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Udall Secures Funding for New Mexico’s National Labs, WIPP, Nuclear Safety, and Water Projects in Energy and Water Appropriations Bill

By Tom Udall Press Office

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M), senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, voted to advance key legislation to provide strong funding for New Mexico’s national labs, technology transfer efforts, environmental clean-up projects, the Waste Isolation Pilot Program (WIPP), and Tribal energy programs throughout the state. Udall joined the Senate Appropriations Committee in voting unanimously to advance the Fiscal Year 2020 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill to the Senate floor.


“This funding will help bolster New Mexico’s thriving science and technology economy – while providing the resources needed to ensure environmental clean-up and public safety. This bill invests in New Mexico’s state of the art national labs and the men and women doing cutting-edge work at them, and it supports the tech transfer initiatives that energize and diversify our economy. The bill also invests in New Mexico’s most precious resource – water – to ensure a more sustainable future for our state,” said Udall.  “As the appropriations process moves forward, I will continue standing up for New Mexico and the first-rate technology that is being developed in our state.”


During the committee’s markup of the legislation, Udall voiced serious concerns with a provision that would allow a “pilot program” for DOE to fund one or more projects to store commercial nuclear waste from power plants at an “interim” storage facility, despite the fact that there is no progress on a permanent facility for such waste, potentially stranding it indefinitely at an “interim” site location.


“For many years, the chair and ranking member have used this bill to carry authorizing language that sets up a ‘pilot program’ for interim storage program for nuclear waste before a final repository is established. We have had debates and even votes on this and other matters dealing with how to handle commercial nuclear fuel that is stranded at power plants,” said Udall. “I appreciate the chair and ranking member’s earnest desire to resolve this issue. But I continue to have very serious reservations with their approach.”


New Mexico funding and other highlights of the bill include:


Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL):  Includes $220 million for environmental clean-up at the lab,a $24.5 million increase above the president’s request to remove radioactive and other toxic wastes from LANL and safely dispose of them.


Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP):  $403 million, to support the ongoing operations and recovery projects from the 2014 accident, including $6 million for safeguards and security and $5 million for electric-powered mining equipment to improve mine air quality and worker safety.


Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB):  The bill provides $31 million for the Board’s safety oversight work, rejecting a proposed $1.5 million cut proposed by the president’s budget request.  Includes report language to better protect and strengthen the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board’s (DNFSB) critical safety oversight mission at New Mexico’s Department of Energy (DOE) facilities. The provision expresses concern with the Department of Energy’s recently issued Order 140.1 – an order that undermines the DNFSB’s oversight responsibility by restricting its ability to get health and safety information from DOE sites— and directs the Secretary to collaborate with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to address the board’s specific concerns with Order 140.1 and to demonstrate a shared focus on adequate protection of public health and safety.


Tribal Energy Programs: Provides $25 million, $7 million more than FY19 appropriations, for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Indian Energy Policy to support energy development in Indian Country, and provides $2 million in funding, $1 million more than FY19 appropriations, for a loan guarantee program to support the development of commercial renewable energy projects.


Technology Transfer:  Includes $9.08 million for the Office of Technology Transition which is critical to New Mexico’s economy. This office was established in 2015 and helps to expand the commercial impact of the DOE’s portfolio of research, development, demonstration and deployment activities. The office works with the National Laboratories and other stakeholders to identify high value technological innovations and discoveries, and to inject resources to move them rapidly to commercialization thus enhancing U.S. competitiveness and energy technological leadership.


Bioenergy Technologies:  Includes $30 million for Advanced Algal Systems to sustain investment in the development of algal biofuels, which has supported research in New Mexico in previous years.


Bureau of Reclamation: Includes an increase of funding by $191 million to $1.58 billion for FY20 appropriations. A breakdown of funding includes:


  • Increase in WaterSMART funding by $60 million from FY19 appropriations, a water conservation and efficiency program that has funded everything from Rio Chama restoration to Rio Grande Basin climate change studies.


  • Directs the Bureau to be more transparent about water conservation grants, ensuring that the water saved with federal dollars is actually conserved.


  • Funding for important New Mexico water infrastructure projects:
    • Navajo-Gallup: $66,132,000.
    • Aamodt Settlement: $8.3 million.
    • Rio Grande Pueblos: $68,000.
    • Middle Rio Grande Project: $22,582,000.
    • Carlsbad Project: $3,450,000.


Army Corps of Engineers: The Army Corps of Engineers is funded at the highest level in ever in a standard appropriations bill at $7.75 billion, an increase of $2.79 billion from FY19 appropriations. A breakdown of funding includes:


  • $2.55 million for the Tribal Partnership Program is funded at, equivalent to Udall’s request.


  • $80 million for the Environmental Infrastructure Account which funds additional Army Corps projects not listed in the president’s budget, including New Mexico projects like Alamogordo, Rio Rancho and Southwest Valley in past years.


NNSA Weapons Activities: The bill funds the overall weapons program at $12.742 billion, a nearly 15% increase from FY19 appropriations. This account funding covers the ongoing work at New Mexico’s lab and other sites around the country to modernize, maintain, and secure the nation’s nuclear stockpile.  Specific location’s funding is determined later on in the budget process.


Inertial Confinement Fusion Ignition and High-Yield: $570 million, an increase of $25.066 million above from FY19 appropriations which is specifically for the Z Machine at Sandia National Labs. The program supports activities at Sandia’s Z facility and other facilities across the complex used to certify the stockpile without the use of underground nuclear testing.


Advanced Simulation and Computing: $839.84 million, an increase of $122.730 million from FY19 appropriations. And within available funds, $309.3 million for exascale initiatives. Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs lead the nation in cutting edge computing. Advanced computing supports the stockpile stewardship program by enabling scientists to simulate weapons science, and advances basic science for multiple disciplines.


Construction:  Includes $1.169 billion in funding for:


  • Emergency Operations Center, Sandia – $4 million for a new 2020 project


  • Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Facility at LANL – $168.44 million to continue work to modernize this facility


Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation: $2.085 billion an increase of $155 million from FY19 appropriations.


  • $419.608 million for Global Material Security, in which SNL and LANL play a major role.


  • Nonproliferation and arms control – $140 million


  • Defense nuclear nonproliferation – $524.749 million


  • Nuclear counter terror and incident response – $359.3 million

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