WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 28, 2019) - Today, in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) asked U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty about their commitment to safety and environmental cleanup at Department of Energy (DOE) sites and facilities.
Heinrich asked Secretary Perry about an order issued by DOE that substantially alters the authority of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to oversee DOE's defense nuclear facilities, including Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories and WIPP. Congress created the independent Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) in 1988 to provide advice and recommendations to the Secretary of Energy regarding public health and safety at the defense nuclear facilities managed by the DOE.
DOE issued its new Order 140.1 in May 2018, which impacts how the board interfaces with DOE's nuclear facilities. Heinrich has heard from communities in New Mexico that DOE's unilateral revision of Order 140.1 will significantly affect the board's ability to meet its statutory oversight responsibilities at NNSA and environmental management (EM) facilities. In his questioning, Heinrich sought assurance that Secretary Perry and NNSA Administrator Gordon-Hagerty are committed to preserving the board's oversight responsibility to ensure public health and safety for the workers and local communities in New Mexico.
Heinrich also questioned proposed funding cuts in President Trump's budget proposal to legacy environmental cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The president's budget cuts the funding for LANL cleanup $25 million below the current level of $220 million. This is the second year in a row that the Trump Administration has proposed cutting funding for important environmental cleanup work. Last year, Heinrich and Senator Tom Udall successfully restored full funding to accelerate the progress of environmental cleanup at LANL sites.
In a second round of questions, Heinrich asked Administrator Gordon-Hagerty about NNSA's strategy to upgrade the aging Microsystems Engineering, Science and Applications (MESA) Complex at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. The more than 30-year-old facility is outdated and unable to support future life-extension programs in the post-2025 timeframe.