FY17 Appropriations Bills: National Nuclear Security Administration

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Publication date: 
5 May 2016
Number: 
54

Both the House and Senate fiscal year 2017 appropriations bills for the National Nuclear Security Administration would provide just shy of the requested $12.876 billion and would match the request for the three main subaccounts. However, there are some notable differences beneath these topline agreements.

The House and Senate fiscal year 2017 Department of Energy appropriations bills which recently received committee approval both nearly meet the president’s requested $349 million increase for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Furthermore, the two chambers exactly match the requested amounts for weapons activities, defense nuclear nonproliferation, and naval reactors. (See FYI #47 and FYI #50 for a summary of the Senate and House bills, respectively.)

The below table lists the House and Senate figures alongside the president’s request. More detailed tables which include figures for various subaccounts and individual facilities are available in AIP’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.

FY17 NNSA Appropriations Summary Table

Funding Line FY16
Enacted
FY17
Request
Change
16-17
House Change
16-17
Senate Change
16-17
NNSA 12,527 12,876 2.8% 12,854 2.6% 12,867 2.7%
Weapons Activities 8,847 9,285 5.0% 9,285 5.0% 9,285 5.0%
Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation 1,940 1,822 -6.1% 1,822 -6.1% 1,822 -6.1%
Naval Reactors 1,376 1,420 3.2% 1,420 3.2% 1,420* 3.2%*

* As explained in the committee report, the Senate bill would transfer $68 million in funding for the Advanced Test Reactor from the Naval Reactors account to the Office of Nuclear Energy. This money is still included in the Naval Reactors account in this table to ease comparison with the other figures.

** All figures are in millions of nominal U.S. dollars and are rounded to the nearest million. The percentages are calculated based on the unrounded figures.

The increases to weapons activities and naval reactors are largely being driven by a ramp-up in work related to stewardship of the nuclear weapons stockpile and development of a reactor for the Navy’s next generation of nuclear submarines. Both the House and Senate bills would fully fund the current set of warhead life extension programs and the Ohio-class submarine replacement reactor, an indication of the high level of support for these programs.

The decrease to nuclear nonproliferation activities is in large part due to the chilling of relations between the U.S. and Russia impeding cooperation in this area and the proposed termination of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility.

Despite these topline agreements, there are some notable differences between the two chambers, many of which emanate from the House. In particular, the House bill would provide:

  • $106 million over the request for maintenance of facilities to help NNSA further reduce its backlog of deferred maintenance;
  • $70 million over the request (using unexpended prior year balances) for construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, a rebuke to the administration’s proposed termination of the project;
  • $45 million below the request for construction of the Uranium Processing Facility;
  • $29 million below the request for advanced simulation and computing;
  • $14 million extra for domestic production of molybdenum-99;
  • No funds for work on nonproliferation activities with Russia;
  • None of the requested $12 million for development of an advanced radiographic facility at the Nevada National Security Site and none of the requested $7.5 million for the Enhanced Capabilities for Subcritical Experiments project, asking NNSA to provide more justification for these enhancements to the Stockpile Stewardship Program; and
  • Restrictions on the Chemistry and Metallurgy Replacement Project which would prevent construction of new modular facilities to enhance plutonium pit production capacity.

The Senate bill is more in step with the president’s request, however there are some differences of note. In particular, the Senate bill would provide:

  • $68 million to the Office of Nuclear Energy from the Naval Reactors account for operations and maintenance of the Advanced Test Reactor user facility at Idaho National Laboratory;
  • $20 million below the request for the High Performance Research Reactor Program;
  • $12.5 million below the request for academic alliances and partnerships; and
  • $10 million above the request for the Stockpile Responsiveness Program which is meant to provide the nuclear weapons workforce with more opportunities to exercise the full range of weapons stewardship and design skills.

Comparison of the House and Senate committee reports

Below are a set of expandable tabs which contain excerpts from the explanatory reports that accompany the House and Senate bills.

