By Kingston Reif and Nickolas Roth
On April 24 the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee released its draft Committee report of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Energy and Water bill. The full House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up the bill on April 25.
The House version of the bill recommends $11.28 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a decrease of $260.9 million below the requested level and an increase of $275 million above the FY 2012 level.
Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Ranking Member Pete Visclosky (D-IN) deserve credit for prioritizing NNSA’s core nuclear material security and nonproliferation programs, which support the U.S.-led global effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials at an accelerated rate. As we hinted last week, the Committee actually increases funding for some of these programs, while wisely reducing funding for the controversial Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel program and research and development on a cultivating a domestic uranium enrichment capability.
Regarding weapons activities, the draft bill supports the Obama administration’s decision to delay by at least five years construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
Nuclear Material Security and Non-Proliferation
Including rescissions, the draft House report funds NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account at $2.276 billion, a decrease of $20 million below last year’s level and a decrease of $182.6 million below the requested level…
Whereas last year the House Appropriations Committee reduced funding below the requested level for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and the International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation (INMPC) program, in FY 2013 it increased funding for GTRI by $17 million and funded the INMPC program at the requested level. In addition, it reduced the FY 2013 request for the MOX program by $152.8 million and scaled back the $150 million one-time request for USEC by $50 million. The bill provided a strong rebuke of the MOX program, stating: “There is still no fidelity on the total project costs and timeline to get the MOX facility up and running, and few details have been provided on the long term investments that will be needed to support full operating feedstock requirements.”
While the Committee increased funding for GTRI at the expense of MOX and USEC, it did not redress the administration’s significant reduction to INMPC’s Second Line of Defense program, which seeks to deter and detect the illicit smuggling of nuclear and radiological materials.
Ultimately the draft report undoes some of the imbalance within the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Account, but concerns about the impact of the meataxe taken to the Second Line of Defense program by the administration and the future budget outlook for GTRI, including projected slips in many scheduled activities, remain.
Nuclear Weapons Activities
The Committee is recommending $7.58 billion, nearly $300 million above the fiscal year 2012 appropriation and $65 million below the requested level.
Most notably, the committee reaffirmed the Obama administration’s decision to delay the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement-Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF), a new $6 billion plutonium laboratory at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The committee states that a five-year delay to construction would “not adversely impact sustainment of the stockpile in the near term since alternatives are available.” In assessing the CMRR-NF and the B61 Life Extension Program, the committee found a “lack of alternatives previously considered.” The Committee Report goes on to state that “By not fully considering all available options [to the CMRR-NF], millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent for work which will not be needed until a much later date” and that “there is neither the time nor resources for pursuits which will not bear fruit for many years.”
The draft bill calls into question the claims emanating from the House Armed Services Committee that more money is needed for nuclear weapons activities and to reverse the delay to the CMRR-NF. As the bill notes, “The activities funded under this appropriation include the maintenance and refurbishment of nuclear weapons to sustain confidence in their security, safety, and reliability under the nuclear testing moratorium and arms reduction treaties.”
Stay tuned to this space for more on the Energy and Water bill later this week, including analysis of the Senate version of the bill. On April 24 the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee held its markup of the legislation. Detailed budget numbers will not be released until the full Senate Appropriations Committee marks up the bill on April 26. In the meantime, click here for the Subcommittee’s summary of the bill. According to the summary, the Senate version of the bill funds the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation and Weapons Activities Account toplines at the FY 2013 requested level.