2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: marylia@earthlink.net
Date: Thu, 25 May 2000 09:53:15 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] TVC advisory: Sandia says cut NIF
Dear peace and environmental advocates: This is an extremely significant
development, one demonstrating erosion of support from within the Dept. of
Energy complex for the National Ignition Facility, and I trust you will
find this media advisory of interest and use. Peace, MK

For Immediate Release: Wednesday eve, May 24, 2000
Contact: Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs (925) 443-7148


In an unprecedented move, Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New
Mexico today officially broke ranks with its "sister" lab in California and
issued a public statement calling for cuts in both size and budget for the
National Ignition Facility (NIF) mega-laser, currently under construction
at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

"The apparent delay and significant increase in cost for the NIF is
sufficient that it will disrupt the investment needed at the other
laboratories, and perhaps by the production plants, by several years," said
Tom Hunter, Sandia's vice-president for nuclear weapons programs.

Today's statement puts Sandia Lab at odds with the policy of its parent
agency, the Department of Energy (DOE), which announced earlier this month
it would seek an additional $95 million for NIF in fiscal year 2001. This
increase would come on top of the $350 million already requested for the
mega-laser in the coming fiscal year. (NIF budget summary faxed upon

Following a report last year by Tri-Valley CAREs, a Livermore-based
organization that monitors nuclear weapons activities, DOE announced that
NIF was more than $350 million over budget and one and one-half years
behind schedule. With NIF the object of continuing investigations both
inside and outside of the Department, on May 3rd DOE was forced to revise
its numbers upward, admitting that NIF's construction costs would
essentially double -- from $1.2 billion to over $2 billion. Further, the
NIF construction schedule would slip five years, according to DOE, from
2003 to 2008.

"This causes us to question what is a reasonable additional investment in
the NIF," said Tom Hunter in explaining Sandia Lab's position today.

The Sandia statement calls for "a reduced project," though it stops short
of making a specific recommendation on how many of NIF's proposed 192 laser
beams should be abandoned.

"Scientists at Sandia and other DOE laboratories have been discussing a
one-quarter NIF option for some time now," said Marylia Kelley, executive
director of Tri-Valley CAREs. "It is the opinion of a number of scientists
that NIF construction should be limited to 48 laser beams."

"Many scientists at the DOE labs are worried that NIF will rob money from
other, more valuable programs," Kelley added. "For example, an astrophysics
program was recently canceled at Livermore Lab and staff scientists there
expressed a belief that their funding had been diverted to NIF."

Tri-Valley CAREs' recommendation goes one step further than Sandia's.

"We advocate cancellation of the entire NIF project," explained Kelley.
"NIF's technical problems will cause its price tag to continue to spiral
upward. Moreover, NIF is simply not a necessary facility in order to ensure
the 'safety' or the 'reliability' of existing nuclear weapons -- a fact
that many prominent weapons physicists have already pointed out," she
continued. "Add to this that NIF poses very real proliferation and
environmental risks, and you have in a nutshell the reasons we want to see
it stopped."

In the wake of jolting revelations about NIF's severe technical
difficulties, mismanagement and continuing budget overruns, the General
Accounting Office began an investigation late last year. During a recent
Congressional briefing, the GAO told members of the Science Committee that
DOE still underestimates NIF's costs by around $1.5 billion, according to a
New Mexico newspaper account.

Add the GAO's tally of the extra $1.5 billion to the current construction
estimate of $2.1 billion, and that brings the price tag for NIF to $3.6
billion, all before construction is completed in 2008 and the switch is
thrown to start NIF's proposed 192 beams.

Tri-Valley CAREs has conducted its own independent analysis of NIF costs,
and the group projects the mega-laser will consume at least $3.7 billion by
2008. "In round numbers, this is very similar to the GAO estimate," said
Kelley. "However, when the out-year program and operating costs over NIF's
'life-cycle' are factored in, that figure will balloon to $10 billion," she

-- 30 --

FYI -- a "same day" news story can be found at www.abqtrib.com, and copies
of the statement issued by Sandia National Laboratory can be obtained from
their Albuquerque press office.

Marylia Kelley
Tri-Valley CAREs
(Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
2582 Old First Street
Livermore, CA USA 94550

<http://www.igc.org/tvc/> - is our web site, please visit us there!

(925) 443-7148 - is our phone
(925) 443-0177 - is our fax

Working for peace, justice and a healthy environment since 1983, Tri-Valley
CAREs has been a member of the nation-wide Alliance for Nuclear
Accountability in the U.S. since 1989, and is a co-founding member of the
Abolition 2000 global network for the elimination of nuclear weapons, the
U.S. Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the Back From the Brink
campaign to get nuclear weapons taken off hair-trigger alert.

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