It's Time for a Plan to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

by David Krieger

In early January 2007, a surprising commentary appeared in the Wall Street Journal pleading for US leadership to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons. The surprise emanated from the identity of the writers: four prominent former high-level US foreign and defense policy officials, a bipartisan group with impeccable hawkish credentials-George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn.

In their welcome, if belated, statement of concern about nuclear dangers, they harkened back to the 1986 summit at Reykjavik, where Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev came close to an agreement to rid the world of nuclear weapons. "Reassertion of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons," they wrote, "and practical measures toward achieving that goal would be, and would be perceived as, a bold initiative consistent with America's moral heritage. The effort could have a profoundly positive impact on the securityof future generations...

Reliable Replacement Warhead Will Use Hybrid Design The Bush Administration announced that it will likely use an amalgam of two nuclear weapons designs for its Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program.
The two major US nuclear weapons labs, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, have been involved in a competition to design the next generation of nuclear weapons. The inter-lab competition was created in an attempt to foster healthy competition between the labs.

Previously designs had come exclusively from one lab or the other. The administration's decision to combine features from both labs' designs has been called "peculiar" by Dr. Michael A. Levi, fellow for science and technology at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York. Levi warned that motivations behind a hybrid design may be bureaucratic, not strategic, which may only encourage inferior design work.

While the RRW is intended to replace the existing nuclear arsenal with newer and fewer weapons, many fear that building new nuclear weapons could seriously undermine international non-proliferation and disarmament efforts.
There are also concerns that this new hybrid design is so radically different than existing nuclear weapons that it will lead to a resurgence of nuclear testing.

Sources: Broad, William J., David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker, "US moving to refurbish its nuclear arsenal," International Herald Tribune, 7 January
2007. Owen, Seth, "New warhead could siphon funds from sub builders," The Day, 13 January 2007.

King of Jordan Interested in Nuclear Program On Friday, 19 January, King Abdullah II of Jordan said that Jordan wants to develop a peaceful nuclear program.

"The rules governing the nuclear issue have changed in the entire region,"
said Abdullah. "We want to make sure this is used for energy. What we don't want is an arms race to come out of this," he said.

Jordan is the latest in a growing number of Arab nations that are considering a nuclear program. Egypt and the Arab Gulf nations have already indicated that they would consider a nuclear program. There is speculation that this recent wave of states interested in peaceful nuclear programs is the result of fears that Iran will inevitably possess nuclear weapons.
Development of such programs by Middle Eastern nations would increase the likelihood of nuclear weapons technologies proliferation.

Scientists Determine that Material for Storing Nuclear Waste May Not Be Safe Scientists have discovered that a material thought to be capable of containing nuclear waste may not be as dependable as previously thought.

Scientists had previously hypothesized that the synthetic known as zircon would contain nuclear waste safely for thousands of years. In an announcement made on Wednesday, 10 January, scientists at the University of Cambridge in England said that when zircon was used as a container for plutonium, the zircon degraded far faster than previously thought. This would mean that zircon would be able to safely contain nuclear waste for only part of the waste's toxic lifetime.

Through a process called nuclear magnetic resonance, the scientists were able to simulate how the two materials would interact over thousands of years. This is part of a broader study to determine what materials could be used to safely store nuclear waste.

There are over 50,000 metric tons of nuclear waste in the United States.
Yucca Mountain in Nevada has been chosen as a repository site for this waste. Due to various environmental and health concerns that have been raised over locating the repository at Yucca, many have fought to make sure this site never opens.

Source: Reaney, Patricia, "Study casts doubt on nuclear waste storage safety," Reuters, 10 January 2007.

DOE Announces New Warhead and Research for Second RRW Design The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the semi-autonomous agency responsible for maintaining the US nuclear arsenal, has announced two important decisions. The NNSA first announced that it is now researching the possibility of a second design for their Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW).
The NNSA budget document stated, "the [Nuclear Weapons Council] determined that the RRW is to be adopted as the strategy for maintaining a long-term safe, secure and reliable nuclear deterrent and as such also directed the initiation of a conceptual study for an additional RRW design." The announcement that a second design will be necessary has come as a surprise to many. There was no mention of a second RRW design when the NNSA first proposed the program. A second design suggests that the first RRW will be submarine-based and the second will be used for land.

Congress has not yet approved the production of these new nuclear weapons.
However, large amounts of money are already being allocated for this program. In the FY 2008 budget request, the Department of Energy (DOE)
increased RRW funding from approximately $27 million to $88 million. The Navy is spending approximately $30 million this year and intends to spend $725 million over the next five years.

