The House Appropriations on Tuesday approved a 2023 spending bill that included roughly the requested funding for Department of Energy nuclear weapons programs, one of which should get almost double the funding it will receive under the bill, a Republican Congressman said.
The 2023 energy and water development appropriations act should be “[r]aising the amount from $326 [million] for fiscal ‘23 to $647 [million]” for the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) under construction at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) told his colleagues on the Appropriations Committee during their roughly three-and-a-half-hour markup of the spending bill that includes DoE’s budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
Fleischmann, who attended the hearing remotely after testing positive for COVID-19, then symbolically offered and withdrew an amendment to roughly double funding for UPF, the three-building factory the NNSA is building at Y-12 to manufacture nuclear-weapon secondary stages for much of the rest of the century.
Fleischmann said he withdrew his amendment because he could not find an offset to pay for it. That would require using funding intended for something else in the spending bill to shore up UPF.
In May, the NNSA acknowledged that it would take eight months longer than expected, until August 2026, to finish building UPF. The agency previously said the facility, which will replace the Manhattan Project-vintage Building 9212, would be built by Dec. 31, 2025, at a cost of no more than $6.5 billion.
Bechtel National is building UPF under a subcontract to Y-12 management and operations contractor Consolidated Nuclear Security, which Bechtel leads.
Meanwhile, the congressman from Tennessee’s third district seemed to hold out hope that his colleagues in the Senate would see their way to appropriating some or all of the $321 million that he believes is necessary to keep UPF construction on schedule.
“I just ask consideration that when we sit with the Senate, we up the funding,” Fleischmann said Tuesday.
NNSA overall would get $21 billion under the House Appropriations Committee’s bill, some $180 million below the request but more than $550 million above the 2022 appropriation passed in March. Of the $180 million the committee did not provide, nearly $170 was for maintenance.
All five of NNSA’s ongoing nuclear weapon modernization programs would receive the requested funding under the bill. The agency also would receive the requested funding to construct plutonium pit factories at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina under the bill. Pits are the fissile cores of nuclear-weapon first stages.