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ACA’s journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

U.S. Nuclear Weapons

U.S. Should Adopt No First Use Nuclear Launch Policy

Statement from Daryl G. Kimball, executive director Now is the time to put responsible checks on the use of nuclear weapons and to consider changes in outdated, Cold War-era U.S. policy that reduce the risk of nuclear use and ensure that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is deterrence. We strongly support the bill introduced by Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, to establish that it is the policy of the United States not to use nuclear weapons first. Widespread, bipartisan concerns about cavalier and reckless statements from President Donald Trump...

Vital SFRC Hearing on Nuclear Weapons Decision-Making and Authority: Tuesday, November 14

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This Tuesday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will convene a critical hearing on the president’s authority to use nuclear weapons and the process for executing that authority. The discussion will be the begin of an overdue re-examination of the use nuclear weapons and how those decisions are carried out.

U.S. President Donald Trump leaves CIA headquarters accompanied by the omnipresent officer carrying the nuclear "football" (Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria)Why is this so important?

Currently, President Trump, like all U.S. presidents before him, has sole authority over the use of US nuclear weapons. One person can order the launch of over 800 nuclear-armed missiles in under 10 minutes. Leaving such a momentous decision in the hands of a single person is a dangerous situation. SFRC chairman, Bob Corker, has expressed concerns that President Trump’s reckless and implusive rhetoric could push us into “World War III.”

What Can You Do?

If your Senator is on the Foreign Relations Committee—i.e., you live in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin, or Wyoming—use the form below to contact your Senator’s office today. It provides all the information they need on the hearing and the hard questions they need to ask the witnesses, which will include a former commander of U.S. nuclear forces and a former high-ranking Pentagon official. Such questions, among others, could include:

  • “Do you believe the launching of a nuclear first strike is by its nature a declaration of war and, if so, shouldn’t that constitutionally require the approval and consent of Congress?
     
  • “If the United States were to launch a nuclear first strike against an adversary, what guarantee would we have that they would not retaliate likewise?"
     
  • "Under what circumstances would the benefits of a U.S. nuclear first strike ever outweigh the tragic costs and devastation that would play out afterwards?" 

It is urgent that all member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee attend and engage on the critical questions surrounding U.S. nuclear decision-making and authority. Please write your Senator today and urge them to attend this hearing, a vital opportunity in re-examining U.S. nuclear decision making over time, and the prudence of putting the fate of millions in the hands of one person.

 

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Posted: November 13, 2017

U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Turkey Raise Alarm

Is it time to remove the nuclear bombs stored at Incirlik?


November 2017
By Kingston Reif

Deteriorating relations between the United States and Turkey have prompted a growing debate about the wisdom of maintaining U.S. tactical nuclear weapons at the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey and, more broadly, about whether to remove all such U.S. weapons from Europe.

Airmen from the U.S. Air Force 39th Security Forces Squadron search Senior Airman Dwaine Barnes during a security exercise January 15, 2016, at Incirlik Air Base. The exercise tested security forces ability to respond to insider threats and to practice other security missions. (Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Krystal Ardrey)Although Turkey is a NATO member and Incirlik is a key base of operations for the U.S. air campaign against the Islamic State group, developments over the past year and a half have soured relations and raised security concerns at the base. Those arguing for the removal from Incirlik note that although the bombs do not appear to be in imminent danger of theft or unauthorized use, the risks of storing the weapons in Turkey have nevertheless increased significantly. They also note that maintaining the status quo is unacceptable in light of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s anti-U.S. rhetoric and actions.

In an Oct. 14 tweet, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and former State Department official in the George W. Bush administration, said the United States “should remove nukes from Turkey” and “reduce dependence on use of its bases.” Turkey under Erdogan is an “ally in name only,” he added.

According to open-source estimates, the United States may store as many as 50 B61 gravity bombs at Incirlik. Those make up one-third of the approximately 150 nuclear weapons thought to be housed in five nations in Europe as part of NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements.

The original rationale for deploying U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe was to deter and, if necessary, defeat a large-scale attack by the Soviet Union. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has drastically reduced the number of weapons on the continent, but still deploys a smaller number to extend deterrence to NATO allies and as a political signal of the U.S. commitment to the security of alliance members.

The Defense and Energy departments are in the process of an extensive rebuilding of the B61, at a cost that may exceed $10 billion. (See ACT, November 2016.)

Unlike the other bases in Europe that host U.S. B61s, Incirlik does not have dedicated nuclear-capable fighter aircraft that can deliver the weapons. Moreover, Turkey does not train its pilots to fly nuclear missions. In the event NATO were to make a decision to use the weapons now stored in Turkey, the United States or another NATO member would fly its own aircraft to pick them up.

