Better Than Nothing

There’s little argument that the reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is questionable and needs to be addressed. All our nuclear warheads are at least 20 years old and some date back to the 1970s. None of them have been tested since 1992. Nuclear warheads are complex systems and, unless it’s certain that they’ll operate as intended, they’re not an effective deterrent.

In my opinion, the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program is the obvious and preferred solution to the nuclear arsenal reliability question. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates agrees. However, because of Obama and his administration’s vehement antipathy to nuclear weapons in general, the RRW program is dead in the water. So, for now, I guess we should be grateful that it looks like the Obama administration might be prepared to do something, albeit grudgingly, to address the U.S. nuclear arsenal reliability problem.

2011 U.S. Budget to Fund Refurbishing of Nukes

A reliable replacement for the now-dead Reliable Replacement Warhead program will be funded in U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposed 2011 budget, said the woman most responsible for killing the RRW in 2008.

Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said the budget Obama plans to send to Congress Feb. 2 includes “very crucial investment” in the Stockpile Management program. She declined to disclose specific dollar amounts.

Stockpile Management will do what RRW was supposed to do, Tauscher told defense reporters on Jan. 13.

Just three years ago, Tauscher led successful efforts to kill the RRW. At the time, she was a congresswoman from California and chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee. Her subcommittee blocked funding for the program in the 2007 and 2008 Defense Authorization Acts.

Tauscher left Congress and joined the Obama administration last June.

The Stockpile Management program would permit the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to “refurbish” aging nuclear warheads to ensure that they still work and are safe, Tauscher said. During refurbishment, features could be added to the warheads to make them theft-proof and more environmentally friendly, she said.

But the warheads cannot be “improved” in the sense that they are made into more effective weapons, and they cannot be tested by exploding sample warheads.

That is essentially what was intended with the RRW, Tauscher said.

But the RRW evolved into “a toxic concept” after officials in the Bush administration touted it as a program to improve existing warheads, Tauscher said.

“We don’t want people believing that we expect to go out and build new weapons,” she said. Thus the RRW program became “dangerous” when it came to be perceived as a program to “modernize” rather than “refurbish” warheads.

“We had to get rid of RRW,” Tauscher said. The perception that the United States was improving its nuclear arsenal undermined U.S. efforts to convince non-nuclear countries not to seek nuclear weapons and to encourage nuclear-armed nations to shrink their inventories.

Under the Stockpile Management program, the NNSA would maintain the nuclear stockpile without adding to its capabilities, without testing and “without causing people to be concerned about what we are doing,” Tauscher said.

Stockpile Management would provide for a “safe, reliable and effective stockpile until we can get to nuclear zero,” she said.

Projecting the proper nuclear image is critical to advancing Obama’s nuclear disarmament goals, she said.

See also:
Obama to seek major increase in nuclear weapons funding
Obama to boost spending on maintaining nuclear stocks
Obama Administration to Increase Nuclear Spending
Obama to seek more funds to secure N-arsenal
After pledging to ‘reverse’ their spread, Obama increases nuclear weapons budget
The President’s Nuclear Vision
Biden Sends A Message On Nukes
Debate heats up on Obama’s nuclear agenda
Nuclear Bomb Update Effort Slowed by Posture Review, Science Studies
No Nukes . . . For US

/as Reagan said, trust but verify, let’s see what happens to this modest proposal when Obama’s budget hits Congress

Missiles For Mullahs

‘Israel would attack Iran with missiles’

If Israel chose to take military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it might opt not to send IAF jets on a mission but rather use its arsenal of medium-range ballistic missiles, a report published by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said Tuesday.

The Jericho III, Israel’s most advanced version of its custom-designed ballistic missile, is capable of carrying a 1,000-1,300 kilogram conventional payload or a 750kg nuclear warhead over a distance of up to 7,000 kilometers. With a smaller 350kg nuclear warhead, the missle’s range can be extended even further.

According to the [CSIS] report, 42 missiles would be enough to “severely damage or demolish” Iran’s core nuclear sites at Natanz, Esfahan and Arak.

“If the Jericho III is fully developed and its accuracy is quite high then this scenario could look much more feasible than using combat aircraft,” the [CSIS] report said.

