Bush administration budget for Nunn-Lugar falls by $12 million

The US White House.
Nils Boemer/Bellona

Publish date: March 6, 2008

Written by: Charles Digges

The Bush administration has requested less money in 2009 for a number of nonproliferation programmes in the former Soviet Union related to the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) act in what experts say is a move dictated by the number of nuclear remediation projects that are reaching their targets.

The president’s budget request includes $414 million for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s nonproliferation programmes in the former Soviet Union for the next fiscal year, which begins October 1st.

This figure was less than the $426 million Congress appropriated for the current fiscal year, but still higher than Bush’s $348 million request of last year, Arms Control Today reported.

Aside from reflecting programme wind down, the requested budget reductions for US Defence Department and Department of Energy (DOE) programmesin Russia also reflect a widening mandate to expand CTR to new countries where nuclear threats exist – which are mostly programmes that cannot be anticipated in advance and are funded by allocations on an as need basis.

Senator Richard Lugar, who co-authored the CTR legislation with former Senator Sam Nunn, urged Congress in January to grant the president more power to provide nonproliferation funding to countries that are normally banned from receiving it because of restrictions within CTR – also known as Nunn-Lugar – or other legal restrictions, like sanctions. Such authority is called “notwithstanding.”

“Granting Nunn-Lugar ‘notwithstanding’ authority would not mean that Congress would be unable to adjust or restrict the programme,” Lugar was quoted by Arms Control Today as saying.

“But it would ensure that Nunn-Lugar would have the ability to respond rapidly to new nonproliferation opportunities. We should not allow bureaucratic inertia to impede potentially historic transformations in North Korea or elsewhere.”

The funding requests for several programmes geared toward decommissioning or eliminating Russian missile stockpiles, silos, and other equipment went down. The president’s budget proposes $80 million, down from $91 million appropriated by Congress for the current fiscal year.

The request for nuclear weapons storage security was down to $24 million from $45.5 million appropriated for fiscal year 2008, reflecting the completion of an automated inventory control management system and a Russian Far East training center. The efforts created a computerized accounting system for nuclear weapons elimination and trained security staff for weapons of mass destruction facilities in eastern Russia.

The administration’s request for nuclear weapons transportation security rose from $38 million appropriated last year to $41 million, reflecting increases for nuclear weapons transportation and railroad car maintenance and procurement.

Department of Energy budget request

The Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) also requested less for nonproliferation work worldwide than the current fiscal year’s appropriation.

The NNSA’s work in Russia has recently been the subject of congressional investigation when one of its programmes geared toward retraining weapons scientists for the private sector was found to be financing the work of scientists who never had anything to do with the Soviet nuclear weapons monolith.

Further, one of the Russian institutes that was receiving retraining funding from the NNSA’s the Global Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention (IPP) programme had contributed significantly to helping build the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran – a major egg in the face of the US defence establishment, which has insisted the reactor is cover for an Iranian weapons programme.

The congressional investigation, however, had little to do with any cuts in NNSA programmes for the 2009 fiscal year, officials interviewed by Bellona Web said.

While Congress approved increases for the current fiscal year to give the international nuclear materials protection and cooperation account $624 million, the NNSA’s request for fiscal year 2009 was only $430 million.

The IPP programme will receive $47 million for 2009, down $4 million from the $51 million it received in 2008.

The NNSA requested only $32 million for security upgrades to the Russian Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) Weapons Complex at Russia seven closed Russian nuclear cities in 2009. The request for the cities, which are responsible for nuclear weapons and materials storage, represents a significant decrease from the $79 million the programme received for work this year.

NNSA officials explained this major reduction by the agreement Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin signed in Bratislava, Slovakia in 2005, when they agreed to selective upgrades at the cities which still underway.

Work to upgrade security for Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces and in its 12th Main Directorate, the military division responsible for nuclear munitions, is also winding down with $53 million requested for 2009 after Congress appropriated $121 million for 2008. The NNSA plans to complete upgrades to all nine 12th Main Directorate nuclear warhead sites and to provide sustainability upgrades for 25 Strategic Rocket Force sites, said Arms Control Today.

One budget item increase in the NNSA’s proposed expenditures will come in treaties and agreements, which will receive $15 million to support the so-called Next Generation Safeguards initiative to fund some dozen studies on prevention nuclear terrorism and bolstering international safeguards.

Plutonium reactor elimination budget reduced

The funding request for the elimination of weapons-grade plutonium production is $141 million, $39 million less than the $180 million the plutonium reactor shut down programme received this year. The programme aims to build fossil fuel plants to compensate for the shut-down of the reactors, which provide heat and light for the towns in which they are situated.

The funding has been cut because the three reactors – two located in Seversk, Sibera and the third at Zheleznogorsk, Siberia which produce weapons-grade plutonium, are supposed to be shut down in December 2008.

A February 1st NNSA press release said that Rosatom head Sergei Kiriiyenko had informed Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman that work on the two plutonium reactors is ahead of schedule and that they are expected to cease operation early.

Last December, Russia reported that it had started up a boiler and steam turbine generator at the partially completed fossil fuel plant in Seversk, allowing the reactors to operate on an alternating schedule, shutting down one reactor while the other is running and thus decreasing the amount of plutonium produced.

Annually, the three reactors produce an additional 1,500 kilograms of plutonium oxide a year, which is stored on site at the reactors.

Funding for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which eliminates or protects nuclear and radiological material will be increased to $220 million in 2009 from $193 million in 2008. This programme in part helps repatriate radioactive materials from under-protected
Research reactors that were built by the Soviet Union.

Though objectively successful, the programme has been critisised for moving radioactive materials from one unprotected area to another – Russia – were US and other international upgrades are only as effective as those who are operating them. Of the total programme budget for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, $116 million will be spent on this repatriation programme.

Department of State

State Department run nonproliferation programmes received a boost in the 2009 budget request, particularly in its discrete contribution to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which will rise from $57 million this year to $64 million next year.

The State Department’s Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund would receive $40 million, up from $33 million in 2008. Through this fund, the President can grant nonproliferation assistance to countries against which the United States has imposed sanctions, such as North Korea, which is currently ramping down its nuclear programme. It is the only nonproliferation allocation that allows the White House to pass over sanctions.