As a matter of policy, the Defense Department does not comment on the presence of nuclear weapons in Turkey or anywhere else in Europe. The Air Force, in its fiscal year 2015 budget request, noted the presence of “special weapons” at “storage sites in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey.” Since 2000, NATO has invested $80 million in “infrastructure improvements” and as of 2014 planned to invest an additional $154 million “for security improvements.”

The security environment has raised concerns. In March 2016, the U.S. military ordered the families of U.S. military personnel to leave southern Turkey, primarily from Incirlik, due to terrorist activity in Turkey and the conflict in nearby Syria.

In July 2016, following a failed coup attempt, the Turkish government arrested several high-ranking Turkish military officers at Incirlik and cut power to the base for nearly a week. In the year since, Erdogan has cracked down on opposition groups and independent media and strengthened ties with Russia. In addition, Turkey has arrested several U.S. citizens accused of abetting the coup and in October detained a Turkish employee at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul.

Other NATO members also have had troubled relations with Turkey recently. For example, Germany in July removed its soldiers from Incirlik after Ankara refused to allow German lawmakers to visit the troops at the base.

The presumed presence of U.S. nuclear bombs raises the stakes. A former senior NATO official told Stars and Stripes in July that “if there are nuclear weapons stored in Turkey, they should be removed given the instability, both in the country and across the border in Syria and Iraq.” If removed, the weapons could be sent back to the United States or to another country in Europe that has the requisite facilities to store B61s and aircraft capable of delivering them.

So far, neither the United States nor NATO’s military command have given any indication that withdrawal of the weapons has been seriously considered. Leaders of the 28 member countries of NATO, at their July 2016 summit meeting in Warsaw, reaffirmed the security role played by U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe. (See ACT, September 2016.)

James Townsend, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy during the Obama administration, told Arms Control Today in an Oct. 23 interview that decisions about U.S. force posture in Europe should not be impacted by “the politics of the day.”

The United States should not pursue a unilateral change to NATO’s nuclear posture “due to politics or even military expediency unless we do so with the Russians giving us something in return,” he added.

NATO may fear that removing the weapons from Incirlik not only would raise questions about the alliance’s commitment to Turkey’s security, likely exacerbating current political tensions, but also prompt uncomfortable debates about the merits of nuclear sharing inside the other host nations.

Indeed, the deployment of U.S. B61s is controversial in some of these countries.

For instance, Martin Schulz, the German Social Democratic candidate for chancellor, said in August that were he to win the Sept. 24 election, he would advocate for the removal of the estimated 20 B61s stored in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party ultimately prevailed, but the Social Democrats remain the second-largest political party in Germany.

In an article urging the withdrawal of all U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe published in the journal Survival in September, Steve Andreasen, a former White House official in the Clinton administration, argued that continuing “NATO’s nuclear status quo will come at an increasingly high financial and political cost, and high security risk.”

Recent developments involving Turkey highlight “the need for NATO to move to a safer, more secure and more credible nuclear deterrent—including withdrawing, and not replacing, U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe,” he wrote.—KINGSTON REIF

Posted: November 1, 2017

New CBO Report Warns of Skyrocketing Costs of U.S. Nuclear Arsenal

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A new study published by CBO highlights the skyrocketing cost to sustain and upgrade U.S. nuclear forces and outlines several options to maintain a credible deterrent at less cost.

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Experts Call for Shift to More Cost-Effective Alternatives

For Immediate Release: October 31, 2017

Media Contacts:  Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107.

(Washington, D.C.) – A new study published by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Tuesday highlights the skyrocketing cost of the current plan to sustain and upgrade U.S. nuclear forces and outlines several pragmatic options to maintain a credible, formidable deterrent at less cost.

The USS Wyoming, an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia in 2014. The Navy is planning to replace the Ohio-class submarines, but the cost of the replacement is prompting a debate in Washington. (U.S. Navy)CBO estimates that sustaining and upgrading U.S. nuclear forces will cost taxpayers $1.24 trillion in inflation-adjusted dollars between fiscal years 2017 and 2046. When the effects of inflation are included, we project that the 30-year cost will exceed $1.5 trillion. These figures are significantly higher than the previously reported estimates of roughly $1 trillion.   

“The stark reality underlined by CBO is that unless the U.S. government finds a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the nuclear weapons spending plan inherited by the Trump administration will pose a crushing affordability problem,” said Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association.

The CBO study comes amid reports that the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, which is slated for completion by the end of the year, could propose new types of nuclear weapons and increase their role in U.S. policy.

“If the forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review by the administration does not scale-back current nuclear weapons spending plans – or worse, accelerates or expands upon them – expenditures on nuclear weapons will endanger other high priority national security programs,” Reif noted.

The CBO report evaluates roughly a dozen alternatives to the current plans to manage and reduce the mammoth price tag. For example, according to CBO, roughly 15 percent, or nearly $200 billion, of the projected cost of nuclear forces over the next three decades could be saved by trimming back the existing program of record while still maintaining a triad of delivery systems. Additional savings could be found by shifting from a triad to a nuclear dyad. 