See also:
Center for Strategic and International Studies ( CSIS )
Israeli Air Force Website
Jericho III
Jericho 3
Israel Tests a New Propulsion for 4,000 km Jericho III Missile
Jericho 3 Definitely in Service
Nuclear Weapons – Israel
Nuclear Weapons – Israel
Nuclear Weapons – Iran
Iran’s Nuclear Program
Nuclear Weapons Facilities (Iran)

Well, the world’s first hostile ICBM launch in history would certainly be much less sporting than using combat aircraft.

/Israel’s gotta do what she’s gotta do, but I can’t even imagine what the repercussions would be like

One Leg Of Our Nuclear Triad Almost Lost In A Fogbank

For want of polystyrene foam, albeit highly specialized polystyrene foam . . .

Nuclear-Warhead Upgrade Delayed; Government Labs Forgot How to Make Parts

The Department of Defense and the National Nuclear Security Administration had to wait more than a year to refurbish aging nuclear warheads — partly because they had forgotten how to make a crucial component, a government report states.

Regarding a classified material codenamed “Fogbank,” a Government Accountability Office report released this month states that “NNSA had lost knowledge of how to manufacture the material because it had kept few records of the process when the material was made in the 1980s and almost all staff with expertise on production had retired or left the agency.”

So the effort to refurbish and upgrade W76 warheads, which top the U.S. Navy’s (and the British Royal Navy’s) submarine-launched Trident missiles, had to be put on hold while experts scoured old records and finally figured out how to manufacture the stuff once again.

According to the Sunday Herald of Glasgow, Scotland, Fogbank is “thought by some weapons experts to be a foam used between the fission and fusion stages of a thermonuclear [hydrogen] bomb.”

The National Nuclear Security Administration is a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy. It is responsible for the manufacture and upkeep of the nation’s nuclear weapons.

A new facility was built at the Y-12 National Security Complex near Oak Ridge, Tenn., to begin production of Fogbank once again, but was delayed by poor planning, cost overruns and an failed effort to find an alternative to Fogbank.

Refurbished W76 Warhead Enters U.S. Nuclear Weapon Stockpile

The first refurbished W76 nuclear warhead has been accepted into the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile by the Navy, according to a senior official at the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). This culminates a ten year effort to ensure that the aging warhead, already years beyond its original intended life, can continue to be a reliable part of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

“This is another great example of the unsurpassed expertise throughout NNSA’s national security enterprise,” said William Ostendorff, NNSA’s principal deputy administrator. “It becomes more and more challenging each time we extend the life of our nuclear weapons. I am proud that our dedicated scientists and engineers were able to once again meet this unique responsibility.”

Most nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile were produced anywhere from 30 to 40 years ago, and no new nuclear weapons have been produced since the end of the Cold War. Integrated into the Department of the Navy’s Trident II “D5” Strategic Weapon System, the first W76 entered the stockpile in 1978.

Of course, this is just a symptom of a much larger problem, all our nuclear warheads are many decades old and their reliability is becoming a serious issue.

Sure, the DOD and DOE have been pushing inventory modernization and replacement for what seems like forever, but guess what? The Democrats have blocked it every step of the way. And, rest assured, Obama doesn’t want anything to do with anything that contains the word nuclear, not nuclear power plants and especially not nuclear weapons. No Nukes . . . For US

See also:
How the US forgot how to make Trident missiles
Audit: Problems at Y-12
NNSA and DOD Need to More Effectively Manage the Stockpile Life Extension Program
Trident missiles delayed by mystery ingredient
Teller-Ulam design
W76-0/Mk4 / W76-1/Mk4A
Trident II D-5 Fleet Ballistic Missile
SSBN-726 Ohio-Class FBM Submarines
Y-12 National Security Complex
National Nuclear Security Administration
Department of Energy
Department of Defense
Government Accountability Office

The bottom line is that the United States needs to get serious as to whether or not it wants to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent, the kind of nuclear deterrent that has prevented a thermonuclear exchange for over 60 years now. Yes, this country has other issues and problems that weigh more heavily at the average citizen’s kitchen table.

/just remember, without national security we have absolutely nothing and all the rest means diddley squat