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former IAEA Director-General

Administration's Stockpile Management Plan Underscores Effectiveness of U.S. Nuclear Arsenal Without Testing and Importance of Test Ban Treaty Ratification
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For Immediate Release: Jan. 29, 2010

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association (202-463-8270 ext. 107); Tom Collina, Research Director (202-463-8270 ext.104)

(Washington, D.C.) Experts from the nonpartisan Arms Control Association said today that the Obama administration's plan to increase long-term funding for the nuclear stockpile management program underscores the fact that the United States can maintain a reliable arsenal without resuming nuclear testing or building newly-designed nuclear warheads.

In an opinion editorial by Vice-president Joseph Biden in today's edition of The Wall Street Journal, Biden said that the administration plans to increase the National Nuclear Security Administration's nonproliferation and stockpile management program budget by $600 million in the coming fiscal year (about 10% above current levels) and by approximately $5 billion over the next 5 years.

"The administration's approach is consistent with independent technical assessments that have found that the U.S. nuclear arsenal can continue to be refurbished through non-nuclear tests and evaluations and, as necessary, the remanufacture of warhead components to previous design specifications," said Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association and Director of the Project for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Department of Energy studies completed in 2006 indicate that weapons plutonium is not affected by aging for more than 85 years, and the JASON independent technical review panel concluded in last September that "lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence." These findings indicate that new-design replacement warheads are not needed to maintain reliability.

A 2002 National Academy of Science panel, which included three former nuclear weapons lab directors, found that the current Stockpile Stewardship Program provides the technical capabilities that are necessary to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear stockpile, "provided that adequate resources are made available...and are properly focused on this task."

"Contrary to myth, the U.S. nuclear arsenal is not 'degrading.' In fact a major effort to refurbish warheads and modernize the weapons complex has been underway for some time. Even without this additional funding, confidence in the ability to maintain U.S. warheads in the absence of nuclear test explosions has been increasing," said Tom Z. Collina, ACA's Research Director.

"We urge the administration and Congress to focus the nuclear weapons laboratories' resources on core stockpile surveillance and maintenance tasks, refrain from research and development on new-design warheads, and guard against unnecessary alterations to existing warheads that could undermine their reliability," Collina added.

"There is no technical or military reason to resume U.S. nuclear weapons testing. At the same time, it is in U.S. national security interests to do all we can to prevent others from conducting nuclear  tests, which could allow them to prove new and advanced nuclear warhead designs.  It is time for the administration to work with the Senate to reconsider and approve the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty," concluded Kimball.