For immediate release February 1, 2010 Update 2 (1:50 pm)

Obama Requests Nuclear Weapons Spending Surge

Warhead design, production budget approaching all-time high

Overall military budget request highest since 1940s

Vastly increased subsidies for nuclear power requested

Practical climate change mitigation, renewable energy job programs, nearly absent

Contact: Greg Mello, 505-265-1200

Albuquerque – Today the Obama Administration requested a significant increase, about 10%, in the nation’s nuclear weapons budget for fiscal year (FY) 2011, rising to a 20% current-dollar increase by 2015. 

Vice President Biden recently stated the increase would amount to $5 billion (B) over the next five years.  Today’s budget almost comes to that. 

That budget was released today (pdf).   It includes a request for $7.01 B for nuclear weapons activities (WA), a $626 million (M) increase from enacted FY2010 levels.  Annual NNSA spending is slated to rise to $7.65 B by 2015 as major construction projects kick in. 

Proposed spending by facility can be found here (pdf) and by state, here (pdf). 

There are also increases planned for naval reactors and nonproliferation, among the other responsibilities of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the agency which maintains the U.S. stockpile. 

Recent-year weapons activities spending is as follows, in billions of current dollars.[1]  FY08 (actual): $6.30.  FY09 (enacted): $6.38.  FY10 (requested): $6.38.  FY10 (enacted): $6.38, more or less the same as the request.  Today’s request for FY2011 of $7.01 B is a dramatic increase from these recent budgets. 

The last budget request from George W. Bush (for FY2009) was, for comparison, $6.62 B, of which $6.38 B was allowed by Congress. 

The proposed increase is the largest since the early Reagan Administration in current-dollar amount and the largest since 2002 in inflation-corrected value. 

These spending figures do not include that portion of NNSA’s administrative expenses which goes for nuclear weapons activities, which by pro-rata share are about $266 M this year (i.e. FY2010) and would be $280 M in FY2011 in Obama’s request, for a fully-burdened total of $7.29 B.

The request includes a massive increase for the controversial Chemistry and Metallurgical Research Replacement (CMRR) project at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), from $97 M this year up to $225 M for next year and $305 M for 2012. 

The CMRR consists of two buildings, including a now-$3.4 B Nuclear Facility, up from “more than $2 billion” last year.  Both buildings are plutonium warhead care (pit”) factory annexes for LANL’s existing plutonium facility. 

It is now revealed in writing that the first, cheaper building (the Radiological Laboratory, Utility, and Office Building, RLUOB) will require more for equipment installation ($199.4 M) than the building itself cost ($164.0 M). 

There is no performance, cost, or schedule baseline for the CMR Nuclear Facility, 7 years since the project began. 

Operations in CMRR NF are now expected in 2022, 11 years behind the schedule predicted in February 2003.  Total CMRR project costs are now expected to be $3.795 B, up from $600 M in 2003, a cost inflation of 633%.  This does not include contingencies, which bring the total to $4.6 B, and demolition of the existing CMR building, last estimated in the $400 M range.  The CMRR may now be a $5 B project, all told.

When Senator Bingaman first announced his support in April 1999 for what later became CMRR, his spokeswoman said “This would not be a Taj Mahal but a scaled-down, streamlined facility that would meet the needs of the lab at a lower cost than they are met now.” (Ian Hoffman, “Bingaman Seeks Funds for Design of Weapons Facility,” Albuquerque Journal North, April 15, 1999, emphasis added, archived at  

LANL has computed CMRR maintenance costs at 2.5% of capital cost, or about $95 M per year, up from the $6 M LANL recently was spending on CMR (the existing building) maintenance. 

This and much more information on the CMRR is available here (pdf).  Still more is available upon request. 

From page 11:

The President’s Request includes funding to complete the design and begin construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Facility Replacement (CMRR) nuclear facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. This facility conducts plutonium research and development and provides analytical capabilities in support of pit surveillance and production. Current planning would have this facility fully operational by 2022. A related project is requested to increase pit production capacity and capability at the adjoining PF-4 facility that is part of the main plutonium facility at Los Alamos to demonstrate pit reuse by 2017 and production by 2018-2020. The budget request also includes funding to complete the design and begin construction of the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 National Security Complex to support production and surveillance of highly-enriched uranium components. This facility is also planned to achieve full operations by 2022.  

Further details will follow later tonight.    

Study Group director Greg Mello: “This budget request, if funded as-is, would have dramatically negative effects on our national security.  We are entering a period where mistakes as this will have profound consequences – as quickly as in the elections later this year, which will not go well for the party in power without far different funding priorities.  

“This budget request is a complete surrender to Senate Republicans.  President George W. Bush never requested such huge nuclear weapons spending [sic - This press release was rushed.  Upon closer examination the last Clinton year and the first three Bush years had more or less equally big increases.  See graph below.].  These spending numbers are not motivated by national security.  They are motivated by an attempt to get a rather humdrum treaty – the START follow-on, not yet completed – through the Senate.  Whether this political tribute will be sufficient remains to be seen.” 

For comparison a chart of prior WA spending is provided below.

[1] The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows zero net inflation in the consumer price index from 2008 to 2009.

Los Alamos Study Group • 2901 Summit Place NE • Albuquerque, NM 87106 • ph 505-265-1200 • fax 505-265-1207

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