Senate-House conferees agreed yesterday to drop funding for the nuclear bunker-buster bomb, saying the Defense Department will focus its research instead on developing a conventional earth-penetrating weapon to attack deeply buried targets, said Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that finances the nuclear weapons complex.
Domenici, in a statement released yesterday, said the National Nuclear Security Administration, which runs the nuclear weapons program, had requested the deletion of $4 million included in the fiscal 2006 budget of the Energy Department that was to have funded research into the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator warhead, commonly known as the bunker buster.
The House had already eliminated the funds from its version of the bill. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had earlier this year asked the Energy Department to include the money in its budget request for research into the nuclear weapon.
Energy Dept. to Modify
Nuclear Waste Handling
The Energy Department said yesterday it is developing a "simpler, safer and more cost-effective" way to store nuclear waste in Nevada's Yucca Mountain repository by streamlining the way it handles spent fuel.
Paul Golan, acting director of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, said the government will operate a "clean facility" that will accept spent fuel only in sealed, uniform containers from utilities across the country.
Environmentalists and other critics have argued radiation from stored waste may leak out and harm nearby residents.
"The facility won't become contaminated," Golan said. "It represents a bold step forward in improving our operations."
Until now the government had planned on receiving spent nuclear fuel in several kinds of canisters, which meant workers would handle 70,000 tons of spent fuel as many as four different times before sealing it.
-- From staff writers Walter Pincus and Juliet Eilperin