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INDICATORS

Nonrenewable

Indicators: Sept. 21

September 21, 2011, 12:00 am
$16.9 billion is the amount the Senate recommended the US Department of Energy spend next fiscal year on atomic energy defense activities.

$1.8 billion is the recommended spending on renewable energy investment, including geothermal and solar technology, and weatherization.

I would argue that what supposedly we gain in extra money for weapons—that’s bad in its own right—but it’s also costing us more money in terms of the other cuts.—Don Hancock, director of the nuclear waste program at the Southwest Research and Information Center’s Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy

After all the lip service paid to the importance of renewable energy, and after the disaster in Fukushima, Japan, raised awareness of the danger inherent in nuclear technology, investing in clean energy might seem a logical goal for the DOE.

Not so fast. The Senate recommended Sept. 8 that DOE invest just 7 percent of its budget in renewable energy development projects, and 66 percent on defense-related atomic energy, including weapons development.

Locally, it added $40 million to what the House Committee on Appropriations voted in August to spend this year on construction of the Los Alamos National Laboratory plutonium processing plant called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility.

Hancock says, at this point, it’s hard to know how much money New Mexico is losing due to the disappointing federal renewable energy allocation—but even the increased CMRR funding could have adverse results.

The more money the federal government spends building up nuclear weapons research and development in New Mexico, the more cleanup will ultimately be needed, Hancock says. Underfunding cleanup efforts to pay for CMRR, he adds, will only exacerbate those costs.

“In 2013 and subsequent years, they’re going to have to spend more to make up for that shortfall,” Hancock says. Additionally, the Senate stuck with the House’s meager recommendations for cleanup allocations at LANL and at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, where some radioactive waste from LANL is taken.

“It’s the nuclear weapons complex that’s bloated, not the cleanup,” Hancock says.

 

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