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"The Arms Control Association’s work is an important resource to legislators and policymakers when contemplating a new policy direction or decision."

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Daryl G. Kimball

250 Days and Counting: Close the Verification Gap

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Volume 1, Number 17, August 11, 2010

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) promises to modestly reduce the still enormous number of deployed U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear warheads--from more than 2,000 to 1,550 or less each--on no more than 700 delivery systems. Approval of New START would open the way to reductions in other types of nuclear weapons, including tactical nuclear bombs, which are a target for terrorists.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is planning to vote on New START on September 15 or 16 and the full Senate could vote on the treaty soon thereafter.

As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton noted in remarks earlier today, prompt Senate consideration and approval of New START is vital because it would fill the verification gap created by the expiration of the original START I and its system of on-site inspections and data exchanges.

"When the Senate returns, they must act, because our national security is at risk," Clinton stated. "There is an urgency to ratify this treaty because we currently lack verification measures with Russia which only hurts our national security interests. Our ability to know and understand changes in Russia's nuclear arsenal will erode without the treaty. As time passes, uncertainty will increase. With uncertainty comes unpredictability, which, when you're dealing with nuclear weapons, is absolutely a problem that must be addressed. Ratifying the new START treaty will prevent that outcome."

For these and other reasons, a long list of current U.S. military leaders and former senior national security officials in both Republican and Democratic administrations have endorsed prompt ratification of New START.

Opposing New START Means Opposing Limits on and Verification of Russia's Arsenal

Unfortunately, some senators, including Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who once argued against rigorous verification of nuclear arms reductions with Russia, now suggest that the new treaty may not provide enough and are suggesting New START consideration should be delayed.

In 2003, Kyl called START I and its monitoring provisions a "700-page behemoth" that "would not serve America's real security needs." He now says about New START: "it's not clear that the treaty's verification provisions are adequate."

That assessment is wrong and fails to recognize that for 250 days since START I expired there has been no verification system in place. As Secretary Clinton noted in her August 11 remarks:

"This treaty will provide for inspections that the United States would not otherwise be able to hold. For 15 years, START provided us access to monitor and inspect Russia's nuclear arsenal. START, as you know, expired last December. It, therefore, has been more than eight months since we have had inspectors on the ground in Russia. This is a critical point. Opposing ratification means opposing the inspections that provide us a vital window into Russia's arsenal."

START I Was Then; New START Is Needed Now

Other New START skeptics such as Paula DeSutter, former Assistant Secretary for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation under George W. Bush, claim that New START is "much less verifiable" than START I. They complain that there were more inspections allowed under START I than under New START.

Such comparisons are superficial and misleading. As Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified May 18, "for all practical purposes, the number of inspections [in New START] is about the same as it was," under START I.  That is because Type One inspections under New START can achieve two goals (confirm data on delivery vehicles and warheads) at the same time, and thus ten Type One inspections under New START equal 20 START I inspections.  Together with the eight Type Two inspections, the 18 New START inspections are essentially equivalent to the 28 inspections permitted under START I.

From the U.S. perspective, the Soviet Union's strategic nuclear complex was also significantly larger and less well understood than that of Russia today. START I's 28 inspections had to cover 70 facilities in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.  Today, New START's 18 inspections need to cover only 35 Russian sites.

New START's verification system is more than adequate. New START would provide a more streamlined, cost-effective set of verification procedures based on the original START, and add new innovations-including direct monitoring of actual deployed nuclear warheads-that are better suited to provide high confidence that each side would comply with the new treaty.

Bottom Line

Until New START is approved by the Senate, the United States will rapidly lose insight into Russia's strategic nuclear forces, forcing both sides to engage in more costly force modernization and hedging strategies.

Both the United States and Russia should approve the treaty without conditions and without delay. - DARYL G. KIMBALL

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Volume 1, Issue 17

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) promises to modestly reduce the still enormous number of deployed U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear warheads--from more than 2,000 to 1,550 or less each--on no more than 700 delivery systems. Approval of New START would open the way to reductions in other types of nuclear weapons, including tactical nuclear bombs, which are a target for terrorists.

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The Nuclear Danger 65 Years After the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombings

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Volume 1, Number 16, August 6, 2010

The first nuclear bomb detonation in July 1945 and the surprise attacks on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of that year ignited a global debate about the role, the morality, and the control of nuclear weapons that continues to this day.

Then as now, some judged that the catastrophic dangers inherent in nuclear weapons outweigh any justification for their existence or at least for large numbers of such weapons, leading them to seek meaningful nuclear restraints. Others considered nuclear weapons to be legitimate military and political instruments and  argued for an ever increasing array of nuclear capabilities. Still others, including much of the American public, have embraced some elements of both perspectives.

Since the bombings in Japan, nuclear weapons have not been used in a military attack. Yet they have left a trail of devastation, including: cancer victims from the fallout from atmospheric nuclear test explosions, contaminated workers and radioactive and toxic pollution from nuclear weapons production plants.

Although the U.S.-Soviet superpower competition that gave rise to the development,  testing, and deployment of tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and thousands of strategic and tactical nuclear delivery systems ended some twenty years ago, many of the weapons and the policies developed to justify their possession and potential use persist.