“The report blows apart the false choice repeatedly posited by Pentagon officials between the costly ‘all of the above’ plan to maintain and upgrade the nuclear force and doing nothing. There are cost-cutting alternatives that would still maintain a U.S. nuclear force capable of obliterating any potential nuclear adversary,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

“The trillion and a half dollar triad is not just unaffordable, it is unnecessary. The United States continues to retain more nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and supporting infrastructure than it needs to deter or respond to a nuclear attack,” Kimball added.

Over the past several years, the Arms Control Association has repeatedly raised concerns about the need and affordability of the current spending plans, argued that these plans pose a threat to other military priorities, and suggested more cost-effective alternatives.

For more information see:

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Posted: October 31, 2017

Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: The United States

October 2017

Updated: October 2017

According to the most recent announcement provided by the Obama administration in January 2017, as of September 2016 the United States possessed 4,018 nuclear warheads and an additional 2,800 retired warheads awaiting dismantlement. The U.S. has already met its New START requirements to reduce its deployed warheads to 1,550 by 2018, and according to the September 2017 New START data exchange it has 1,393 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 660 ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers, with an additional 150-200 tactical warheads deployed in Europe. President Trump ordered a new Nuclear Posture Review in January 2017, and the Defense Department is due to release the NPR report later this year. The United States has destroyed about 90% of its chemical weapons arsenal as of 2016 and is due to complete destruction by 2023. It is party to the Biological Weapons Convention and has destroyed its biological weapons arsenal, although Russia alleges that U.S. biodefense research violates the BWC.

Contents

Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties

Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards

Nuclear Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

  • The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview
  • Delivery Systems
  • Nuclear Doctrine
  • Fissile Material
  • Proliferation Record

Biological Weapons

Chemical Weapons

Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities

  • New START
  • Nuclear Reduction Beyond New START
  • Civilian Nuclear Trade with India & the 123 Agreement
  • Nuclear Weapons Free Zones
  • Nuclear Security Summits
  • Syrian Chemical Weapons
  • Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties

 

Signed

Ratified

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

1968

1970

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

1996

- - -

Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)

1980

1982

CPPNM 2005 Amendment

- - -

2015

Chemical Weapons Convention

1993

1997

Biological Weapons Convention

1972

1975

International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism

2005

2015

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Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards

Group

Status

Australia Group

Member

Missile Technology Control Regime

Member

Nuclear Suppliers Group

Member

Wassenaar Arrangement

Member

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol

Signed in 1998, entered into force January, 2009.

Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

Co-founder with Russia

Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation

Participant

Proliferation Security Initiative

Founder

UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1673

The United States has filed reports on its activities to fulfill the resolutions and volunteered to provide assistance to other states.

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Nuclear Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview

Under President Barack Obama, the United States began declassifying the size of its military nuclear stockpile. The most recent update provided by the Obama administration in January 2017 indicates that, as of September 30, 2016, the United States had 4,018 nuclear warheads in its military stockpile, including tactical, strategic, and non-deployed weapons. The administration also announced that an additional 2,800 retired warheads are awaiting dismantlement, putting the total size of the U.S. warhead stockpile at 6,800 warheads. While the United States and Russia maintain similarly sized total arsenals, the United States possesses a much larger number of strategic warheads and delivery systems while Russia possesses a much larger number of non-strategic (or tactical) nuclear warheads.

Under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the United States will reduce its deployed treaty accountable strategic warheads to 1,550 by the treaty implementation deadline of 2018. According to the September 2017 New START data exchange, the United States has 1,393 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 660 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and strategic bombers. However, these numbers may be artificially low due to a temporary fluctuation in deployed and non-deployed weapons at the time of the exchange. The United States also deploys an additional 150-200 tactical nuclear warheads based in Europe. 

The United States has conducted 1,030 total nuclear tests, far more than any other nuclear-armed state. The United States is the only nation to have used nuclear weapons against another country, dropping two bombs (one apiece) on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

Delivery Systems

(For a detailed overview of current and planned U.S. nuclear modernization programs, see our fact sheet here.)

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM)

  •  As of March 2017, the United States Air Force deploys 405 LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBMs.
    • The Minuteman III has a range of over 6,000 miles (9,650-13,000 km).
    • Each missile is equipped with either one 300 kt W87 warhead or one 335 kt W78 warhead.
  • In the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the Obama administration decided to “de-MIRV” the missiles, removing the second and third warhead deployed on some of the Minuteman IIIs. This process was completed in June 2014.
  • Under New START, the United States plans to reduce the number of deployed ICBMs from 450 to 400. The 50 excess silos will not be destroyed but kept “warm” to accommodate missiles if necessary.
  • In 2015, the United States concluded a multibillion dollar, decade-long modernization program that will extend the service life of the Minuteman III to beyond 2030.  

