The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has revealed that it has spent all of our money. Busted flat. Nothing left. Nada. Zilch. Nichts.
Well, that’s what it seems like at the NNSA has notified GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy that there are no funds available to convert a test reactor in Vallecitos, California from weapon-grade uranium (highly enriched uranium, HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU), as part of an nuclear non-proliferation effort.
On March 25, 2021, NNSA told GE Hitac hi Nuclear Energy: “you are hereby notified that Department of Energy funding will not be available in fiscal year 2021 to complete the conversion of NTR to LEU fuel.” And GE subsequently told the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that ” DOE funding is not currently available for conversion of the NTR fuel.”
See: “GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas, LLC – Annual Statement of Non-availability of Federal Government Funding for Conversion from HEU to LEU for VNC Nuclear Test Reactor (NTR) at https://adamswebsearch2.nrc.gov/webSearch2/main.jsp?AccessionNumber=ML21084A808
BUT WAIT! NNSA continues to front for boosters and contractors engaged in project to convert the abandoned plutonium fuel (MOX) plant at the Savannah River Site into the SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant (PBP) at a cost of $4.6 billion (add higher number if you wish) by 2030 (add any date you wish). So, there seems to be money available for projects dangerous to our national security – making plutonium pits for unneeded and provocative new nuclear weapons – but not a penny left to get HEU out of commerce. This confirms that the priorities of NNSA are totally screwed up and that it’s placing contractor enrichment and parochial politics above national security. Congress must make sure that the HEU conversion program is fully funded and that the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (with W87-1 warhead) and the new SLBM (with W93 warhead) – the first new weapons to get new plutonium pits – are terminated and funded halted. As in nada, zilch, nothing.
And, to further reveal the NNSA is broke, there is no money to convert the MIT reactor from HEU to LEU. See MIT Nuclear Laboratory letter to the NRC, February 25, 2021: “Proposal for Conversion to Low Enriched Uranium (LEU), MIT Research Reactor, Docket No. 50-20, 10 CFR 50.64 (c)(2)(ii) of that paragraph.” Letter linked here, on ADAMS: https://adamswebsearch2.nrc.gov/webSearch2/main.jsp?AccessionNumber=ML21063A255