Today, Russia and the United States still possess nearly 20,000 nuclear bombs--more than 95 percent of the world total. In addition to the United States and Russia, there are now seven more nuclear-armed nations: the U.K., France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea.

As the new film Countdown to Zero explains very well, the overall number of nuclear weapons has declined and their use is viewed as increasingly unacceptable, but the nuclear weapons danger remains too high.

  • many U.S. and Russian weapons remain primed for quick launch;
  • nuclear weapons material stocks remain insecure;
  • some states continue to produce nuclear bomb material;
  • a few states still refuse to ratify the global treaty banning nuclear testing, which would help block the development new and more sophisticated bombs;
  • some states retain the option to use nuclear weapons in conflicts that begin with conventional weapons.
  • there is a risk that additional countries may utilize "peaceful" nuclear technologies to produce fissile material for bombs.

The nuclear status quo cannot hold. We must act by moving quickly to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons. Countries with nuclear weapons must reduce the role and number of their nuclear weapons and all countries must support strengthened barriers to prevent proliferation.

U.S. leadership is essential to prevent the spread and use of nuclear weapons, beginning with bipartisan support for common sense steps, including ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which the Senate will vote on in September, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which should be reconsidered next year.

However one feels about nuclear weapons and their role, it is essential for all of us to understand the horrific effects of nuclear weapons and work together to prevent their use ever again.

This week, as the world marks the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Arms Control Today reprises the following annotated photo essay (PDF) to help recall the human consequences of nuclear war in ways that words cannot describe. - DARYL G. KIMBALL

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Volume 1, Number 16

The first nuclear bomb detonation in July 1945 and the surprise attacks on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of that year ignited a global debate about the role, the morality, and the control of nuclear weapons that continues to this day.

Daryl Kimball Discusses New START on All Things Considered

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On April 3rd, Daryl Kimball appeared on All Things Considered and provided his thoughts on prospects for New START, which will come up for a vote in the Senate in mid-September.  As he stated in a recent Media Advisory, he expects that this critical arms control treaty will be ratified with bipartisan support.  To read more of ACA's work on New START, please visit our New START Subject Resource Page.

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On April 3rd, Daryl Kimball appeared on All Things Consides and provided his thoughts on prospects for New START ratification.  As he stated in a recent Media Advisory, he expects that New START will be ratified with bipartisan support in the senate.

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State Department Arms Control Compliance Report Underscores Value of New START

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Volume 1, Number 15, August 2, 2010

The July 2010 U.S. State Department report Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements found that Russia was in compliance with the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which expired last December.  According to a senior  State Department official who testified before the Senate last week, this fact should reassure the Senate that Russia would comply with New START. New START's ratification and entry-into-force would provide the United States with the means to verify Russian compliance with the new treaty's lower ceilings for strategic deployed warheads and delivery systems.

Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance and implementation, told The Cable July 28, "We think [the compliance report] actually tells a good story about Russia and its willingness to resolve compliance and verification issues and should help ratification" of New START.

Last week's misleading coverage of the compliance report by The Washington Post and The Washington Times may have left some with the impression that Russia was not in compliance with START I.  That is not the case.

As the compliance report states on page 8, Russia was "in compliance with the START strategic offensive arms (SOA) central limits for the 15-year term of the Treaty."  Gottemoeller testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee July 29 that "Russia was in compliance with START's central limits during the Treaty's life span. Moreover, the majority of compliance issues raised under START were satisfactorily resolved. Most reflected differing interpretations on how to implement START's complex inspection and verification provisions."

The compliance report notes that "Notwithstanding the overall success of START implementation, a number of long-standing compliance issues that were raised in the START Treaty's Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission (JCIC) remained unresolved when the Treaty expired on December 5, 2009." Gottemoeller told the Associated Press July 28 that these unresolved issues were minor technical matters that "went away when
START went out of force," adding there were "some concerns that we had about them, some concerns that they had about us."

The most significant disputes, like movement of Russian SS-27 mobile missile launchers and U.S. inspection of re-entry vehicles aboard certain Russian missiles, were resolved, Gottemoeller told the Associated Press.

The Washington Times incorrectly reported the compliance report said that Russia had "violated" START I.  This is also not the case.  Gottemoeller told the Associated Press that neither side accused the other of violating provisions of START at any point.

"Cheating implies intent to undermine a treaty," Gottemoeller told The Cable. "There's no history of cheating on the central obligations of START; there's a history of abiding by the treaty," she said.

The State Department compliance report should give senators additional confidence that Russia would comply with New START.  As Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said last year: "Our experiences over many years have proven the effectiveness of the [START I] Treaty's verification provisions and served to build a basis for confidence between the two countries when doubts arose."

New START Would Close the Verification Gap

Senators who have concerns about Russia's nuclear arsenal should support New START.  With the expiration of START I and its Cold War-era verification system, there are no longer any on-site inspections and detailed data exchanges between the two countries. New START would fill the verification gap with a streamlined set of verification procedures - taking advantage of past precedents established by the original START, but adding innovations better suited to the specific limits of the replacement agreement.

