The Senate is scheduled to vote on Tuesday on whether to consider
another Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep DOE and some other agencies
operating until March 1 and the Pentagon and some other agencies would
operate through March 8.
It’s a “mostly clean” CR. The one DOE program that gets a funding boost
is Uranium Processing Facility, which could spend as if the annual
budget was $760 million, rather than the $362 million FY 2023 budget.
While the Senate is expected to approve the new CR – though perhaps not
until late in the week – it’s unclear that the House will pass it, as
some Republicans want a government shutdown of DOE and some other
agencies on Saturday.
Text of New CR
(If you can plow through the jargon you can find this bit which means that Congress will cover the funding of this nuclear weapons production facility at an INCREASED level from what it was receiving in 2023.)
“Uranium Processing Facility” is a bit of a misnomer.
UPF’s primary mission is to manufacture canned subassemblies, AKA secondaries, from lithium and highly enriched uranium. The secondaries are the nuclear weapons components that put the “H” in H-bomb.
Plutonium pits, AKA “primaries” or “triggers”, fission when imploded and through radiation transport initiate fusion in the secondaries. This is what is responsible for the huge destructive yields in 2-stage thermonuclear weapons.
When first proposed, the UPF was intended to replace virtually all uranium processing at Y-12—including preparing HEU from retired warheads for downblending; preparing HEU for use in naval nuclear reactors (actual work done at Nuclear Fuel Services in Erwin, TN); processing HEU for use in nuclear warheads; dismantling and disassembly of warheads, either permanently or as part of regular surveillance and assessment in the active stockpile, etc. that work was being done in multiple facilities. so “uranium processing facility” may have been a legit name.
As costs mounted and design challenges arose, the scope of work for the UPF was scaled back dramatically until its work is now limited to solely a weapons production facility. but it is useful to NNSA to retain the original name—it serves as a euphemism to disguise the true mission of the facility from the general public (including most members of congress).
In its current iteration, the UPF is slated to replace much of the work currently being done in the 9212 complex at Y-12. other weapons production and uranium processing work will be done in other facilities.
The UPF has put itself forward as the latest in a long line of NNSA poster-children for ludicrous cost overruns and schedule failures. in the process it once again validates the GAO’s high-risk list!