Showing posts with label Nuclear. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nuclear. Show all posts

February 26, 2017

Kremlin Scratching Heads Concern Trump Unleashing Nuke Arms Race

MOSCOW — Russian politicians close to the Kremlin said on Friday U.S. President Donald Trump's declared aim of putting the U.S. nuclear arsenal "at the top of the pack" risked triggering a new Cold War-style arms race between Washington and Moscow.

In an interview with Reuters, Trump said the United States had fallen behind in its nuclear weapons capacity, a situation he said he would reverse, and he said a treaty limiting Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals was a bad deal for Washington.

Russian officials issued no reaction, with Friday a public holiday, but pro-Kremlin politicians expressed consternation about the comments from Trump, who Moscow had hoped would usher in new, friendlier relations between the two countries. 

"Trump's campaign slogan 'Make America great again', if that means nuclear supremacy, will return the world to the worst times of the arms race in the '50s and '60s," said Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament.

The president's remarks in the interview with Reuters were, Kosachev said in a post on his Facebook page, "arguably Trump's most alarming statement on the subject of relations with Russia."
Over the course of the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States realized that achieving supremacy was dangerous, and accepted the doctrine of parity as the best way to ensure peace, Kosachev wrote on his Facebook page.

"Are we entering a new era? In my view we need an answer to that question as soon as possible."

During the U.S. presidential race, Trump said he would try to end the enmity that broke out between the Kremlin and Washington during Barack Obama's presidency. Russian officials looked forward to re-setting relations.

But just over a month into the Trump presidency, that prospect has receded, especially with the sacking of Michael Flynn, a leading proponent of warmer ties with Moscow, from his job as national security adviser.

Another pro-Kremlin lawmaker, Alexei Pushkov, wrote on Twitter that Trump's comments on increasing U.S. nuclear capacity "put in doubt the agreement on limiting strategic arms, returning the world to the 20th century".

He said a Cold War arms treaty laid the foundation for nuclear stability between Moscow and Washington. "That needs to be preserved. And the United States cannot achieve decisive superiority."

"Instead of trying to achieve an illusory nuclear supremacy over Russia, the U.S. administration should find a solution to the exceptionally complicated nuclear problem of North Korea," wrote Pushkov, a member of the defense and security committee in Russia's upper house of parliament.

Pushkov and Kosachev are not directly involved in decision-making on Russian defense and foreign policy, but they generally reflect the Kremlin position. 

January 25, 2017

Sen(D) Markey Introduces Legislation to Have Trump Not be First to Use Nukes

Washington (January 24, 2017) – Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Congressman Ted W. Lieu (CA-33) and introduced the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. This legislation would prohibit the President from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. The crucial issue of nuclear “first use” is more urgent than ever now that President Donald Trump has the power to launch a nuclear war at a moment’s notice.
“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival,” said Senator Markey. “Yet, President Trump has suggested that he would consider launching nuclear attacks against terrorists. Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy provides him with that power. In a crisis with another nuclear-armed country, this policy drastically increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation. Neither President Trump, nor any other president, should be allowed to use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack. By restricting the first use of nuclear weapons, this legislation enshrines that simple principle into law. I thank Rep. Lieu for his partnership on this common-sense bill during this critical time in our nation’s history.”
“It is a frightening reality that the U.S. now has a Commander-in-Chief who has demonstrated ignorance of the nuclear triad, stated his desire to be ‘unpredictable’ with nuclear weapons, and as President-elect was making sweeping statements about U.S. nuclear policy over Twitter,” said Rep. Lieu. “Congress must act to preserve global stability by restricting the circumstances under which the U.S. would be the first nation to use a nuclear weapon. Our Founders created a system of checks and balances, and it is essential for that standard to be applied to the potentially civilization-ending threat of nuclear war. I am proud to introduce the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017 with Sen. Markey to realign our nation’s nuclear weapons launch policy with the Constitution and work towards a safer world.”
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