Until New START is approved by the Senate, insight into Russia's strategic nuclear forces will continue to diminish. There is no substitute for the information provided by New START verification. While "national technical means" such as satellite surveillance provide the foundation for understanding and evaluating information collected on Russian strategic forces, cooperative measures such as notifications, data exchanges, and on-site inspections are essential for providing high confidence that treaty obligations are being met.

The danger of delay was succinctly highlighted by General Kevin Chilton, U.S. Strategic Forces Commander, in Senate testimony June 16: "Without New START, we would rapidly lose insight into Russian strategic nuclear force developments and activities, and our force modernization planning and hedging strategy would be more complex and more costly."

Contrary to some misleading stories in the media, the State Department compliance report underscores the value of New START. - TOM Z. COLLINA and DARYL G. KIMBALL

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Volume 1, Number 15

The July 2010 U.S. State Department report Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements found that Russia was in compliance with the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which expired last December.  According to a senior  State Department official who testified before the Senate last week, this fact should reassure the Senate that Russia would comply with New START. New START's ratification and entry-into-force would provide the United States with the means to verify Russian compliance with the new treaty's lower ceilings for strategic deployed warheads and delivery systems.

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State Dept. Report Supports New START; Post's Initial Story Misleading

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Issue Brief - Volume 1, Number 12, July 28, 2010

Today, the U.S. State Department released the unclassified version of its report, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments. This report finds that Russia was in compliance with the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) "for the 15-year term of the Treaty." This fact should reassure the U.S. Senate that Russia would also comply with the New START treaty, which was signed by the United States and Russia in April and includes comprehensive verification provisions.

A story in today's Washington Post, initially titled "Report Finds Russians May Not be in Compliance, Could Sink New START Pact," gave the misleading impression that the report found that Russia was not in compliance with START. That is not the case. The Post later changed the title of its story to the less hyperbolic, "Report findings about Russia could complicate debate on new START pact."

Even so, there is no reason the State Department report should complicate the New START ratification process, for the following reasons:

1. The report finds that Russia complied with START.

According to the report, "Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine were in compliance with the START strategic offensive arms (SOA) central limits for the 15-year term of the Treaty." The report notes that the United States had raised new compliance issues since 2005, and that "the United States considered several of these to have been closed." Residual issues related to "the complex inspection and verification provisions of the START Treaty" would be resolved by New START, which has a simpler, more streamlined verification system.

The State Department report should give senators additional confidence that Russia would comply with New START. Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said last year that "Our experiences over many years have proven the effectiveness of the Treaty's verification provisions and served to build a basis for confidence between the two countries when doubts arose." Senators that have concerns about Russia's nuclear arsenal should support New START ratification since without New START there will be no on-site inspections of Russian nuclear sites. There is no substitute for the information provided by New START verification.

According to a July 14 letter from seven of the eight retired commanders of U.S. nuclear forces, "We will understand Russian strategic forces much better with the treaty than would be the case without it."

2. The report's findings on possible noncompliance have nothing to do with New START.

The State Department report finds that for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), "Russian entities have remained engaged in dual-use, biological research activities. There were no indications that these activities were conducted for purposes inconsistent with the BWC." As there is no verification protocol for the BWC, it is not surprising that ambiguities exist. This demonstrates the importance of ratifying New START so that its comprehensive verification provisions can take effect.

On the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the report finds that "Russia has completed destruction of its CWPFs [Chemical Weapons Production Facilities] scheduled for destruction, but has not met the CWPF conversion deadline." Not only is Russia out of compliance with its CWC deadline, but so is the United States. The CWC requires destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles by 2012 and due to the huge quantity of the stockpiles and the technical challenges of destroying them in a safe manner, both countries are behind schedule. Click here for more details.

Despite misleading stories in the media, the State Department report supports the ratification of New START and should in no way complicate the ratification process. - TOM Z. COLLINA and DARYL G. KIMBALL

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Volume 1, Number 12

Today, the U.S. State Department released the unclassified version of its report, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments. This report finds that Russia was in compliance with the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) "for the 15-year term of the Treaty." This fact should reassure the U.S. Senate that Russia would also comply with the New START treaty, which was signed by the United States and Russia in April and includes comprehensive verification provisions.

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New START and Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Management: A Reality Check

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Issue Brief - Volume 1, Number 10, July 26, 2010

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty promises to put Washington and Moscow back on the path of verifiable nuclear weapons reductions and cooperation on related nuclear security priorities. The treaty, which is now before the Senate, would:

  • mandate modest reductions in both sides arsenals to no more than 1,550 deployed strategic warheads. Without New START, Russia could maintain a larger deployed strategic nuclear force;
  • replace the 1991 START verification regime, which expired last December and reestablish a system of intrusive on-site inspections and information exchanges to provide high confidence regarding compliance with treaty limits. Delaying New START ratification weakens the United States' ability to assess Russia's strategic nuclear capabilities.

For these and other reasons, the U.S. military establishment and a large, high-level, bipartisan group (http://www.armscontrol.org/issuebriefs/BipartisanSupportforSTART) of former senior national security officials strongly support prompt ratification of New START.

