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Eminent Scientists Confirm Effectiveness of Existing Warhead Maintenance Program: No Technical Reason to Resume U.S. Nuclear Testing

For Immediate Release: Nov. 19, 2009

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

(Washington, D.C.) A congressionally-commissioned scientific study by an influential group of independent scientists released today concludes that the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear arsenal can be maintained indefinitely through the existing program for stockpile stewardship and without nuclear test explosions or pursuit of new warhead designs.

"The new JASON study explodes the old myth that the U.S. needs nuclear test explosions or new warhead designs to maintain an effective nuclear arsenal, and strengthens the case for U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty next year," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

"The JASON study confirms that the stockpile stewardship program works and can continue to work indefinitely," Kimball added.

The JASON panel of senior scientists reviewed the National Nuclear Security Administration's warhead Lifetime Extension Program (LEP) at the request of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee.

The study found "...no evidence that accumulation of changes incurred from aging and LEPs have increased risk to certification of today's deployed nuclear warheads."

It also concluded that: "Lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence, by using approaches similar to those employed in LEPs to date."

The goal of the LEP is to extend the service life of existing, well-tested nuclear warhead designs without nuclear testing. Congress requested the study to determine if the LEP approach is preferable to producing new, untested warhead designs, an approach known as the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. The "replacement" warhead approach, proposed by the George W. Bush administration, was rejected by congress as technically unjustifiable and not cost effective.

President Obama and his cabinet have called for the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and pledged to work intensively with Senators so they are fully briefed on key technical and scientific developments before the CTBT comes before the Senate in 2010.

"The JASON report should put an end to any further debate within the administration about whether to pursue new "replacement" warhead designs," said Tom Collina, ACA's Research Director. "We are better off depending on existing designs that we understand than building new ones that we don't," he added.

"There is no technical or military reason to resume U.S. nuclear weapons testing, and it is in the U.S. national security interest to prevent nuclear testing by others. A growing list of bipartisan leaders agree that by ratifying the CTBT, the U.S. stands to gain an important constraint on the ability of other states to build new and more deadly nuclear weapons that could pose a threat to American security," Kimball noted.


For additional information and analysis, see:

"Lifetime Extension Program (LEP): Executive Summary," JASON, September 9, 2009, The MITRE Corporation <http://armscontrol.org/system/files/JASON%20LEP%20REPORT%20SUMMARY%2009-09.pdf>

"Why We Don't Need To Resume Nuclear Testing: A Reply to Senator Jon Kyl's 'Why We Need to Test Nuclear Weapons,'" Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Proliferation Analysis, November 3, 2009
<http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=24079>

"Officials Air Views On Key Stockpile Issue," in Arms Control Today, November 2009, by Tom Z. Collina and Daniel Horner,
<http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2009_11/NewsAnalysis>