[ RadSafe ] News: No funding for earth penetrating nuclear weapon

John Jacobus crispy_bird at yahoo.com
Wed Oct 26 16:25:48 CDT 2005

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-----Original Message-----
From: fyi at aip.org [mailto:fyi at aip.org] 
Subject: FYI #152: No FY 2006 RNEP Funding in DOE Bill

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science
Policy News
Number 152: October 26, 2005

No Nuclear "Bunker Buster" Money in FY 2006 DOE
Funding Bill

The Bush Administration and the Senate have agreed
with the position of Rep. David Hobson (R-OH) and his
House colleagues to eliminate research funding for the
Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) in the FY 2006
Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.

Hobson is the chairman of the House Energy and Water
Development Appropriations Subcommittee. The
subcommittee's FY 2004 and FY 2005 bills did not
provide RNEP (or "Bunker Buster") research funding, a
position supported by the full House last year and
this year. 

The decision reached by House and Senate conferees who
are now working to resolve differences in the FY 2006
appropriations bill was announced in a statement
issued by the press secretary for Senator Pete
Domenici (R-NM) last night.  Domenici supported RNEP
funding and is the chairman of the Senate Energy and
Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee.  The
statement explained that the Administration dropped
its $4.0 million request for RNEP research.  Domenici
stated, "The focus will now be with the Defense
Department and its research to earth penetrating
technology using conventional weaponry.  The NNSA
[National Nuclear Security Administration] indicated
that this research should evolve around more
conventional weapons rather than tactical nuclear
devices. With this department change in policy, we
have agreed not to provide DOE with funding for RNEP."

Last night's announcement follows several years of
controversy about the development of a
ground-penetrating nuclear weapon to hold at risk
high-value, deeply buried, underground facilities.  In
2003, Congress  removed the prohibition on R&D for
low-yield nuclear weapons in the authorization bill
for the Department of Defense (see
http://www.aip.org/fyi/2003/075.html, and
http://www.aip.org/fyi/2003/077.html .)  The FY 2004
appropriations bill for the Department of Energy
provided $7.5 million for RNEP funding, none of which
could be spent for the engineering development phase.

The controversy continued in 2004.  The Bush
Administration's budget included a five-year RNEP
projected cost of $484.7 million. Observers said this
indicated an Administration plan to build RNEP. NNSA
disagreed, calling the figures "place holders" in a
five-year plan (see
http://www.aip.org/fyi/2004/050.html.)   During
consideration of the authorization bill for the
Department of Defense, both the House (see
and then the Senate (see
http://www.aip.org/fyi/2004/089.html )
rejected moves to eliminate RNEP funding.  Despite
these votes on the authorization bills, money talks:
the FY 2005 appropriation for the Department of Energy
contained no RNEP funding (see

This year, the Administration took a different
approach in describing its perspective on RNEP.  In
testimony before a House Armed Services subcommittee
in March, NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks carefully
described how the Administration's FY 2006 request of
$4 million for RNEP was only for a cost and
feasibility study. No five year projections were
included in the budget request, the Administration
seeking to avoid the charge that it had already
decided that it would eventually build this new
weapon.  Ambassador Brooks also sought to put down the
charge that the Administration was minimizing the
impact of the use of an RNEP weapon, stating, "This is
a nuclear weapon that is going to be hugely
destructive and destructive over a large area. No sane
person would use a weapon like that lightly, and I
regret any impression that anybody, including me, has
given that would suggest that this is going to be any
easier a decision. . . . I do want to make it clear
that any thought . . . [that] nuclear weapons . . .
aren't really destructive is just nuts" (see
http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/037.html .)

In April of this year, a National Research Council
report concluded that there are many hardened targets
beyond the reach of current conventional weapons in
the U.S. stockpile. It also stated that calculations
demonstrated it would be impossible to contain all of
the radiation underground from the use of an RNEP, and
under some circumstances, there could be a million
civilian causalities. However, the number of civilian
causalities from the use of an RNEP would be
considerably fewer than the use of a surface burst
nuclear weapon (see

The new Administration approach did not change the
position taken by the House Energy and Water
Development Appropriations Subcommittee. The report
accompanying its version of the FY 2006 funding bill
stated: "The [House Appropriations] Committee
recommendation provides no funding for RNEP. The
Committee continues to oppose the diversion of
resources and intellectual capital away from the more
serious issues that confront the management of the
nation's nuclear deterrent, primarily the
transformation of the Cold War nuclear weapons complex
and existing stockpile into a sustainable enterprise.
The Committee has been disappointed at the
bureaucracy's adherence to an initiative that
threatens Congressional and public support for
sustainable stockpile initiatives that will actually
provide long-term security and deterrent value for the
Nation. It is the understanding of the Committee that,
instead of conducting an RNEP study at a DOE national
laboratory, the Department of Defense will conduct a
non-nuclear penetrator study at a Department of
Defense facility" (see
http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/073.html.)  A few days
later, the House Armed Services Committee in its FY
2006 authorization bill removed the nuclear component
from the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, and shifted
the effort from the Department of Energy to the
Department of Defense (see 

The Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations
Subcommittee's version of the FY 2006 funding DOE 
bill included $4.0 million for Air Force led impact
studies on an RNEP type weapon at Sandia National
Laboratory.  The subcommittee's report had rather
extensive language making the case for Sandia testing,
stating: "The Committee urges the Department to
quickly complete the testing and opposes the
Department moving this test to any other facility, as
it would be a waste of taxpayer resources. The
Committee reminds the administration that none of the
funds provided may be used for activities at the
engineering development phases, phase 3 or 6.3 or
beyond, in support of the Robust Nuclear Earth
Penetrator" (see 

It was against this background of the House's position
of "no funding for RNEP" and the Senate's bill
providing the requested $4.0 million that House and
Senate conferees and staff went behind closed doors to
resolve their differences.   Last night's press
release states: "Domenici indicated that at the
request of the NNSA, the Senate has agreed to drop the
$4.0 million it provided in its bill for the DOE
national laboratories, including Sandia National
Laboratories, to continue RNEP research."  The release
later stated: "Domenici noted that he expects the
final Energy and Water Appropriations Bill to continue
to include language addressing RNEP and the Defense
Department capabilities developed at Sandia National
Laboratories."  Conferees hope to finish work on the
bill by the end of this week.

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
The American Institute of Physics
fyi at aip.org    http://www.aip.org/gov
(301) 209-3094

On Oct. 5, 1947, in the first televised White House address, President Truman asked Americans to refrain from eating meat on Tuesdays and poultry on Thursdays to help stockpile grain for starving people in Europe. 

-- John
John Jacobus, MS
Certified Health Physicist
e-mail:  crispy_bird at yahoo.com

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