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, a few Senators cling to the erroneous belief that the United States is not "modernizing" its nuclear weapons production infrastructure and have said they would find it very hard to support New START if there is not a robust and adequately funded, long-term plan for "modernizing" U.S. nuclear weapons.

One Senator, Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), has taken these views to the extreme by threatening that he will not allow New START to come before the Senate "until I'm satisfied about some of these things," in comments reported July 23 in The New York Times.

Such tactics are unwarranted and irresponsible. A sober examination of the record reveals that:

  • the existing strategy for warhead life extensions can continue to maintain the effectiveness of the arsenal indefinitely;
  • a long-term, robust nuclear weapons "modernization" plan is in place;
  • the administration's long-term stockpile stewardship and management plan pledges more than enough resources to sustain the effort;
  • New START does not affect the strategy or the funding requirements to maintain an effective nuclear arsenal without nuclear test explosions.

As the Senate prepares to formally vote on New START in the next few weeks, it is important to separate fact from fiction by examining what the record says about the following issues:

1. Life Extension Programs Can Maintain the Stockpile for Decades

Since the United States ended nuclear explosive testing in 1992, the stockpile stewardship program was fortified to maintain the nuclear stockpile through non-nuclear tests and evaluations, combined with the refurbishment of warhead components. In 1996, the United States became the first nation to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Since then our nation has invested billions of taxpayer dollars in the nuclear weapons laboratories' science and technical base, stockpile surveillance and maintenance programs, advanced computer modeling, new experimental facilities, and studies on the aging of warhead materials to help inform future stockpile stewardship approaches.

As the director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory said in a July 15 hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "Because of the science we've developed, we now know more about nuclear weapons than we ever have."

Since 1994, each warhead type in the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal has been determined to be safe and reliable through a rigorous certification process. Life Extension Programs have refurbished and modernized major warhead types and are scheduled to tackle the remaining warhead types in the years ahead.

Unfortunately, there remain some who erroneously believe that we cannot maintain the safety and reliability of the nuclear arsenal in the future without a continuous program of nuclear test explosions. In truth, nuclear explosive testing has never been relied upon to check the reliability of proven U.S. nuclear warhead designs and is not needed to do so in the future.  

A September 2009 report by the JASON independent technical review panel concluded that the "lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence." The report also found "no evidence that accumulation of changes incurred from aging and LEPs have increased risk to certification of today's deployed nuclear warheads."

The JASON report also found that: "1) changes induced from component aging can be erased by a LEP, and 2) changes introduced by LEPs are carefully chosen and assessed --they are not random--so that each LEP to date has produced a warhead with higher confidence factors than the original."

2. A Robust Nuclear Modernization Program is Underway

The United States is continuing the process of upgrading all of its strategic delivery systems, the warheads they carry, and the production complex for the next 20-30 years or more.

The ten-year plan outlined in the Obama administration's "Section 1251" report to Congress calls for $80 billion over ten years for these NNSA weapons activities, and another $100 billion for updating or replacing strategic nuclear delivery systems. By any common-sense definition, this amounts to a very robust modernization plan that covers all aspects of the nuclear enterprise, including:

  • Enhancing nuclear warheads through NNSA's Life Extension Program (LEP). The W87 Minuteman warhead has already been refurbished to last past 2025, and NNSA is requesting $63 million for additional work on this warhead in FY 2011. The B61-7 and B61-11 bombs for the B-2 bomber were recently refurbished for an additional 20 years. In 2009, NNSA began delivery of refurbished W76 Trident warheads with service lives of an additional 30 years. NNSA is requesting almost $1 billion over the next five years for an LEP study on the W78 Minuteman warhead. This ongoing process can continue indefinitely.
  • Modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons production complex. The FY 2011 NNSA budget request includes large increases for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which would see its budget jump from $97 million in FY 2010 to $225 million in FY 2011. The Uranium Processing Facility at Oak Ridge would increase from $94 million to $115 million.
  • Maintaining and replacing strategic delivery systems, including complete rebuilds of the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and Trident II Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile. Minuteman can serve until 2030, and Trident is expected to last until 2042. The service lives of Trident Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines are being extended, and a new fleet of submarines is under development at an expected cost of $85 billion. The B-2 "stealth" bomber is being upgraded at a cost of $1 billion over the next 5 years. The Air Force is also planning to replace the Air-Launched Cruise Missile.

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote in his preface to the April 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), "These investments, and the NPR's strategy for warhead life extension, represent a credible modernization plan necessary to sustain the nuclear infrastructure and support our nation's deterrent."

3. Appropriators have fully backed the fiscal 2011 budget request

Senator Kyl has suggested that before New START is ratified, the Obama administration must demonstrate that Congress has endorsed its budget request for NNSA weapons activities. In a sign that the administration's plan is sound and sustainable, earlier this month the House Energy and Water Subcommittee appropriated all but $19 million of the administration's $7 billion request for fiscal 2011 NNSA weapons activities, a 10% increase from the year before with greater increases for stockpile stewardship programs. And last week, the Senate Energy and Water Subcommittee appropriated $10 million above the administration's request. For all intents and purposes, the net result i s a fully-funded program.