Weapons Activities

Life Extension Programs

Senate: “The Committee recommends $1,340,341,000 for Life Extension Programs and Major Alterations, which fully funds all life extension programs and major alterations in the budget request, consistent with the plan of record approved by the Nuclear Weapons Council. NNSA needs to ensure that Life Extension Programs are completed on time and on budget to prevent impact on other high priorities, such as modernizing aging infrastructure, critical nonproliferation activities to combat nuclear terrorism, and naval nuclear propulsion.

"W76 Life Extension Program.—The Committee recommends $222,880,000 for the W76 Life Extension Program. Completing the W76 Life Extension Program, which makes up the largest share of the country’s nuclear weapon deterrent on the most survivable leg of the Triad, is this Committee’s highest priority for life extension programs. B61 Life Extension Program.—The Committee recommends $616,079,000 for the B61 Life Extension Program. The Committee supports the Nuclear Weapons Council plan to retire the B83, the last megaton class weapon in the stockpile, by 2025. W88 Alt 370.—The Committee recommends $281,129,000 for the W88 Alt 370.”

House: “Life Extension Programs.—The recommendation provides full funding for the NNSA’s life extension programs, including the ongoing refurbishment efforts for the B61, W76, W88, and W80 warheads. The Committee remains concerned about the aggressive schedule to accomplish the delivery of concurrent life extension programs for the B61 and W88 in the 2020–2025 timeframe. In fiscal year 2016, the Committee directed the NNSA to investigate work levelling strategies for the W88 that would help alleviate these pressures and the Committee expects the NNSA to continue to make progress on these efforts.

“Life Extension Program Reporting.—The present format of the Selected Acquisition Reports submitted to the Committees provides little, if any, explanatory information on the progress and planning of the NNSA’s life extension and major refurbishment programs. The NNSA is directed to provide to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress a classified summary of each on-going life extension and major refurbishment beginning with the award of the phase 6.3 milestone and annually thereafter until completion of the program.”

Nuclear Cruise Missile

Senate: “The Committee directs the Secretary of Energy, in conjunction with the Nuclear Weapons Council, to submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations of both the House and Senate, no later than 180 days after enactment of this act, to include: a military justification for the Long Range Stand-Off missile and its operational capabilities; whether the Nuclear Weapons Council has directed the study of additional operational capabilities for the W80– 4 relative to the W80–1 warhead; a detailed explanation of the extent to which conventional explosive systems can meet the same or similar military objectives as the Long Range Standoff weapon; a description of the blast, thermal and radiation spread of an atmospheric W80–4 nuclear explosion in representative operational employment conditions; a description of alternatives leading to the August, 2014 Nuclear Weapons Council decision to use the W80 warhead for the Long Range Standoff weapon; and a comprehensive description and justification of all design options and associated systems and subsystems under evaluation in Phase 6.2, including whether the system or subsystem option is driven by aging, safety, security, or use control concerns.”

Domestic Uranium Enrichment

House: “The NNSA is currently undertaking a new down-blending campaign and is bartering proceeds from the sale of unencumbered low-enriched uranium to meet its down-blending costs. According to the NNSA, the amounts planned to be bartered could fuel up to five single-reactor reloads for tritium production. The NNSA is directed to provide the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress updated costs to implement Option 2 as soon as possible. In addition, the NNSA is directed to provide to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress, not later than 30 days after the enactment of this Act a report that describes clear milestones for activities to be carried out by the domestic uranium enrichment program, including a roadmap for any centrifuge technology research and development that might contribute to establishing a domestic uranium enrichment capability in order to meet U.S. national security needs.”

