrades at 32 additional buildings in Russia containing weapons-usable materials and downblended 2.9 metric tons of Russian highly enriched uranium. The Committee provides funding to continue NNSA’s accelerated efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear materials.”

House Report:

“The recommendation fully funds the requested level for core nonproliferation activities, including the four-year plan to secure vulnerable nuclear materials around the world. The recommendation for the remaining non-core activities, which includes Fissile Materials Disposition and Domestic Uranium Enrichment Research Development and Demonstration, are reduced from the request.

“The request for the four-year plan continues to decrease as planned, showing progress from the accelerated investments made over the past two years. However, the request proposes further reductions that were not previously envisioned, causing some strategies to appear uncoordinated. In the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the Administration recommended enhancing national and international capabilities to disrupt illicit proliferation networks and expanding our nuclear forensics efforts to improve the ability to identify the source of nuclear material used or intended for use in a terrorist nuclear explosive device. The NNSA is now proposing a `strategic pause' for the Second Line of Defense program, which installs radiation equipment at borders, airports, and ports, while it considers the future of the program. This decision appears to be driven primarily by budgetary constraints and the Administration's inclusion of a uranium enrichment program within the nonproliferation account. Further, the request proposes funding for nuclear forensics across a variety of programs, instead of integrating those efforts into ongoing nonproliferation activities.”

The reports also contain language regarding Naval Reactors and the Office of the Administrator.

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics