House Energy and Water Appropriations FY 2013 – A Moment to Celebrate
On June 6, the House completed consideration of the Energy and Water Appropriations measure, which provides funds for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) nuclear weapons and nuclear nonproliferation programs to address threats of nuclear terrorism.
Partisan rancor and gridlock is the order of the day in Washington, even when it comes to issues of nuclear security. The House debate on the National Defense Authorization Act was a recent prime example of this. Thus, it is particularly noteworthy that the sound bi-partisan nuclear security amendment passed with overwhelming support.
The amendment was offered by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), who was joined by Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA). It takes money from the dangerous, misguided boondoggle MOX (mixed oxide plutonium fuel program), and shifts that money to support an essential program to prevent nuclear terrorism – the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). The amendment passed 328-89.
Congressman Fortenberry has been a solid leader for the GTRI program; an essential program that is the front line of defense in our nation’s fight to prevent nuclear bomb materials from falling into the hands of terrorists. He also worked to add money to this program last year with Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), who is a fierce and effective advocate for this program. This year’s amendment would restore funding to the level requested by the Administration for Fiscal Year 2013.
It is particularly gratifying that this amendment would also cut the MOX program, which WAND has long-opposed. The MOX program aims to blend plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons with uranium for use in commercial nuclear reactor fuel. This program has been plagued by technical, financial, and scheduling problems, and no utilities have contracted to use the MOX plutonium fuel. This is one of the programs that Congressman Markey has listed to be cut in his Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures Act (SANE Act.) The process of developing and using MOX poses many dangers of proliferation of deadly plutonium, so it is particularly ironic that it siphons funding from needed nonproliferation programs such as GTRI.
Although we would have loved to see the MOX program cut entirely and even more funding provided to GTRI, we are celebrating this victory when an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress took this opportunity to speak up for investing in nuclear threat reduction and cutting a nuclear weapons boondoggle.
-Kathy Crandall Robinson, Public Policy Director