September 4, 2011
Press background and update
Many regional reporters are
highly versed in the details of this project and
I have taken the
liberty to try and provide new, detailed information to them.
For parties new to the issue, please see http://www.lasg.org/CMRR/open_page.htm.
Our simplest two-page update is at http://www.lasg.org/CMRR/CMRR_summary_15Aug2011.pdf.
Senate Appropriations Committee poised to mark up
Department of Energy (DOE), water projects, bill for FY2012 Tuesday
and Wednesday of this coming week.
Among other programs, Obama's proposed surge in nuclear
weapons spending -- not funded in the Republican-controlled House --
will receive the Committee's suggested funding.
Final passage of this and other funding bills by Congress
by end of September considered unlikely, so Continuing Resolution
(CR) contemplated to keep these and other agencies operating.
Initial Chemistry and Metallurgy Research "Replacement"
Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) construction subcontract "Request
for Expression of Interest" (REI) published as Los Alamos
National Security (LANS) prepares for CMRR-NF construction.
Study Group files major brief in 10th Circuit Court of
Appeals seeking review of Judge Herrera's decision to allow CMRR-NF
to proceed without valid environmental impact statement (EIS).
Study Group reviewing possible additional National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) litigation now that CMRR-NF
Supplemental EIS (SEIS) is published.
Record of Decision (ROD) under NEPA could be issued in
early October; if Congress approves funding, CMRR-NF construction
could begin at that time.
Study Group prepares trip to Washington, DC to meet with
congressional and executive branch decisionmakers, analysts.
Estimated impacts of proposed CMRR-NF have increased in
final SEIS; vast concrete and electricity usage have increased
Largest government construction project in NM history to
temporarily employ a 9-year average of 660 persons at most, many in
NM only briefly, costing approximately $9 million per temporary job
created, approximately ten times less than tax cuts and twenty times
less than productive infrastructure and education investments.
1. Senate Appropriations Committee poised to mark up Department
of Energy (DOE), water projects, bill for FY2012 Tuesday and
Wednesday of this coming week.
Please see the Committee calendar, at http://appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm?method=news.view&id=e8caa0df-976d-4008-8957-c74b2a9af65f.
The House's markup dramatically cut proposed funding for
National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) programs for fiscal
year (FY) 2012. The CMRR-NF and its associated Transuranic
Waste Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory were especially
singled out for cuts, the only such cuts in the NNSA's infrastructure
modernization program. See http://www.lasg.org/ActionAlerts/Bulletin118.html and also:
Stop, US House budget would curtail LANL funding, Santa Fe
Reporter, Aug 31, 2011 (new)
panel cuts budget for LANL nuke facility, Lab foes: Bill is
vindication after project's court victory, Santa Fe New
Mexican, Jun 16, 2011
faces possible budget cut, Appropriation Committee recommends a $100
million reduction in funding next year, Los Alamos Monitor, Jun 16, 2011
would be starting point of new arms race, Santa Fe New Mexican,
Willem Malten, Aug 27, 2011
The Republican-led House would cut back NNSA's FY2012
Weapons Activities (WA) spending to the FY2011 level, plus
inflation. The House seeks a fundamental review of the
project's requirements as well, among other reviews of NNSA's
talk in Los Alamos, pdf, slides 3-8, for maps and schematics of
the project. A representative project schedule, showing its
division into phases, can be found at http://lasg.org/CMRR/Litigation/Mello_aff1_ref/Par73_BRETZKE_16JUNE2010_slide7.pdf.
Here is the very short summary version of why, in our
opinion, this project should be cancelled or delayed.
should not be built because it is not needed for any core NNSA
mission including maintaining a large and diverse nuclear stockpile
indefinitely, it has very great opportunity costs for other NNSA and
DOE programs and other compelling federal priorities, it is very
managerially risky, it retards safety improvements at LANL, and it
lacks clarity as to purpose, requirements, cost, and feasibility.
It should not be built now for a host of additional reasons such as
its incompleteness of design, competition for internal resources, and
low priority. Longer delays would bring greater net benefits –
in dollars, program continuity, decreased management risk across the
NNSA complex, and other benefits. For reasons that transcend federal
control it may never be built and operated regardless of formal
policy intentions for reasons including declines in oil imports,
broad (and rapid) economic and social decline, and related supply
chain issues. CMRR-NF is already an embarrassing,
politically-driven fiasco and together with other unrealistic
NNSA/DoD plans should be paused while more realistic management plans
for warheads and pits are developed for a range of stockpile
configurations. CMRR-NF is a flagship boondoggle that perfectly
illustrates NNSA’s inept management, which damages national
security. (From Reasons
Not to Build, or to Delay CMRR-NF, pdf, May 22, 2011)
The Senate authorizers for Weapons Activities (i.e. the
Senate Armed Services Committee, SASC) were largely supportive.