Nevertheless, for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) the $9 million net reduction from the administration's budget request for NNSA weapons activities is a cause for alarm. In the July 20 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain suggested to principal undersecretary for defense policy Jim Miller that the failure to fully fund the budget request might be grounds for a presidential veto. Hardly.

Rather than hold New START and U.S. national security hostage for a few million more for the weapons laboratories, these Senators should recognize that rejection of New START--as well as further delay of CTBT ratification--will create greater uncertainty about U.S. nuclear policy that could jeopardize the political consensus regarding the strategy and budget for maintaining the U.S. nuclear stockpile in years ahead.

4. New-Design Warheads Not Necessary, But Are Still An Option

The April 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) Report establishes that the United States will not resume nuclear testing and "will not develop new nuclear warheads. Life Extension Programs will use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs, and will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities."

This is a prudent and technically sound approach. Given the success of the ongoing U.S. warhead Life Extension Program, there is currently no technical need for new-design warheads and renewed nuclear testing.

To minimize the risks posed by changes to warhead components--particularly the nuclear components in warhead primaries and secondaries--the JASON group has recommended against unnecessary replacement of nuclear components not validated by nuclear test experience. A 2006 NNSA study concluded that weapons plutonium is not affected by aging for 85 years or more.

The directors of the three U.S. nuclear weapons labs have strongly endorsed the NPR's approach. In their April 9 joint statement, they said:

"We believe that the approach outlined in the NPR, which excludes further nuclear testing and includes the consideration of the full range of life extension options (refurbishment of existing warheads, reuse of nuclear components from different warheads and replacement of nuclear components based on previously tested designs), provides the necessary technical flexibility to manage the nuclear stockpile into the future with an acceptable level of risk."

Nonetheless, some have suggested that this policy will stifle the creative and imaginative thinking of lab scientists.

In fact, as NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino made clear in an April 14 House Armed Services hearing, the NPR will allow the national nuclear weapons laboratories to "study all options for ensuring the safety, security, and effectiveness of our nuclear warheads, and we'll do so on a case-by-case basis."

In a June 25 letter (http://www.armscontrol.org/system/files/Gates-Chu%20to%20Foster-25Jun10.pdf) to John Foster and other former lab directors, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Energy Secretary Steven Chu wrote that "The Laboratory Directors ... will be expected to provide findings associated with a full range of LEP approaches and to make a set of recommendations based solely on their best technical assessment of each LEP to meet stockpile management goals. [T]his is essential to exercising the full suite of skills needed to sustain the nuclear deterrent."

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee July 15, Michael Anastasio, director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, concurred, stating that "we have both the authority and the responsibility to explore, on a case-by-case basis, what's the best technical approach for each weapon system, to extend its life well into the future."

If at some point in the future it becomes evident that the replacement of certain nuclear components is the most cost-effective way to improve warhead reliability, safety, or surety, that option remains available, but to pursue it, it must be authorized by the President and by Congress.

Conclusion

Lingering concerns that the United States does not have a plan and the budgetary resources to maintain and modernize its nuclear forces are based on myth, not reality. And, contrary to outdated thinking, there is no technical or military reason to resume U.S. nuclear testing or to pursue new-design nuclear warheads to maintain and enhance the safety, security, and reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The Obama administration has put forward a plan and a budget for maintaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal that is more than adequate. The fiscal year 2011 budget request of $7 billion for NNSA weapons activities has been adopted by the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees. The long-range plan calls for annual increases, totaling $80 billion over ten years. If over the course of the next several years there are additional program costs, future Presidents and Congresses can make appropriate changes--up or down--to the budget.  

It would be tragic if Senators allowed concerns over these and other issues to prevent them from supporting New START and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would reduce the very real nuclear weapons threats posed by other nations. - DARYL G. KIMBALL

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Volume 1, Number 10

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, a few Senators cling to the erroneous belief that the United States is not "modernizing" its nuclear weapons production infrastructure and have said they would find it very hard to support New START if there is not a robust and adequately funded, long-term plan for “modernizing” U.S. nuclear weapons.

Daryl Kimball Speaks Alongside Brent Scowcroft on New START

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On July 23, the Arms Control Initiative at the Brookings Institution and the Arms Control Association hosted former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft for a discussion of the New START treaty, assessing how its ratification and implementation will serve the U.S. national interest.

Brookings President Strobe Talbott provided an introduction, followed by remarks from General Scowcroft. Morton Halperin of the Open Society Institute, Angela Stent of Georgetown University and Brookings and Senior Fellow Steven Pifer, director of the Arms Control Initiative at Brookings, will joined discussion. ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball moderated. Watch it here.

Daryl at Brookings

Description: 

On July 23, the Arms Control Initiative at the Brookings Institution and the Arms Control Association hosted former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft for a discussion of the New START treaty, assessing how its ratification and implementation will serve the U.S. national interest.

Brookings President Strobe Talbott provided an introduction, followed by remarks from General Scowcroft. Morton Halperin of the Open Society Institute, Angela Stent of Georgetown University and Brookings and Senior Fellow Steven Pifer, director of the Arms Control Initiative at Brookings, joined the discussion. ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball moderated.

