The Bomb Plant
By Joseph Trento
Thanks to funding from the Colombe Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America and an anonymous donor, National Security News Service reporters spent the last two years investigating the most secretive institution in the federal government: the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and its radioactive weapons facility – the Savannah River Site (SRS).
We call our multi-media investigation The Bomb Plant. It tells how a secretive and little known government agency, dedicated to modernizing and safeguarding nuclear weapons, reaped billions of dollars in the name of nonproliferation. After DOE wasted billions of Stimulus Act dollars on environmental clean-up at the nation’s nuclear weapons facilities, especially SRS, NNSA took control to hide the problems.
Begun in the Bush administration, NNSA eats up 85% of the Department of Energy (DOE) budget. It has bipartisan support in Congress. It became one of the most powerful agencies in the U.S. government by successfully compromising its opponents.
NNSA convinced the nonproliferation community that it had an effective way of disposing of nuclear weapons grade material. It assured some environmentalists that it could produce safe, “clean,” carbon-free electric power. As a result, opponents of nuclear weapons – the nuclear nonproliferation community – joined forces with supporters of increased nuclear weapons capabilities. Some environmentalists concerned about climate change joined with energy and power companies. Taxpayer money poured into NNSA’s nuclear complex while critics were sidelined or silenced. With the support of large peace and environmental institutions as well as the military-industrial contractors, nuclear power became in vogue again. They call it: the Nuclear Renaissance.
NNSA’s nonproliferation and energy solution is Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX). With little more than a theory, the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations accepted an unproven idea and committed billions of taxpayer money to building an enormous plant to take surplus plutonium from weapons and civilian programs from around the world, grind it into a fine powder and turn it into a fuel array for civilian nuclear power reactors. Some experts say this process is more dangerous than stabilizing and burying the excess plutonium.