Friday, 28 February 1992 Washington, DC
1. NSF GETS A DOSE OF REALITY THERAPY IN APPROPRIATIONS
Last year, the House subcommittee that funds NASA
and NSF tried to kill the Space Station and fully fund NSF. In
appreciation, a group of NSF supporters gave Bob Traxler (D-MI),
the gutsy chair of the subcommittee, an award on Tuesday. Alas,
earlier in the day, Traxler had to tell Walter Massey that NSF's
request for an 18% increase in FY 93 is unrealistic in a flat
2. GAO SAYS NASA "CHASING TOO MUCH PROGRAM WITH TOO FEW
The General Accounting Office contends that NASA
will be forced to cut its programs $21B through FY 97 if domestic
discretionary spending is constrained at this year's level. The
prediction was released yesterday by Sen. Bumpers (D-AR) and Rep.
Durbin (D-IL), who called for an end to Space Station funding.
But will the budget cap remain in place? The House Budget
Committee is ready to call for taking $15B from defense, but has
not decided whether the funds should go to domestic programs or
3. NASA ACCUSED OF ATTEMPTING TO WITHHOLD INFORMATION ON SP-
During a review of the controversial program to develop
a 100 kW space nuclear reactor, the House Investigations
Subcommittee of Science, Space and Technology uncovered a NASA
"how-to manual" on circumventing the Freedom of Information Act.
The outraged Chair of the Subcommittee, Howard Wolpe (D-MI),
described the document as an attempt by NASA to subvert not only
the FOIA, but the right of Congress to review agency decision
making. Indeed, the manual calls for destruction of documents,
which, Wolpe points out, is a violation of federal law. During
the Reagan years, NASA regularly sought an exclusion to the FOIA,
but Congress refused. The SP-100 was once meant to power Star
Wars battle stations, but SDI pulled out when Star Wars was
grounded. Ironically, NASA seems to be on the verge of dumping
the SP-100 in favor of a Soviet design.
4. RUSSIAN AND U.S. NUCLEAR WEAPONS SCIENTISTS DISCUSS
of warheads and weapons laboratories. A group of
senior weapons specialists from the former Soviet Union (FSU) are
in Washington to discuss the complex of problems involved in
converting to a peaceful economy. They propose to use fissile
material recovered from dismantled weapons as fuel in nuclear
power plants. The head of the Arzamas-16 lab estimates that the
weapons will yield 100 million grams of plutonium-239 and five
times that much highly enriched uranium. Each gram should
produce about 275 kilowatt-days of electric power. Ironically,
the FSU must continue making plutonium until about the year 2000!
The production reactors are also used to heat apartment buildings
and generate electricity; the power is still needed. The
scientists said they have adequate facilities for dismantling
weapons in the FSU, but help is needed to develop secure storage.
The whole range of conversion problems is being covered at a
workshop sponsored by the Federation of American Scientists and
the Natural Resources Defense Council.