April 1, 2016

Bewildered Japan and South Korea Strike back at Trump’s Nuke Comments

Confused, shocked, bewildered. Just a few of the words used in recent days to describe Japan and South Korea's reaction to some of Donald Trump's latest comments about the region. 
The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination stunned two of America's strongest allies with the suggestion that the U.S. military would be withdrawn from their shores, with nuclear weapons replacing them.  
    There are currently 54,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan and 28,500 in South Korea.
    "Japan is better if it protects itself against this maniac of North Korea," Trump told CNN's Anderson Cooper Tuesday. "We are better off frankly if South Korea is going to start protecting itself ... they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us."
    US, South Korea take part in joint military exercise
    US, South Korea take part in joint military exercise 04:03
    So high was the level of concern, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe felt the need to respond publicly, saying, "whoever will become the next president of the United States, the Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of Japan's diplomacy."
    Japan remains the only country to have had nuclear weapons used against it and has had a non-nuclear policy and pacifist constitution since the end of World War II.  
    Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida added, "It is impossible that Japan will arm itself with nuclear weapons."
    South Korea has a small minority who think Trump may have a point and welcome the idea of nuclear weapons.
    Academic Cheong Seong-Chang from the non-profit think-tank the Sejong Institute said, "If we have nuclear weapons, we'll be in a much better position to deal with North Korea."
    But his feeling is not mainstream.  

    South Korea 'a money machine'

    Japan's new military policy making region wary
    Japan's new military policy making region wary 01:44
    Government reaction has been more focused on Trump's assertion that South Korea is not paying its way. 
    Trump told CNN's Wolf Blitzer earlier this year, "South Korea is a money machine but they pay us peanuts ... South Korea should pay us very substantially for protecting them."
    Howls of inaccuracy came from the South Korean Foreign Ministry, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and even the White House. 
    Ambassador Mark Lippert said Seoul pays for 55% of all non-personnel costs.
    And former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Christopher Hill was more succinct. He told CNN, "I don't know what he's talking about but clearly neither does he."
    Newspaper editorials and experts alike have taken aim at Trump's comments about introducing more nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula to counter the North Korean threat.
    Daniel Pinkston of Troy University said it would play into North Korea's hands.  
    "The hardliners in Pyongyang would just love such an outcome because if that were to occur, it would completely justify their nuclear status ... and validate Kim Jong Un's policy line as absolutely brilliant and absolutely correct," he said.
    Reflecting a growing concern, Pinkston added, "Whether he wins the Republican nomination or not, or whether he is elected president or not, even at this stage, he is already doing damage to the U.S. reputation internationally. And damaging U.S. security interests.”
    Seoul (CNN)

    September 16, 2015

    Nuclear Warheads by Country{Interactive)

    April 8, 2015

    Would N.Korea’s Crazy Boy be Unleashing a Nuke over South Korea to Say “hi” ‘Im here’


    No one’s foolish enough to expect Asia’s bad boy — North Korea — to suddenly turn good. But these days, as Pyongyang makes obvious preparations for a fourth nuclear weapons test, it’s turning downright scary. 
    Are the neighbors, including the United States, ready for it? Experts are concluding: maybe not.
    As Dr. Patrick Cronin of the Center for a New American Security writes in a new report, the risks of conflict on the Korean peninsula “have not been this significant since the early 1990s.”
    Increased activity at North Korea’s main nuclear site has raised expectations that the communist regime’s fourth nuclear test since 2006 will come in the weeks or months ahead. And it’s likely to show off even more sophisticated technology that puts it closer to a delivery capability within range of South Korea, and eventually farther away.
    Pyongyang won’t simply drop a bomb on Seoul. But the improved weaponry has raised fears that the North’s paranoid leadership may think it can get more respect when it acts brazenly in provoking the South — and its American ally. If they don’t get this desired respect, what happens then?
    That has people scared. How will all of the parties — North and South Korea, the United States, Japan and China — act with the changed balance of military power? Squabbling among themselves over other issues, can they stop long enough to focus on the most immediate threat to regional stability?
    U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and South Korean President Park Geun-hye listen to a reporter’s question at the Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, April 25, 2014.