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Is the NSG Up to the Task?

Daryl G. Kimball

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was established 35 years ago to reinforce the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by establishing guidelines for nuclear supply. These voluntary guidelines were designed to prevent the transfer of the most sensitive nuclear technologies and block nuclear commerce with states that do not abide by basic nonproliferation standards.

Although the NSG has provided an important check on proliferation, in recent years it has failed to agree to tighter restrictions on the transfer of uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing technology. To their great discredit, a few leading NSG states have reversed or ignored NSG guidelines for commercial profit and improved bilateral ties with nuclear trading partners.

In 2001, Russia sold uranium to India and agreed to build two additional reactors for India in violation of NSG guidelines barring nuclear trade with non-NPT countries. In 2008 the NSG agreed on an exemption for nuclear transfers to India over the protestations of the governments of Austria, Ireland, and New Zealand. The exemption, which was initiated by the George W. Bush administration and strongly backed by France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, reversed the long-standing NSG and NPT policies barring nuclear trade with states that have not accepted comprehensive international safeguards.

Now, China is reportedly planning to sell two nuclear power reactors to NPT holdout and serial proliferator Pakistan, which would violate current NSG rules.

The NSG must respond appropriately or risk irrelevance. Responsible NSG governments should actively oppose the Chinese-Pakistani deal as a violation of NSG guidelines, work to mitigate the damage caused by the India exemption, and agree to tougher rules against the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies, which can be used to produce fissile material for weapons.

When China joined the NSG in 2004, it had already built a power reactor at Pakistan’s Chashma site. It claimed at the time that it was entitled to build a second one on the grounds that the second reactor project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. At the time, however, there was no declaration of any intention to build additional nuclear power plants at Chashma.

States at the recent NPT review conference, including China, reaffirmed that “new supply arrangements” for nuclear transfers should require that the recipient accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “full-scope safeguards and international legally-binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons.”

Nuclear trade with Pakistan or India would give those NPT nonmembers the rights and privileges reserved for NPT members that follow nonproliferation rules. Worse still, nuclear trade with either country would indirectly contribute to their weapons programs by freeing up domestic uranium reserves for the production of enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes.

Recognizing this danger, NPT parties expressed concern about the negative effects of civil nuclear trade with the two countries. The NPT conference’s final document “urges all States parties to ensure that their nuclear-related exports do not directly or indirectly assist the development of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devises.”

In response to the NSG’s 2008 India exemption, Israel and Pakistan, which are still subject to the NSG ban on nuclear trade, have sought similar exemptions—so far unsuccessfully. Also, Pakistan has accelerated its efforts to increase its capacity to produce enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons and has blocked the start of negotiations on a global treaty to ban the production of nuclear material for weapons purposes.

The NSG must hold firm and oppose nuclear trade with Israel, Pakistan, or any country that does not meet commonsense nonproliferation and disarmament standards.

Notwithstanding the 2008 NSG exemption for India, states such as Australia and Japan should resist commercial and political pressures for engaging in nuclear trade with India, at least until New Delhi complies with UN Security Council Resolution 1172, passed in June 1998, which calls on India and Pakistan to stop producing fissile material for weapons, to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and undertake other nuclear risk reduction measures.

Those NSG governments that have decided to sell nuclear material and reactors to India should clarify that if India or any other state breaks its nonproliferation commitments and conducts a nuclear test explosion for any reason, they will immediately terminate nuclear trade with the offending state.

The NSG must address future proliferation risks as well. India and other states in regions of proliferation concern are seeking advanced enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology. In response, the United States and other NSG countries must overcome opposition from South Africa and Turkey and adopt tougher guidelines that would bar the transfer of such technology to those states that have not signed the NPT and do not have in place IAEA comprehensive safeguards and enhanced inspections under an additional protocol.

If the NSG is to remain effective and credible, member states must respect and uphold their own rules, avoid actions that feed the nuclear arms race, and strengthen their guidelines to prevent weapons-related nuclear technology from proliferating in the years ahead.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was established 35 years ago to reinforce the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by establishing guidelines for nuclear supply. These voluntary guidelines were designed to prevent the transfer of the most sensitive nuclear technologies and block nuclear commerce with states that do not abide by basic nonproliferation standards. (Continue)

Dealing With Iran’s Uranium

Daryl G. Kimball

Iran's renewed interest in an arrangement that would move 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey as part of a nuclear fuel exchange brokered by the leaders of Brazil and Turkey has been dubbed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as a “transparent ploy” designed to head off a new round of UN Security Council sanctions. That may be true, but the United States should still seriously pursue the deal as a means to help resolve the impasse over Tehran’s nuclear program.

If accompanied by a halt to the further enrichment of uranium to 20 percent by Iran, the arrangement could seriously slow Iran’s ability to produce material that could be used to make a bomb. Also, it could build the confidence needed to open a broader dialogue that induces Iran to stop moving in the direction of nuclear weapons. If Iran fails to follow through on the deal or continues to enrich uranium to 20 percent, the Security Council can and should move forward with further sanctions in order to help change Iran’s strategic calculus.

