Tag Archives: nuclear warheads

The Nuclear Lobby

The report of the Center for International Policy provides a profile of the nuclear weapons lobby, noting along the way that in a constrained budgetary environment different parts of the lobby may either collaborate to promote higher nuclear weapons spending or compete for their share of a shrinking pie.

• The Pentagon and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration are scheduled to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on nuclear weapons projects over the next decade and beyond, including $68 billion to develop and purchase a new generation of nuclear bombers; $347 billion to purchase and operate 12 new ballistic missile submarines; and billions more on new nuclear weapons facilities.

• In the 2012 election cycle, the top 14 nuclear weapons contractors gave a total of $2.9 million to key members of Congress with decision making power over nuclear weapons spending. These firms have donated $18.7 million to these same members of Congress over the course of their careers.

• More than half of the contributions cited above went to members of the four key subcommittees with jurisdiction over nuclear weapons spending – the Strategic Forces Subcommittees of the Armed Services Committees in each house and the Energy and Water Subcommittees of the Appropriations Committees in each house. Total contributions by major nuclear weapons contractors to members of these four subcommittees have been over $1.6 million in the 2012 election cycle thus far, and $11.7 lifetime to these same members.

• Of the 14 nuclear weapons contractors tracked in this report, Lockheed Martin has been the biggest contributor to key members of Congress with influence over nuclear weapons spending. So far during the 2012 election cycle, Lockheed Martin has donated $535,000 to these key members; other major donors include Honeywell International, $464,582; Northrop Grumman, $464,000; and Boeing, $336,750.

• Leading advocates of high levels of nuclear weapons spending have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from major nuclear weapons contractors in the course of their careers.....

Policy Recommendations

• Reduce the ballistic missile submarine force. The ballistic missile submarine force should be reduced from 12 boats to eight, with additional warheads carried in each boat. This would save $18 billion over the next decade while sustaining the capability to deploy the number of warheads called for under the New START treaty.

• Postpone new nuclear bomber plans. Plans for a new nuclear bomber should be shelved, at a savings of $18 billion over the next decade. At a minimum, the bomber should not be made nuclear-capable.

• Cancel the Chemical and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility.  There is no circumstance under which it will be necessary to build large numbers of new plutonium “pits” or triggers for nuclear warheads. Therefore, the Chemical and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility at Los Alamos National Laboratories should be cancelled, at a savings of $5 billion over the next decade.

• Cancel building the Mixed Oxide (MOX ) facility.  Plutonium waste from nuclear warheads can be neutralized without building the multi-billion dollar MOX facility. It too should be cancelled, at a savings of at least $4.9 billion in construction costs over the next twenty years.


The top 14 nuclear weapons contractors employ 137 lobbyists who formerly worked for key nuclear weapons decision makers. The majority of the revolving door lobbyists – 96 – worked for key members of Congress or key Congressional Committees; 26 revolving door lobbyists worked for one of the military services; and 24 revolving door lobbyists worked for the Department of Defense or the Department of Energy. Some lobbyists worked for one or more Congressional offices or agencies before leaving government, and many now work for more than one major nuclear weapons contractor.   There are 19 revolving door lobbyists working for major nuclear weapons contractors who were staffers for members of the Energy and Water Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee – the committee that controls spending on the nuclear warhead complex.

Excerpt William D. Hartung and Christine Anderson, Bombs Versus Budgets: Inside the Nuclear Weapons Lobby, Center for International Policy, June 2012

See also Nuclear Weapons Establishment

Zero nuclear weapons?

The Public has the Right to Know who has Nuclear Weapons

Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building (pdf)


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Israel and its Weapons: submarines launching nuclear capable missiles

Israel's navy has taken delivery of its fourth Dolphin class submarine built by Germany's Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft, giving the Jewish state the most powerful submarine fleet in the Middle East and boosting its strategic capabilities.  The new diesel-electric boat, named the Tannin -- Alligator -- was handed over during a ceremony at HDW's Kiel shipyard...The Tannin is the first of three "super-Dolphins" the Israelis will acquire from Germany.   These 1,925-ton boats will be equipped with advanced systems that greatly enhance operational capabilities, which Western sources say include a new propulsion system that makes them almost impossible to detect and a special diesel and hydrogen conversion system that allows them to produce their own fuel, thus extending range and endurance.  The Tannin is expected to be operational by mid-2013 after Israeli sea trials.

