The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has requested a roughly 60% increase in fiscal year 2023 for the part of its budget that funds the rebuilding of critical nuclear-weapons production infrastructure including plutonium pits, a Department of Energy document published Tuesday shows.
The semiautonomous DoE nuclear-weapons agency seeks some $4.6 billion for Production Modernization in fiscal year 2023, an increase of more than $1.7 billion compared with the 2022 appropriation under an omnibus spending bill signed into law on March 15.
At the same time, the NNSA has requested some $1.2 billion less for its Infrastructure and Operations budget for 2023: about $2.6 billion compared with more than the $3.8 billion just appropriated for 2022. The account pays for maintenance and upkeep of existing agency buildings, nuclear and otherwise.
That’s according to DoE’s budget in brief, released Tuesday a day after the White House published the high-level details of President Biden’s budget request for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
The requested increase for Production Modernization handily eclipses the $3.5 billion the NNSA predicted the line would need for fiscal 2023. The agency made that forecast in its fiscal year 2021 budget, the last one released in the Trump administration and the last budget until the one released this week to include five-year spending projections officially known as the Future Years Nuclear Security Program.
The NNSA said that the 2023 budget request will allow the agency to manufacture 80 plutonium pits a year as close to 2030 as possible. In 2021, the agency publicly acknowledged to lawmakers during budget hearings on Capitol Hill that the larger of two planned pits plants, the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility planned for the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C., would not be completed until 2032 or 2035.
Meanwhile, according to the Future Years Nuclear Security Program included with the 2023 budget request, the NNSA will need a budget of just under $91 billion from 2024 through 2027, or just under $22.75 billion a year, on average, during those four years.
The Department of Energy had yet to release its detailed budget justification documents for fiscal year 2023 as of Tuesday evening. The documents, which typically run for hundreds of pages, include detailed breakdowns of NNSA’s spending plans for the fiscal year ahead.