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Opposition to Plutonium Bombs and MOX Fuels Holds in House Budget Fight


June 8, 2012
Tri-Valley CARES / Special to EAW

Tri-Valley reports from Washington, DC: All in all, a good day here. No amendment was offered in the House appropriations process to fund the plutonium bomb plant at Los Alamos (which got zero funding for FY 2013 in the President's request). And, this House amendment to further clip the federal budget for MOX passed overwhelmingly. Still an uphill struggle for abolition, but do pause a second to celebrate small victories along the way!

Key Congressional Appropriations Amendment Passage Supports Needed Nonproliferation Program Over Troubled Plutonium Fuel (MOX) Scheme

WASHINGTON, DC (June 6, 2012) -- Today, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed an amendment offered by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE). Members of the House from both sides of the aisle spoke in favor of Rep. Fortenberry's amendment, which moved $17 million from the Mixed Oxide Plutonium Fuel (MOX) Program to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI).

The amendment, which passed by a vote of 328 to 89, was offered to the House Appropriations bill to fund Department of Energy programs.

"The passage of the amendment is a clear indication that congressional oversight of the MOX program is increasing" said Katherine Fuchs, Program director at the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), a national network to which Tri-Valley CAREs has belonged since 1989.

The amendment comes on the heels of an earlier cut of $152 million from the MOX program by the House Appropriations Committee.

"The Global Threat Reduction Initiative is the leading edge of our nation's ongoing effort to secure loose nuclear materials," explained Tri-Valley CAREs' Executive Director, Marylia Kelley. "Rep. Fortenberry's amendment brings funding for this critical program up to the President's requested level for Fiscal Year 2013."

The MOX program is intended to make 34 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium inaccessible for use in a weapon by blending plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons with depleted uranium for use in commercial nuclear reactor fuel.

Tom Clements, ANA's Nonproliferation Director, noted, "The MOX program has been plagued by technical, financial, and scheduling problems and no utilities have contracted to use the MOX plutonium fuel."

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability and Tri-Valley CAREs welcome increased Congressional oversight of the MOX program's out of control costs.

The Report that accompanies the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill amended this afternoon expresses the committee's concerns about the program: "There is still no fidelity on the total project costs and timeline to get the MOX facility up and running, and few details have been provided on the long term investments that will be needed to support full operating feedstock requirements….

The Department [of Energy] is now reporting internally that the total project costs could be understated by as much as $600,000,000 to $900,000,000, and that the project will overrun its projected completion date by months if not years.

Further, the updated cost estimates provided by the NNSA for the projected annual operating costs of the MOX facility have skyrocketed and are now 2.5 times the projections of just two years ago."

Speaking for his amendment, Rep. Fortenberry said "We should be proud of our work as a country in our nuclear security efforts, but it is abundantly clear that the mixed oxide fuel program is not the most productive use of our constituents' taxpayer dollars…"

Tri-Valley CAREs is a Livermore, California-based organization of 5,600 members who watchdog the nearby Livermore Lab and the U.S. nuclear weapons complex of which Livermore Lab is a part.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability is a national network of 35 organizations working to address issues of nuclear weapons production and waste cleanup.

For more information:
Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs, marylia@trivalleycares.org, 925-443-7148
Katherine Fuchs, ANA Program Director kfuchs@ananuclear.org, 414-324-4228
Tom Clements, ANA Nonproliferation Policy Director tclements@ananuclear.org 803-834-3084

Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs
2582 Old First Street, Livermore, CA 94550
marylia@trivalleycares.org, or marylia@earthlink.net
(925) 443-7148 / www.trivalleycares.org

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