    SOURCE Getty
    Several factors worry the experts:
    • The unstable and unpredictable leadership of the young Kim Jong Un, who succeeded his father in 2011
    • A potential economic downturn after Kim abruptly executed his uncle and senior advisor last year — the regime’s main connection to China’s all-important business world
    • Fears of growing internal pressure as global communication and information seep into even this most sealed-off, suppressed society of 25 million
    • South Korea’s new tough line: It has promised to respond to provocations, when in the past they showed restraint. How this would play out in Pyongyang is anyone’s guess.
    But most worrisome is Pyongyang’s advancing nuclear mastery, which outside powers have consistently underestimated.
    Originally, North Korea relied on plutonium to produce the crude nuclear device it tested in 2006. But in recent years it has revealed an advanced program to enrich mass quantities of uranium. That suggests a far more advanced infrastructure for building a bomb than many outside the opaque regime had realized. 
    Pyongyang has also been developing delivery systems: testing missiles and miniaturizing a bomb to fit on them.
    North Korean leaders promise new tests and more advanced weapons revelations this year. ”North Koreans have the habit of bluffing and blustering,” says Han Sung-Joo, South Korea’s former foreign minister, at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) last week, but “…they usually do what they announce that they would do,” although ”maybe not exactly in the same way that they project.” 
    While the West is watching, Cronin says there remain serious gaps between how United States, Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo would react in the case of a North Korean assault — be it live fire, cyber or nuclear — raising the risk of miscommunication and escalation.  It doesn’t help that relations between South Korea, Japan and China have all soured of late, making it harder to work together. 
    As Stephen Bosworth, former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, observed last week at the CFR, ”The prospect that Iran might acquire nuclear weapons has become sort of the No. 1 fire alarm in the world.” North Korea, on the other hand, has nuclear weapons, and yet ”we kind of proceed, I wouldn’t say with indifference — we express a lot of outrage about it — but we don’t seem to do much.” 
    Maybe it’s just hard to take seriously an impoverished country led by a 31-year-old with a bad ’90s hairdo who inveighs absurdly against ”the U.S. and South Korean war maniacs,” and talks of ushering in ”a great heyday in the revolution” in 2014.
    Seoul’s Problem Is Washington’s Problem, Too
    SOURCE Bobby Yip/Reuters/Corbis

    But given what’s at stake, policymakers might want to give it a rethink.
    The United States’ military partnership with the South and the deterrent presence of 28,000 U.S. troops mean that the U.S. would be involved in any conflict between the Koreas from the first moment. No need for White House deliberations. Authority to conduct war was supposed to be transferred to Seoul in 2015, but during President Obama’s visit to South Korea last week, the two countries announced they were reviewing that time line. Truth is, the South’s not ready.
    The United States remains the big kid on the block. You’d like to think Pyongyang would know better than to tangle with American armed forces, but who knows what they really think?
    As Bosworth put it: ”I’m always … bemused by people who can tell me with great certainty what North Korea is doing and why, because I don’t think we really know very much, and never have.”
    “Know your enemy,” said the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu 2,500 years ago.
    Worry if you don’t.

    from: OZY - Smarter, Fresher, Different 

    March 12, 2015

    Russia Might Have Deployed Nukes in Crimea, Putin Says He Can


    Russia has said that it has the right to deploy nuclear weapons to Crimea, a year after Vladimir Putin seized the territory from Ukraine following a referendum.
    Home to the strategic Black Sea port city of Sevastopol, which already housed Russia’s fleet before the Ukrainian crisis erupted at the start of 2014, Crimea is significantly nearer central Europe than any nuclear base Russia is thought to control.
    “I don't know if there are nuclear weapons there now,” a Russian foreign ministry official told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday.
    “I don’t know about any plans, but in principle Russia can do it,” said Mikhail Ulyanov, who is the head of the ministry's department on arms control. 

    The comments come at a highly sensitive time for international relations around the Black Sea, after Nato members Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey joined four other alliance states in a multinational naval exercise there on Tuesday.
    The US, Canada, Germany and Italy also took part in the military drills, including an American flagship, the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg.
    John Lough, from the Russia and Eurasia programme at international affairs thinktank Chatham House, said the comments were the latest in a series of loose statements by Russian officials about nuclear weapons. 
    “Nato countries find these troubling because in Cold War days Moscow was much more careful when talking about its nuclear capabilities,” he said. 
    “This latest statement probably signals how Russia could respond to a move by the US to provide arms to Ukraine.” 