The NNSA also announced their selection of a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) design for its first RRW warhead, a replacement for the W-76. This warhead is a conservative design for the Trident nuclear attack submarine. The announcement came as a surprise to many, who expected a hybrid of designs from LLNL and Los Alamos National Laboratory to be chosen.

The NNSA has proposed the RRW in order to replace nuclear weapons that are thought to be harder and more costly to maintain. They have also stated that these new designs will not require nuclear testing. There are many non-proliferation experts and congressional offices that are concerned that the development of new nuclear weapons will seriously undermine non-proliferation and disarmament efforts around the world.

Sources: Lobsenz, George, "NNSA pursuing second RRW design 'concept,' "
Defense Daily, February 12, 2007.
Hoffman, Ian, "US picks Lawrence Livemore to build first new H-bomb in two decades," San Mateo County Times, March 2, 2007.

Grassroots Activism Leads to Cancellation of "Divine Strake" Test Public outcry in Utah is being credited for stopping the Divine Strake conventional weapons test. On Thursday, 23 February, James Tegnelia, Director of the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency released a statement saying, "I have become convinced that it's time to look at alternative methods that obviate the need for this type of large-scale test."

Utah Governor Jon Huntsman stated, "It had everything to do with the voices that spoke out very passionately and emotionally from our state. That absolutely carried the day and that shouldn't be forgotten by anybody."

Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV) also said that Divine Strake's demise could be attributed to the public voicing their concerns. She also said that the Defense Department did not give her a reason for Divine Strake's cancellation. "We were never told they were going to do it, and they never told us when they weren't going to do it; but we sure made their lives miserable in the meantime."

Originally scheduled for 2 June 2006, Divine Strake was to be the final of a series of conventional weapons tests designed to simulate bunker buster nuclear weapons. Eighty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas, 700 tons of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil were to be detonated, creating a cloud of smoke that could reach 10,000 feet. In 2005, Tegnelia stated, "I don't want to sound glib here, but it is the first time in Nevada that you'll see a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas since we stopped testing nuclear weapons."

In 2006, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of downwinders and Western Shoeshone, which postponed the test indefinitely. There were concerns that dust from the Nevada Test Site, which had been contaminated from decades of nuclear testing, would be kicked up into the atmosphere and threaten the health of communities in Nevada and surrounding states. Divine Strake has cost taxpayers approximately $26 million.

Source: Rogers, Keith, "Test site explosion: Divine Strake blast dead," Las Vegas Review Journal, February 23, 2007.by David Krieger In early January 2007, a surprising commentary appeared in the Wall Street Journal pleading for US leadership to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons. The surprise emanated from the identity of the writers: four prominent former high-level US foreign and defense policy officials, a bipartisan group with impeccable hawkish credentials-George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn.

In their welcome, if belated, statement of concern about nuclear dangers, they harkened back to the 1986 summit at Reykjavik, where Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev came close to an agreement to rid the world of nuclear weapons. "Reassertion of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons," they wrote, "and practical measures toward achieving that goal would be, and would be perceived as, a bold initiative consistent with America's moral heritage. The effort could have a profoundly positive impact on the securityof future generations...

Reliable Replacement Warhead Will Use Hybrid Design The Bush Administration announced that it will likely use an amalgam of two nuclear weapons designs for its Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program.
The two major US nuclear weapons labs, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, have been involved in a competition to design the next generation of nuclear weapons. The inter-lab competition was created in an attempt to foster healthy competition between the labs.

Previously designs had come exclusively from one lab or the other. The administration's decision to combine features from both labs' designs has been called "peculiar" by Dr. Michael A. Levi, fellow for science and technology at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York. Levi warned that motivations behind a hybrid design may be bureaucratic, not strategic, which may only encourage inferior design work.

While the RRW is intended to replace the existing nuclear arsenal with newer and fewer weapons, many fear that building new nuclear weapons could seriously undermine international non-proliferation and disarmament efforts.
There are also concerns that this new hybrid design is so radically different than existing nuclear weapons that it will lead to a resurgence of nuclear testing.

Sources: Broad, William J., David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker, "US moving to refurbish its nuclear arsenal," International Herald Tribune, 7 January
2007. Owen, Seth, "New warhead could siphon funds from sub builders," The Day, 13 January 2007.

King of Jordan Interested in Nuclear Program On Friday, 19 January, King Abdullah II of Jordan said that Jordan wants to develop a peaceful nuclear program.

"The rules governing the nuclear issue have changed in the entire region,"
said Abdullah. "We want to make sure this is used for energy. What we don't want is an arms race to come out of this," he said.

Jordan is the latest in a growing number of Arab nations that are considering a nuclear program. Egypt and the Arab Gulf nations have already indicated that they would consider a nuclear program. There is speculation that this recent wave of states interested in peaceful nuclear programs is the result of fears that Iran will inevitably possess nuclear weapons.
Development of such programs by Middle Eastern nations would increase the likelihood of nuclear weapons technologies proliferation.

