(Senate - June 27, 1996)


Mr. KEMPTHORNE. Mr. President, I rise in support of the amendment offered by the Senators from Georgia, New Mexico, and Indiana to authorize funding for an emergency assistance program to train and equip State and local emergency personnel to respond to domestic terrorist WMD incidents.

The amendment also authorizes increases in the Defense and Energy budgets for assistance to Russia and all the Independent States of the former Soviet Union under the cooperative threat reduction programs.

I have concerns about authorizing new activities in both of these departments. I don't question the goals of the sponsors of this amendment. However, authorizing increases of this nature as well as expanding the scope of these two programs has not been discussed in our committee.

The committee has received no information on the budgetary impact of this amendment. Additionally, conferencing this provision with the House will no doubt be extremely contentious. As it was last year.

As other members have done, I will emphasize that there are no appropriations for these activities in either of the defense appropriations bill. Of course, we have not yet received the energy appropriations bill.

I have concerns about the transfer authority in the amendment, and the potential impact on programs in the defense bill, as well as programs in the defense portion of the energy bill.

The amendment includes authority for the Department of Defense to provide assistance to the Department of Justice. I have concerns about Posse Comitatus implications of this provision. This was the same provision in the Senate's anti-terrorist bill, which was eventually dropped in conference because of those concerns.

I would mention that I have concerns about increasing assistance to Russia, when they continue to conduct research and development on ballistic missiles and in building submarines. Additionally, I do have concerns about Russia's recalcitrance on the issue regarding their transfer of knowledge, training and material to Iran, to help them build their nuclear reactors, as well as to China.

Additionally, Russia continues to refuse to provide information on its biological research activities, as well as its chemical research activities on binary weapons, which we all have been informed on by the former Russian scientist Vil Miransaynov.

The authority to conduct these programs are not small commitments. I understand from DOE that the potential cost for replacing the reactor cores at Tomsk 7 and Krasnoyarsk 26 is around $100 million. And that is just an estimate.

What is the cost of converting biological and chemical production facilities in all the independent states of the Former Soviet Union?

What impact would ratifying a Chemical Weapons Convention have on this authority? While the Bilateral Destruction Agreement would have allowed the conversion of chemical facilities, the CWC prohibits the conversion of the chemical facilities for nondefense purposes.

I support the efforts of, and want to work with, my colleagues on establishing a program to assist State and local communities in responding to terrorist use of WMD . But I must emphasize my concerns about increasing funds for the cooperative threat reduction programs in the DOD and DOE budgets.

Mr. President, tritium is a man-made radioactive isotope of hydrogen. It has a half-life of about 12 years and decays at a rate of about 5.5 percent per year. It is essentially the `booster' that gives a nuclear weapon much of its explosive power. Even though the cold war is over, the United States still requires a downsized nuclear deterrent to ensure our security from continuing threats, including those from emerging Third World nations with nuclear capabilities and a demonstrated willingness to use terrorist tactics to achieve their national objectives.

With regard to the tritium production decision, Secretary Hazel O'Leary and now this Congress are about to travel down a path with far-reaching implications for both national security and U.S. taxpayers' pocketbooks over the next half century. In October 1995, Secretary O'Leary announced a dual-track approach of more studies for meeting future tritium requirements for the next 3 years. According to the legislation before us, we are authorizing $160 million in fiscal year 1997 for tritium production studies. According to the legislation, approximately 90 percent will go to Los Alamos National Laboratory's linear accelerator research project. The remaining 10 percent of the $160 million will go toward continued research for use of an existing nuclear reactor to produce tritium.

With regard to the linear accelerator for tritium production, the Department of Energy's last attempt at building a new accelerator was the superconducting super collider--now an empty ditch full of rusting equipment and shattered dreams, sitting idle on the plains of Texas. Like the accelerator that the DOE wants to build, the Department started out with an estimate of only a few billion dollars to build the super collider. However, after several years and billions of dollars of taxpayer money, the project began running behind schedule and the cost estimates began to balloon out of control. Finally in 1992, when the cost estimate had grown to more than $11 billion, Congress said `enough is enough' and pulled the plug on the collider program.

Now the DOE proposes to start a new accelerator research project, using the

Nation's need for tritium as the excuse. Although the project is being justified by national security needs, scientists at DOE's national laboratories are lining up to propose new research programs for which the accelerator can be used.

Mr. President, the Department of Energy has a poor track record of starting large projects and then helplessly watching the costs and schedule expand out of control. Virtually every major project ever started by DOE has been terminated during construction or before beginning any useful operation. Besides the money wasted on the Super Collider, there was the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, the Fast Flux Test Facility, upgrades to the K-Reactors, et cetera, et cetera. Each of these were multibillion-dollar projects.

