WASHINGTON - October 1 – The Bush Administration's effort to build a new generation of nuclear weapons suffered another setback with the release of a declassified executive summary by JASON, an independent government advisory body of nuclear scientists originally founded by members of the Manhattan Project.
JASON concludes that the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) "needs further development" before it can be certified and enter the U.S. weapons stockpile without underground nuclear testing. In order for this certification to happen, JASON believes "additional experiments and analyses are needed" to explore possible failures of the nuclear warhead and the new manufacturing processes contemplated for building it.
Leonor Tomero, Director for Nuclear Non-Proliferation at the Center, commented: "This new study flags very important issues as the Administration charges ahead with plans for a new generation of nuclear warheads, including the need for peer review and independent oversight and the importance of minimizing the risk that a new nuclear warhead would require the resumption of nuclear testing. These are critical issues for an informed public debate on whether we should pursue new nuclear weapons."
JASON's declassified executive summary is available onliine.
In December 2006, the Department of Energy announced that the lifetime of the cores of existing nuclear warheads is at least 100 years, roughly double the Department's original estimate of 45 years. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees inserted provisions in the fiscal year 2008 Defense Authorization bill requiring a review of the nuclear posture of the United States for the next five to ten years.
Tomero added: "This is not an endorsement of the Administration's plan to build a new nuclear warhead; in fact, the report specifically mentions that it did not compare alternatives such as the proven life extension program and that no cost information was provided. As Congress makes its decision on whether to fund new warhead development, a critical issue for informed debate will be the dangerous impact the modernization of the U.S. arsenal will have on our efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear capabilities to other countries."
Expert quotes opposing new nuclear weapons are available online.