Expert scientists undermine rationale for new nuclear weapons

 In Nuclear Weapons

The findings in a new report out today by the JASONs, a group of independent, expert scientists, call into question the need for new nuclear weapons. Tasked by the House Armed Services Committee to study the Life Extension Programs (LEPs), a program to extend the lifetime of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, the unclassified version of the report (JSR-09-334E) stated:

JASON finds no evidence that accumulation of changes incurred from aging and LEPs have increased risk to certification of today’s deployed nuclear warheads….

Lifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence, by using approaches similar to those employed in LEPs to date.

People as high up in the Obama administration as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have continued pushing for new nuclear weapons like the Reliable Replacement Warhead, which Peace Action West and other organizations succeeded in blocking funding for under the Bush administration. Global Security Newsire reported on a high level meeting this summer where Gates again pushed for the RRW:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates raised the idea of reinstating the controversial Reliable Replacement Warhead effort during a secret “Principals’ Committee” meeting convened by the National Security Council, Global Security Newswire has learned.

Under the RRW project, government officials said they intended to design new warheads that could make the aging nuclear arsenal more safe, secure and reliable — without adding new military capabilities or resuming explosive testing. However, Congress eliminated funding for the Bush administration initiative for the past two fiscal years and, this year, President Barack Obama omitted the program from his fiscal 2010 budget request.

As the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability points out in their press release:

Since 2005, both Air Force and Department of Energy officials have claimed that new design nuclear warheads were necessary because of diminishing confidence in the nuclear stockpile. At the centerpiece of plans for building new warheads are new weapons production facilities proposed for Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Los Alamos, New Mexico….

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has proposed construction of the Chemical and Metallurgical Research Replacement Nuclear Facility at Los Alamos for increased plutonium pit manufacturing. At Oak Ridge, public hearings are taking place right now to evaluate a proposal for the Uranium Processing Facility, which would produce new uranium components for new warheads.

All in all, it looks like it will be much harder for supporters of new nuclear weapons to continue to use these kinds of justifications now that the report by the JASONs has been released.

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