As veteran industry reporter Todd Jacobsen wrote on 7/1/11,
that managing the design and construction of the Chemistry and
Metallurgy Research Replacement-Nuclear Facility and the Uranium
Processing Facility will be “very challenging,” the
Senate Armed Services Committee is moving to require NNSA to conduct
a “true independent cost estimate” for both projects.
According to language in the report accompanying the Senate’s
version of the Fiscal Year 2012 Defense Authorization Act, the
committee would also require the Government Accountability Office to
review the cost estimates, which have soared over the last year. The
Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement- Nuclear Facility at
Los Alamos National Laboratory is estimated to cost as much as $5.8
billion, while the NNSA has said the Uranium Processing Facility at
the Y-12 National Security Complex could cost as much as $6.5
billion, though a cost estimate from the Army Corps of Engineers
estimates that the cost could reach as high as $7.5 billion...
NNSA has already committed to increasing the use of independent cost
estimates on the projects and has said it will wait until both
projects reach the 90 percent design threshold before committing to a
cost and schedule baseline. NNSA has also enlisted the Pentagon and
Department of Energy to validate estimates for the project. However,
the committee wants to ensure that separate cost estimates for the
projects are conducted, rather than reviews of other cost estimates.
“Managing these projects in accordance with the DOE 413 order
series and project management and guidance is essential for success,
as is making sure that the projects have clearly defined and
validated requirements that do not change,” the committee wrote
in the report accompanying its version of the FY2012 Defense
Bear in mind that construction is expected to begin long
before a baseline for CMRR-NF is completed. By the time 90%
design would be achieved and a baseline created, approximately $100
million in construction would be completed. It is this
pre-baseline construction during FY2012 that the House markup (See http://www.lasg.org/ActionAlerts/Bulletin118.html)
If an Energy and Water appropriations
bill is to be passed, the full Senate must pass the Appropriations
markup, a conference committee must iron out the (major) differences
between the House and Senate versions, and the final conference bill
passed by both houses.
2. Among other programs, Obama's proposed surge in nuclear
weapons spending -- not funded in the Republican-controlled House --
will receive the Committee's suggested funding.
Historically, and probably next week as well, the Senate
Appropriations Committee has been more generous to NNSA's Weapons
Activities than the House.
In May, I briefed a
bipartisan panel of three staff members from this Committee on the
CMRR-NF project. Despite this briefing, I expect this Committee
to fully endorse CMRR-NF and will be pleasantly surprised if they do
not or if they place conditions on it.
A key question
is whether the Senate believes CMRR-NF and the Uranium Processing
Facility (UPF) in Tennessee can be successfully pursued at the same
time. Todd Jacobsen again, quoting a study by the Army Corps of
Engineers and two NNSA consulting firms on the UPF project:
the CMRR-NF presents another complication [to UPF], the Corps said.
The NNSA is planning to build both facilities concurrently and the
Obama Administration has committed billions of extra money to
modernize the nation’s weapons complex and nuclear arsenal, but
the Corps suggested cost growth on either project could trigger
problems on the other. “Significant cost growth of either
project may result in a situation where constructing both projects
with currently anticipated scopes is not feasible due to NNSA funding
constraints,” the Corps wrote. “Significant delays to
reaching full production capacity, construction phasing, or reduced
functional capabilities may result if UPF is considered a lower
priority than CMRR.”
3. Final passage of this and other funding bills by Congress by
end of September considered unlikely, so a Continuing Resolution (CR)
contemplated to keep these and other agencies operating.
4. Initial Chemistry and Metallurgy Research "Replacement"
Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) construction subcontract "Request for
Expression of Interest" (REI) published as Los Alamos National
Security (LANS) prepares for CMRR-NF construction.
More broadly, see http://www.lanl.gov/orgs/sup/procurement/solicitations/index.shtml.
All eight items on the LANL solicitation web page (as of today)
pertain to CMRR-NF only.
