Continuing Resolution Vote Wipes out Gold-Plated Plutonium Pit Factory

September 23, 2012


Elimination of Project Budget Dooms Unnecessary Facility, Signals Lower Priority for Nukes

Washington, DC – With the recent House and Senate approval of the six-month Continuing Resolution for fiscal year 2013 appropriations, Congress has zeroed out a multi-billion dollar nuclear bomb plant.  The plant, known as the Chemical and Metallurgical Research Replacement (CMRR) facility, is based at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and was estimated to cost up to $6 billion. The congressional move indefinitely delays plans for the CMRR’s construction and most likely terminates the project.  

“This is a victory for good government,” said Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund. “This plutonium plant was unnecessary for our national security and had become a bottomless money pit. We’re just as safe and fiscally better off without it.”

Critics of the CMRR – both inside and outside of government – have spent years warning that the project was too costly and unnecessary for maintaining our nuclear weapons arsenal. The project was intended to have quadrupled the nation’s capacity to produce plutonium pits, the spheres at the core of modern nuclear weapons.  Yet given current U.S. plans to shed excessive nuclear weapons, there was no justifiable rationale for the continuation of the proposed CMRR or its aggressive expansion of nuclear warhead production capacity.

Ploughshares Fund was pleased to support several organizations – including Nuke Watch New Mexico, the Project on Government Oversight, the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Union of Concerned Scientists and Friends Committee on National Legislation – that helped shed light on CMRR’s failures and encouraged Congress to cancel it.

Adding to the controversy, the project costs had grown uncontrollably from an original estimate of $375 million to between $4 and $6 billion.  And despite criticism about the impact of it’s closure on the local economy,, according to a study by the Department of Energy, there would be “little or no noticeable socioeconomic impact” beyond the loss of a few hundred temporary construction jobs.

“With pressure to reduce defense spending, there is no room in the budget for projects like the CMRR that fail to enhance our national security,” said Benjamin Loehrke, senior policy analyst at Ploughshares Fund. “The days of unquestioned spending on nuclear weapons are drawing to a close.”

As long as the nation maintains a nuclear arsenal, it will be necessary to keep those weapons safe and secure. The CMRR, however, was intended solely to expand the nuclear weapons complex. The elimination of CMRR funding is a positive step away from unrestrained spending on nuclear weapons. Leading security and policy experts, including former commander of our nation’s strategic forces Gen. James Cartwright, now argue that the current composition of the nation’s nuclear arsenal does not address today’s national security threats. A decision to move toward a smaller nuclear arsenal could likely lead to the cancellation of more unnecessary projects like the CMRR, helping to effectively reshape the nation’s military to address today’s security challenges.