Recently, the Department provided a forecast of the funds required to fulfill the tritium mission during the research, development, and proposed construction phases. According to the chart, the Department plans on spending $4.863 billion on the accelerator and an additional $535 million on civilian light water reactor research. Mr. President, over the next several years, we are going to ask the taxpayers to foot a bill of over $5 billion for tritium production and that is simply to get the program up and running. That does not include the several billion dollars it will take in annual operation and maintenance. Indeed, according to the Department's own estimates, the accelerator could cost taxpayers in excess of $20 billion over its lifetime.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the `Tritium Production Budget Forecast' be printed in the Record. Obviously, it is clear that when President Clinton commented during his State of the Union speech that `the era of big government is over.' He forgot about this project.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

[In millions]
Year  APT funding CLWR 
1996          $45   $5 
1997           85   15 
1998          255   37 
1999          276   44 
2000          282   69 
2001          496   78 
2002          739  108 
2003          903  120 
2004          901   36 
2005          431   23 
2006          228    0 
2007          221    0 
Total        4863  535 

Mr. SMITH. Mr. President, I must ask my colleagues: Is this the direction we should go? We are putting a great deal of trust in an undeveloped technology for such a critical national security mission. I certainly cannot predict the future, but I am 100 percent at predicting the past. I cannot say with any degree of certainty that the accelerator technology--for which we are authorizing over $140 million in spending in fiscal year 1997--will or will not work. However, I can say with confidence that the Department of Energy has demonstrated a very poor record in managing other large initiatives. Furthermore, the American people have never been enthusiastic about paying for these types of large projects. When costs begin to escalate, what makes us think they will support this risky project in the future?

Unfortunately, Mr. President, I fear that the administration, and now this Congress, may be overlooking the most reasonable approach to performing the tritium mission; that being, a new nuclear reactor that could produce tritium, while generating electricity for use in the surrounding area of the country. Since this type of new reactor project would earn revenue from the electricity sales, it could be privatized and, thus, its construction could be paid for largely through private funds--not by the taxpayers. In fact, Department of Energy studies show the new reactor option to be billions of dollars less expensive than the accelerator. Indeed, industry critics say that the cost gap between the accelerator and reactor options is even larger than the numbers in DOE's studies--more like $10 to $15 billion over the project's lifetime.

Mr. President, I doubt this issue will receive any more debate or discussion than what I have raised today. I know that my colleague from Arizona, Senator Kyl, has been an outspoken critic of the Department of Energy's handling of the tritium decision. I commend my friend from Arizona for his continuing interest in this matter, and his steadfast support for maintaining a safe, reliable, and effective nuclear deterrent.

While this issue may go largely unnoticed this year, I am forewarning my colleagues that we are likely to debate in the future this Government's exorbitant spending on the accelerator and how research and development is taking much longer than previously anticipated--at the same time that our tritium stockpile comes perilously close to depletion. Meanwhile, a technology available today that can be privately financed is apparently being shunned.

Considering all of the painful budget cuts confronting us in the years ahead, and the critical need for tritium, I cannot understand how this body would allow the Energy Department to initiate another big ticket accelerator research project, particularly when its overall cost and performance are seriously in question. In my view, we should be exploring other possible alternatives, particularly those that are less expensive and more reliable, to satisfy this key national security requirement.

The House passed version of the fiscal 1997 Defense authorization cuts the Environmental Management Headquarters' Program Direction subaccount by $71 million. This office under the EM program boasts some of DOE's most technically savvy, highly trained employees--each of whom provide critical oversight for our Nation's extensive Defense Nuclear Safety and Waste Management initiatives. It is my understanding that the House's reduction in this subaccount was made precipitously--without hearings or any other discussion of its long-term impact on the Department's ability to administer such an essential function. The Senate version of the DOD authorization retains funding for this important function and I urge my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee to work to ensure that funding for the Environmental Management Headquarters' Program Direction subaccount will be upheld at the Senate level when the fiscal year 1997 Defense authorization is taken up in conference.

Mr. LOTT addressed the Chair.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senate will come to order. The majority leader is recognized.

Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent the cloture vote scheduled to occur today now occur at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, June 28.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. LOTT. For the information of all Senators, a third attempt to vote cloture on this DOD authorization bill will occur in the morning at 9:30 as just announced.

Immediately following that vote, regardless of outcome, it will be my intention to propound a unanimous-consent agreement limiting the remaining amendments to the bill. We will be meeting after this announcement with the distinguished Democratic leader to go over the list of amendments. Also to see if we have been able to work out an agreement on a number of other items that have been delaying final movement. We are asking once again all Senators to cooperate. Please do not come up with amendments that do not relate directly to the defense bill.