Scientists Determine that Material for Storing Nuclear Waste May Not Be Safe Scientists have discovered that a material thought to be capable of containing nuclear waste may not be as dependable as previously thought.

Scientists had previously hypothesized that the synthetic known as zircon would contain nuclear waste safely for thousands of years. In an announcement made on Wednesday, 10 January, scientists at the University of Cambridge in England said that when zircon was used as a container for plutonium, the zircon degraded far faster than previously thought. This would mean that zircon would be able to safely contain nuclear waste for only part of the waste's toxic lifetime.

Through a process called nuclear magnetic resonance, the scientists were able to simulate how the two materials would interact over thousands of years. This is part of a broader study to determine what materials could be used to safely store nuclear waste.

There are over 50,000 metric tons of nuclear waste in the United States.
Yucca Mountain in Nevada has been chosen as a repository site for this waste. Due to various environmental and health concerns that have been raised over locating the repository at Yucca, many have fought to make sure this site never opens.

Source: Reaney, Patricia, "Study casts doubt on nuclear waste storage safety," Reuters, 10 January 2007.

DOE Announces New Warhead and Research for Second RRW Design The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the semi-autonomous agency responsible for maintaining the US nuclear arsenal, has announced two important decisions. The NNSA first announced that it is now researching the possibility of a second design for their Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW).
The NNSA budget document stated, "the [Nuclear Weapons Council] determined that the RRW is to be adopted as the strategy for maintaining a long-term safe, secure and reliable nuclear deterrent and as such also directed the initiation of a conceptual study for an additional RRW design." The announcement that a second design will be necessary has come as a surprise to many. There was no mention of a second RRW design when the NNSA first proposed the program. A second design suggests that the first RRW will be submarine-based and the second will be used for land.

Congress has not yet approved the production of these new nuclear weapons.
However, large amounts of money are already being allocated for this program. In the FY 2008 budget request, the Department of Energy (DOE)
increased RRW funding from approximately $27 million to $88 million. The Navy is spending approximately $30 million this year and intends to spend $725 million over the next five years.

The NNSA also announced their selection of a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) design for its first RRW warhead, a replacement for the W-76. This warhead is a conservative design for the Trident nuclear attack submarine. The announcement came as a surprise to many, who expected a hybrid of designs from LLNL and Los Alamos National Laboratory to be chosen.

The NNSA has proposed the RRW in order to replace nuclear weapons that are thought to be harder and more costly to maintain. They have also stated that these new designs will not require nuclear testing. There are many non-proliferation experts and congressional offices that are concerned that the development of new nuclear weapons will seriously undermine non-proliferation and disarmament efforts around the world.

Sources: Lobsenz, George, "NNSA pursuing second RRW design 'concept,' "
Defense Daily, February 12, 2007.
Hoffman, Ian, "US picks Lawrence Livemore to build first new H-bomb in two decades," San Mateo County Times, March 2, 2007.

Grassroots Activism Leads to Cancellation of "Divine Strake" Test Public outcry in Utah is being credited for stopping the Divine Strake conventional weapons test. On Thursday, 23 February, James Tegnelia, Director of the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency released a statement saying, "I have become convinced that it's time to look at alternative methods that obviate the need for this type of large-scale test."

Utah Governor Jon Huntsman stated, "It had everything to do with the voices that spoke out very passionately and emotionally from our state. That absolutely carried the day and that shouldn't be forgotten by anybody."

Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV) also said that Divine Strake's demise could be attributed to the public voicing their concerns. She also said that the Defense Department did not give her a reason for Divine Strake's cancellation. "We were never told they were going to do it, and they never told us when they weren't going to do it; but we sure made their lives miserable in the meantime."

Originally scheduled for 2 June 2006, Divine Strake was to be the final of a series of conventional weapons tests designed to simulate bunker buster nuclear weapons. Eighty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas, 700 tons of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil were to be detonated, creating a cloud of smoke that could reach 10,000 feet. In 2005, Tegnelia stated, "I don't want to sound glib here, but it is the first time in Nevada that you'll see a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas since we stopped testing nuclear weapons."

In 2006, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of downwinders and Western Shoeshone, which postponed the test indefinitely. There were concerns that dust from the Nevada Test Site, which had been contaminated from decades of nuclear testing, would be kicked up into the atmosphere and threaten the health of communities in Nevada and surrounding states. Divine Strake has cost taxpayers approximately $26 million.

Source: Rogers, Keith, "Test site explosion: Divine Strake blast dead," Las Vegas Review Journal, February 23, 2007.

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