A similar arrangement offered in October with the backing of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would have moved 1,200 kilograms of LEU out of Iran for further enrichment in Russia and fabrication by France into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor for medical isotope production. That proposal was intended to build trust between the P5+1—the Security Council’s five permanent members (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) plus Germany—and open the way to broader negotiations to resolve concerns about Iran's nuclear program. Iran initially agreed, but backed out and declared it would use some of its LEU to produce uranium at a higher enrichment level—20 percent uranium-235—to fuel its research reactor.

A quantity of 1,200 kilograms of LEU is enough for one bomb's worth of highly enriched uranium (HEU) if that material were further processed. Iran now has an estimated 2,427 kilograms of LEU total and can produce about that much in a year. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan deserve credit for convincing Iran to agree to ship half of its LEU stock to Turkey while France fabricates fuel for the research reactor. Removing roughly half of Iran’s LEU from its territory would delay the time at which Iran would have a viable strategic reserve of material that could be used for nuclear weapons.

At the same time, it is critical that Iran agrees to suspend enrichment to higher levels to reduce suspicions about its nuclear intentions. Given that Iran is being offered the fuel it needs for the  research reactor, there is no plausible reason for Iran to enrich uranium to a 20 percent enrichment level other than to establish a latent capability to build nuclear weapons.

Even if the P5+1 accepts the proposed fuel swap and Iran halts enrichment to higher levels, it is essential that Iran takes further steps to build confidence that its program is not for weapons purposes. The ultimate goal is to bring Iran into compliance with its nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations, as well as Security Council resolutions demanding that Iran suspend uranium-enrichment and fully cooperate with the IAEA.

A top, near-term priority should be more extensive IAEA access to declared and undeclared Iranian nuclear and military sites. Although Iran’s existing stocks of LEU and its main enrichment facility at Natanz and another recently discovered facility at Qom are under IAEA scrutiny, there is a risk that Iran may seek to enrich uranium at other, secret sites. Iran has already declared that it is building additional enrichment facilities. To guard against that possibility, the IAEA needs more extensive access through an additional protocol to verify Iran’s compliance with its nonproliferation obligations.

For his part, President Barack Obama needs to reiterate that he continues to seek a comprehensive and unconditional dialogue with Iran and underscore that preventive military action by Israel is not an option that the United States supports. Iran’s nuclear program and actions are clearly troubling, but it remains years away from having a sufficient quantity of HEU for a viable nuclear arsenal. A military strike would lead to a wider war, push Iran to openly pursue nuclear weapons, and only set back Iran’s capability to produce the material for a bomb by a few years at most.

Congress should give the Obama administration as much leeway as it can to pursue a diplomatic solution and, if necessary, further multilateral sanctions. Legislation mandating unilateral sanctions on Iran’s gasoline sector would upset the delicate P5 consensus on further Security Council sanctions and do little to alter Iran’s current course.

The Obama administration’s strategy of pressure and engagement has prompted Iran to agree to the nuclear fuel swap with Brazil and Turkey, but the United States must now actively work with its allies and partners to transform this fleeting opportunity into a longer-lasting breakthrough.

Iran's renewed interest in an arrangement that would move 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey as part of a nuclear fuel exchange brokered by the leaders of Brazil and Turkey has been dubbed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as a “transparent ploy” designed to head off a new round of UN Security Council sanctions. That may be true, but the United States should still seriously pursue the deal as a means to help resolve the impasse over Tehran’s nuclear program. (Continue)

Nuclear Weapons "Modernization" Myths and Realities

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Issue Brief - Volume 1, Number 3, May 12, 2010

Eighteen years after the last U.S. nuclear test, it is abundantly clear that maintaining the reliability of existing U.S. nuclear warheads does not depend on a program of nuclear test explosions. Over the past decade the U.S. Life Extension Program has successfully refurbished major warhead types, and with sufficient resources can continue to do so indefinitely.

Moreover, the delivery systems for U.S. nuclear forces are also reliable, effective, and modern. The United States is already engaged in the process of upgrading all of its strategic nuclear delivery systems, the warheads they carry, and the production complex for the next 20-30 years or more.

With the fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget request, the Obama administration is clearly committed to making sure that a more than adequate budget is available to support the task.

In February, the administration proposed a 10 percent increase (to $7 billion) in FY 2011 funding for weapons activities in the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which oversees the U.S. nuclear stockpile and production complex. The administration plans to spend an additional $5 billion on NNSA nuclear weapons activities over the next five years.

Linton Brooks, who ran NNSA during the Bush administration, said April 7 that he "would have killed" for that budget when he was there and "I think it does put us on a very firm, firm basis."

Former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee April 29 that "What we have is a step forward, a major step forward ... with regard to upgrading the nuclear weapons stockpile."

Outdated Thinking Persists

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, a few Senators cling to the outdated notion that the United States is not "modernizing" its nuclear weapons production infrastructure and that new-design warheads should be pursued to maintain the reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told The PBS NewsHour April 9, "I think the Senate will find it very hard to support [New START] if there is not a robust modernization plan."

