Arms Experts Counter Nuclear Modernization Myth
For Immediate Release: Jan. 5, 2010
Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director (202-463-8270 ext. 107); Tom Z. Collina, Research Director (202-463-8270, ext. 104).
(Washington, D.C.) Experts from the independent Arms Control Association (ACA) released a status update on the U.S. government's plans to modernize its strategic nuclear arsenal, finding that the U.S. military is in the process of upgrading most of its strategic delivery systems and the warheads they carry to last for the next 20-30 years or more.
ACA's conclusions are in sharp contrast to those found in today's Wall Street Journal editorial ("A False Nuclear Start") and a Dec. 15, 2009, letter to President Obama from 40 Republican Senators and one Independent stating that "we don't believe further [nuclear arsenal] reductions can be in the national security interest of the U.S. in the absence of a significant program to modernize our nuclear deterrent."
"A robust program to refurbish U.S. nuclear warheads and modernize strategic delivery systems is well underway," said ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball. "It's simply a myth that the United States is not modernizing its arsenal."
"Reducing bloated U.S. and Russian arsenals and banning nuclear testing does not require significant additional nuclear weapons spending beyond what is currently planned," said Kimball.
"Current U.S. strategic weapon systems are in many cases being completely rebuilt with essentially all new parts, although they are not technically 'new'," said ACA Research Director Tom Collina. "Some are suggesting that this distinction between 'rebuilt' and 'new' means that the United States is not modernizing its arsenal. They are mistaken."
U.S. plans to modernize its nuclear warheads and strategic delivery systems include the following:
- Nuclear Warheads: The U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads is continually refurbished through the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) Life Extension Program (LEP). New warhead types have not been introduced since U.S. nuclear testing ended in 1992, but existing warhead types are certified annually to be safe and reliable. The JASON panel of independent scientists recently found "no evidence" that extending the lives of existing U.S. nuclear warheads leads to reduced confidence that the weapons will work. The panel concluded in its September 2009 report that "Lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence." Contrary to the assertions of some, the United States does not need to resume nuclear test explosions nor does it need to build new "replacement" warhead designs to maintain the reliability and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.
- Production Complex: The nuclear weapons production complex is being modernized as well, with new facilities planned and funded. For example, a new plutonium research and "pit" production facility, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement, is planned for Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and the new Uranium Processing Facility is planned for the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
- Strategic Delivery Systems: U.S. nuclear delivery systems are undergoing continual modernization, including rebuilds of the Minuteman III ICBM and Trident II SLBM. The service lives of Trident Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines are being extended, and a new submarine platform is in development, the SSBN-X. The B-2 strategic bomber, a relatively new system, is being upgraded, as is the B-52H bomber.
For the full ACA fact sheet on U.S. Nuclear Modernization Programs, please go to <http://www.armscontrol.org/USNuclearModernization>
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