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"Forget the Rest" blog

March 28, 2008

Dear [staff] --

I will be in Washington, DC next week and would have time to meet with Congressman Udall if he were available. 


I would be very happy to meet with all interested members of your DC staff along with the Congressman, and answer what questions I can. 

There would be three issues on my agenda for this meeting:

  • Whether to proceed with the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) project at LANL.  The sole defining purpose of this very large project is to design, test, and produce pits for Reliable Replacement Warheads (RRWs) or for some other new-design warheads.  The CMRR Nuclear Facility (CMRR NF) has experienced more than four-fold cost inflation prior to completion of Preliminary Design (Critical Decision 2) and is now the flagship, if that is the right term, of at least a $2.8 billion construction package at LANL with associated decommissioning and demolition costs exceeding $400 million.  This and other information is provided in this white paper (pdf) on the CMRR, a summary version of which is now the lead article on the on the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists web site.  The 50-year life-cycle cost of the proposed CMRR/TA-55 complex, with associated security, waste management, cleanup, and D&D is on the order of $30 billion dollars.  The current and possibly the following budget cycles are pivotal to the CMRR Nuclear Facility (NF), which comprises about 90% of the total CMRR project cost.

My hope is that we can soon celebrate Congressman Udall's public commitment to work against appropriating funds for the CMRR NF for FY09 and in subsequent years. 

  • Whether to produce plutonium warhead cores (“pits”).  Placing pit production on “warm standby” would save billions of dollars and provide substantial diplomatic, safety, managerial, and environmental benefits without compromising the reliability of the U.S. arsenal.  Pressing on with an expanding pit production program risks fiascoes in these same areas.  “Producing” pits via the dismantlement process is relatively instant (in fact, already underway), has far more capacity, costs nothing, has no technical risk, provides fully-certified pits (without process waivers) of the precise kinds needed for stockpile systems, has no environmental impact, and has outstanding nonproliferation benefits.  Existing pit manufacturing facilities at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) can be operated in a warm standby mode, which will also have a variety of significant management, safety, and cost benefits.  The combined DoD/NNSA usable pit inventory is very great.  If the current administration’s stockpile plan – as hawkish as any we are likely to see – proceeds, there would be approximately a 250% redundancy in pits of current types, without any pit manufacturing whatsoever, with greater than 100% redundancy for nearly every stockpile pit type. 

My hope is that Congressman Udall will make a public commitment to work to place pit production on "warm standby."  I believe that would have been the likeliest result of the funding cuts in this campaign that were proposed and approved in the House last year but lost in the House-Senate omnibus conference.  Most (about two-thirds as I recall) of the cuts proposed by the House for LANL were in pit production and the CMRR.

  • I would like to get Congressman Udall's public commitment to work against the proposed Desert Rock coal-fired power plant.  This may have already happened -- it's hard to keep up with everything -- and if so it's truly something of which to be proud. 

As you know I think these LANL projects reflect funding priorities that take jobs from New Mexicans.  It might be profitable to talk to you about the shape of an "Energy New Deal" that could make tens of  thousands of new jobs in New Mexico, but first, as the Hippocratic Oath says, we must "do no harm."  The issues above would be our "top three" for a meeting with Congressman Tom Udall. 

My contact information is below. 

Best wishes,

Greg Mello

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2901 Summit Place NE Albuquerque, NM 87106, Phone: 505-265-1200

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