June 14, 2017

VIDEO: Udall Questions NNSA Administrator on Support for National Labs in NNSA Budget

Asks for updates on Los Alamos cleanup, weapons mission, Sandia MESA complex

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/dnMSYx2nyws

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall questioned Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, under secretary for nuclear security and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) administrator, about funding for Los Alamos and Sandia national labs and other New Mexico projects in the NNSA Fiscal Year 2018 budget during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. The subcommittee is in charge of funding for the Department of Energy (DOE), NNSA and the national labs.

While Udall has expressed serious concerns about other parts of the Trump administration budget, he supports NNSA's assessment of the funding needed for numerous projects at the labs, which he called "a good starting point … that will help protect the important stockpile stewardship mission.” Projects like the NNSA Albuquerque complex building are critical to New Mexico's economy and our national security, he said, pledging to work with the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee to ensure the labs and their mission stay strong.

Udall specifically asked Klotz about the ongoing NNSA analysis of alternatives for the ongoing weapons mission at Los Alamos and asked Klotz for his commitment that the NNSA analysis will give full consideration to the costs, timeline and execution of the options under consideration.

"I understand this analysis is expected to be complete sometime this summer. It is important that NNSA avoid a decision that would unnecessarily increase the costs or timelines of the plutonium mission at Los Alamos,” Udall cautioned.

Klotz assured him that NNSA would carefully consider all factors.

Udall also asked Klotz for an update on the timeline and progress of a new cleanup contract at Los Alamos, which “is extremely important to New Mexico," Udall said. Following the February 2014 accident at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, which was traced to drums of waste packaged at Los Alamos, Udall supported DOE’s decision to remove the cleanup contract from the overall management contract for the lab and bid it out separately to a dedicated cleanup contractor. LANS LLC, the lab's primary contractor, will operate the cleanup contract on a temporary basis through October 2017 until the new contract is finalized.

"The federal government and DOE have a duty to cleanup legacy Cold War waste,” Udall reminded Klotz, who responded that he would provide such information to Udall in writing.

Finally, Udall asked about ongoing nuclear survivability work at the Microsystems and Engineering Sciences and Applications (MESA) complex at Sandia. “The Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications Complex at Sandia is currently the only trusted facility to manufacture micro-electronics for nuclear security purposes. It is being refurbished to operate until 2025. I will work to support the additional $20 million funding request for nuclear survivability, which includes funding for our microelectronics capability at Sandia’s MESA facility,” Udall said.

“Can you explain how important the MESA facility is to the overall stockpile stewardship project?” Udall asked. Klotz said that ensuring full and timely funding and refurbishment the MESA facility is one of NNSA’s “highest priorities. … Our center of excellence has always been Sandia National Laboratory.”