FY 2013 Appropriations Committee Reports: National Nuclear Security Administration

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Publication date: 
15 May 2012

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.