In the fall of 2010 NNSA was
to initiate subcontracting (pdf, see p. 170) for the
first stages of CMRR-NF construction (here is the
whole project schedule, pdf), but LANL pulled all
references to construction from its web site and held back all
construction subcontracting during the course of litigation
filed by the Los Alamos Study Group under the National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA). After the Study Group’s
lawsuit was filed the NNSA initiated a Supplemental
Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) process, which
is currently underway.
analysis" did not find that an EIS or SEIS was warranted, but
NNSA subsequently changed its mind after we filed our lawsuit.
(This is also what happened in the Study Group's DARHT lawsuit in
1994; DOE initiated an EIS after our litigation was filed.)
NNSA forestalled construction during the SEIS process, even though
the initial construction packages were, in the summer of 2010,
according to project director Steve Fong, "ready to go,"
NNSA and LANL held a "construction forum" in Espanola to
prepare contractors, etc. Here is NNSA arguing that they halted
pending construction due to the SEIS.
appears that with anticipated completion of the NEPA process (in
NNSA's lights, at least), construction is again being prepared.
As noted in the House
markup (pdf) $100 million of FY2012 spending is slated for
5. Study Group files major brief in
10th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking review of Judge Herrera's
decision to allow CMRR-NF to proceed without valid environmental
impact statement (EIS).
Please see http://www.lasg.org/CMRR/Litigation/Appellant_Opening_Brief_31Aug2011.pdf.
The voluminous appendices which go with this document are not yet
6. The Study Group is reviewing possible additional
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) litigation now that
CMRR-NF Supplemental EIS (SEIS) is published.
We may make
a decision regarding this litigation soon.
CMRR-NF Record of Decision (ROD) under NEPA could be issued in early
October; if Congress approves funding, CMRR-NF construction could
begin at that time.
8. Study Group
prepares trip to Washington, DC to meet with congressional and
executive branch decisionmakers, analysts.
Greg will be in
Washington the week of September 12-16.
impacts of proposed CMRR-NF have increased in final SEIS; vast
concrete and electricity usage have increased further.
usage is now up to as much as 400,000 cubic yards; temporary land
"use" (i.e. destruction) up again to electricity usage has
increased to 31% of all available electricity in Los Alamos, again
requiring either a new transmission line to Los Alamos County or
reconductoring the (two) old ones.
government construction project in NM history to temporarily employ a
9-year average of 660 persons at most, many in NM only briefly,
costing $9 million per temporary (9-year) job created at an estimated
$6 billion for the project.
Thus this project, should it
cost at least $6 billion as many believe it will, is estimated to
create these temporary jobs at a cost of at least $1 million per
job-year, in New Mexico. (Other jobs would be created
elsewhere, many of which would be outside the U.S..) "These
small increases [in employment] would have little or no noticeable
impact on the socioeconomic conditions of the ROI [region of
interest]." (SEIS, p. 4-54). Obviously no
productive infrastructure, goods, or services would be created in the
regional economy. No permanent jobs would be created.
The comparative effects of different kinds of direct federal
spending is the subject of a good 2007 paper by Robert Pollin and
which confirms a long line of prior work of the same ilk. (John
Fleck: this paper lacks the flaw we discussed in their later paper on
"green jobs.") Here is their Table 1.
compare these job creation rates, it is necessary to inflate 2005
dollars to 2011 dollars (a factor 1.16). This table implies a
recurring (i.e. annual) shift of $1 billion in government
expenditure, i.e. the units in column 1 are job-years per billion
Correcting for inflation (but not
for anything else that has changed since 2005/7), here are Pollin and
Garrett-Peltier's federal costs in 2011 dollars per job-year:
tax cuts for personal consumption
These jobs are national jobs, not
just regional ones. Nevertheless, under a wide range of
assumptions, we can see that CMRR-NF would be an atrocious job
creator, whether on a regional or national basis. Add to this
fact the lack of productive infrastructure, goods, and services,
created, the lack of mobilization of private capital, and the fact
that many of these jobs will be in the wealthiest county in the
western U.S., the true nature of this kind of federal "pork"
begins to emerge.
Employment stimulation using federal
money to lure private investment can have much higher job creation
rates, as for example in federal subsidy of wind and solar projects.
The key difference between generating renewable-source electricity
and plutonium pits is that the former has, or can easily be made to
have, a market. Consumers buy it. Nobody buys pits,
hopefully, and that is the basic source of most of the economic
inefficiency, the balance being associated with the extremely high
average salaries involved. NNSA weapons laboratory scientists
average $180,000 in salaries and benefits per year, according to
highly-informed federal sources I cannot reveal, much more than their
I will not develop these ideas
further here, but they will be the topic of a public discussions in
late September. Stay tuned.