Weapons Science and Workforce

Senate: “The Committee commends NNSA for completing the Dynamic Compression Sector experiment at the Advanced Photon Source at the Argonne National Laboratory on time and on budget. This first of its kind experimental facility will help address gaps in understanding materials at extreme conditions that directly support the Stockpile Stewardship Mission and train the next generation of researchers. The Committee encourages NNSA to maximize the use of this new capability. As the first successful collaboration between NNSA, the Office of Science, and an academic institution, the Committee believes this project should serve as a model for future scientific collaborations between NNSA and the Office of Science to address long-standing scientific challenges of stockpile stewardship in a cost effective manner.

“Current world events confirm the dynamic nature of the global threats we face today and confirm the need for a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent. Central to this priority is recruiting and retaining a world-class workforce consisting of scientists, engineers, and technicians to sustain the Nation’s deterrent without nuclear explosive testing. The nuclear security enterprise must be able to effectively respond to emerging threats, unanticipated events, and technological innovation through science and engineering—all while continuing to carry out the necessary activities in support of the stockpile. The Committee notes NNSA’s successes in this regard and encourages NNSA to continue to prioritize efforts within Research, Development, Test & Evaluation to improve certification capabilities. As such, within the funds available for Advanced Certification, the Committee recommends $10,000,000 above the budget request for NNSA to carry out section 3112 of the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.”

House: “The Committee recommendation fully funds the subcritical experiments that are necessary to gather data and improve the physics-based computational models used for the annual assessment and certification of the nuclear weapons stockpile. Within Advanced Radiography, up to $5,000,000 is available to support development activities that could significantly reduce the cost of new radiographic drivers, including activities to reduce x-ray spot size and improve existing pulsed power components. The recommendation does not include $7,500,000 requested within Advanced Radiography for Enhanced Capabilities for Subcritical Experiments.”

Inertial Confinement Fusion

Senate: “The Committee recommends $522,959,000 for the inertial confinement fusion ignition and high-yield campaign. The Committee supports the recent comprehensive Inertial Confinement Fusion Program Framework that details program requirements, milestones and metrics, and clear priorities for diagnostic investments that advance the three approaches to ignition and thermonuclear burning plasma capabilities primarily pursued at the National Ignition Facility, Z and Omega for the Stockpile Stewardship Program.”

House: “The Committee recommends $522,959,000, $11,909,000 above fiscal year 2016 and the same as the budget request. Within this amount, $68,000,000 is for the OMEGA Laser Facility at the University of Rochester, $330,000,000 is for the National Ignition Facility, and $8,500,000 is for the Naval Research Laboratory. The Committee recognizes the need of pursuing complementary approaches to a fusion demonstration and high energy density physics research in order to ensure the long term viability of the Stockpile Stewardship Program. In addition, the Committee encourages the Department to develop a strategy and appropriate funding for next generation pulsed power technology and mission applications, including support for university-based research.”

Exascale Computing

Senate: “The Committee recommends $663,184,000 for advanced simulation and computing. Within these funds, the Committee recommends no less than $95,000,000 for activities associated with the exascale initiative, such as advanced system architecture design contracts with vendors and advanced weapons code development to effectively use new high performance computing platforms. The Committee is concerned that there is no clear distinction between the efforts within the NNSA and the Office of Science, and no way to determine if the work is complementary or duplicative. The Secretary is directed to provide a report to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees no later than 90 days after enactment of this act, which describes the roles and responsibilities of the NNSA and the Office of Science associated with exascale computing.”

Advanced Radiographic Facility

House: “The budget request included line-item and operating funds to support the construction of an advanced radiographic facility at the Nevada National Security Site. The recommendation includes no funding for this facility. The new facility is a substantial investment, with total costs currently reported to be upwards of $342,000,000, and the Committee is concerned that the NNSA is not utilizing best practices in managing these investments. The NNSA did not provide a project data sheet for the experimental facility in the Science program that would outline the cost, scope, and schedule for the capability and it is not clear whether the entirety of the project is being carried out in accordance with DOE Order 413.3B. To improve practices, the NNSA is directed to fully implement guidelines established by the DOE Office of Science that clearly define requirements for major items of equipment (MIE). Specifically, if the associated civil construction is less than the limit for general plant projects and is less than 20 percent of the equipment costs, the project is to be considered an MIE. If either of these thresholds is exceeded, the project would be considered line-item construction.

