Superlaser or Super Bust? Few would deny the awesome power of nuclear weapons or the need to maintain the safety of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. However, a recent report suggests that a multi-billion dollar project intended to protect our nuclear stockpile is failing in its task, at a tremendous cost to taxpayers.
Weapons Program Is Theft from Taxpayers
Taxpayers for Common Sense is the best organization that monitors excessive government spending, corruption and corporate welfare. Here is their latest news update.
In a report released last week, the General Accounting Office (GAO) blasted the Department of Energy (DOE) for numerous cost overruns and production delays associated with the National Ignition Facility (NIF), a project to reduce the need for actual weapons tests by using a stadium-sized superlaser to simulate nuclear explosions.
Originally scheduled for completion next year at a cost of $1.1 billion, NIF is now not expected to be operable until 2008 and will cost taxpayers more than $4 billion. Even if the 2008 projections are accurate, NIF will not be able to simulate a thermonuclear explosion until at least 2010.
The $4 billion price tag does not include hundreds of millions of dollars in annual operating costs. NIF’s costs could rise even higher because scientists are experiencing engineering problems, including finding optical lenses that can withstand the beam’s energy so they will not need to be replaced as often.
The project’s high price does not guarantee that it will work. The DOE is not sure if the laser will ever be able to fire its full capacity of 192 beams.
NIF’s cost overruns have led to a cash shortfall for other important projects in the Stockpile Stewardship program to safeguard and refurbish nuclear weapons. Instead of asking Congress for more money, the DOE decided to reallocate funds from other projects in the program. The GAO report recommended DOE not reallocate funds until the agency determines whether the funding shift will negatively affect the Stockpile Stewardship program.
Many projects are subject to reviews to make sure they are on schedule and on budget, but NIF has had no independent reviews because DOE lacks the means to do so.
The agency was supposed to submit a new schedule and budget for NIF by June 2000 or face termination of the project. The agency turned in only an “interim” report and then another report at the end of that month that lacked important details of NIF’s costs beyond this year.
The safety of our nuclear arsenal is extremely important and NIF is showing all the signs of being a major league waste of money. If there is a safer way to get the same results, it should be explored.
This superlaser is becoming a super bust. Cost overruns and mismanagement aside, Congress should end its support for this multi-billion dollar failure.
If you would like more information, contact Keith Ashdown at (202)-546-8500 ext. 110
or by email
at email@example.com. TCS is at www.taxpayer.net
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