House Panel Approves $15 Billion for DOE Nuclear Operations

A key House panel approved $15 billion for the U.S. Energy Department’s atomic operations for the coming fiscal year.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A key House panel approved $15 billion for the U.S. Energy Department’s atomic operations for the coming fiscal year.

NNSA-LogoThat dollar figure includes $7 billion for “nuclear weapons activities,” a 10-percent increase from the present budget, according to House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman James Langevin (D-R.I.), whose panel has the first input on the president’s requested nuclear budget. Those efforts ensure the safety and performance of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

The funding also provides $5.6 billion for environmental and other defense activities, including disposal of nuclear waste.

The proposed fiscal 2011 National Defense Authorization Act does not cover the department’s nonproliferation efforts, which will be considered by the full Armed Services Committee next week, Langevin noted in his opening statement.

The subcommittee has jurisdiction over nuclear weapons, missile defenses and space and intelligence programs. The text of its legislation, or “mark,” will not be made public, according to a committee spokeswoman. It is headed to the full House Armed Services Committee next week.

The panel’s plan addresses the “gravest threats we face, includes measures to reduce the danger that nuclear weapons might spread to terrorists or to countries hostile to the United States,” the Rhode Island lawmaker said.

He added that the proposed budget blueprint would help implement the Defense Department’s recently released Nuclear Posture Review along with the newly minted U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control treaty, which would see the former Cold War adversaries lower their respective strategic arsenals to 1,550 deployed warheads.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous branch of the Energy Department, is slated to receive a 13.4-percent funding hike to $11.2 billion in the budget cycle that begins Oct. 1 (see GSN, Feb. 2). That is a greater percentage increase than planned for any other government agency. The agency would be responsible for most if not all of $7 billion in weapons activities the subcommittee approved yesterday.

Yesterday, the subcommittee added $11 million to the administration’s original $393 million request for directed stockpile work at the Pantex Plant in Texas to “ensure that the [warhead] life extension programs, stockpile surveillance and critical weapons dismantlements stay on schedule,” according to Langevin.

Directed stockpile work encompasses all activities that directly support weapons in the nuclear arsenal, including maintenance and day-to-day care as well as planned refurbishments. The program at Pantex includes disassembly for portions of the B-53, B-61, W-80 and B-83 warheads.

The panel also directed an additional $85 million for work at the Pantex Plant and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. The money would help “avoid unnecessary disruption” at the sites, which conduct the bulk of the department’s warhead dismantlement operations, Langevin said.

The increases are offset by balances left over from previous budgets and the panel’s denial of $50.2 billion in funding for a program to establish a facility for extraction of tritium, a material used in nuclear weapons.

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Source: Global Security Newswire
Photo: National Nuclear Security Administration