The sources say the advanced Dolphins are equipped to carry Israel-built cruise missiles with a range of some 940 miles, and nuclear warheads. This enhances Israel's second-strike capability, to respond to a nuclear attack with its own nuclear arsenal, on the oft-stated pledge by Israel that it won't be the first in the Middle East to use nuclear weapons.

The only target for such weapons, for now at least, would be Iran, which Israel and the United States alleges is driving to produce nuclear weapons that challenge Israel's nuclear monopoly in the region.  Israel has the capability, unmatched in the region, to deliver nuclear weapons by air -- on aircraft and Jericho ballistic missiles -- and sea.  By deploying Dolphins in the Arabian Sea, off southern Iran, Israel greatly extends its strategic reach and gives it the option of pre-emptive first-strike attack, using nuclear weapons if necessary.  Even if Israel is obliterated in a nuclear attack, the Dolphins could retaliate by launching missiles from the Arabian Sea.  Israel has three early model Dolphins in service, all modeled on Germany's Type 209 submarine by HDW, a subsidiary of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. These were delivered in 1998-2000.  With the Tannin, and two more "super Dolphins" on order, Israel will be able to maintain at least one submarine in the Arabian Sea at all times. The fifth Dolphin is scheduled for delivery in 2014 and the sixth in 2016.  Most of the Dolphins' integrated systems are produced by major Israeli defense companies like Tadiran, Elbit, Israel Aerospace Industries and Rada.

The naval expansion has been made possible to a large degree by Germany's sometimes reluctant agreement to pay the lion's share of the cost for the game-changing Dolphins.  Germany has for decades sought to accommodate Israel in atonement for the Holocaust during the Nazi era, although this has been wearing thin because of the global economic downturn.  Germany agreed recently to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's request that Berlin pay one-third of the $500 million-$700 million cost of the sixth Dolphin...

Excerpts from Israel's submarine fleet gets 4th Dolphin, UPI.com, May 4, 2012

See also Iran, Israel and a Nuclear Free Midde East

Nuclear Ambiguity

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Spirit of the Nuclear Posture Review: replacing warheads with new ones

U.S. technicians working with a W80 thermonuclear warhead. Image wikipedia

The latest Defense Department nuclear road map, released this week, reflects President Obama's repeated declaration that the United States will not build new nuclear warheads or conduct underground nuclear tests. But Pentagon officials have since made clear that the policy contains loopholes.

Using language hammered out to satisfy senior Defense Department officials who are looking ahead 30 years, the Nuclear Posture Review allows for new nuclear components to be deployed in older warheads if that is necessary to make them safer and more reliable and if the president and Congress approve, according to Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters that as options are reviewed for extending the life of nuclear warheads, "strong preference" would continue to be given to refurbishment (leaving a nuclear package alone and upgrading nonnuclear components) or reuse (switching out older nuclear packages for designs used in other deployed or retired systems).

"Replacement of any nuclear components," Gates said, would be chosen only "if absolutely necessary [and] would require specific presidential approval."

Expanding on Gates's statement, Cartwright emphasized that any such replacement would utilize "designs not in the [present] stockpile but based on previously tested designs." His description is very close to that applied to the George W. Bush administration's planned Reliable Replacement Warhead program, which Congress killed in 2007 and which Gates had supported.

Thomas D'Agostino, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which runs the nuclear weapons-building complex, said that until now, the long-standing life-extension program has used refurbishment to keep thousands of decades-old nuclear warheads certified as reliable. When Congress blocked the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, it imposed guidelines mandating "no new warheads for new military capabilities" and no testing.

Cartwright, however, said the door is still open for the testing option. Asked about a statement Gates made some time ago, in which he said testing could eventually be needed, Cartwright said: "We don't know what five years from now might bring. Nobody has ever removed from the commander or anyone else in that chain the ability to stand up and say, 'I'm uncomfortable. I believe that we're going to have to test, or I believe that we're going to have to build something new.' That's not been removed here."

Stephen Young of the Union of Concerned Scientists said the Nuclear Posture Review's stockpile-management section "leaves the door open to allow a future administration to extend the life of an existing warhead by essentially replacing it with a newly designed one." However, Young said, "This administration will almost certainly not do so, but will instead refurbish existing warheads or reuse existing components."

Between 1945 and 1992, the United States carried out 1,054 tests of nuclear devices. More than 300 were in the atmosphere, but since the atmospheric test ban of 1963, the rest have been underground. No underground tests have been done since a moratorium agreed to with the Russians in 1992 by George H.W. Bush's administration.