“To improve its justification of the mission need for the new capability, the NNSA is directed to commission the JASONs Defense Advisory Group to investigate the need for new radiographic facilities, independently validate any gaps between experimental needs to certify the nuclear weapons stockpile and present experimental capabilities, and determine whether there is adequate planning to justify investing in those capabilities. A report of the findings shall be provided to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress in sufficient time to support consideration of future requests for funding.”

Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project

House: “04–D–125, Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) Replacement Project, LANL.—The Committee recommends $150,615,000, $4,995,000 below fiscal year 2016 and $9,000,000 below the request. The remaining funds requested within 04–D–125 have been provided separately, as described below. The Committee supports the NNSA’s efforts to refine the scope required to cease all operations at the legacy CMR building in 2019, a deteriorating and obsolete facility built in 1952 that no longer provides adequate space to meet the NNSA’s mission needs.

“In House Report 113–486, the Committee provided clear direction to the NNSA regarding the conduct of follow-on work that is needed to recapitalize the plutonium infrastructure at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Committee limited the scope of activities to be conducted under the existing CMR Replacement Project to that of the original mission need for the project, that is, to relocate existing analytic chemistry and materials characterization capabilities from the legacy facility. The Committee provided further guidance that the construction of new modular facilities and installation of equipment within PF–4 to increase pit production were not sufficiently related to the original mission need of the existing authorized project and stated its opposition to including these activities as additional subprojects. Each of these projects are major undertakings in their own right and represent new starts that should be managed in full accordance with DOE Order 413.3B. If the requested change in scope were approved, the CMR Replacement project would be stretched out until fiscal year 2024, twenty years after its start date of fiscal year 2004 and thirteen years beyond the original completion date of fiscal year 2011. Such a tortured and drawn-out replacement of a single legacy facility over a twenty-year time period is hardly a statement of project success.”

Uranium Processing Facility

Senate: “06–D–141, Uranium Processing Facility, Y–12, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.—The Committee recommends $575,000,000 to continue design and engineering work as well as site readiness and site preparation projects for the Uranium Processing Facility. The Committee supports efforts to replace existing enriched uranium capabilities currently residing in Building 9212 by 2025 for not more than $6.5 billion. The Committee supports the strategy of breaking the project into more manageable sub-projects. This practice is specifically permitted by DOE Order 413.3B, and is a practical approach for this project. The Committee expects the Secretary to ensure full compliance with the Department’s requirement to have a design that is at least 90 percent complete before approving the start of construction for the nuclear facilities. The Committee is encouraged that the NNSA plans to complete at least 90 percent of the design of the project’s nuclear facilities by the end of 2017, and expects to start construction shortly thereafter. In order to make a smooth transition from design to construction, the NNSA must have adequate resources available to review Critical Decision documents from the contractor. The Committee directs the NNSA to provide the plan for reviewing those documents to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees with the fiscal year 2018 budget request.”

House: “06–D–141, Uranium Processing Facility (UPF), Y–12.—The Committee recommends $530,000,000, $100,000,000 above fiscal year 2016 and $45,000,000 below the budget request. The viability of the NNSA’s redesigned project is heavily dependent on achieving a lower hazard categorization for certain subprojects and safety-related design issues have been significant cost drivers for the Department’s major projects. The NNSA is directed to conduct, in consultation with the Office of Enterprise Assessments and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent design review of the UPF project that will assess the adequacy of the design to meet nuclear safety requirements and to submit a design report to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act.”

