Wednesday, January 28, 2009

William Hartung on Nuclear Pork Wrapped in an Economic Stimulus Blanket

Bill Hartung wrote a great piece on TPMCafe on the audacious move by the Senate Appropriations committee to include an obscene amount of money for NNSA activities in their portion of the economic stimulus plan.

Any time Congress spends hundreds of billions of dollars in a hurry we'd better read the fine print. So it is with today's Senate Appropriations Committee mark-up of the next installment -- over $365 billion -- of the economic stimulus package. Tucked away in the bill is $7.8 billion for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration -- the agency responsible for researching, developing and maintaining nuclear weapons. The funding is set aside for a variety of purposes, from construction of facilities to clean-up of weapons sites to "laboratory infrastructure," to "advanced computing development." Whatever the appropriations committee chooses to call it, it represents a bailout for an agency that should be reduced in size, not increased.

At a time when President Obama has committed himself to seeking a world without nuclear weapons -- backed up with specific pledges to seek a global test ban and a prohibition on the production of bomb-making materials -- Congress should not be throwing money at the nuclear weapons complex.

This blatant exercise in pork barrel spending comes at a time when the NNSA has been pushing a "modernization" and upgrade of the nuclear weapons complex under the antiseptic phrase "Complex Transformation." The plan includes the construction of at least three new nuclear weapons factories, and could cost up to $200 billion over the next two decades. It is incumbent upon the Obama administration to put the brakes on this ill-conceived initiative and send the agency back to the drawing boards to come up with a plan to put the weapons complex on a low-level, standby status appropriate to a time of deep reductions -- or ideally, total elimination -- of nuclear weapons.

But first things first -- Senate Appropriations Committee's attempt to slip $7.8 billion to the nuclear weapons complex must be rejected. Then we need to get on with the job of reducing the size and scope of the complex to reflect the reality that nuclear weapons can and should be eliminated once and for all.


Plutonium Page said...

John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal has a straightforward post regarding what the $$$ might mean for the labs here in NM.

Money for the Labs in Stimulus Bill?

From the bill:

$100 million is included to accelerate clean-up activities at some of the Nation’s early atomic energy facilities.


$6.4 billion is directed towards environmental cleanup of former weapon production and energy research sites. These projects will be of limited duration aimed at decreasing the overall site footprint and reducing recurring annual costs. This work will move toward decreasing the footprint at some sites by up to 90%. The footprint reduction will free up these lands for other economic purposes. This funding will not only spur the economy through job creation now, but it will save the tax-payers money in the future by resulting in over $8 billion in life-cycle cost savings. Significantly, the majority of the funding will go out through existing contracts at sites across the country assuring the timely impact of the funding.

Of course, when I think "cleanup", I think "Hanford", and therefore, "hopeless". But not all of the DOE sites are hopeless.

However, the impression I get from this is that some of the funding is directed toward shutting things down as well as environmental analysis/cleanup.

Nothing bad about cleaning up these places, so I'm wondering what's so evil about the rest of it? I'd need to see the actual wording in the bill.

I completely agree that expansion of the NNSA is a terrible idea. If any of the funding were specifically allocated toward stockpile reduction (weapon disassembly and storage), that would be very useful to know.

Jeff Lindemyer said...

Word is that $1 billion of the funds are for intelligence and lab security across all labs, added by Sen. Kyl. I can appreciate the cleanup efforts on their face, but how this move stimulates our economy, especially in the short-term, seems like a major stretch.

Plutonium Page said...

"... but how this move stimulates our economy, especially in the short-term, seems like a major stretch."

Yep, no kidding. That sums up everything perfectly.