    The warning also comes as Russia becomes increasingly bold in stating the details of how it took Crimea, an act still deemed illegal by most international bodies.
    On Tuesday, it emerged that Mr Putin only permitted the people of Crimea to hold a referendum on joining Russia after an “unofficial poll” showed the majority would be likely to vote in favor of doing so. 
    They included the moment he ordered officials to begin the process of seizing Crimea - the night of 22 February - long before the 16 March referendum.
    He revealed that the decision to take Crimea came as a direct response to Ukraine ousting its pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich - and that the operation to evacuate him involved heavy weapons “so that there wouldn’t be much discussion about it”

    pic; Wikipedia

    March 10, 2015

    Atomic Scientists Report on Who is got Nukes and How Many


    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Reports on   United

    States/Russia/China/Britain/Israel Nuclear Arsenals

    In ArchiveBritainChinaIsraelMilitaryRussiaUSA on March 7, 2015 at 11:42 AM
    These are the most up-to-date reports from Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on the nuclear arsenals of the world’s biggest superpowers. This post will continually be updated with the most recent reports as they are published, including those of other major players such as France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and any others, when they become available.

    United States (March/April 2015)
    As of early 2015, the authors estimate that the US Defense Department maintains about 4,760 nuclear warheads. Of this number, they estimate that approximately 2,080 warheads are deployed while 2,680 warheads are in storage. In addition to the warheads in the Defense Department stockpile, approximately 2,340 retired but still intact warheads are in storage under the custody of the Energy Department and awaiting dismantlement, for a total US inventory of roughly 7,100 warheads. Since New START entered into force in February 2011, the United States has reported cutting a total of 158 strategic warheads and 88 launchers. It has plans to make some further reductions by 2018. Over the next decade, it also plans to spend as much as $350 billion on modernizing and maintaining its nuclear forces.
    Russia (March/April 2014)
    Russia has taken important steps in modernizing its nuclear forces since early 2013, including the continued development and deployment of new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), construction of ballistic missile submarines, and development of a new strategic bomber. As of March 2013, the authors estimate, Russia had a military stockpile of approximately 4,300 nuclear warheads, of which roughly 1,600 strategic warheads were deployed on missiles and at bomber bases. Another 700 strategic warheads are in storage along with roughly 2,000 nonstrategic warheads. A large number—perhaps 3,500—of retired but still largely intact warheads await dismantlement.
    China (November/December 2013)
    The number of weapons in China’s nuclear arsenal is slowly growing, and the capability of those weapons is also increasing. The authors estimate that China has approximately 250 warheads in its stockpile for delivery by nearly 150 land-based ballistic missiles, aircraft, and an emerging submarine fleet. China is assigning a growing portion of its warheads to long-range missiles. The authors estimate that China’s arsenal includes as many as 60 long-range missiles that can reach some portion of the United States. The US intelligence community predicts that by the mid-2020s, China could have more than 100 missiles capable of threatening the United States.
    Britain (July/August 2013)
    Recent research has revealed new facts about the British nuclear arsenal over a 25-year period starting in 1953. This accounting and the authors’ own research support an estimate that the British produced about 1,250 nuclear warheads between 1953 and 2013. From a peak of about 500 warheads in the period between 1974 and 1981, the UK arsenal has now been reduced to some 225 weapons.
    Israel (November/December 2014)
    Although the Israeli government neither confirms nor denies that it possesses nuclear weapons, it is generally accepted by friend and foe alike that Israel is a nuclear-armed state—and has been so for nearly half a century. The basis for this conclusion has been strengthened significantly since our previous estimate in 2002, particularly thanks to new documents obtained by scholars under the US Freedom of Information Act and other openly available sources. We conclude that many of the public claims about the size of the Israeli nuclear arsenal are exaggerated. We estimate that Israel has a stockpile of approximately 80 nuclear warheads for delivery by two dozen missiles, a couple of squadrons of aircraft, and perhaps a small number of sea-launched cruise missiles.

    April 7, 2013

    What’s Behind The Curtain in The Nuke World

    * Iran maintains that it is enriching uranium for civilian energy purposes only, but the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran has not been cooperating enough for the agency to verify whether the intent is solely for peaceful means. As a result, the U.N. Security Council and a number of Western nations have placed economic and arms-related sanctions on Iran.
    Fewer than 10
    No confirmed test
    No confirmed test
    No confirmed test
    No confirmed test
    No confirmed test
    No confirmed test

    Sources:CNN, Federation of American Scientists, CIA World Factbook, Nuclear Threat Initiative, U.S. Census Bureau

    February 14, 2013

    Do We Have Enough Nukes for Valentines’?

