By Jacob Bennett & Usha Sahay on June 22, 2013
In a recent interview, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander expressed his frustration with the out-of-control costs of nuclear weapons facilities. Asked about the increasingly expensive Oak Ridge Uranium Processing Facility, the senator told the News Sentinel’s Frank Munger: “I’ve pretty well had it with these big Energy Department projects that start out costing a billion dollars and end up costing $6 billion. We can’t afford that.”
Alexander is right to criticize the spiraling costs of the UPF. The plant is just one of a number of expensive nuclear projects that the Energy Department, in particular its National Nuclear Security Administration, has proven incapable of managing. Another example is the wasteful plan to upgrade the B61 nuclear bomb. Although the military no longer needs this Cold War weapon, the NNSA wants to modernize the B61 at the unacceptable cost of $10 billion to taxpayers.
As the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, Alexander should force the NNSA to explain why it wants billions of dollars for an outdated weapon. B61s are kept in Europe on the American taxpayers’ dime, while contributing little to U.S. security.
At the height of the Cold War, hundreds of B61 bombs were deployed to Europe to prevent a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. Today, approximately 180 of the weapons remain, ready to fend off an attack that will never come. The B61 is little more than a symbolic reminder of a 1950s commitment.
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