Submarines and Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM)

Ohio-class submarines

  • The U.S. Navy operates 14 Ohio-class SSBNs submarines, two of which are undergoing overhaul of their nuclear reactors at any given time. The remaining 12 are available for deployment. However, since some operational SSBNs also undergo minor repairs at any given time the actual number of SSBNs at sea usually numbers at around 10.
  • 7 submarines are based out of Bangor, Washington and 5 submarines are based out of Kings Bay, Georgia.
  • The submarines have 24 missile tubes for Trident II D5 SLBMs. Under New START, the Navy has begun to deactivate 4 tubes on each submarine; a process scheduled for completion in early 2017.
  • The Ohio-class submarines have a life-span of 42 years.

Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile

  • The Trident II D5 was first deployed in 1990.
  • The Trident II D5 has an operational range of 7,400-12,000 km.
  • The Trident II D5 missile can hold up to eight warheads (but usually holds an average of four to five) and carries 3 variants:
    • the W88—a 475 kt MIRV warhead.
    • the W76-0—a 100 kt MIRV warhead.
    • the W76-1—a 100 kt MIRV warhead.
  • Under New START, the Navy will deploy 240 missiles armed with about 1,100 warheads.
  • An ongoing life extension program is expected to keep the Trident II D5 in service until  2042.
  • The Trident II D5 is the only MIRV’ed strategic missile remaining in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Bombers

  • As of March 2017, the Air Force deploys 36 nuclear-capable B-52H Stratofortress bombers and 12 nuclear-capable B-2A Spirit bombers.
  • The Air Force will deploy no more than 60 nuclear-capable strategic bombers under New START.
  • An estimated 1,038 nuclear weapons are assigned to the strategic bombers, but only about 300 are typically deployed at bomber bases.
    • B-52H Stratofortress bombers: dual-capable; can carry 20 AGM-86B cruise missiles. The AGM-86B has a range of 2,500 km and is equipped with a 5-150 kt W80-1 warhead
    • B-2A Spirit bombers: dual capable; can carry 16 B61-7, B61-11, or B83-1 gravity bombs.
  • The United States also maintains several fighter-aircraft that serve in a dual-capable role. The F-15E and F-16C have been the cornerstone of this aspect of nuclear deterrence, carrying the B61 gravity bomb. The new stealth F-35 Lightning II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, will replace the F-16 as the U.S. Air Force’s primary nuclear capable fighter-aircraft.

Nuclear Doctrine

In April 2009, President Obama declared in a speech in Prague that it was the policy of the United States “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” In the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the Obama administration announced that it “will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.” The administration reserved the right to make any adjustments to this assurance “that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of the biological weapons threat.” The President was not prepared to make a declaration that the “sole purpose” of its nuclear weapons was to deter a nuclear attack, but added that it would “work to establish conditions under which such a policy could be safely adopted.”

News reports indicated that the Obama administration during its last year in office considered adjusting U.S. nuclear declaratory policy to state that the United States will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict. In a January 11, 2017, speech in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden said that both he and Obama strongly believe that the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons should be to deter a nuclear attack against the United States or its allies. But the President reportedly decided not to adopt a no-first-use or sole purpose policy due to concerns expressed by some members of his cabinet and close U.S. allies.

In January 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order calling on the Defense Department to initiate a new NPR in order to “ensure that the United States nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats.”

Fissile Material

Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU)

  • The United States has publicly declared that it no longer produces fissile material for weapons purposes. It stopped production of HEU in 1992.
  • In March 2016, the United States announced the declassification of its national inventory of highly enriched uranium (HEU), as of September 30, 2013.
  • The United States halted the production of HEU for weapons in 1964 and ceased plutonium separation for weapons in 1992.
  • Estimates from 2016 place the U.S. HEU stockpile at around 600 metric tons, including 253 metric tons of military HEU and 264 metric tons of fresh and spent naval HEU.
  • According to the 2015 Global Fissile Material Report, the United States has about 40 metric tons of HEU remaining to be downblended of the 187 metric tons it declared as excess to defense requirements and has committed to dispose.

Plutonium

  • The United States ended production of separated plutonium in 1988.
  • At the end of 2014, U.S. military plutonium stockpiles amounted to a total of 87.6 declared metric tons (49.3 metric tons of which are declared as excess military plutonium).
  • In October 2016, citing U.S. failure to meet its obligations under the agreement, Russia suspended its own implementation of the deal. Russia refuses to resume the agreement’s implementation until U.S. sanctions against Russia are lifted and NATO forces in Europe are reorganized along lines favorable to Russia. Russia contends that U.S. plans to abandon the conversion of plutonium into MOX fuel in favor of a cheaper and faster downblending method does not meet the terms of the deal because doing so would fail to change the composition of the plutonium from weapons grade to reactor grade. 
  • The United States possesses no separated civilian plutonium but at the end of 2014, an estimated 625 metric tons of plutonium were contained in spent fuel stored at civilian reactor sites.
  • Under the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA), finalized with Russia in 2000, the United States committed to disposing of 34 metric tons of excess weapons-grade plutonium by 2018. The agreement was amended in 2010 to change the agreed disposition methods in which Russia abandoned using mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel in light-water reactors in favor or irradiating plutonium in its fast-neutron reactors. The amendment also expressed renewed U.S. commitment to provide $400 million towards the Russian disposition program.

