Thursday, July 26, 2007

Desperate for New Nuclear Weapons, Bush Administration Issues New Policy Paper

The Bush Administration, seeking to salvage its beleaguered program to build a new generation of nuclear weapons, released a three-page policy paper this week that reads more like a propaganda piece than serious reasoning.

Delivered to Congress by the Secretaries of Energy, Defense, and State, the paper, National Security and Nuclear Weapons: Maintaining Deterrence in the 21st Century, reiterates that the United States plans to maintain its nuclear weapons stockpile well into the future and describes the proposed new nuclear warhead, the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW), as the best means for ensuring the future nuclear deterrent.

Leonor Tomero, Director for Nuclear Non-Proliferation at the Center, commented: “As Congress has refused to proceed willy-nilly with any grand plan to build new nuclear weapons, the Administration is left grasping at straws to conjure up a compelling justification. I don’t see how the Administration can ignore new scientific conclusions about the reliability of plutonium triggers in existing weapons, making new warheads unnecessary, not to mention the repercussions for U.S. nonproliferation efforts.”

In December 2006, the Department of Energy announced that the lifetime of most current nuclear warheads is at least 100 years, roughly double the Department’s original estimate of 45 years.

Carah Ong, Iran Policy Analyst at the Center, noted: “It is difficult to tell countries like Iran and North Korea to forsake nuclear weapons while issuing three pages of rhetoric on why the United States needs new ones.”

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees inserted a provision in the fiscal year 2008 Defense Authorization bill requiring the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Energy to conduct a review of the nuclear posture of the United States for the next five to ten years.

The report for the Defense Authorization bill also notes many critics and skeptics of new nuclear weapons, including former Senator Sam Nunn, who said that building them would be “misunderstood by our allies, exploited by our adversaries, complicate our work to prevent the spread and use of nuclear weapons…and make resolution of the Iran and North Korea challenges all the more difficult.”

Personally, I would add: “Working to reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal while maintaining a credible deterrent requires serious analysis and an open-minded approach, not a three-page reiteration of your ideological agenda.”

In past years, Congress squashed the Administration’s attempts to develop first “mini-nukes” and then the nuclear bunker buster.

My apologies to those that read the Center’s press release beforehand.

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