    We would like to introduce you to the idea that in this “tight" economical times, we are building more nukes than “ever’ before. adamfoxie* is not at judgement. We are going to give you some facts and you decide. One can be neutral, one side or the other. We are simply doing our job by bringing the light to some facts presented here: 

     On April 5, 2009, President Barack Obama took the stage before 20,000 people in Prague's Hradcany Square to offer an ambitious global vision. "Today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," he told the open-air audience in the former Eastern Bloc capital. "To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same.” 
    The timing of his bold promise seemed perfect. Russia was ready to whittle down its destructive power; a year later, Obama and President Dmitri Medvedev would sign a treaty limiting both countries to 1,500 active warheads—though still enough toannihilate millions of people, a 50 percent reduction to each nation's atomic arsenal. Back home, lawmakers on Capitol Hill were scrutinizing the federal budget for unnecessary spending, and nuclear weapons no longer appeared to be off limits.
    Even the military brass was moving away from relying upon nuclear deterrence. The Pentagon's 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (PDF) concluded that "[t]he massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War era of bipolar military confrontation is poorly suited to address the challenges posed by suicidal terrorists and unfriendly regimes seeking nuclear weapons."
    But shrinking America's nuclear arsenal has turned out to be far easier said than done. Despite the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) cuts, federal spending on the atomic stockpile is actually beyond Cold War levels, driven by congressional hawks and powerful nuclear labs eager to "modernize" the arsenal and fund projects that could spark a new arms race
    During the Cold War, the United States spent, on average, $35 billion a year on its nuclear weapons complex. Today, it spends an estimated $55 billion. The nuclear weapons budget is spread across the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Homeland Security, and the government doesn't publicly disclose how much it spends on its various aspects, from maintaining our nuclear arsenal to defending against other countries' nukes. Altogether, it spent at least $52.4 billion on nuclear weapons in 2008, the last year anyone attempted to piece together the total cost, according to the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. (And that doesn't include classified programs.) That was five times the size of the State Department's budget, seven times the EPA's, and 14 times what the DOE spent on everything else it does.
    So why is America's nuclear capacity expanding even as it tells the world it plans to forsake its arsenal? A few little-known facts about the nuclear weapons complex provide some answers:

    Nuclear secret #1: Old bombs don't die, they zombify.

    The United States currently has 5,113 atomic warheads deployed in silos, bombers, and submarines across the country and the world, ready for use at a moment's notice. Under the New START treaty, 3,000 of these warheads will be taken out of deployment by 2018. The treaty also mandates deep cuts to both the United States' and Russia's nuclear-equipped bombers, submarine launchers, and ICBM silos.
    In theory, warheads slated for destruction are trucked off to the Pantex plant on the sandy Staked Plains outside Amarillo, Texas. There, Department of Energy contractors inspect and gingerly denude them of their non-nuclear components and disassemble their "physics package," a witch's brew of high explosives surrounding cores of highly radioactive uranium, plutonium, tritium, and deuterium. Each of these hot, unstable materials is separated and put in storage—some will be carted off for commercial refining, some kept in reserve in case more bombs ever need to be built. The entire process is like performing a ballet blindfolded, in 300-degree heat, on a stage where one slip could kill all the performers.
    During the much of the '90s, the United States took apart its old nukes at a brisk pace—about 1,300 a year. But the process has slowed to a trickle during the past decade. Now a backlog of more than 3,000 warheads sits at the Pantex plant, which may soon run out of storage space altogether. Hans Kristensen, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Nuclear Information Project, says that this means most newly retired weapons will simply stay on the bases where they were deployed.

    Some of these inactive "zombie" weapons sit in a state of suspended animation, ready to deploy immediately in a submarine, bomber, or silo. Others have specific components removed, though this hardware can be replaced on short notice. According to Peter Fedewa of the pro-disarmament Ploughshares Fund, that amounts to several thousand more nukes"that could be 'raised from the dead' and brought back into deployment with relative ease." (Full disclosure: Ploughshares provides funding to Mother Jones for coverage of national security.)
    The New START treaty limits the US and Russia to 1,550 deployed warheads each. It doesn't, however, limit how many "nondeployed" ICBMs and sub-launched nuclear missiles a nation can keep on ice, just in case. None of these weapons are counted under New START, which means the United States has a shadow force of nuclear weapons waiting in the wings. All told, the United States has several thousand retired, almost-retired, and inactive warheads, according to the Pentagon.
    Nuclear hawks in Congress have blunted New START's planned reductions by stalling dismantlement while beefing up the country's arsenal of "hedge" weapons—nuclear warheads that aren't actively deployed for war and thus aren't touched by the treaty. As Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in July, the stockpile of inactive atomic weapons should be seen as a deterrent, implying that if the first 5,000 or so currently deployed warheads can't deter or defeat America's enemies, the other few thousand might.