 Proliferation Record

  • A close relationship exists between U.S. and British nuclear weapons programs. The United States supplies the United Kingdom with the Trident II D5 SLBM.
  • Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey all host U.S. tactical nuclear gravity bombs as part of NATO nuclear sharing agreements. The estimated 180 weapons remain under U.S. custody during peacetime, but some may be released to U.S. allies for delivery in times of war.
  • Beginning with President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1953 “Atoms for Peace” initiative, the United States has engaged in extensive worldwide trading and exchanging of fissile materials and technical information for nuclear science research and the peaceful use of nuclear technology. In 1954, an amendment to the Atomic Energy Act allowed bilateral nuclear agreements with U.S. allies to proceed, with the intent of exporting only low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel; however, this soon expanded to include HEU.
  • Under the “Atoms for Peace” program a number of former, aspiring, and current nuclear weapon-states such as South Africa, Iran, India, Pakistan, and Israel all received, directly or indirectly, training and technology transfers utilized in their nuclear weapons programs. For example, in 1967, the United States supplied Iran with a 5 megawatt nuclear research reactor along with HEU fuel. Iran admitted to using the reactor in the early 1990s for the production of small amounts of Polonium-210, a radioactive substance capable of starting a chain reaction inside a nuclear weapon.
  • Since the end of the Cold War the United States has tried to mitigate the adverse effects of the “Atoms for Peace” initiative and returned exported HEU and plutonium to the United States.

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Biological Weapons

  • In the early 1970s, the United States destroyed its entire stockpile of biological weapons, which had been developed between 1943 and 1969.
  • In 2001, the Bush administration opposed and killed an effort dating back to 1995 to augment the Biological Weapons Convention with a legally binding verification protocol. U.S. officials said the protocol would be too burdensome on legitimate governments and private biodefense programs, while at the same time failing to deter cheaters.
  • According to a 2016 State Department report, “In December 2015 at the annual Meeting of States Parties to the BWC, the delegation of the Russian Federation asserted that the United States had knowingly transferred live anthrax spores to a foreign country for use in open-air testing, and that this constituted a ‘grave violation’ of Articles III and IV of the BWC [Biological Weapons Convention].”
  • The United States maintains that these transfers were a blunder. The report also notes that, “All U.S. activities during the reporting period were consistent with the obligations set forth in the BWC. The United States continues to work toward enhancing transparency of biological defense work using the BWC confidence building measures.”

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Chemical Weapons

  • Behind Russia, the United States has declared the second-largest stockpile of chemical agents.
  • As of Nov. 30, 2014 the United States had destroyed 24,924 metric tons, or 90 percent, of its total category 1 chemical weapons stockpile. The United States has completed destruction of all its Category 2 and 3 chemical weapons. 
  • Due to environmental concerns requiring that materials at certain facilities be neutralized rather than incinerated, the United States does not expect to complete destruction until 2021, nine years after the Chemical Weapons Convention deadline. However, in March 2017, Conrad Whyne, chief of the Defense Department’s Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, stated that all chemical weapons will be destroyed by 2023. Destruction of the United States’ largest remaining stockpile of chemical weapons began in March of 2015 at Colorado’s Pueblo Chemical Depot. Upon completion, the Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond, Kentucky will have the last remaining chemical agent stockpile in the United States.

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Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities  

New START
In April 2010, the United States and Russia signed a successor agreement to the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) accord. The 2010 agreement, known as New START, commenced on Feb. 5, 2011. It requires that both sides reduce their arsenals to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons on no more than 700 ICMBs, SLMBs, and bombers by 2018. In addition, it contains rigorous monitoring and verification provisions to ensure compliance with the agreement. President Donald Trump has repeatedly questioned the value of New START, calling it a “one-sided” agreement.

Nuclear Reduction Beyond New START
In February 2013, President Obama announced that the United States intended to engage with Russia to further reduce deployed strategic warheads by one-third below the New START limit to around 1,100 to 1,000 deployed warheads. However, there has been little progress toward achieving such reductions due to the deterioration of U.S.-Russia relations in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Russia’s insistence that other issues, such as limits on U.S. missile defenses, be part of negotiations on further reductions.

