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Bulletin #156: Washington Post Misleads in Major Article Addressing Nuclear Weapons Complex

September 16, 2012

Dear friends –

Late Saturday, I (Greg) have just returned from another very interesting week of discussions about nuclear weapons issues on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, and elsewhere in Washington. 

All in all, we are making very good progress, bit by bit. 

I was hoping to summarize the “state of play” regarding current nuclear weapons decisions for our membership today but instead have had to do some damage control because of this article about the nuclear weapons complex by veteran reporter Dana Priest in today’s Washington Post.  That "state of play" summary should be ready tomorrow, we hope. 

The Post article contains so many misleading and downright false statements, and indeed it is framed in such a misleading manner, that it is difficult to even know where to start.  Unfortunately it will be read by many members of Congress, who know little about these issues, as gospel truth.  I suspect a great deal of damage to truthful, rational discourse has been done. 

Our initial comments regarding this article, which already have been sent to a number of journalists and parties in government, are here

Example: the Post says the Administration says the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) is necessary.  This is exactly false.  Every single department and agency in government opposes CMRR-NF construction for the foreseeable future just as we do, and for the many of the same reasons.   The Administration abandoned plans to build CMRR-NF in early February, the Nuclear Weapons Council formally voted to defer the project (pdf) in March, and NNSA and LANL are far along in the process of disbanding the CMRR-NF design teams (pdf). 

Hard to believe the Post couldn’t figure this out, isn’t it? 

The framing “money quote” in the article is probably this one:

Failing to act before the end of next year, they [unnamed federal officials and “many” outside analysts] say, is likely to mean that there won’t be enough time to design and build the new systems that would be required if the old arsenal is no longer safe or reliable. 

So be very scared, and throw a lot of money at the nuclear weapons complex, now

As if we hadn’t been doing that.  Since 1996, DOE and NNSA spent $114 billion (in constant 2012 dollars) on the nuclear weapons complex.  From 1995 to today, annual nuclear weapons complex budgets have risen by $2.66 billion in real dollar terms, i.e. 38% or 2% real growth (i.e. above inflation) per year.  Spending on nuclear weapons design, testing, and production (not including the nuclear material production which is no longer occurring) is now far more than it was during the Cold War in real dollar terms: $7.21 B now vs. an average of $5.02 B (in 2012 dollars) from 1948 to 1989, i.e. 44% more.

Rather than asking where all this money is going, and why it is never enough to climb the ever-steeper estimated cost curves produced by the contractors – curves that run at many times the inflation level in the rest of society – the Post has produced a propaganda piece that could go a long way to making sure those contractors get even more money at the expense of the urgently-needed civilian priorities of government.  To hell with the United States, we need to bigger, badder nuclear weapons factories – no matter what even the DoD, NNSA, STRATCOM, and DOE say. 

That’s it for now.  Stay tuned for more and better news tomorrow, and announcements of upcoming events and ways to work with us. 

Greg Mello, for the Los Alamos Study Group


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