Victories in the House: New Nuclear Bomb Plant Blocked
By David Culp on 06/07/2012 @ 04:30 PM
This week, the House took a major step back from dangerous Cold War-era nuclear weapons policies approved several weeks ago in the House defense authorization bill. When voting on the energy and water appropriations bill, the House did not fund construction of a new nuclear bomb plant at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. The House also overwhelmingly approved an amendment to increase funding for a core nuclear nonproliferation program. These two victories will likely make this last week the best week that advocates for a nuclear weapons free world will have this year.
If constructed, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) facility in New Mexico would increase U.S. capacity to build nuclear weapons. The project also faces ballooning costs from an original estimate of $375 million to a current estimate of $5.8 billion. In response to increasing budget pressures, the administration chose to delay construction of the CMRR for at least five years.
Supporters of the CMRR nuclear bomb plant have been working for months to restore funding for the project. In the House version of the defense authorization bill, passed in May, $100 million was included for the CMRR. However, without the backing of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, this allocation is meaningless. CMRR supporters in the House were unable to strike a deal with their colleagues in the subcommittee to restore funding through an amendment to the appropriations bill. The delay in funding could mean future downsizing, or even elimination, of the CMRR nuclear bomb plant.
On the same bill, the House voted 328 to 89 in approval of an amendment to move $17 million dollars in funding from a troubled plutonium fuel program to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). The GTRI helps secure vulnerable bomb-grade nuclear material from countries around the world. Without the help of programs like the GTRI, such material are in danger of falling into the hands of terrorists. The president’s budget proposal had sharply decreased funding for this essential program. The amendment, offered by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (NE), ensures that the United States will be able to adequately support nuclear nonproliferation efforts around the world.
Throughout the year, FCNL has been working with the arms control community and members of Congress, such as Rep. Ed Markey (MA) and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (CA), on both of these issues. In addition to our efforts in Washington, thousands of people around the country have voiced their concerns about the CMRR nuclear bomb plant and the lack of adequate funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs. In the difficult partisan atmosphere that currently pervades Congress, attaining such a wide bipartisan agreement on these issues is a major success.