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February 14, 2012

Bulletin #144: CMRR Nuclear Facility delayed “at least 5 years,” budget for next year zeroed

Dear friends –

As we said early Monday, CMRR-NF has been indefinitely “deferred” –meaning for “at least five years.” 

In the meantime the Administration proposes to zero out the CMRR budget on October 1, but not before that. 

National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) leadership stresses that the project is not canceled.  Like the South, CMRR-NF will rise again. 

We wonder what the $100+ million remaining to be spent this year is supposed to buy, given that NNSA now says that any new, or revived, project beginning in 2018 or later would need to be fundamentally re-scoped in the meantime. 

We do not see why this money should keep flowing.  Hopefully Congress is already beginning inquiries – I am here in Washington now for that and other reasons – and will start clawing those funds back so they can be put to good use. 

We have suggestions. 

Additional funds could be saved by cutting back the exorbitant fee that would otherwise be paid to Los Alamos National Security (LANS) at the end of the year.  Yesterday LANL director Charles McMillan said NNSA’s action in “deferring” this project had nothing to do with LANS management. 

It has everything to do with LANS management, but not exclusively so.  There is plenty of blame to go around.    

Up to Monday NNSA had always maintained that its chosen-but-changing CMRR was its only option, and a terrifically urgent national security need.  Now it’s not an option, and not needed –  at all.  The perceived need to replace the old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) building with a new nuclear facility has entirely evaporated. 

“CMRR” seems to have had more to do with advertising than with national security, or with safety. 

We sent you our first press release yesterday.  The second one (“NNSA delays proposed plutonium warhead plant "for at least five years”) included a few budget details, some links, and comments. 

The stunned reaction of the New Mexico delegation, and a good New-Mexico-oriented overview was featured in the Albuquerque Journal (Sandia Wins, LANL Loses In Fed Nuke Proposal).  The Associated Press had gotten the story out first (“Obama budget puts Los Alamos facility on hold”).  A few other articles are reposted on our CMRR web page. 

Study Group board member Darwin BondGraham had a great essay yesterday on Counterpunch that places this deferral in the broader context of U.S. imperial decline, echoing some of the email discussions we’ve been having around here. 

Tom D’Agostino, NNSA Administrator said, “It’s very clear to us, if we’re going to get in the business of building billion dollar nuclear facilities, that we need to take into consideration the big picture,” in a press teleconference Monday, after NNSA’s budget request (pdf).  (His remarks were quoted in yesterday’s Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor.) 

According to Mr. D’Agostino, the “big picture” now includes replacing the main plutonium facility at Los Alamos.  Whoa.  This big building, “PF-4,” is currently undergoing seismic and safety upgrades to modernize it and make it safer for another 30 years or so.  The idea of replacing PF-4, immediately after upgrading it, when replacing the nearly-abandoned CMR is unaffordable and unnecessary, is, well, a really special Christmas pony. 

It is more than that, of course, but those troubles, should they arise, are for other years.  In the meantime, we have far more serious human and ecological security challenges to surmount, which will dramatically change our conception of national security.  These are challenges we all can and must address.  LANL, qua LANL, has little or nothing positive to contribute. 

Meanwhile NNSA’s awakening undermines its legal case.  NNSA may or may not agree.  We have informed the Department of Justice that we think these developments require a very different legal posture from them and their clients. 

A great deal of progress can now be made, and not just in nuclear disarmament.  Please be encouraged, everybody.  The failure of CMRR-NF – the largest collapse of a nuclear weapons project since the days of Reagan – is a sign of much more to come.  Alas, these conditions affect a lot more than nuclear weapons.    

Now is a good time to gather with your friends to think through the issues, and your engagement with the crises affecting our society and environment, in a fresh light.  We hope to meet with some of you as part of that. 

Now is also the time for us to ask you to help support us financially if you can.  You can contribute on line, mail us a check at the address below, become a regular monthly donor, contribute stock, or help in other ways (please call or write).  As I explained on Sunday, this project would have been under construction by now, but for our intervention.  The whole Study Group community played a role.  Please think about involving your friends. 

Thank you very much for the opportunity to serve,

Greg, Trish and all of us at the Study Group

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