Civilian Nuclear Trade with India & the 123 Agreement
In July 2005, the United States signed a controversial agreement with India to repeal most U.S. and multilateral civilian nuclear trade restrictions on India. In 2006, Congress amended its own domestic legislation to allow nuclear trade with India to proceed. The two governments later concluded a “123 Agreement,” which was approved by Congress and signed into law in October 2008. In September 2008, India received a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The United States has pushed for India to become a member of the NSG, but in January 2017, China and other countries blocked India's membership bid on the grounds that India has not yet signed the NPT.

Nuclear Weapons Free Zones
The United States has ratified a protocol to the Latin America and the Caribbean Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) treaty pledging not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the contracting parties. The U.S. has declined to ratify similar additional protocols to any of the remaining NWFZ treaties for Africa, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific. 

Nuclear Security Summits
In April 2010, the United States hosted the first Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in Washington, DC. Participants included 47 countries, 38 of which were represented at the head of state or head of government level, and the heads of the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the European Union. At the summit, the participants unanimously adopted the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear material in the next four years. The United States also attended the NSS in Seoul, South Korea, on March 26-27, 2012 and the third NSS on Mar. 24-25, 2014. Washington hosted a fourth summit in the Spring of 2016 where attendees developed action plans for five global organizations to continue the work of the summits.

Syrian Chemical Weapons
In September 2013, in the aftermath of the large-scale use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, United States reached an agreement with Russia to account, inspect, control, and eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons. Before the deal was reached, the United States was planning to use airstrikes to punish the perpetrators of the attack, which the United States blamed on the Syrian government. By July 2014, Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile had been successfully removed from the country and flagged for destruction following a broad multilateral operation. However, the United States has raised concerns about the accuracy of Syria’s declaration.

In September 2014, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed that chlorine gas was being used in Syria. The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on Mar. 6, 2015 condemning the use of chlorine gas in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry was quick to suggest that the Assad regime was the likely perpetrator of the chlorine gas attacks; Russia, however, was hesitant to assign blame. In August 2016, the third report of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism was released, finding that the Syrian government was responsible for chemical weapons attacks.

In April 2017, another chemical weapon attack was carried out in the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun where Syrian government warplanes were accused of spreading a nerve agent via bombs, killing dozens. U.S. President Donald Trump responded by immediately blaming the regime of Bashar Assad and launching 59 Tomahawk missiles targeting the airfield that had allegedly launched the. Following the launches, Trump stated that “It is in this vital national security of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” As a justification for the U.S. response, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that “If you violate international agreements, if you fail to live up to commitments, if you become a threat to others, at some point a response is likely to be undertaken.”   

(For a detailed timeline on Syrian chemical weapons, see our fact sheet here.)

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)
Under the Obama administration the United States played the central role in the brokering of the July 2015 JCPOA, better known as the “Iran deal,” which limits and rolls back Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. Congress in September 2015 debated a resolution that would have blocked implementation of the accord, but it failed to receive enough votes to pass the Senate. In January 2016, financial and oil sanctions on Iran were lifted along with the release of $100 billion worth of frozen Iranian assets after international inspectors confirmed that Iran had rolled back large sections of its nuclear program. In an effort to preserve the deal before leaving office, the Obama administration worked to fend off additional sanctions and encouraged American companies to conduct business in Iran.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the agreement. During the presidential campaign, he made comments about “tearing up” the deal. On Feb. 1, 2017 then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn put Iran “on notice” following its testing of a ballistic missile.

Conference on Disarmament (CD)

Established in 1979 as a multilateral disarmament negotiating forum by the international community, the United States has been a regular and active participant in the CD. At the 65-member CD, the United States has expressed support for continuing disucssions on the CD's core issues: nuclear disarmament, a fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT), prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS), and negative security assurances. The United States has been a prominent supporter of a proposed FMCT.

In March 1995, the CD took up The Shannon Mandate which established an ad hoc committee directed to negotiate an FMCT by the end of the 1995 session. A lack of consensus over verification provisions, as well as desires to hold parallel negotiations on outer space arms control issues, prevented negotiations from getting underway. Later, in May 2006, the United States introduced a draft FMCT along with a draft mandate for its negotiations. However, following an impasse in negotiations on a FMCT in 2010, the United States (and others) signaled its desire to look at alternative approaches outside the CD and called for negotiations to be moved to the United Nations General Assembly where the agreement could be endorsed by a majority vote. However, the United States no longer makes comments to this effect.

 The United States does not support negotiations on PAROS, deeming it unnecessary because there are no weapons yet deployed in outer space. China and Russia continue to articulate a desre to hold parallel negotiations, a point which has further stalled efforts to begin FMCT negotiations.

 

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Posted: October 3, 2017

ACA-YPFP NextGen Voices: The Untold Story in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Saga

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ACA and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP) are hosting an event featuring a​n exclusive​ showing of Marshalling Peace and a discussion on the future of nuclear weapons threats and the ways NextGen leaders can shape today's and tomorrow's nuclear policies.

