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White House announces deep cut to Los Alamos plutonium project

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The White House made official this mornings its widely anticipated decision (see Sunday’s story) to ask Congress to deeply cut the funding request for the over budget, behind schedule plutonium complex proposed for Los Alamos National Laboratory. The previous long term spending plan called for $300 million per year this year and next. Congress, led by House Republicans, already rolled that back to $200 million this year, and the administration now says it will only request $35 million for Fiscal Year 2013. (pdf explaining the decision here, see page 34 of the pdf, 26 of the document itself):

In place of CMRR for plutonium chemistry, NNSA will maximize use of the recently constructed Radiological Laboratory and Utility Office Building that will be fully equipped in April 2012, approximately one year ahead of schedule. In place of CMRR for plutonium physics, NNSA has options to share workload between other existing plutonium-capable facilities at Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories. In place of CMRR for the storage of special nuclear materials, the Budget includes $35 million to accelerate actions that process, package, and dispose of excess nuclear material and reduce material at risk in the plutonium facility at Los Alamos. If additional storage is needed, NNSA can stage plutonium for future program use in the Device Assembly Facility in Nevada. The Office of Secure Transportation Asset will execute shipments as needed.

Their argument? Essentially, “Never mind, we didn’t really need it.”

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has designed CMRR for the following stockpile missions: plutonium chemistry; plutonium physics; and storage of special nuclear materials. Construction has not begun on the nuclear facility. NNSA has determined in consultation with the national laboratories that existing infrastructure in the nuclear complex has the inherent capacity to provide adequate support for these missions.

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