D'Agostino said hundreds of nuclear tests were of designs that were not used in weapons, but the Pentagon wanted to include in the Nuclear Posture Review the flexibility to take advantage of older nuclear-package designs that have lower yields but contain safer components, such as insensitive high explosives that would not detonate if dropped.

Introducing such a new nuclear package into one or more older but still-deployed warheads might also "facilitate the reduction in the total numbers of weapons that we might have, [while also] reducing the total number of types," D'Agostino said.

The warhead going through the life-extension program is the 31-year-old W-76, found on most Trident sub-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBM. A second warhead, the B-61, found in the tactical nuclear bomb, will also continue to go through the program as planned, according to the Nuclear Posture Review. Both are set for refurbishment only.

Farther out, the warhead that might be the first to have its nuclear package replaced with a different, tested design is the W-78, now on the Minuteman III land-based ICBM.

Walter Pincus, Pentagon points to loopholes in nuclear road map, Washington Post, April 10, 2010, at A02

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Russian Nuclear Warheads, Enrichment and Decontamination: past and future of nuclear energy

Piketon, ohio-enrichment-plant, image from http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photos/2007/January/070115/070116_portsmouth_hmed_2p.hmedium.jpg

The United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) accused President Obama of reneging on a campaign pledge after the Energy Department turned down the company's request for $2 billion in loan guarantees for a new uranium enrichment project in Piketon, Ohio.

USEC, which operates the nation's only uranium enrichment facility, said it would "demobilize" the new project, which it said could not obtain private financing without the federal loan guarantee. The company has already spent $1.5 billion on what it calls the American Centrifuge Plant, but USEC says the final price tag could reach $3.5 billion, 1 1/2 times as much as it estimated two years ago.

"We are shocked and disappointed by DOE's decision," USEC chief executive John K. Welch said in a statement. "President Obama promised to support the loan guarantee for the American Centrifuge Plant while he campaigned in Ohio. We are disappointed that campaign commitment has not been met." The company's stock yesterday plunged $2.14, or 35 percent, to $4.05 a share, erasing $240 million of market value.

The Energy Department said that the proposed plant, which would use a series of giant centrifuges to enrich uranium for nuclear power plants, was not ready for commercial production and therefore ineligible for the loan guarantees. The department said that if USEC withdraws its application, it will receive $45 million over the next 18 months to conduct further research.   In a nod to the state, however, the Energy Department said it would expand cleanup efforts at the now-closed Portsmouth enrichment site in Piketon. It said it would spend $118 million of stimulus funds and an additional $150 million to $200 million a year on decontamination over the next four years. The department said that would create over 1,000 jobs, more than twice as many as would be lost at USEC's centrifuge project. The announcement brings total spending on the Portsmouth cleanup to $850 million over the next two years.

White House spokesman Benjamin LaBolt said Tuesday that... the USEC technology "is not commercially viable today, according to an independent engineering review, and therefore not eligible for DOE's loan guarantee program at this time." He said the administration thinks the technology "holds promise."   USEC said that the technology was developed by the Energy Department during the 1970s and 1980s and that it uses a small fraction of the electricity used by the plant USEC currently operates in Paducah, Ky. USEC says it has improved the technology and tested it over "235,000 machine hours."

"It is unclear how DOE expects to find innovative technologies that assume zero risk, but the American Centrifuge clearly meets the energy security and climate change goals of the Obama administration," Welch said in Tuesday's statement.   Matt Rogers, who oversees grants and loan guarantees at the Energy Department, said that USEC finalized designs only three months ago and that the company had tested only 38 centrifuges while 11,000 would be needed to run the plant. "The project runs the risk of either major cost overruns or reliability problems or both," Rogers said. "Given the problems they have had on the run time, we decided they needed more time before it went to mass production."

USEC is also facing pressure because half the enriched uranium it sells comes from decommissioned Russian nuclear warheads. Under contract with the government, USEC has blended down material from more than 14,000 out of 20,000 warheads due to be eliminated. The program will end in 2013.

The 2005 Energy Policy Act gave the Energy Department $2 billion for loan guarantees for uranium enrichment projects. The only other applicant is Areva, a firm partly owned by the French government; it would build a plant in Idaho. General Electric is also researching uranium enrichment, using a laser technology it acquired from USEC. Rogers said GE just started a pilot project and will collect data over the next year.