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Senate: “The Manhattan Project National Historical Park tells an important story in our Nation’s history: the development and production of the technology and materials necessary to create the world’s first atomic bomb. The new Park has locations in Hanford, Washington, Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. It is administered and operated by the National Park Service in conjunction with the Department of Energy, which is working towards cleanup of these nuclear waste sites. The Committee directs the Department of Energy to submit an implementation plan to Committees on Appropriations of the House and the Senate no later than 180 after enactment of this act that details infrastructure needs, transition activities, schedule, and funding requirements to make these sites fully available to the public under the auspices of the National Park Service.”

Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation

Prohibition on Work with Russia

House: “Continuing U.S. Nonproliferation Activities in Russia.—The recommendation includes no new funds to enter into contracts and agreements with Russia in fiscal year 2017, the same as fiscal year 2016.”

National Academies Study on Plutonium Disposal

House: “National Academy of Sciences Review.—The Secretary of Energy is proposing to move forward with a concept to emplace large quantities of pit and non-pit plutonium in order to support U.S. commitments under the Plutonium Management Disposition Agreement (PMDA) with Russia. The amount of radioactive materials under consideration may exceed the authorized disposal limits of the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act (LWA) and the NNSA has not yet conducted the required safety and environmental analyses required to support the alternative. Section 17 of the LWA provides a process to evaluate and publish analyses of plans for operating WIPP with respect to health, safety, and environmental issues.

"In accordance with this established statutory mandate, the NNSA shall commission the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a review of the Secretary’s conceptual plans to dispose of surplus plutonium to include considerations of transportation, operations, performance assessment, compliance with Environmental Protection Agency and other regulations, safety analyses, and any other activities required to carry out this alternative that are pertinent to the operation of WIPP. Not later than 30 days after the enactment of this Act, the NNSA shall provide to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress an update of the status of the study and an estimated date of completion for its review."

“Within Material Disposition, the recommendation includes $5,000,000, the same as in fiscal year 2016, to continue to develop the conceptual plans of the MOX Alternative and to support independent reviews. The agreement prohibits funds from being used to dilute plutonium that could otherwise be used for MOX feedstock or to meet U.S. commitments under the PMDA”

Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility

House: “The Committee recommends $340,000,000 for the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility project, the same as fiscal year 2016 and $70,000,000 above the budget request. The recommendation provides sufficient funding to sustain the current pace of construction on the MOX facility in fiscal year 2017 and includes a provision that prohibits the use of MOX funding to place the project in cold standby. The recommendation directs the use of $70,000,000 in prior-year balances that remain unexecuted because of the moratorium on new nonproliferation activities in Russia, in order to fully offset those costs in fiscal year 2017. The Committee remains concerned that scuttling the MOX project prior to commencing negotiations on modifications to the agreement will limit U.S. options and will lead to further cost growth if the project is later restarted. Furthermore, without a legislative proposal that would describe the legal foundation needed for carrying out the proposed alternative, the Department may incur fines that were not accounted for in the NNSA’s cost analysis, costs which could surpass any savings assumed to be generated in this budget request by terminating construction in fiscal year 2017.”

Domestic Mo-99 Production

Senate: “The Committee continues to place a high priority on the development of domestic supplies of the medical isotope Molybdenum-99 [Moly-99] on a schedule adequate to meet public health needs. The Committee is encouraged by the progress made in establishing two or more domestic sources of Moly-99. NNSA is currently executing three cooperative agreements. In addition, there are at least seven other companies working to produce non-HEU-based Moly-99 without Government support. The Committee directs the Department to request funds sufficient to adequately support current and future cooperative agreement commitments and urges the Department to reconsider cost sharing caps as necessary in order to ensure timely supplies of this critical medical isotope.”

