I wrote a piece for this morning’s Albuquerque Journal trying to address what I think is a misunderstanding afoot in New Mexico about the future of Los Alamos and Sandia labs – the idea that they can shift to energy reserach as support for nuclear weapons spending declines. It ain’t gonna be easy:
During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised $150 billion over 10 years for renewable energy, and lab backers hope some of that money can flow into Los Alamos and Sandia.
But those within the federal energy establishment point to reasons why the potential may be less than New Mexico labs’ backers hope.
Sandia and Los Alamos are just two among 21 Energy Department labs and research centers. Many have stood on the sidelines watching while Sandia and Los Alamos saw their nuclear weapons budgets grow, and will likely think that it is their turn now. More importantly, other labs — most notably the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado — already specialize in the sort of work the Obama administration wants to fund.
Los Alamos and Sandia may be able to get a small piece of the action, one knowledgeable insider told me, partly by partnering with other energy research centers. But it is unrealistic to expect expanded energy funding to make up for any declines in nuclear weapons spending.