"[Arms Control Today is] Absolutely essential reading for the upcoming Congressional budget debate on the 2018 NPR and its specific recommendations ... well-informed, insightful, balanced, and filled with common sense."

– Frank Klotz
former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
Kingston Reif

Safety at Nuclear Sites Scrutinized

A technician at Los Alamos National Laboratory is shown working on a plutonium “pit,” a key component in nuclear warheads, in a 2011 photograph. The pit, when compressed by chemical explosives, initiates a weapon’s nuclear chain reaction. (Photo credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory)A wide-ranging investigation published in June by the Center for Public Integrity revealed unpublicized safety lapses at Energy Department nuclear weapons sites during the past decade that the group said endangered the lives of laboratory workers and, in some cases, imperiled site operations. The investigation also found that the government imposed relatively small penalties on the contractors operating the sites.

In one particularly serious incident documented in the investi­gation, technicians at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico “placed rods of plutonium so closely together on a table in 2011 that they nearly caused a runaway nuclear chain reaction, which would likely have killed all those nearby and spread cancer-causing plutonium particles.” The accident prompted the shutdown until last year of the facility at the lab that houses virtually all the country’s plutonium operations, including the testing and production of the plutonium pits for U.S. nuclear weapons. In a June 19 statement, Frank Klotz, administrator of the semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration, defended the agency’s safety record and said it withheld more than $82 million in contractor payments in the 2013-2016 period due to “a range of safety and operational issues at Los Alamos.”—KINGSTON REIF

Safety at Nuclear Sites Scrutinized


At Trump-Putin Meeting, Start with New START

This op-ed originally appeared in Defense One. If the treaty is allowed to disappear, so will the Pentagon’s best tools for divining facts about the Russian nuclear arsenal. President Trump apparently has “no specific agenda” for his first in-person meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, slated to occur this week on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit meeting in Hamburg, Germany. So we’d like to suggest one: stabilizing the increasingly troubled relationship between the world’s two largest nuclear powers, beginning by extending the landmark New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New...

Senate Puts Trump’s Saudi Arms Sales Plans on Notice


For Immediate Release: June 13, 2017

Media Contacts: Jeff Abramson, senior fellow (646) 527-5793; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director (202-463-8270 x107)

(Washington, D.C.)—Congressional votes to block major arms deals are very rare, but today a substantial, bipartisan group of 47 Senators voted to support S.J. Resolution 42, a resolution of disapproval to transfer U.S. precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, which is waging a controversial military campaign in Yemen. The close vote was a rebuke of Trump’s Middle East policy. In the final tally, 47 Senators voted for full consideration of the resolution, while 53 rejected that step.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 19, 2017. DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. BrantleyThe growing opposition to the roughly $500 million sale indicates that President Trump will face tough resistance should he try to move forward with other elements of the still mostly undefined $110 billion arms package he announced last month to Saudi Arabia.

“The Senate’s bipartisan stand today against the sale of precision guided munitions to Saudi Arabia puts the Trump administration on notice that their approach is off target,” said Jeff Abramson, nonresident senior fellow at the Arms Control Association.

“The United States should not be sending more weapons into an unwinnable conflict and into the hands of a country that uses U.S. weapons against civilian targets. Instead, the Trump administration should use its influence to find a political solution to the disastrous war in Yemen, which has led to a massive humanitarian crisis,” Abramson added.  

“Current U.S. conventional arms transfer policy includes the goal of ‘Ensuring that arms transfers do not contribute to human rights violations or violations of international humanitarian law.’” Abramson noted.

“With today’s vote, the Senate is sending a strong message that U.S. arms transfers should not go to states that target civilians and violate human rights.”

Additional resources

  • “Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain Should Be Rejected,” Arms Control Association Issue Brief, Volume 9, Issue 3, May 2017.
  • “Defiant Congress Sparks Showdown With Trump Over Saudi Arms Deal,” Arms Control Today, June 2017.


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.


Senate Puts Trump’s Saudi Arms Sales Plans on Notice

Country Resources:

First Trump Budget Continues Unnecessary and Unsustainable Nuclear Weapons Plans

The Trump administration’s first Congressional budget request pushes full steam ahead with the Obama administration’s excessive, all-of-the-above approach to upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal. This continuity is not surprising given the Trump administration has begun a Nuclear Posture Review that is examining U.S. nuclear policy and strategy, including force structure and spending requirements. While it remains to be seen whether the administration will take the current upgrade plans in a new direction, its Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget proposal illustrates the risings costs of the nuclear...

The D Brief

News Date: 
May 31, 2017 -04:00


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