This week, ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball published an Issue Brief responding to lingering questions and doubts regarding the United States' ability to maintain its nuclear stockpile into the indefinite future. While these issues are an important part of the current ratification debate of New START, they have lasting repercussions on any future conversation on nuclear arms control, namely consideration of the CTBT. As such, these misconceptions should be dispensed with promptly.
Daryl refutes the standard treaty-skeptic talking points, positing that the "existing strategy for warhead life extensions can continue to maintain the effectiveness of the arsenal indefinitely; a long-term, robust nuclear weapons 'modernization' plan is in place; [and] the administration's long-term stockpile stewardship and management plan pledges more than enough resources to sustain the effort."
Since 1994, the U.S. national laboratories have certified every type of nuclear warhead through a technically rigorous certification process. The 2009 JASON study concluded that the "lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence," and that there is "no evidence that accumulation of changes incurred from aging and LEPs have increased risk to certification of today's deployed nuclear warheads."
Skeptics who charge that the United States should resort to nuclear testing or new design warheads to maintain a reliable deterrent are misguided. Daryl reiterates, "nuclear explosive testing has never been relied upon to check the reliability of proven U.S. nuclear warhead designs and is not needed to do so in the future."
To read Daryl's full issue brief, which addresses each of these issues in considerable depth, click here.