    Nuclear secret #2: Disarmament is happening at a snail's pace.

    Making our nukes obsolete is one of the lowest priorities of the nation's nuclear weapons program. Last summer, Congress and the White House agreed to reduce the amount spent on dismantlement, while agreeing to sink extra cash into plans to increase the usefulness of our semiretired atomic arsenal. In 2012, spending on new nuclear weapons experiments and the construction of "refurbishment" facilities for warheads will increase to $4.1 billion; the government will spend just $57 million on taking apart old nukes, close to half what was spent in 2010—and less than 1 percent of the nuclear complex's total budget.
    The contractors who take old bombs apart are the same ones who pimp out the updated ones. "The public perception is that Pantex is primarily about dismantlement. That's false," says Jay Coghlan, the director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, a source of open-source information on US nuclear weapons facilities. "Dismantlements are basically being done as filler between 'life extension' programs." The dismantlement program, he adds, "is a little bit of a sideshow."
    "The Soviets are long gone, yet the stockpiles remain. The bombs collect dust, yet the bills are with us to this day," wrote Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in a recent letter (PDF) to Congress' budget supercommittee, urging it to slash an "outdated radioactive relic" whose billions could be better spent shoring up Medicare or Social Security. "Fewer nuclear weapons should equal less funding."
    "Dismantlements are basically being done as filler between 'life extension' programs," says the director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.
    Sixty-five Democratic members of Congress cosigned Markey's letter. But cutting the nuclear complex down to size remains a tough sell on Capitol Hill. "Nuclear abolition is a long way off," declared Rep. Turner at a hearing about the nation's nuclear stockpile in late July. He wasn't complaining: Turner is one of many Republicans on Capitol Hill who want to keep spending billions on upgrading and "modernizing" our atomic weaponry. "Full funding for nuclear modernization is costly, and difficult in these challenging economic times," he insisted. "But it is necessary."
    Generally, congressional conservatives' advocacy for a robust nuclear program has not been tempered by their small-government rhetoric. When New START came before the Senate for ratification in 2010, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)—an atomic-weapons stalwart who's now a member of the Senate budget supercommittee—blocked a vote until the Obama administration conceded to spending $87 billion "modernizing" the stockpile over the next 10 years.

    Nuclear secret #3: Funding for the nuclear weapons complex is growing.

