Nuclear Reductions and the Weapons Labs
July 2, 2012 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke and Leah Fae Cochran
Labs and reductions - Previous reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal have led to increased work (and funding) for the nuclear weapons labs, as they shift to maintaining existing warheads instead of producing new ones. With more nuclear reductions planned, however, it is unclear what will happen with workloads, budgets, and staff at Los Alamos and Sandia national labs.
--One key question is how many warhead types (currently seven) would be kept in the nuclear arsenal. Fewer types could lead to less weapons-specific work for the labs, said former VP and Sandia Bob Peurifoy.
--”The increasing pressure on lab infrastructure to support a smaller stockpile, and the possibility of further cuts in the size of the U.S. arsenal, have created a political rift between the administration and congressional Republicans,” writes John Fleck in his story at Albuquerque Journal. http://bit.ly/LKY6NX
Money for the district - “With the retirement of Senate lions Pete Domenici in 2008 and Jeff Bingaman at the end of this year, it’s unclear how much clout New Mexico’s relatively junior congressional delegation will have in the coming debate and in their efforts to secure federal funding for New Mexico’s two national laboratories,” reports Michael Coleman for the Albuquerque Journal. http://bit.ly/LsfcNZ
Nuke definitions - China is leading a working group this summer of the five nuclear weapons states to agree on definitions for arms control terms, a necessary step for further talks on disarmament.
--U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Goetmoeller, hopes China’s leadership will lead to greater transparency of their program. "The fact that they are shouldering the responsibilities for this working group, I think, is a good sign of their interest of developing more mutual cooperation of this kind, leading to greater predictability and greater mutual confidence," she said. Reuters has the story. http://reut.rs/MwA0rb
Rethinking SSBN(X) - “SSBN(X) clearly seems unaffordable at this point, and it would be unwise simply to renew and refresh the design of the Ohio class, a Cold War submarine whose baseline design was completed when the Navy accepted the Trident’s design baseline 40 years ago,” writes Com. Michael Dobbs (ret.) for Proceedings Magazine.
--”The Navy should consider a significant redesign of the SSBN(X) to take advantage of a dramatic decrease in threats to SSBNs since the 1990s...Although the Navy must begin construction on the SSBN(X) by the end of this decade, there may still be time to redesign a future ballistic-missile submarine that America can better afford.” http://bit.ly/LKvvnv
Pu - The U.S. has 43.4 metric tons of surplus plutonium for defense needs - enough to make thousands of nuclear weapons. NNSA recently announced the number. Press release here. http://bit.ly/LKZSP6
--Full NNSA Report: “The United States plutonium Balance, 1944-2009” http://bit.ly/LKqA5T
Rock and a hard place -Despite U.S. pressure, Pakistan’s government still refuses to completely cut ties with the Haqqani network, an extremist organization who poses a danger to NATO troops in Afghanistan and threatens to destabilize Pakistan, according to The New York Times editorial page.
--”Some in Congress want to designate the Haqqanis as a terrorist organization. That would be unwise because such a move could lead to Pakistan’s being designated a terrorist state subject to sanctions and make cooperation even harder. The United States has no choice but to try to work with Pakistan, including the army, when it can.” Full editorial here.http://nyti.ms/Lrk1Xy
Nork proliferation push - "From a military point of view, it is a matter of course that we should use plutonium and highly-enriched uranium for atomic bombs," says a document reported to be an internal North Korean regime memo. According to the document, Kim Jong-Il gave subordinates "a concrete task to produce a massive amount of nuclear weapons". AFP has the story. http://bit.ly/NebuYD
Slogan - David Ignatius reports from Jerusalem that an Israeli attack on Iran by the end of the year is clearly still on the minds of Israeli officials despite the continuing of technical talks this week with the P5+1.
--“A popular new slogan making the rounds among government ministers here is that in dealing with Iran, Israel faces a decision between ‘bombing or the bomb’,” Ignatius writes. “This stark choice sums up the mood among top officials of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: It’s clear that Israel’s military option is still very much on the table, despite the success of economic sanctions in forcing Iran into negotiations.” Full-story at The Washington Post.http://wapo.st/MHoMza
On the other hand - A recent speech by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz of the Kadima party leads Robert Wright of The Atlantic to believe that “the pressure to strike Iran placed on President Obama by Israel could wane.”
--Wright and others believe that the Kadima party, part of the newly-formed coalition government, represents the broader security establishment’s efforts to balance Prime Minister Netanyahu’s hawkish position on Iran. http://bit.ly/MAUvDb
China estimates - An attention-grabbing yet discredited claim that China has 3,000 nuclear weapons is making the rounds, again. This time, a former Russian general is making the claim using the same faulty source data as previous estimates used. Jeffrey Lewis at Arms Control Wonk explains the problem and admonishes such experts to do their research. http://bit.ly/OZmXAD
Nuclear sledgehammers - Asked what he would do if a launch order came in and the safe containing the launch codes failed to open, Russian Gen. Georgy Novikov in 1980 had a rather Russian solution: “knock off the safe’s lock with the sledgehammer” kept conveniently nearby. Ria Novosti has the story. http://bit.ly/OcoPUe
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