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What: Short Film "Marshalling Peace" and
NextGen Discussion

When Tuesday, August 29
7:00-8:30pm

Where1619 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20036 

On August 29 - the International Day Against Nuclear Testing - ​NextGen filmmaker Autumn Bordner joins Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP) and the Arms Control Association for a​n exclusive​ showing of Marshalling Peace​. Autumn traveled to the Marshall Islands to research the lingering effects of U.S. nuclear testing conducted there during the Cold War. Her short film documents the tiny nation's legal battle against nuclear weapons​-holding superpowers​, and the​ devastating effects of the U.S. nuclear testing program on the Marshallese people.

Autumn and the Association's Executive Director Daryl Kimball will facilitate a discussion on the future of nuclear weapons threats and the ways NextGen leaders can shape today's and tomorrow's nuclear policies. YPFP's Danielle Preskitt (a former Association intern) will moderate.

The Panelists:

Autumn Bordner is a rising second year at Stanford Law School. Prior to matriculating at Stanford, Autumn worked as an environmental consultant at ICF, and as a fellow with the K1 Project, Center for Nuclear Studies, a research institute that she co-founded as an undergraduate at Columbia University. Autumn is also a member of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Youth Group. In this capacity, she is working to advance the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Daryl G. Kimball became the Executive Director of the Arms Control Association in September 2001. The Arms Control Association is a private, non-profit membership organization dedicated to public education and support of effective arms control measures pertaining to nuclear, chemical, biological, and conventional weapons. Find his complete bio here.

                                                                 

Posted: August 29, 2017

The Trillion (and a Half) Dollar Triad?

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Analysis of budget figures released by the Pentagon suggest that the total 30-year cost could approach and perhaps even exceed $1.5 trillion when including the effects of inflation. This is 50 percent more than the commonly cited estimate of roughly $1 trillion. 

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Volume 9, Issue 6, August 18, 2017

Amid an escalating exchange of threats between the United States and North Korea, President Donald Trump claimed in a tweet Aug. 9 that his “first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before.” He reiterated this claim in a press briefing Aug. 11.

Like many of the president’s utterances, these assertions don’t come close to resembling the truth. The U.S. nuclear arsenal is no more, or less, powerful than when Trump took office Jan. 20. The president did order the Pentagon to conduct a Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) to examine and provide recommendations on U.S. nuclear weapons policy and posture, but that review, which officially began in April, is still ongoing and won’t be completed until the end of this year at the earliest.

In fact, it was President Barack Obama that set in motion plans to undertake a massive and costly rebuild of the arsenal. Much of this effort is still in its infancy, and will take decades to complete. Trump inherited this program, and his first budget request, which has yet to be acted on by Congress, proposes to move full steam ahead with the Obama approach. This is not surprising, given that the administration has yet to put its own stamp on U.S. nuclear policy.

What has been lost in much of the important fact checking of Trump’s erroneous (and dangerous) nuclear saber-rattling is that while the capability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal hasn’t changed over the past seven months, the projected annual costs of the current all-of-the-above upgrade plans are rising significantly—and not because of anything Trump has done.

A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report in February estimates that the United States will spend $400 billion on nuclear weapons from fiscal year 2017-2026. That is an increase of $52 billion, or 15 percent, from the CBO’s previous 10-year estimate of $348 billion, which was published in January 2015.

The 10-year estimate captures the beginning of the major planned ramp-up in spending to recapitalize all three legs of the existing nuclear “triad” of submarines, missiles, and bombers and their associated warheads and supporting infrastructure, but even larger bills are still to come.

How large? Analysis of budget figures recently released by the Pentagon suggest that, even though the Trump administration has yet to make any significant changes to the Obama administration’s spending plans, the total 30-year cost could approach and perhaps even exceed $1.5 trillion when including the effects of inflation. This is 50 percent more than the commonly cited estimate of roughly $1 trillion.           

If the forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review by the administration does not reshape the current nuclear weapons spending plans—or worse, accelerates or expands upon them—the massive spending on nuclear weapons will pose a major threat to other high priority national security programs, to say nothing about Trump’s pledge to expand the non-nuclear military.

What makes the growing cost to sustain the nuclear mission so worrisome for military planners is that costs are scheduled to peak during the mid-2020s and overlap with large increases in projected spending on conventional weapon system modernization programs. Numerous Pentagon officials and outside experts have warned about the affordability problem posed by the current approach and that it cannot be sustained without significant and sustained increases to defense spending or cuts to other military priorities.

Trump has declared his ambition to “greatly strengthen and expand” U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities, and has criticized the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, suggesting he may be looking to change nuclear policy in significant ways.

But there is no room in the budget to “expand” the scope and the cost of the upgrade plans.