Steven Mufson, USEC Denied Loan Guarantees: CEO Assails Obama After Energy Dept. Says Project Is Unready, Washington Post, July 29, 2009

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Who is Afraid of Arms Controls? Smart Defenses from Space

from fox news

"Think about this scenario: An ordinary-looking freighter ship heading toward New York or Los Angeles launches a missile from its hull or from a canister lowered into the sea. It hits a densely populated area. A million people are incinerated. The ship is then sunk. No one claims responsibility. There is no firm evidence as to who sponsored the attack, and thus no one against whom to launch a counterstrike.

But as terrible as that scenario sounds, there is one that is worse. Let us say the freighter ship launches a nuclear-armed Shahab-3 missile off the coast of the U.S. and the missile explodes 300 miles over Chicago. The nuclear detonation in space creates an electromagnetic pulse (EMP).

Gamma rays from the explosion, through the Compton Effect, generate three classes of disruptive electromagnetic pulses, which permanently destroy consumer electronics, the electronics in some automobiles and, most importantly, the hundreds of large transformers that distribute power throughout the U.S. All of our lights, refrigerators, water-pumping stations, TVs and radios stop running. We have no communication and no ability to provide food and water to 300 million Americans.

This is what is referred to as an EMP attack, and such an attack would effectively throw America back technologically into the early 19th century. It would require the Iranians to be able to produce a warhead as sophisticated as we expect the Russians or the Chinese to possess. But that is certainly attainable. Common sense would suggest that, absent food and water, the number of people who could die of deprivation and as a result of social breakdown might run well into the millions.

Let us be clear. A successful EMP attack on the U.S. would have a dramatic effect on the country, to say the least. Even one that only affected part of the country would cripple the economy for years. Dropping nuclear weapons on or retaliating against whoever caused the attack would not help. And an EMP attack is not far-fetched.

Twice in the last eight years, in the Caspian Sea, the Iranians have tested their ability to launch ballistic missiles in a way to set off an EMP. The congressionally mandated EMP Commission, with some of America's finest scientists, has released its findings and issued two separate reports, the most recent in April, describing the devastating effects of such an attack on the U.S.

The only solution to this problem is a robust, multilayered missile-defense system. The most effective layer in this system is in space, using space-based interceptors that destroy an enemy warhead in its ascent phase when it is easily identifiable, slower, and has not yet deployed decoys. We know it can work from tests conducted in the early 1990s. We have the technology. What we lack is the political will to make it a reality.

An EMP attack is not one from which America could recover as we did after Pearl Harbor. Such an attack might mean the end of the United States and most likely the Free World. It is of the highest priority to have a president and policy makers not merely acknowledge the problem, but also make comprehensive missile defense a reality as soon as possible."

As severe as the global financial crisis now is, it does not pose an existential threat to the U.S. Through fits and starts we will sort out the best way to revive the country's economic engine. Mistakes can be tolerated, however painful. The same may not be true with matters of national security.

Although President George W. Bush has accomplished more in the way of missile defense than his predecessors -- including Ronald Reagan -- he will leave office with only a rudimentary system designed to stop a handful of North Korean missiles launched at our West Coast. Barack Obama will become commander in chief of a country essentially undefended against Russian, Chinese, Iranian or ship-launched terrorist missiles. This is not acceptable.

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have proven how vulnerable we are. On that day, Islamic terrorists flew planes into our buildings. It is not unreasonable to believe that if they obtain nuclear weapons, they might use them to destroy us. And yet too many policy makers have rejected three basic facts about our position in the world today:

First, as the defender of the Free World, the U.S. will be the target of destruction or, more likely, strategic marginalization by Russia, China and the radical Islamic world.

Second, this marginalization and threat of destruction is possible because the U.S. is not so powerful that it can dictate military and political affairs to the world whenever it wants. The U.S. has the nuclear capability to vanquish any foe, but is not likely to use it except as a last resort.

Third, America will remain in a condition of strategic vulnerability as long as it fails to build defenses against the most powerful political and military weapons arrayed against us: ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. Such missiles can be used to destroy our country, blackmail or paralyze us.

Any consideration of how best to provide for the common defense must begin by acknowledging these facts.

Consider Iran. For the past decade, Iran -- with the assistance of Russia, China and North Korea -- has been developing missile technology. Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani announced in 2004 their ability to mass produce the Shahab-3 missile capable of carrying a lethal payload to Israel or -- if launched from a ship -- to an American city.

The current controversy over Iran's nuclear production is really about whether it is capable of producing nuclear warheads. This possibility is made more urgent by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement in 2005: "Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism? But you had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved."

Excerpts, Brian T. Kennedy,-

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