The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved spending legislation that would provide roughly $10 billion for U.S. nuclear arms and nonproliferation operations managed by the Energy Department's semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (see GSN, April 25).
The $32.1 billion House energy and water appropriations bill for fiscal 2013, which passed in a floor vote of 255-165, must now be meshed with a Senate version before going to the president for signing. It provides $965 million less than sought by the Obama administration.
The next budget year begins on Oct. 1.
The nuclear agency is assigned to ensure the maintenance of a safe, secure and reliable nuclear arsenal, and operates programs aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons across the globe (U.S. House Appropriations Committee release I, June 6).
The legislation includes an amendment that would transfer $17 million from a controversial mixed-oxide fuel project to a U.S.-sponsored effort to withdraw or secure civilian nuclear and radiological material stockpiles around the world (see GSN, May 3). The amendment was sponsored by Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and cleared the floor by a wide margin of 328-89, according to a House Appropriations Committee release (U.S. House Appropriations Committee release II, June 6).
The $4.8 NNSA billion project to construct a MOX facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina is only 60 percent finished, according to previous reporting. The plant is projected to open in 2016 and to begin converting plutonium extracted from warheads into reactor material by 2018.
The effort is wasteful as no commercially viable use for the MOX fuel intended to be produced at the plant has been found, according to a release from Fortenberry's office.
"The MOX fuel program has cost billions in taxpayer dollars with little practical effect," the Nebraska lawmaker said in provided comments. "Instead, this funding would be better used strengthening our nuclear security efforts. My amendment redirects funds to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which fulfills our government's fundamental purpose of protecting our nation from nuclear security threats. It restores funding for the GTRI to 2012 levels so that its work can continue without delay."
The Obama administration's fiscal 2013 budget request for the GTRI program was $466 million. The House bill, including Fortenberry's amendment, would set funding levels roughly equivalent to those approved for this budget year.
The NNSA nonproliferation program by the beginning of October is slated to have withdrawn approximately 7,500 pounds of exposed nuclear material, shuttered or converted 81 research reactors, and improved the defenses of some 1,355 facilities holding high-risk radiological and nuclear materials (U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry release, June 6).
The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved spending legislation that would provide roughly $10 billion for U.S. nuclear arms and nonproliferation operations managed by the Energy Department's semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration.