2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: marylia@earthlink.net
Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2000 09:36:55 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] DOE misses NIF deadline
Hi peace and enviro advocates:

I thought you might be interested in an article detailing DOE's missing the
congressionally-mandated deadline to "rebaseline" the cost of the National
Ignition Facility. By June 1, 2000, the Department was suppossed to have
provided Congress with either the price tag for the problem-plagued
mega-laser or with the estimated costs to close out the project, according
to last year's House and Senate Conference Committee Report. On June 1, DOE
did neither, sending instead a request for a three month extension. This
article is from the Tri-Valley Herald, the story was covered in the San
Francisco Chronicle and other papers as well. Read on...

Tri-Valley Herald -- Friday, June 2, 2000
by Glenn Roberts Jr.

LIVERMORE -- Energy Department officials asked Congress on Thursday for a
three-month extension to complete a report on the revised cost and schedule
of a troubled laser project at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.

Members of Congress had requested the report by Thursday under threat that
the National Ignition Facility laser project under construction at
Livermore Lab would otherwise be dismantled.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Gioconda, acting assistant secretary for Energy
Department defense programs, said Thursday that the Energy Department has
instead submitted preliminary estimates to Congress for the National
Ignition Facility project.

"We are requesting more time from Congress to make sure we go through a
detailed review," Gioconda said. "We have not completed a bottoms-up

A final report will be submitted to Congress in mid-September. Gioconda
said he is hopeful that Congress will be patient. "I'm hoping that they
evaluate the path forward and accept that path forward."

U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a Democrat who lives in Alamo, said Thursday
through a spokesman that she has not had time to review the preliminary
report, which was released late in the day.

The preliminary report was submitted to congressional committees with
oversight of Energy Department appropriations, he said. A stadium-size
nuclear weapons research tool, NIF was designed to blast BB-size pellets of
radioactive fuel with 192 high-power X-ray laser beams. NIF construction
began in 1997.

According to the preliminary estimates, NIF has almost doubled in cost --
to $2.1 billion -- and is about six years behind schedule. And considering
all NIF-related research and development, coupled with the project cost,
the total price tag is estimated at $3.3 billion.

In the approaching budget year, Livermore Lab is expected to cut other
programs by about $63 million to help pay for NIF cost overruns and about
$32 million will be taken from other Energy Department facilities.

Gioconda said it is not yet certain where the rest of the estimated $1
billion cost increase will be taken from, though Energy Secretary Bill
Richardson has said that costs would be at the expense of other programs
within the Energy Department, at no added cost to taxpayers.

NIF problems surfaced last year, when lab and Energy Department officials
initially estimated that NIF was about $350 million over budget and 12 to
18 months behind schedule.

Richardson reprimanded Livermore Lab officials in August 1999 for
withholding information about the project troubles.

In September 1999, a congressional committee asked Richardson to "complete
and certify a new cost and schedule" by June 1. "If the secretary is unable
to provide such a certification, the Department should prepare an estimate
of the costs necessary to terminate the project."

Susan Houghton, a Livermore Lab spokeswoman, said the lab is working to
prepare a revised cost and schedule for NIF based on the Energy
Department's decision in May on how to proceed with the project.

"We're just starting (that process)," Houghton said.

Marylia Kelley, executive director for Tri-Valley Communities Against a
Radioactive Environment, an anti-nuclear group based in Livermore, said she
expects that the lateness of the final cost and schedule report will erode
congressional confidence in the project.

She said the delayed report also will allow the lab to continue to spend
millions on NIF and increase the overall investment in the project, which
will make it more difficult for Congress to say "no" on NIF.

NIF may "eat other programs alive" at Livermore and other labs if it
continues, said Kelley, a longtime lab critic.

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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