B61 Bomb to Cost More Than Twice Its Weight in Gold

On the radar: New infographic; the MOX mistake; After the speech; Excessive, redundant and expensive; Dracula’s defenses; Bold nuclear agenda; and MDA now peddling merch.

July 9, 2013 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke and Alyssa Demus

Meet the Budget Busting B61 Nuclear Bomb - The U.S. is poised to spend $11.6 billion to upgrade a handful of nuclear bombs - with each bomb costing more than twice its weight in gold. Why are the bombs still around? What else could the U.S. buy with the money? How much gold are we talking about?

--Today, Ploughshares Fund released a new infographic explaining the high costs and trade-offs of the B61 bomb upgrade. See the full thing here. http://ow.ly/mNzOs

--Cost comparison: Average cost for one B61 nuclear bomb upgrade: $28.9 million. The bomb’s weight in gold: $12.4 million.

Tweet - @plough_shares:The #B61 costs more than its weight in gold. What would you spend the $ on? #SolidGoldNuke http://ow.ly/mNvhh

Flawed from the start - “The federal government has invested $3.7 billion in the half-built plant at the Savannah River Site that is supposed to serve as a factory for converting nuclear bomb fuel into fuel for nuclear power plants. But the project is way over schedule and way over budget, and chances are good the costs will continue to mount. The time has come for the nation to cut its losses on the plant and shut construction down,” writes the editorial board of HeraldOnline.

--Differences in reactor-grade plutonium and MOX creates challenges for nuclear plant operators. Also, MOX can still “be purified to make bombs,” and therefore still presents a proliferation risk. Thus, even if construction of the plant is completed, there are other serious complications. “It’s time to admit that it was a mistake and move on,” writes the board. http://ow.ly/mNmKz

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Actions, not words - The president’s recent Berlin speech in which he announced he would seek to reduce the number of nuclear weapons by up to one-third “was in part an effort to jumpstart his stalled [nuclear] agenda.” However, the plan is not bold, but rather “incremental at best.” The president’s new guidance would still leave in place “a Cold War force configured primarily to strike hundreds of targets in Russia on 15 minutes of notice.”

--Further, “contracts to rebuild every warhead in the active and reserve arsenal and to build a new generation of nuclear-armed submarines, missiles and bombers are working their way through Congress. Unless the president changes these procurement plans, the U.S. will spend $640 billion on nuclear weapons and related programs over the next 10 years. [So,]...the question now remains whether Obama will follow up on his Berlin promise with more immediate actions,” writes Joe Cirincione at The Interdependent. http://ow.ly/mNsUq

Confidence men - “Three straight failed tests of missile defense interceptors haven't shaken the Pentagon's confidence in its ability to defend the U.S. against the threat of a long-range missile strike by North Korea, a military spokesman said today,” writes Luis Martinez for ABC News. http://abcn.ws/11ysZPo

Trimming the Triad - In its recent report to Congress on the Nuclear Employment Strategy, the Pentagon affirms its need to maintain the U.S. nuclear Triad. During the Cold War, diversifying U.S. nuclear capabilities made sense. In a today’s fiscal climate and threat environment this rationale no longer makes sense. Michael Krepon at Arms Control Wonk explains the origins of the Triad and the forces keeping it around. http://ow.ly/mNiwi

BMD over Bucharest - The Pentagon’s plan to construct a ground-based missile defense system in Romania is starting to take shape. The system, which will be housed at Romania’s Deveselu Air Base, is intended to “protect U.S. allies in southern Europe - as well as American troops in the region.”

--The base will be “outfitted with” 24 SM-3 interceptor missiles “aka the Aegis Ashore System.” The Pentagon is requesting $158 million for the site’s construction in 2013, as all “expenses will be covered by the US,” reports Mark Thompson at Battleland. http://ow.ly/mNf5l

Tweet - @Gottemoeller: The #GenPrague Conference is only a week away! You don't want to miss it - register here. http://bit.ly/1deoBF7

Senji Yamaguchi, 1931-2013 -- Last Saturday, Senji Yamaguchi, a survivor of the Nagasaki atomic bombing and an activist for nuclear abolition, passed away at age 82. He was the first atomic bomb survivor to deliver remarks at the UN. The Asahi Shimbun has his full story. http://ow.ly/mNvOI

Tweet - @csmonitor: After 16 hours of talks #NorthKorea agreed to normalize operations at joint factory. ow.ly/mLpwp

Deep Cuts - A new, trilateral Commission on Deep Nuclear Cuts just launched. Mission: “to devise concepts on how to overcome current challenges to deep nuclear reductions. Through means of realistic analysis and specific recommendations, the Commission strives to translate the already existing political commitments to further nuclear reductions into concrete and feasible action.”

--Commissioners: Acton, Esin, Fetter, Gormley, Häckel, Kamp, Kelleher, Klotz, Meier, Mizin, Myasnikov, Naumann, Neuneck, Oznobishchev, Pifer, Rogov, Rybachenkov, Schmid, THielmann, Zagorski, and Zellner. Find out more at http://www.deepcuts.org.

Speed reads -

--”Talks on Mideast WMD Ban an Unintended Casualty of Egyptian Coup?” by Elaine Grossman for Global Security Newswire. http://bit.ly/1aW8qiY

--”Some Experts See North Korean Nuclear Arms as Here to Stay” by Rachel Oswald for National Journal. http://yhoo.it/13ySP7f


--DOD to release its "Strategic Choices and Management Review,” week of July 8.

--"U.S.-Russia Plutonium Disposition: Adventures with MOX." Jeffrey Smith, Douglas Birch, and Frank von Hippel. July 9, 2:00-3:30 PM @ Carnegie Endowment. Details here. http://ow.ly/mL0YO

--"Institutional Roadblocks to Deterrence Stability in South Asia." Polly Nayak, and Lt. Gen. Vinay Shankar. July 11, 12:30-2:00 PM @ Stimson Center. Details here. http://ow.ly/mL1lg

--"Generation Prague: Building a Strategy of Peace.” Keynote speaker, Secretary Ernie Moniz. July 16-17. Details here. http://ow.ly/mL24r


Souvenirs - You too can commemorate failed missile defense tests with your very own patch, for sale by the Missile Defense Agency. Pack of 50 costs $400, an absolute steal for missile defense prices. Shop at the MDA online boutique, brought to our attention by George Lewis of Mostly Missile Defense. http://ow.ly/mNy6n