FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

FY 2012 Senate Appropriations Bill for the Department of Energy: NNSA

Richard M. Jones
Number 110 - September 15, 2011  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

Adjust text size enlarge text shrink text    |    Print this pagePrint this page    |     Bookmark and Share     |    rss feed for FYI

The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its version of the FY 2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill.  Senate Report 112-75 accompanies H.R. 2354 and provides the committee’s funding and policy recommendations of subcommittee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and her colleagues.  This FYI excerpts selections from the 15 pages in this report pertaining to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Readers are urged to consult the report for all of the language regarding a particular program.

Page numbers in the pdf version of the committee report are provided for reference and additional information.  All numbers in this FYI are taken from detailed tables in the Senate committee report starting on page 129.  See FYI #74 for the House report language.

National Nuclear Security Administration (total):

The FY 2011 appropriation was $10,522.5 million
The FY 2012 administration request was $11,712.6 million
The FY 2012 House-passed bill provides $10,614.0 million, an increase of $91.5 million or 0.9 percent from the current budget.
The Senate Appropriations Committee bill provides $11,050.0 million, an increase of $527.5 million or 5.0 percent.

There was no introductory report language on NNSA.

WEAPONS ACTIVITIES:

The FY 2011 appropriation was $6,896.4 million
The FY 2012 administration request was $7,589.4 million
The FY 2012 House-passed bill provides $7,091.7 million, an increase of $195.3 million or 2.8 percent from the current budget.
The Senate Appropriations Committee bill provides $7,190.0 million, an increase of $293.6 million or 4.3 percent.

Selections from the report follow:

“The Committee recognizes the important contributions that advanced computing and experimental facilities have made in the last few years to the success of the stockpile stewardship program and to increase confidence in the safety, security, and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile. After investing billions of dollars over more than a decade, critical capabilities are in place to respond to nuclear weapons issues without underground nuclear weapons testing.  Petascale computing capabilities allow weapons scientists and engineers to conduct weapons simulations with reasonable efficiency and resolution. In the past year, the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory successfully completed four experiments that resolved a long open significant finding investigation, improved the basis for the assessment of several stockpile systems, and provided data to better understand multipoint safety options for possible use in future life extension programs. The past year also marked the execution of the Barolo series of subcritical experiments at the U1a underground facility at the Nevada National Security Site. These experiments provided data on the behavior of plutonium driven by high explosives, which is critical to understanding primary implosions. The National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory also successfully completed its first set of weapon-relevant physics experiments to help validate computer models that resolved one of the most critical areas of uncertainty in assessing nuclear weapons
performance.”

See page 99 of the report for extensive language on Directed Stockpile Work, including sections on life extension programs, stockpile systems, weapons dismantlement, stockpile services, engineering campaign, advanced simulation and computing, and readiness campaign.  Under the heading Science Campaign, the committee commends experiments at Sandia’s Z facility, and later declares “No funding shall be used to design, prepare, or execute a scaled experiment.”  There is extensive language regarding the Inertial Confinement Fusion Ignition and High-Yield Campaign, for which the requested funds were provided.  Regarding the National Ignition Facility, the report states: “the Committee remains concerned about NNSA’s ability to achieve ignition - the primary purpose of constructing the facility - by the end of fiscal year 2012 when the National Ignition Campaign ends and the facility should transition to regular ignition operations and pursues broad scientific applications.” The appropriators direct an independent advisory board be established, and mandates a report by November 30, 2012 if the facility that does not achieve ignition, meeting a specified criteria, by September 30, 2012.

DEFENSE NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION:

The FY 2011 appropriation was $2,273.7 million
The FY 2012 administration request was $2,519.5 million
The FY 2012 House-passed bill provides $2,091.8 million, a decrease of $181.9 million or 8.0 percent from the current budget.
The Senate Appropriations Committee bill provides $2,383.3 million, an increase of $109.6 million or 4.8 percent.

The opening paragraph of this section that starts on page 107 states “The Committee commends NNSA for making significant progress in meeting the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials within 4 years,” later explaining “The Committee encourages NNSA to continue its accelerated efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear materials.”

Appropriators provided the requested funding for Nonproliferation and Verification Research and Development, and support the one-time investment to modernize the Global Seismographic Network to “monitor compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty” and for the detection of other foreign nuclear tests.  The committee stresses that NNSA should do more to transfer new technologies to customers such as the Department of Homeland Security.  This section also includes the following paragraph:

“The Committee also encourages NNSA to accelerate efforts to find alternatives to helium-3 for radiation detection technologies, especially portal monitors that are deployed at ports and border crossings to detect radiation and prevent the smuggling of nuclear material into the United States. The Committee is concerned that critical shortages of this gas may limit deployments of this critical technology. NNSA’s success in finding alternatives will benefit other Government agencies.”

In the section on Nonproliferation and International Security on page 108, the report states “The Committee believes that this program to assist weapons scientists in Russia and other countries needs to be reassessed. NNSA has not provided sufficient justification to the Committee on the continuing nonproliferation benefits of this program, especially the continuing threat posed by scientists in Russia and other countries who once worked on weapons of mass destruction programs, and whether improved economic conditions in these countries merit U.S. aid.”

Other sections in the report detail the appropriators’ recommendations regarding International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation (page 109), Fissile Materials Disposition (page 110) and Naval Reactors (page 112). In the section starting on page 111 on the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, the appropriators state:

“The Committee supports NNSA’s efforts to accelerate the shut down or conversion of research reactors that use highly enriched uranium [HEU] around the world. HEU-fueled research reactors have some of the world’s weakest security measures and a determined terrorist could use HEU reactor fuel for a nuclear device. The Committee agrees that eliminating these HEU stockpiles should be a priority and directly supports efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear materials because once a reactor is converted or shut down, the HEU fuel can be shipped to the United States or Russia for permanent disposition and would no longer pose a threat. Despite the slow progress in converting or shutting down HEU-fueled research reactors in Russia, the Committee commends NNSA for reaching agreements quickly with other countries, such as China and the Czech Republic, to convert or shut down their reactors.”

Regarding Moly-99, this section of the report explains:

“The Committee also supports related activities such as developing high density low enriched uranium fuel to convert high performance HEU-fueled reactors and developing a capability which does not currently exist in the United States to produce Moly-99 - a medical isotope used in 16 million nuclear medicine procedures in the United States each year - with low enriched uranium.  The Committee notes the significant achievement of South Africa’s ability to convert their reactor from HEU to low enriched uranium fuel to produce Moly-99 and that the United States received the first shipment of Moly-99 produced with low enriched fuel in December 2010.”   

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
rjones@aip.org
301-209-3095