The $10 Billion Bomb
July 26, 2012 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke and Leah Fae Cochran
B-61 LEP - The B-61 life extension program will now cost $10 billion - two-and-a-half times the original cost - according to a new estimate from the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office. That’s $2 billion more than NNSA’s current estimate of $8 billion.
--Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) revealed the cost estimate yesterday at a hearing on the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Noting that NNSA program budgets have a habit of growing exponentially, Sen. Feinstein said, “We have to find a way to stop this from happening and that’s what we are now trying to do.” Kate Brannen at Defense News has the story. http://bit.ly/O1hBjb
Exploding warhead costs - A little over a year ago, the B-61 was estimated to cost $3.9 billion - making it the most expensive nuclear warhead upgrade in U.S. history. Last May, NNSA nearly doubled that estimate to $6 billion. Now NNSA says it will be $8 billion. The Pentagon now says $10 billion.
-”To put this in context...the new $10 billion estimate is equivalent to two-thirds of what NNSA planned to spend on life extending all the other warhead types in the US arsenal over the next twenty years!” writes Nick Roth at Nukes of Hazard. http://bit.ly/LRoamL
Missile defense - Two recent reports on U.S. missile defense “show that these programs are chasing scientific dead ends, unworkable concepts and a flawed overall architecture,” writes Philip Coyle in The National Interest. The reports are from the Defense Science Board and the National Academy of Sciences.
--”Together, these studies make it clear that the current architecture of America’s missile-defense systems needs to be rethought to be effective. MDA’s plans are in turmoil, adding to costs and schedule delays and perpetuating the lack of physics integrity that has plagued these systems,” writes Coyle. http://bit.ly/OlHTPC
Romney nuclear policy - Mitt Romney aired his foreign policy views in a speech on Monday. Kingston Reif at The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation looks at Romney’s nuclear weapons policies and concludes the cadidate’s positions are, to say the least, “not ready for prime time.” http://bit.ly/Qd7yYA
MOX - The Tennessee Valley Authority announced in a draft environmental statement that it is considering using mixed oxide fuel (MOX) made from dismantled nuclear weapons in its power reactors by 2018. Full-story here. http://bit.ly/MLB9uv
Report - “Draft Surplus Plutonium Disposition Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement” by NNSA, July 2012. (pdf) http://bit.ly/OpwtZa
Tweet - @Cirincione: Things I learned today: 30% of Russian defense budget just disappears due to corruption.
New sanctions package - Congress is working to approve a new Iran sanctions package before August recess. The Senate passed its sanctions bill in May, while the House passed its version in December. Negotiators are working to find a bill that can pass both houses next week. Reuters reports on the sausage-making. http://reut.rs/LPW9Az
Iran’s view - Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned that no amount of sanctions will make Iran dismantle its nuclear program in remarks broadcast on Iranian TV yesterday. The Associated Press has the story. http://bit.ly/MHPrdv
Detection test - NNSA tested the United States’ ability to detect nuclear test explosions with its third in a series of seven trails. The latest involved detonating a chemical explosive equivalent to 2,200 lbs of TNT, buried 150 below ground at the Nevada test site. GSN has the story. http://bit.ly/OpmC5H
Leverage - Mark Hibbs pushes back on the expectation of that the nuclear deal with Taiwan will become “the gold standard” for future nonproliferation deals. Last week, Taiwan pledged to renounce their rights to the fuel-cycle in order to renew nuclear cooperation with the U.S.
--Hibbs writes that Taiwan is an unrealistic model for the standard because the unique security arrangements the country has with the U.S. “Taiwan’s resolve not to enrich or reprocess has nothing to do with the “gold standard” and nearly everything to do with U.S. leverage over Taiwan’s security arrangements,” Hibbs writes. Arms Control Wonk has the post. http://bit.ly/Nt9OyR
Happy Anniversary? - Apparently, Kim Jong-un has been married for three years, and North Korean media never bothered to tell anyone about it. The story is still developing, but The Atlantic Wire sums it up and provides a photo of Kim Jong-un on an amusement park ride. http://bit.ly/NwBnal
Dread - As the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis approaches, a new account sheds light on U.S.nuclear weapons deployed in Okinawa, Japan during the crisis. Interviews with Air Force personnel stationed with the missiles detailed life in the bunkers and the tension surrounding the crisis.
-- “If DEFCON 1 was reached, then we would be within five minutes of launching our missiles. A look of dread washed across everyone’s faces, and I felt the blood drain out of mine, too,” said one missileer. Read the full-account here. http://bit.ly/QcEQa6
Get the latest