When Did DOE Decide to Supersize the UPF?

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Aug 29, 2012 No Comments ›› orepa

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you would please step to the left and move toward the rear of the chamber, please, we would like to accommodate as many people as possible in the Time Machine. I believe we have room for everyone, if we are all willing to get cozy. Our trip today will be a short one—we are just going back to 2010, and I think you will find the journey interesting.

 

Thank you. Now everyone inhale while we get the door closed. Just kidding, breathe normally.

 

It will only take us a moment or two to get back to April of 2010. If you will permit me a moment of reflection as we travel—the Time Machine you are in was developed with federal funding at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. That’s no surprise—we do great things with tax dollars at ORNL. The surprising thing is we developed this amazing machine from the rather crude sketches of the canine genius, Mr. Peabody; he called it the WABAC machine and—whoops, here we are! April 1, 2010 if all has gone well.

 

Please exit carefully, there is a slight step as you depart the chamber. And over to your left, there, if you will make your way to that window, I think we’ll be able to see…yes, just over there…is it?

 

Yes, there is Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, and he has just finished signing a document…I think if we are patient, when he has finished and turns it back to the front…yes, there you see at the top: Memorandum of Agreement between the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy Concerning Modernization of the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure.

 

Excuse me, sir? Oh, yes, you’re quite right. There is something else at the very top. It says: FOUO — Predecisional/Not Subject to Disclosure Under FOIA. Now if you look farther—I’m sorry, what was that? No, no, that FOUO is meaningless. It was just a hollow attempt to shield this otherwise sensitive document from the public—it’s like those memos that were drawn up saying waterboarding was legal. Just because it’s printed doesn’t make it so. Would that it were! But you don’t have to be around here long to see there is a huge disconnect between what bureaucrats claim and reality itself. At any rate, that little fake disclaimer actually worked for two years to keep this document away from the public. Isn’t that crazy?

 

So what is interesting about the Memorandum of Agreement?

 

Well, three things really, for us.

 

First, it’s interesting that it exists at all. Funding for the nuclear weapons programs of the United States is usually in the Department of Energy budget. That’s where the money for building new bomb plants appears— or so we thought! Now we find they’ve been spending more than we imagined—getting billions as a pass-through from the Department of Defense. Ha! Are they clever or what? Whoever thought of hiding money from the public like that? They ought to get some kind of prize. Probably already have!

 

The second interesting thing is that this document commits the Department of Energy to producing a remarkable number of components for thermonuclear weapons. On the second page, the DOE agrees to, and I’m quoting here, “Complete the design and begin construction of the Uranium Processing Facility at Y12 and…blah, blah…ramp up to a minimum of 50-80 Canned Sub Assemblies (CSAs) by the year 2022.”

 

Ma’am? Oh, CSAs are the thermonuclear part of the bomb. Made of Highly Enriched Uranium, Lithium Deuteride, Depleted Uranium and a bunch of other nasty stuff. When it goes off, it’s a nuclear fusion reaction. Is that too technical? Well, it’s the difference between the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima and a hydrogen bomb that could destroy all five boroughs of Manhattan instantly. The CSAs are what they make in Oak Ridge. So the Department of Energy is promising the Department of Defense that they’ll be manufacturing 50 to 80 of these CSAs by 2020.

 

Now here’s one reason why that is fascinating. In preparing their environmental study for the Uranium Processing Facility last year, the Department of Energy said it only needs to produce ten CSAs a year to maintain the nuclear stockpile. The only reason it would need a greater capacity, it said, is to add increased numbers of weapons to the stockpile. I know, it sounds silly because we know the future—that in 2012 the experts will be talking about even greater cuts in the nuclear stockpile.

 

Anyway, the bottom line is that DOE is promising to make 50-80 CSAs a year in 2022. That’s enough to replace the whole US nuclear stockpile every 20 years.

 

Which brings us to the third interesting thing, and the reason we came back here in the Time Machine. Because in April 2010, when Secretary Chu signs this memo, the Department of Energy has not yet made the decision to build a UPF that could produce 50-80 CSAs a year. That’s right. They have just finished collecting public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and it will be nearly a year before they finalize the EIS and several more months before they issue the legal “Record of Decision,” that determines the size of the UPF. The ROD won’t be published until July 2011!

 

In other words, we have come back to April 2010 and are getting to peek into the future. Secretary Chu already knows, way before the legal Record of Decision, what they are going to do. He signs a formal, secret Agreement with the Defense Department to do it.

 

Pardon me? Was there a question?… Oh, yes sir, I suppose some people might think it is a little hinky. Especially since federal agencies preparing environmental impact statements are supposed to refrain from actions which would prejudice the outcome of the EIS process. It sure looks like that happened here, doesn’t it? Ha! And Secretary Chu got away with it! I think we would all agree we sure are lucky to have such a smart Secretary of Energy!

 

What’s that? Oh. Well, then I think most of us would agree we sure are lucky to have such a smart Secretary of Energy.

 

So…well, oh, my, look at the time. Folks, sorry to rush you, but we need to hustle if we’re going to be back in 2012 in time for lunch. Sir? Sir? Please don’t wave to the Secretary. It’s very important we don’t do anything to impact or disrupt the flow here—it could have repercussions in the future. So now, if you will, please step back through the doors, to the left and to the rear of the Chamber. It’ll be just a little less crowded on the way back—I was still on my diet in 2010!

 

 

 


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