Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Nuclear Posture Review 2010 Emerges

Finally, the Nuclear Posture Review for 2010 has emerged from the bowels of the Defense Dept. On Tuesday April 6,2010. Secretary Robert Gates, speaking for the Obama Administration, introduced the new NPR in a brief cover letter; it can all be found on the DOD's public website. In his letter, Gates notes that the $5 billion of new funding for the nuclear weapons complex, to be spread over the next ten years, and which was announced recently by the Obama Admin., is actually to come from the Defense Dept.; i.e., some DOD monies are to be transferred slowly to DOE coffers.

Now, hitting just a few of the high points from the NPR Executive Summary, under the heading "Sustaining a Safe, Secure, and Effective Nuclear Arsenal", several interesting features appear, from which I quote:

"The United States will not conduct nuclear testing and will pursue ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty."

"The United States will not develop new nuclear warheads. Life Extension Programs (LEPs) will use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs, and will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilites."

"The United States will study options for ensuring the safety, security, and reliability of nuclear warheads on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the congressionally mandated Stockpile Management Program. The full range of LEP approaches will be considered: refurbishment of existing warheads, reuse of nuclear components from different warheads, and replacement of nuclear components."

"In any decision to proceed to engineering development for warhead LEPs, the United States will give strong preference to options for refurbishment or reuse. Replacement of nuclear components would be undertaken only if critical Stockpile Management Program goals could not otherwise be met, amd if specifically authorized by the President and approved by Congress."

Further, the new NPR asserts that:

"The science, technology and engineering base, vital for stockpile stewardship
as well as providing insights for non-proliferation, must be strengthened."

"Increased investments in the nuclear weapons complex of facilities and personnel are required to ensure the long-term safety, security, and effectiveness of our nuclear arsenal. New facilities will be sized to support the requirements of the stockpile stewardship and management plan being developed by the National Nuclear Security Administration."

"Increased funding is needed for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory to replace the existing 50-year old facility. and to develop a new Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennesee."

There is also a description in the NPR of a new policy of "no use of nuclear weapons", by the United States, against nations not possessing nuclear weapons, if such nations were to be also "in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation responsibilities". This new policy would not apply, however, to nuclear weapons armed states; i.e., for these, the previous policy which does not restrict use, or even first use, would continue in effect.

There are also remarks in the new NPR reminding us of the intention of the Obama Administration to enter into a new agreement with Russia, reducing by a small amount the size of the deployed nuclear arsenals on both sides, as well as reducing the number of allowed delivery vehicles.

Thus, and according to its own estimation, the Obama Administration moves forward toward its long-term goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. One would have to observe, however, that any motion along this line will not be so quick as to seriously discommode any of the important political players in Washington.

For more information on this topic, see my previous post entitled, "JASON's Report on LEP Strategies Revisited".

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