House: “Domestic Production of Mo-99.—The Committee recommendation includes $44,900,000, $14,000,000 above the budget request. The NNSA’s nonproliferation program has spearheaded efforts to support domestic Mo-99 production without the use of HEU, but its program has not met timelines in the American Medical Isotopes Production Act (AMIPA) and the cooperative agreements closest to production rely on the use of research reactors that use HEU. Furthermore, the U.S. may continue to rely on the purification services of other nations to meet U.S. demand. While the National Academy of Sciences is undertaking a review that will help provide direction, independent reviews conducted to date have recommended lifting the nominal $25,000,000 cap imposed by the NNSA. The Committee encourages the NNSA to use these and unencumbered prior year balances for HEU minimization activities to competitively award new cooperative agreements that are funded up to the full amount of the 50/50 government/industry cost share authorized by AMIPA. In particular, the NNSA is encouraged to consider the needs of green-field projects that may require a higher initial investment to be viable, but that do not rely on HEU and that may provide a more stable long-term domestic supply through diversification.

...

“Material Management and Minimization.—A significant portion of the highly-enriched uranium (HEU) minimization efforts going forward will involve multi-year research and development activities. To better align research and development-related activities with resident expertise for managing such activities within the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, the recommendation shifts funding responsibility for the development of fuel for high performance research reactors and for demonstrating and commercially deploying domestic-based technologies for the production of the medical isotope Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) to Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Research and Development. Within Conversion, the recommendation includes funding requested for the conversion of international research reactors, including activities for Mo-99 production by international suppliers, at the full amounts requested for those activities.”

Nonproliferation Research and Development

Senate: “The Committee recommends $406,922,000 for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Research and Development. Within available funds, the Committee recommends not less than $3,000,000 to be used for Ionizing Radiation Detector Development. The Committee supports a robust research and development capability to support nonproliferation initiatives, and does not support the drastic reductions proposed in the budget request. Proliferation of illicit nuclear materials and weapons continues to be high-consequence threat, and our ability to detect the production and movement of these materials is vitally important. Research and development in this area is especially important.”

House: “The Committee recommends $491,566,000, $72,233,000 above fiscal year 2016 and $97,644,000 above the budget request. Within that amount, the recommendation includes $97,644,000, $14,000,000 above the budget request, to develop fuels for high performance research reactors and to demonstrate domestic-based technologies for Mo-99 production that utilize low-enriched uranium.

“Material Management and Minimization.—A significant portion of the highly-enriched uranium (HEU) minimization efforts going forward will involve multi-year research and development activities. To better align research and development-related activities with resident expertise for managing such activities within the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, the recommendation shifts funding responsibility for the development of fuel for high performance research reactors and for demonstrating and commercially deploying domestic-based technologies for the production of the medical isotope Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) to Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Research and Development. Within Conversion, the recommendation includes funding requested for the conversion of international research reactors, including activities for Mo-99 production by international suppliers, at the full amounts requested for those activities.”

High Performance Research Reactors

Senate: “The Committee recommends $32,744,000 for the U.S. High Performance Research Reactor Program, a reduction of $20,000,000 from the budget request. Funds and program activities should be focused on fuel development for research reactors with lower peak power density requirements outside of the Department of Energy.”

House: “A recent National Academies study of the NNSA’s HEU minimization program found that the highest performance research reactors will require new low-enriched fuels to maintain performance and that the timeline for development of those fuels will take much longer than expected due to obstacles that are primarily technical. Considering the extended timelines, the NNSA is directed to provide to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress, not later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act, a long-term roadmap with clear milestones and off-ramps for the development of fuels that are needed to support conversion goals. The roadmap shall incorporate regular independent technical and programmatic evaluations, as recommended by the National Academies.”

Naval Reactors

Advanced Test Reactor

Senate: "The Advanced Test Reactor [ATR] is an important research platform for nuclear testing and development, and is operated as a User Facility with broad applications across multiple programs. Historically, the operations and maintenance of the ATR has been funded in both the Naval Reactors and the Nuclear Energy accounts. External users other than Naval Reactors only pay for the incremental costs of their specific tests. The Committee supports adequate funding for the operations and maintenance of the ATR, but is consolidating the funding within the Nuclear Energy budget. As such, no funding is provided within the Naval Reactors account for ATR operations and maintenance. Naval Reactors should continue to fund NR-specific needs at ATR just like any other external user."