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President’s budget calls for more spending on nuclear production

President Trump’s budget request aims to increase pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Source: Los Alamos Laboratory)

SANTA FE, N.M. — The National Nuclear Security Administration would get $19.8 billion under President Trump’s budget request for fiscal year 2021 — a 20% increase from this year’s budget — about half of which would go toward supporting the U.S.’s nuclear weapons programs.

According to a Department of Energy fact sheet distributed on Monday, $9.5 billion of NNSA’s budget would be put toward efforts to “sustain and modernize the U.S. nuclear stockpile.” Of that, $4.3 billion is earmarked for stockpile management and $2.5 billion is for production modernization to support production capabilities for nuclear weapons. That includes funds for equipment, facilities and personnel “to reestablish the Nation’s ability to produce (plutonium) pits.”

Plutonium pits are the radioactive core of a nuclear warhead that are being produced at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

NNSA’s goal is to increase production to 30 pits per year by 2026 and 80 per year by 2030 at LANL. The goal at the Savannah River Site is 50 pits per year by 2030.

“This year’s budget underscores the importance of nuclear security by increasing funding to modernize and maintain our nuclear stockpile,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said in a news release. “It focuses on intradepartmental collaboration to advance crosscutting priorities such as energy storage, security, reliability and resilience.”

The president’s budget request includes $4.4 billion to improve and modernize NNSA infrastructure and $1.7 billion for security, cybersecurity, information technology for NNSA nuclear security.

The request also allocates $2 billion for nuclear non-proliferation, including funding for counterterrorism and emergency operations to address nuclear threats.

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, says that the budget request would allocate more taxpayer dollars to the country’s nuclear weapons programs since the Cold War ended 30 years ago.

“Globally Trump’s nuclear weapons budget is fueling a new nuclear arms race,” he said in a statement. “It solidifies Los Alamos Lab’s future as a nuclear bomb plant, while nonproliferation, renewable energy and cleanup programs are held flat or cut.”

Greg Mello, of Los Alamos Study Group, said in a phone interview that if approved the increase in spending on nuclear weapons would be greatest percentage increase since the 1950s.

He asserted that Senate Republicans leveraged the president to put more money into nuclear weapons during impeachment proceedings.

“The origin of this is not President Trump,” he said of the weapons budget. “The origin in the NNSA, the labs and some very hawkish members of Congress.”

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