ACTION ALERT: The SANE Act Would Cut the Nuclear Weapons Budget

February 11th, 2012 - by admin

Tri-Valley CARES – 2012-02-11 23:10:45

The SANE Act Would Cut the Nuclear Weapons Budget

LIVERMORE, CA (February 11, 2012) — On February 8th, 35 members of Congress introduced a bill to cut $100 billion from nuclear weapons programs over ten years. It’s called the SANE Act (Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures). The bill number is H.R. 3974. Click here to read the bill.

Below is the list of the 35 co-sponsors so far, including eight from California. If YOUR Member of Congress is not on the list, please call (202) 224-3121 and ask him/her to co-sponsor this timely and important bill to rein in nuclear weapons spending. Your Representative can become a co-sponsor by contacting Makenzie Lystrup in Rep. Ed Markey’s office.

If your Rep. is on the list, please give him/her a quick call to say thank you at (202) 224-3121.
In alphabetical order, here is the list so far:

Rep. Tim Bishop (NY), Robert Brady (PA), Bruce Braley (IA), Earl Blumenauer (OR), Donna Christensen (VI), Hansen Clarke (MI), John Conyers (MI), Peter DeFazio (OR), Keith Ellison (MN), Anna Eshoo (CA), Sam Farr (CA), Bob Filner (CA), Barney Frank (MA), Raul Grijalva (AZ), Alcee Hastings (FL), Maurice Hinchey (NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Mike Honda (CA), Rush Holt (NJ), Jesse Jackson, Jr (IL), Marcy Kaptur (OH), Dennis Kucinich (OH), Barbara Lee (CA), John Lewis (GA), Carolyn Maloney (NY), Jim McDermott (WA), James McGovern (MA), Jerrold Nadler (NY), John Olver (MA), Donald Payne (NJ) Jared Polis (CO), Charles Rangel (NY), Laura Richardson (CA), Louise Slaughter (NY), Pete Stark (CA), John Tierney (MA), and Lynn Woolsey (CA).

SANE Act to Cut Nuke Spending
Scott Yundt / Tri-Valley CAREs’ Citizen’s Watch Newsletter

(January/February 2012) — As we go to press, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) is introducing an important new bill, called the SANE (Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures) Act.

The bill, co-sponsored by Markey and 34 other Members of Congress (including 7 from California), calls for canceling, freezing, or reducing more than a dozen costly nuclear programs for a savings of about $100 billion over 10 years.

The SANE Act, if passed, would eliminate several Dept. of Energy projects that Tri-Valley CAREs has worked hard to cut. The bill would zero out all funding for the CMRR-nuclear facility, the Uranium Processing Facility, and the MOX (mixed oxide plutonium fuel) plant. It would further eliminate the DOE’s B61 and W78 Life Extension Programs.

At the Dept. of Defense, the SANE Act calls for a reduction in ballistic missile submarines, land-based missiles, and aircraft bombers – the three legs of the nuclear triad.

The SANE Act is a step in the right direction for nuclear policy, and Tri-Valley CAREs is honored that Rep. Markey listed our group as a participating NGO in the efforts to cut the nuclear weapons budget.

Meanwhile, Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH) announced he will soon introduce a 2012 version of a bill he first introduced last year to mandate increased spending to “modernize” U.S. nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

And, in previewing the Defense Dept.’s 2013 budget request, Secretary Leon Panetta recently said the U.S. will delay production of its next generation nuclear submarine, although he stopped short of announcing any truly deep funding cuts that would go beyond stemming planned increases to the Pentagon budget.

2012 is shaping up as a pivotal year for nuclear issues!

What to Look for in the Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request for Nuclear Weapons
Marylia Kelley / Citizen’s Watch

The fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request for nuclear weapons will be released on February 13, one week late and several days beyond our print deadline. Fortunately, your team of “watchdogs” at Tri-Valley CAREs has been ever-vigilant, conducting dozens of meetings and interviews with the Dept. of Energy (DOE) and others regarding the costs associated with U.S. nuclear weapons programs.

Based on our research, here are some key items to look for in the DOE FY13 budget request to Congress for nuclear weapons. And, while prediction is an inexact science, we think there will be some good news for those of us who advocate for reduced spending on nuclear weapons programs.

Tri-Valley CAREs and scores of like-minded groups across the country have spent years opposing the DOE’s plan to construct and operate a new plutonium bomb factory, called the CMRR-nuclear facility, at the Los Alamos Lab in NM. Many of you have written letters, made phone calls and met with Members of Congress to stop this project. Look for the FY13 budget request for the CMRR-nuclear facility to be severely cut, if not eliminated.

If our prediction is correct, this will be a major victory. Moreover, the latest word is that DOE will not try to move forward with the CMRR-nuclear facility project until around 2022.

On the other side of the same coin is the oversized Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) that DOE wants to construct and operate at Y-12 in TN. Look for the budget request to speed up the construction schedule for the UPF.

Tri-Valley CAREs and many other groups will continue to oppose the UPF, as currently envisioned, because it is wrongly sized and missioned to enable increased production of new uranium “secondaries” for new nuclear weapons. Instead, the UPF mission should be focused on dismantling nuclear weapons secondaries and, as a nonproliferation step, downblending the highly enriched uranium so that it can’t be used in nuclear bombs again. So, look for Tri-Valley CAREs to issue an action alert on the UPF budget this spring.

