Congress Backs Plutonium Lab Funding Reduction

An appropriations bill approved on Friday by the U.S. House of Representatives would provide only two-thirds of the Obama administration's funding request for the establishment of a new plutonium facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Dec. 5).

The legislation would provide $200 million in fiscal 2012 for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement complex. The bill specifies that "no construction activities are funded for the project this year," and it demands an additional assessment of the U.S. capacity to produce nuclear-weapon cores.

Officials argue the new plutonium complex -- intended to replace a World War II-era plutonium facility at an earthquake-prone location -- will allow the laboratory to continue its role as the nation's leading center for nuclear arms upkeep. Questions have emerged in past years over the facility's rising expense projection and the possibility of significant seismic activity at the Los Alamos laboratory.

An organization critical of the project praised the budget move.

"We are very pleased that Congress has substantially agreed with our analysis regarding the need to delay this project, and has also endorsed our call to re-examine alternatives for managing pit production," Los Alamos Study Group head Greg Mello said in released remarks.

"Congress is in no mood to pursue a risky 'design-build' process for a multibillion-dollar, one-of-a-kind plutonium facility in a high-seismicity location," Mello said. "That idea was nuts, and thankfully Congress appears to see that" (Associated Press/Canadian Business, Dec. 16).

December 19, 2011
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An appropriations bill approved on Friday by the U.S. House of Representatives would provide only two-thirds of the Obama administration's funding request for the establishment of a new plutonium facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the Associated Press reported.