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"Forget the Rest" blog


Sunday, April 18, 2010
Signs Show Nukes in Our Future
By Willem Malten
Santa Fe Resident
    There is a new monument being built in New Mexico that was compared by a spokeswoman of Sen. Jeff Bingaman to the Taj Mahal[1]. It goes by the acronym CMRR-NF, the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement - Nuclear Facility.
    This project, largely unnoticed by the public and national media, would require 24,000 cement trucks[2] to careen up "The Hill" to dump their carbon-intensive cement-earth mixtures to erect a very specialized edifice, able to withstand a magnitude 7 earthquake right underneath its footings.
    The initial costs were estimated to be about $600 million[3], but that was just a start. After consultation between Washington and its corporate masters, Bechtel in particular, cost estimates have skyrocketed to about $4.5 billion going on $5 billion, outdating all previous NEPA studies and environmental impact statements.
    And yet those costs may still just be a start. Completion date is projected somewhere deep into the future — opening not before 2022.
    Once completed, the CMRR-NF will be a monstrosity devoid of any imagination. It will be a basic bunker about 10 times the size of a large supermarket, or 270,000 square feet. This largely underground space is mostly taken up by vaults and utilities and walls, but there remains a small inner sanctum: about 8 percent of the total footprint, or 22,500 square feet will be dedicated to highly secretive plutonium laboratories.
    This stark isolation is meant to provide a conducive environment for a new generation of weaponeers, who are encouraged to visualize new strategic uses for new designer nuclear weapons — smaller, with multiple warheads and more accurate targeting, new delivery systems, deeper penetration.
    Obama's solemn declarations about a nuclear-free world in Prague are starting to sound hollow. This late spring, during a fresh round of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty hearings at the U.N. in New York, representatives from all over will start hearing about the CMRR-NF, the largest new investment in nuclear weapons worldwide.
    Regardless the possibility of scaling down the quantities of weapons in the arsenal and regardless of the possible signing of the CTBT, the message that America sends with the construction of the CMRR-NF is clear: the CMRR-NF allows the production of new types of nuclear weapons.
    Building the CMRR would not just damage the reputation of Obama, it would damage the credibility of the U.S. and its role in the world. Perhaps most importantly, it would damage a growing military chorus that wants to adopt a strategy of increased security through non-proliferation and de-emphasize the role of nuclear weapons.
    CMRR-NF is the opposite of that approach. The CMRR-NF is the incarnation of everything that is wrong with continued proliferation and the societal detriment and sacrifice that it brings.

[1] In an Apr. 15, 1999 Albuquerque Journal article, "Bingaman Seeks Funds for Design of Weapons Facility," Sen. Bingaman's spokeswoman, Kristen Ludecke, said "This would not be a Taj Majal, but a scaled-down, streamlined facility ..." (pdf).

[2] The 24,000 trucks is the near-worst-case scenario as calculated, for concrete components of all kinds (sand, gravel, cement).  We don't know that this many will be required.  Gravel and cement, yes.  Sand is the unknown at the moment.

[3] Initial costs were estimated at $350-500 million, but this did not include so-called "Other Project Costs" and it did not include demolition of the old CMR building, which was not a part of the project then and may not be part of the project in the future either, as NNSA warned this year.  From here (pdf),

The CMRR Project was first submitted to Congress for funding in February, 2002 as a subproject within the FY2003 Project Engineering and Design (PED), Project 03-D-103.[4]   Formal “mission need” for the CMRR project as a whole (Critical Decision 0, “CD-0”) was approved on July 16, 2002.

In that first congressional budget request, NNSA estimated physical construction would begin in the second quarter (2Q) of FY2005.  Total Estimated Cost (TEC) for both buildings was projected to be $350-500 M (average: $425 M).  Total design services were expected to cost $55 M, 13% of TPC. 

So $600 M is a bit generous to NNSA.  They low-balled worse than that.

[4] DOE FY2003 CBR, Weapons Activities, Readiness in Technical Base and Facilities, e-page 42, at

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