    Though the Pentagon controls the bulk of the nuclear weapons budget, the politically powerful National Nuclear Security Administration also has a tight grip on its purse strings. Part of the Department of Energy, the NNSA is responsible for securing the nation's stockpile as well as overseeing sites where atomic weaponry is built and the nation's three nuclear labs (Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia).
    As federal programs are being scrutinized for fat, the NNSA's budget is increasing by 19 percent to
    $7.6 billion.
    Much of the NNSA's leadership is drawn from the labs and their allies from top government contracting firms. Its current No. 2 official previously worked in the private sector as a consultant for Sandia Lab and the DOE; its top administrator for defense programs spent three decades running Sandia's biggest experiments. The NNSA is known for rarely saying no to its labs' big-ticket demands. "The three labs are accustomed to the style in which they were born," Coghlan says. "Large and lavish." Half of NNSA's budget goes to the labs' research. Dr. Robert Civiak, a former physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who now researches the nuclear weapons complex for a network of anti-atomic activist groups, says much of that research is unnecessary. "Its purpose is to improve the fourth-decimal point of our understanding of behavior of nuclear weapons," he says. "That's a mature science we've had for 70 years."
    In just the past year, the Government Accountability Office has issued four reports criticizing NNSA's ability to keep control of its operations and costs. "NNSA cannot accurately identify the total costs to operate and maintain weapons facilities and infrastructure," one states. Another knocks the agency for not properly inspecting its contractors' work. Yet another found that the agency does not have estimated total costs or completion dates for 15 "vital" projects to keep the stockpile up to date. The reports made 20 recommendations for remedial action.
     Nuclear secret #4: We're developing the next generation of nuclear weapons.
    Yet the White House and Congress continue to increase the labs' budget. Thanks to the administration's concessions to congressional Republicans during the New START ratification process, the NNSA will get an additional $85 billion more over the next decade. At a time when federal programs are being scrutinized for fat, the NNSA's 2012 budget is increasing by 19 percent to $7.6 billion.
    An hour's drive from San Francisco, scientists are trying to create a miniature star here on Earth. That's how the Livermore lab describes its National Ignition Facility, a superlaser that's supposed to produce nuclear fusion and temperatures of 100 million degrees—conditions found only in distant suns and nuclear explosions. So far, the 14-year old project has been a bust; the New York Times dubbed it a "taxpayer-funded science fiction." Yet its expense has swelled: It was expected to cost $400 million but has cost $3.9 billion and counting.
    Bringing star power to Earth: Lawrence Livermore National LaboratoryBig bucks, little bang: promotional material for the $3.9 billion National Ignition FacilityLawrence Livermore National Laboratory
    How does the lab justify keeping this far-out science experiment alive in a time of austerity? Simple: national security. Canceling the project, lab director George Miller told the Los Angeles Times when some members of Congress challenged NIF's funding, is to  "seriously question the commitment to maintain nuclear weapons." Livermore's research budget has expanded 50 percent since 1994 to nearly $1.5 billion.
    The laser project is one of dozens of gold-plated experiments run at the Department of Energy's three nuclear weapons facilities. TheY-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is building a new plant to process uranium for the secondary explosives used in warheads, even though the country already has thousands of extra secondaries in storage. In 2004, the plant was expected to cost $600 million; the tab has since increased to $3.5 billion. The federal government is also sinking $4.5 billion into a 1.5 million square-foot plant in Kansas City, Missouri, which will build new components for nuclear weapons.
    Y-12, Kansas City, and a nebulous new Los Alamos center for "Chemical and Metallurgy Research Replacement" constitute "grossly oversized facilities for building new bombs we don't need," Civiak says. Together, they could facilitate the construction of new warhead cores and missile skins. The labs could test those weapons without live explosions by using technology such as the NIF. "The production side of the US nuclear weapons complex is being rebuilt," Coghlan says.
    Proponents of spending more on the stockpile say that one way to get rid of more warheads is to make sure the ones you hang onto remain in tip-top condition. Rep. Turner has also defended a robust stockpile and modernization as "providing meaningful work to our talented scientists and engineers"—even as he warned that "strategy must drive force structure, not the other way around."

    "The production side of the US nuclear weapons complex is being rebuilt."
    But critics maintain that modernization is a boondoggle and an expensive make-work program for the nation's nuclear labs. "There's no rush to do this," says Tom Collina, research director of the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan weapons-policy think tank. Though United States hasn't built a new warhead since 1989, "it's not like they're falling apart; it's not like they're Swiss cheese." TheJASON group, a prestigious panel of scientists that advises the government on technology issues, studied the arsenal in 2007 and 2009 and concluded that existing measures could extend the warheads' lifetimes "for decades, with no anticipated loss of confidence."
    "There's a lot of things that need regular upkeep on nuclear weapons—batteries and tritium that decay over time," Civiak explains. But life extension and modernization efforts, he says, are "going way beyond that, and they're adding new capabilities."
    Upgrades include a "dial-a-yield" option that lets missile officers adjust a warhead's explosive power; for example, dialing down a 340-kiloton city killer to be a 0.3-kiloton mini-Hiroshima. "Dumb" gravity bombs are being refitted so that the altitude at which they burst can be modified—essentially enabling them to act as "robust nuclear earth penetrators," or bunker busters.

    David Dearborn, a longtime nuclear weapons engineer at the Livermore lab, insists that most of these post-Cold War modifications have safety at their heart. "Earlier, it was about reducing size and weight or getting more bang," but now "it's about higher safety, designing things that you could machine-gun and hammer and they would not go off." As long as the United States has a nuclear stockpile, he says, "You ought to know that it works."
    Civiak says new "safety measures" to adjust the accuracy of atomic missiles will in fact make them potential first-strike weapons. For example, improving missiles' guidance can turn "countervalue weapons" —big bombs once aimed at population centers as a deterrent—into "counterforce weapons"—tactical nukes that could be used in "limited" nuclear attacks on military or terrorist targets. "Counterforce strays away from deterrence," Coghlan says.
    Advocates of nuclear reduction say that's a canard. "That sounds nice in theory. Who in principle can be against greater safety?" Coghlan says. But combine all these "safety enhancements," he says, and "in effect, they're new warheads

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