By MIA STEINLE
Opposition is mounting to a costly and unnecessary nuclear weapons facility in New Mexico. Today, POGO and ten other organizations that are committed to issues ranging from taxpayer accountability to tracking defense projects sent a letter to Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman and ranking member respectively of the Senate committee that granted funds to this monster of a project for fiscal year 2013. The coalition is urging the senators to consider new government documents that we believe will bolster our calls to cancel the facility.
The monster in question is the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement-Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF), a proposed plutonium research facility with an estimated price tag of nearly $6 billion. While the cost for the building has skyrocketed over the past decade, the justification for it remains tenuous, especially given the expectation that existing facilities can carry out its intended nuclear weapons missions.
The President and the agency that oversees this project said as much this February, when they opted to delay CMRR-NF by at least five years. They noted that “existing infrastructure” can accommodate the missions that were to go to CMRR-NF—manufacturing and sustaining plutonium pits, a primary component of nuclear weapons.
The House and Senate appropriation committees that oversee nuclear weapons followed suit several months later by not appropriating any money to the project. So when the House and Senate defense authorizers disregarded these expert opinions, and the Senate authorizers granted the project $150 million for fiscal year 2013, we wondered if they had taken into account all of the facts.
The Los Alamos National Laboratory—the contractor-run lab that would house CMRR-NF—and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in charge of that facility recently reassessed their plutonium pit manufacturing and sustainment needs. We hear that the new report from Los Alamos and a forthcoming report from NNSA will shed enough light on CMRR-NF so that Congress can make smart funding decisions.
The Los Alamos report—which is available to the senators, but not to the public—concludes that the lab does not need CMRR-NF to carry out its national security missions. And the forthcoming NNSA report will likely identify existing buildings that can handle these missions.
We hope that Levin, McCain and the members of their committee carefully consider these reports, which we believe will not justify pouring more money into this nuclear boondoggle. Given the likelihood that less expensive alternatives exist, the senators owe it to taxpayers not to rush into funding decisions before considering all the facts. It’s time for the Senate to kill this monstrous facility, once and for all.
Mia Steinle is a POGO investigator
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