Also rumored to be in for a trim in the FY2013 budget request is the DOE’s mixed oxide plutonium fuel (MOX) program at the Savannah River Site in SC. Look for the budget request to zero out funding for the Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility (PDCF) intended to convert plutonium from a metal form into an oxide.

The PDCF had been DOE’s preferred method for providing the plutonium oxide that the MOX facility would then blend with uranium into fuel rods for nuclear power plants. If, indeed, the PDCF is knocked out of the budget request, look for DOE to shop for new furnaces (and use the existing ARIES one at Los Alamos) in an attempt to get around its loss of the PDCF. And, look for action alerts from Tri-Valley CAREs and allied groups calling on Congress to cancel the entire MOX program.

Another set of nuclear weapons programs that Tri-Valley CAREs “watchdogs” are the so-called Life Extension Programs (LEPs) wherein nuclear weapons are not just refurbished but given new military capabilities, thereby blurring the distinction between “new” and “existing” weapons. Look for the scope of the B61-12 LEP to be reduced (good news), although its out year costs will rise about a billion dollars, from around $4.5 to $5.5 billion (not good news).

More information on the estimated costs for the B61-12 LEP should become available later in 2012 as the DOE completes its official cost study. Look for Tri-Valley CAREs to continue to oppose any plan to “mix and match” parts from different versions of the B61 to create a B61-12 “Frankenbomb” in this LEP.

Turning our attention to one of Livermore Lab’s infamous boondoggles, we predict that the National Ignition Facility (NIF) will, again, be a big ticket item in the DOE budget request.

The DOE was supposed to achieve thermonuclear ignition at NIF in 2003, then 2010 and now 2012. The NIF has cost around $7 billion, if one counts construction and R&D costs. And, ignition is highly unlikely to occur in 2012.

Will there be a spike in the FY13 budget request as DOE scrambles to obscure NIF’s failure? And, more importantly, will Congress wise up and cut its funding in the appropriations process that will take place during the spring and summer of 2012? Look for Tri-Valley CAREs’ action alerts on the NIF budget and technical deficiencies this spring.

Another Livermore Lab item worth checking in the budget request is the plutonium facility in the so-called “Superblock.”

You may recall that Livermore Lab failed a security drill in 2008 when mock terrorists were able to access its nuclear material and create a “radiological device.” Further, the mock attackers were also able to steal nuclear material and leave the Livermore site. Since then, the DOE has been removing nuclear bomb usable quantities of plutonium and highly enriched uranium from the Lab for storage in more secure locations.

However, with the CMRR-nuclear facility being put on hold for a decade or more, we hear that there is renewed interest in keeping the Livermore Lab facility open for plutonium bomb core work. Look for Tri-Valley CAREs to oppose (and reverse!) this dangerous, wrong-way turn of events even as we continue to oppose the CMRR-nuclear facility.

We hope we have whetted your appetite to find out what’s in the Obama Administration’s FY2013 nuclear weapons budget request. The multi-volume document should be posted on the web at soon after it is transmitted to Congress.

Moreover, Tri-Valley CAREs will produce, as we do each year, a concise, reader-friendly analysis of the budget request for nuclear weapons activities. Look for its publication soon!

In sum, we invite you to celebrate the (expected) victories in the budget request with us. And, know, too, that further cuts are possible as it wends its way through Congress. Indeed, check the article on page 1 to see some of what Tri-Valley CAREs is working on with Rep. Ed Markey and colleagues! .

Thanks to Our Members and Friends
Marylia Kelley / Citizen’s Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs began the year focused on “walking back” the increased nuclear weapons funding that Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) had extracted from President Obama as the political price to ratify the New START agreement. Working together, we reduced the nuclear weapons budget despite the “deal.” In fact, the year ended with several hundred million dollars in cuts. Moreover, we expect our work to yield additional cuts when the new budget request is revealed February 13.

We also submitted technical comments on a wide array of nuclear weapons projects last year. We opposed a new plutonium factory at Los Alamos, an overblown uranium plant at Y-12, business as usual at the Nevada Test Site, increases in radioactivity at Livermore Lab and a failure to include the Sandia, Livermore site in an environmental impact statement (did they really think we wouldn’t notice?).

Tri-Valley CAREs brought its staff, board and youth to Washington to speak truth to power to the Administration and Congress. In the wake of the tragedy at Fukushima, we illuminated the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons — and called for the elimination of both.

We took action in the courts to uphold the National Environmental Policy Act and the Freedom of Information Act. We mobilized the community to improve the cleanup of toxic and radioactive pollution at Livermore Lab. Working with colleagues, we brought hundreds of people to demonstrate against nuclear weapons at the Laboratory gates — and more.

In each of these achievements, YOU were there. Your participation as a member, volunteer or donor made all of our 2011 successes possible.

Hundreds of you offered valuable time and skills. More than 650 of you gave individual financial gifts, ranging from a few dollars to several thousand. Every donation matters, and we are blessed by your partnership.

I thank you — and look forward to our work together in 2012.

Marylia Kelley is the Executive Director of TRI-Valley CARES, 2582 Old First Street • Livermore, CA 94551 • Phone (925) 443-7148.