Nuclear Weapons

Questions for the Department of Energy on FY2015 Budget


A national network of organizations working to address issues of

nuclear weapons production and waste cleanup


Ashish Sinha:    (301) 910-9405

Bob Schaeffer:  (239) 395-6773



The U.S. nuclear budget is out of control. Huge cost overruns for unnecessary production facilities are common.  At the same time, cleanup of radioactive and toxic pollution from weapons research, testing, production and waste disposal is falling behind. The Department of Energy (DOE) budget for FY 2015 will reveal the Obama Administration’s nuclear priorities.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), a 25-year-old network of groups from communities downwind and downstream of U.S. nuclear sites, will be looking at the following issues. For details, contact the ANA leaders listed at the end of this Media Advisory.


-- Does the budget reflect the Administration's commitment to curtail unnecessary spending on the $19 billion Uranium Processing Facility at Oak Ridge by downsizing it to the capacity needed to support stockpile surveillance, maintenance and limited life extension?


-- Does the budget address the looming deficit in nuclear weapons dismantlement capacity so the United States can meet its international arms reduction commitments?


-- Will the Obama Administration articulate its alternative plutonium strategy to the $6 billion “CMRR Nuclear Facility,” which was effectively cancelled in 2012? Is any expanded production needed when expert studies have found that existing plutonium pits are durable?


-- Will NNSA reduce funding or impose meaningful milestones at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), which performed less than half of its planned Stockpile Stewardship experiments in FY2013 and still has not achieved ignition.


 -- Is the budget a de facto cancellation of plans to pursue “interoperable warhead designs” by imposing a delay of five years or more on the program? How much money will taxpayers save?


-- Does the FY 2015 budget seek more than the $537 million requested for the B61 Life Extension Program last year? Will the “First Production Unit” from this $10 billion program continue to slip to 2020 or later delaying needed routine replacement of critical components?


-- How much of the additional $26 billion in Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel’s “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative” will go to DOE nuclear weapons programs? 


-- Will the Administration support increased funding for the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) to provide independent oversight of DOE projects given the many cost over-runs, schedule delays, safety issues and technical problems?


-- What is the projected life-cycle cost of the plutonium fuel (MOX) program at Savannah River? Is DOE’s internal cost assessment consistent with ANA’s estimate of $27 billion? When will it be released? Have any nuclear reactor operators committed to using MOX fuel?


-- Does the Request include continued funding for design and licensing of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), which private investors have been unwilling to finance fully because of concerns about viability and risks? Does DOE have plans to finance SMR construction?


--How much additional Environmental Management (EM) funding would be necessary in FY 2015 to meet all legally mandated cleanup milestones? States say cleanup agreements at a dozen major sites are underfunded by hundreds of million dollars. 

-- In which states does DOE face fines and lawsuits for missing milestones due to budget shortfalls? Which states are enforcing their binding clean-up agreements by imposing fines and taking further legal action?


-- What is the high range for total life-cycle clean-up costs (LCC) for EM sites Because of funding shortfalls, are LCC costs continuing to increase? In the FY 2013 Budget Request High Range LCC was $308.5 billion, and in the FY 2014 Request LCC was $330.9 billion.

-- Does the FY 2015 Request include funds to cleanup contamination from the recent radiation release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)?  How much will this incident delay shipments from the Idaho National Lab, Los Alamos, Savannah River, and Oak Ridge?

-- How much money is included for construction of new double-shell tanks to replace those leaking radioactive waste at the Hanford site? Are funds included for emergency pumping of tanks found to be leaking? 

-- Is DOE allocating sufficient funds to monitor and address ignitable hydrogen gas buildup in Hanford's nuclear waste tanksas recommended by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to protect workers, the public and the environment from possible explosions? 

-- Is an independent review of the Hanford Waste Treatment Plant included in the budget request to address concerns about the reliability of many of the parts and materials? 

-- How much money is DOE allocating for building and development of the Hanford Waste Treatment Plant based on the current, flawed design and how much on redesign? 


-- For information about specific DOE nuclear weapons sites and programs, contact:

Meredith Crafton - Hanford: (206) 292-2850 x26

Tom Clements - Savannah River and MOX Plant: (803) 240-7268

Jay Coghlan - Los Alamos Lab and Life Extension: (505) 989-7342

Don Hancock - Environmental Management Program: (505) 262-1862

Ralph Hutchison - Oak Ridge Site and Dismantlement: (865) 776-5050

Marylia Kelley - Livermore Lab and Life Extension: (925)-443-7148

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safe

 Eric Schlosser, Penguin Press, Sept 2013 

From the New York Times book review:

 "Famed investigative journalist Eric Schlosser digs deep to uncover secrets about the management of America's nuclear arsenal. A ground-breaking account of accidents, near-misses, extraordinary heroism, and technological breakthroughs, Command and Control explores the dilemma that has existed since the dawn of the nuclear age: how do you deploy weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them? That question has never been resolved- and Schlosser reveals how the combination of human fallibility and technological complexity still poses a grave risk to mankind." 

Command and Control.jpg

From The Guardian:

 "The stories he came across suggest that nothing but a miracle has prevented an accidental Hiroshima or Nagasaki taking place on US soil. In 1958 a Mark 6 atom bomb was accidentally dropped into the backyard of the Gregg family in Mars Bluff, South Carolina. 

Three years later, two hydrogen bombs, with a combined power of more than 500 Hiroshimas, were accidentally dropped over North Carolina after a B-52 broke up in mid air. Neither bomb detonated when they landed in a meadow, but a later secret investigation concluded that in the case of one of the devices only a single low-voltage switch stood between the US and catastrophe. In 1966 a hydrogen bomb was dropped inadvertently over the coast of Spain, also from a stricken B-52; it took six weeks of intensive searching before it was found and retrieved from the ocean bed. 

"As the mass of detail piles up, an important lesson emerges from the book. The way Schlosser explains it to me is that 'our ability to create dangerous things exceeds our ability to control them. We are talking about hubris our lack of understanding of our own flaws and lack of humility in the way we approach technology.'"

Eric Schlosser in a Rolling Stone Q&A:"There's an enormous amnesia on the part of the American people about nuclear weapons. About half of the American population wasn't born yet or were small children when the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union vanished. One of the reasons I wrote the book was just to remind people that these weapons are out there and how easily they can go wrong." 

Read Louis Menand's excellent and informative review of "Command and Control" for the Sept. 30 New Yorker titled "Nukes of Hazard".