2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: marylia@earthlink.net
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2000 17:43:34 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] NIF and the Congress
Dear colleagues: Here is an update (and next steps) on the budget process
and the National Ignition Facility. Thanks to the Green Scissors Coalition
groups and others for their work on this. Read on... Marylia

Congress and the NIF: Budget Honeymoon May Be Ending

by Marylia Kelley

from Tri-Valley CAREs' July newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On June 1, 2000, the Dept. of Energy (DOE) missed its
Congressionally-mandated deadline to deliver a certified "rebaseline" of
the full cost to taxpayers for the problem-plagued National Ignition
Facility (NIF), currently under construction at Livermore Lab.

Instead, DOE requested a three-month extension, until mid-September. This
conveniently puts off delivery of the NIF  rebaseline until after Congress
finishes with the Fiscal Year 2001 budget. So, we taxpayers and lawmakers
alike are asked to take it on faith that DOE will control NIF's ballooning
costs and successfully resolve the mega-laser's various mission, managerial
and technical uncertainties.

On June 27, the NIF faced its first serious budget challenge when two
conscientious Congressmen, Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH),
offered an amendment to cut $74.1 million from NIF's construction funding.

There would be only 36 hours between the time the Rules Committee allowed
their amendment and the vote on the floor of the House.

The two Representatives were gathering substantial support from both
parties, momentum was building to cut NIF and, as the public got wind of
it, there was an encouraging grassroots response.

Still, it seemed an impossibly short turn around time, and  the vote
wouldn't actually come to the floor until after 10 PM Tuesday. These
factors would hamper the valiant efforts of Ryan and Kucinich to achieve
the amendment's passage.

Kudos are in order for the fine speeches made by both Representatives,
covering all of the following: the multi-billion dollar cost overruns;
schedule slippages of a half-decade or more; scientific uncertainties; the
pending GAO report; the missing rebaseline; the myth of NIF's necessity to
maintenance of the arsenal; its proliferation risks; its role in promoting
a return to full-scale U.S. nuclear testing and more.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) submitted testimony citing NIF's radioactive
wastes and stating eloquently that NIF "symbolizes the American failure to
lead the way on global arms control."

On the other side, Livermore Lab and DOE pulled out all the stops in order
to defeat the amendment. Interestingly, but not unexpectedly, several Reps.
who rose to oppose cutting NIF offered arguments taken directly from
Livermore Lab's lobbying materials, in some cases reading them word for
word off the page.

Leading the charge to oppose the amendment was Rep. Ellen Tauscher
(D-Livermore), who relied on the same old fallacies that Livermore Lab has
been selling since 1995, namely that NIF is a "cornerstone" of Stockpile
Stewardship, and "the best way to ensure the safety and reliability of our
nuclear weapons." (See box with quotes from prominent scientists, below.)

The one novel argument Tauscher offered was that the U.S. had already spent
nearly a billion on NIF and that in and of itself justified spending more.

The House Appropriations Committee Chair, Ron Packard (R-Oceanside), spoke
against the amendment but expressed misgivings about the NIF program. The
jury is still out, he said.

All in all, the Ryan-Kucinich NIF  amendment made a strong showing, but
failed on a voice vote.

Now the budget debate will move to the Senate. Upon its return from the
July 4th holiday, the Senate is expected to vote on its Appropriations
bill. That vote will specify how big a check the Senate is willing to write
for  NIF.

If the Senate cuts (or increases) NIF's budget, then any differences
between the House and Senate funding levels would be negotiated in

Stay tuned.

__________________ Scientists on NIF __________________________

Experts decry the myth that NIF is needed for maintaining nuclear weapons
"safety" & "reliability"

Edward Teller, known as the father of the hydrogen bomb, when asked about
the NIF's utility for this task, replied: "None whatsoever." Los Alamos
physicist Rod Schultz wrote in a lab publication that NIF's touted
importance to the weapons stockpile does "not reflect the technical
judgment of the nuclear weapons design community." Sandia Lab's former
vice-president Bob Peurifoy called NIF "worthless" for maintenance of the
arsenal. In a separate interview with another newspaper, Livermore weapons
scientist Seymour Sack called NIF "worse than worthless" for that task. Ray
Kidder, another Livermore Lab physicist, said: "As far as maintaining the
stockpile is concerned, [NIF] is not necessary." (Sources: Tri-Valley
Herald, Contra Costa Times, Albuquerque Tribune & Science Magazine.)

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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