In reality, there is a robust modernization plan already underway. The United States is in the process of upgrading all of its strategic delivery systems, the warheads they carry, and the production complex for the next 20-30 years or more, including:

  • Enhancing Nuclear Warheads: The U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads and bombs is certified annually to be safe and reliable and is continually enhanced through NNSA's Life Extension Program (LEP). For example, the W87 Minuteman warhead has already been refurbished to last past 2025, and NNSA is requesting $63 million for additional work on this warhead in FY 2011. The B61-7 and B61-11 bombs for the B-2 bomber were recently refurbished for an additional 20 years. In 2009, NNSA began delivery of refurbished W76 Trident warheads with service lives of an additional 30 years. NNSA is requesting almost $1 billion over the next five years for an LEP study on the W78 Minuteman warhead. This ongoing process can continue indefinitely.
  • Modernizing the Production Complex: The U.S. nuclear weapons production complex is being modernized, with new facilities planned. The FY 2011 NNSA budget request includes large increases for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory, N.M., which would see its budget jump from $97 million in FY 2010 to $225 million in FY 2011. The Uranium Processing Facility at Oak Ridge, Tenn., would increase from $94 million to $115 million.
  • Maintaining Strategic Delivery Systems: U.S. nuclear delivery systems are undergoing continual overhaul, including complete rebuilds of the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) and Trident II Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM). Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, head of U.S. Strategic Command, recently said the Minuteman can serve until 2030, and the Trident is expected to last until 2042. The service lives of Trident Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines are being extended, and a brand new submarine, the SSBN-X, is under development at an expected cost of $85 billion. The B-2 "stealth" bomber is being upgraded at a cost of $1 billion over the next 5 years. The Air Force is also planning to replace the Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM).

By any common-sense definition, these projects add up to a robust modernization plan.

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote in his preface to the April 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), "These investments, and the NPR's strategy for warhead life extension, represent a credible modernization plan necessary to sustain the nuclear infrastructure and support our nation's deterrent."

In a joint statement on the NPR from the directors of the three nuclear weapons laboratories issued April 9, Sandia's Tom Hunter, Los Alamos' Michael Anastasio, and Lawrence Livermore's George Miller said:

"We are reassured that a key component of the NPR is the recognition of the importance of supporting 'a modern physical infrastructure--comprised of the national security laboratories and a complex of supporting facilities--and a highly capable workforce with the specialized skills needed to sustain the nuclear deterrent.'"

New-Design Warheads Not Necessary, But Are Still An Option

The NPR also establishes that "The United States will not develop new nuclear warheads. Life Extension Programs will use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs, and will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities."

This is a prudent and technically sound approach. Given the success of the ongoing U.S. warhead Life Extension Program, there is currently no technical need for new-design warheads and renewed nuclear testing. A September 2009 report by the JASON independent technical review panel's report concluded that the "lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence."

To minimize the risks posed by changes to warhead components--particularly the nuclear components in warhead primaries and secondaries--the JASON group has recommended against unnecessary replacement of components not validated by nuclear test experience.

The directors of the three U.S. nuclear weapons labs have strongly endorsed the NPR's approach. In their April 9 joint statement, they said:

"We believe that the approach outlined in the NPR, which excludes further nuclear testing and includes the consideration of the full range of life extension options (refurbishment of existing warheads, reuse of nuclear components from different warheads and replacement of nuclear components based on previously tested designs), provides the necessary technical flexibility to manage the nuclear stockpile into the future with an acceptable level of risk."

Alarmism Unwarranted

Nonetheless, Senator Kyl--who has been an ardent opponent of the nuclear test ban treaty and who recently said in an April 9 profile in The Wall Street Journal that "I am not a scientist and I don't pretend to know all the science" --disagrees.

On April 20, Kyl told The National Journal: "What I find truly alarming about the Nuclear Posture Review is that it claims to support a 'safe, secure, and effective' nuclear arsenal, but at the same time it imposes unnecessarily strict tests in terms of extending the life of warheads that may need components replaced."

Such alarmism is unwarranted and unsubstantiated by the facts. The technical reality is that 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.

If at some point in the future it becomes evident that the replacement of certain nuclear components is the most cost-effective way to improve warhead reliability, safety, or surety, that option remains available.

NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino made clear in an April 14 House Armed Services hearing that the NPR will allow the national nuclear weapons laboratories to "study all options for ensuring the safety, security, and effectiveness of our nuclear warheads, and we'll do so on a case-by-case basis."

Bottom Line

Lingering concerns that the United States does not have a plan to maintain and modernize its nuclear forces are based on myth, not reality. It would be tragic if Senators allowed such myths to prevent them from supporting New START and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would reduce the very real nuclear weapons threats posed by other nations. - TOM Z. COLLINA and DARYL G. KIMBALL

For the full ACA analysis on U.S. Nuclear Modernization Programs, please go to http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/USNuclearModernization

 

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Volume 1, Number 3

Eighteen years after the last U.S. nuclear test, it is abundantly clear that maintaining the reliability of existing U.S. nuclear warheads does not depend on a program of nuclear test explosions. Over the past decade the U.S. Life Extension Program has successfully refurbished major warhead types, and with sufficient resources can continue to do so indefinitely.

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