Obama Seeks Money for Nuclear Weapons Work

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- President Barack Obama is seeking increased funding for nuclear weapons research and security next year, even as his administration has pledged to reduce the world's stockpile of nuclear arms.

The administration on Monday asked Congress for more than $7 billion for activities related to nuclear weapons in the budget of the National Nuclear Security Administration, an increase of $624 million from the 2010 fiscal year.

NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino said more money is needed because the U.S. needs the best nuclear weapons facilities, scientists and engineers, even as it moves toward eventual disarmament.

"This budget is implementing the president's nuclear vision," he said.

NNSA wants a 4.7 percent overall increase for infrastructure to more than $2.3 billion, including money for major long-term projects to replace aging buildings at New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Greg Mello, director of the nuclear watchdog Los Alamos Study Group, said budgets have increased in recent years, but the nation "hasn't seen any increase in weapons activities like this since the early years of Ronald Reagan."

He called the budget "a complete surrender to Senate Republicans," who have argued that stockpile reductions must be accompanied by a modernized nuclear weapons complex.

Los Alamos' budget includes about $225 million for design work for a research building to replace a 58-year-old lab where scientists analyze samples of plutonium and other radioactive materials.

Watchdog groups contend the new building would position the U.S. to build more nuclear weapons, but Los Alamos lab officials have said the facility would replace existing capabilities.

NNSA's budget request includes more than $2 billion for stockpile support activities, a 25 percent increase, and $1.6 billion for science, technology and engineering, an increase of more than 10 percent.