Though defense spending might see a boost during the Trump administration, it's unlikely to be as high as many people think. In any event, the proposed nuclear recapitalization effort is not a one, two, or three-year effort. It will require at least 15 years of sustained increased spending. Pressure on the defense budget, and the trade-offs such pressure will require, is likely to persist.

The current approach also assumes that the United States will maintain a nuclear arsenal like the one it has now for decades to come. However, the Obama administration, with the support of the Joint Chiefs of staff, determined that the United States can reduce the size of its deployed strategic nuclear arsenal by up to one-third below the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) levels.

As the projected costs for programs designed to replace and upgrade the nuclear arsenal continue to rise, Congress must demand greater transparency about long-term costs, strengthen oversight over high-risk programs, and consider options to delay, curtail, or cancel programs to save taxpayer dollars while meeting deterrence requirements. Tens, if not hundreds, of billions could be saved in the coming decades by reshaping the plans and funding a smaller number of projects, while still leaving the United States with a highly credible nuclear deterrent.

Counting the Nuclear Dollars

My estimate of the 30-year cost of U.S. nuclear forces is based on tabulating Defense Department and Energy Department estimates in the following three categories: the cost of operating and sustain the current triad of U.S. nuclear delivery platforms and supporting command, control and communications systems; the cost to recapitalize the triad; and the cost of the semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) nuclear weapons activities.

Based on the below analysis I estimate the total cost of nuclear forces from fiscal 2018 to 2047 at between $1.25 trillion and $1.46 trillion in then-year dollars, meaning it includes price increases due to inflation over the 30-year period of the estimate.

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Operating and Sustaining the Current Triad

In testimony to the House Armed Services Committee May 25, Robert Soofer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense, stated that the cost to sustain and operate the existing triad of delivery systems and command and control systems is $12-$14 billion in fiscal 2018 dollars. In its fiscal 2018 budget request the administration proposed to spend $14 billion on the current force.

These maintenance costs would be necessary even if the United States were to forgo its plans to recapitalize the arsenal.

Using $12-$14 billion as the baseline, I calculated a low and high estimate over 30-years that takes into account the impact of inflation over time. To do so I assumed an annual increase of 2.1 percent from fiscal 2018 through fiscal 2022, which is consistent with the anticipated growth rate of the overall defense budget due to inflation over the next five years as projected by the White House Office of Management and Budget. For the years beyond fiscal 2022, I assumed an annual inflation rate of 2.1 percent plus a real growth rate of 1.5 percent above inflation. The additional 1.5 percent is consistent with the real growth rate for Defense Department operation and support activities (which includes operation and maintenance and military personnel) assumed by CBO in its analysis of long-term defense costs.

Based on these assumptions I estimate a low range cost of $596 billion and a high range cost of $695 billion.

There are a number of assumption built into this projection that if altered could push the cost up or down.

First, force sustainment costs increased from $12 billion in fiscal 2017 to $14 billion in fiscal 2018. The cause of this growth is unclear, but the increase suggests that the $12 billion figure that is the basis of my low-range estimate might be unrealistically low.

Second, a real growth rate of 1.5 percent might be too conservative. Sustainment costs could increase above this rate, particularly starting in the late 2020s when the Pentagon will need to pay the cost of maintaining both legacy delivery systems and their replacements (which will begin entering service during this period). Older systems cost more to maintain as they age and newer systems typically cost more to operate when they enter service as operators adjust due to new technology.

Third, the price to maintain the current triad includes more than operation and support costs: it also includes acquisition (research and development and procurement) and infrastructure costs. The price of these activities is likely to grow at different rates.

Fourth, the Pentagon’s estimate of sustainment appears to include the full cost of operating the B-52H and B-2A bombers, which have both nuclear and conventional roles. Attributing a smaller percentage of the cost of these bombers (and later the B-21) to the nuclear mission would reduce the price of my 30-year estimate. It remains to be seen how many of the 100 B-21s the Air Force plans to buy will be certified for the nuclear mission. The retirement dates of the B-52H and B-24 bombers and how the cost to operate the B-21 will compare to the existing bombers are also unclear. 

Fifth, it is not clear how the Pentagon calculates the cost of command, control, and communications systems, most of which are used by both nuclear and conventional forces. The Pentagon says that it uses an “objective weighting” to determine the portion of each command and control element to the nuclear mission. However, according to the Government Accountability Office, the department’s methodology “is not fully transparent, because it lacks a discussion of the assumptions and potential limitations of the methodology.”

The department is planning to spend $40.5 billion on nuclear command and control between fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2026.

Recapitalizing the Triad

In his May 25 testimony, Soofer stated that the Defense Department is projecting to spend $230-$290 billion to recapitalize U.S. nuclear delivery and command, control, and communications systems between fiscal 2018 and 2040, in constant fiscal 2018 dollars. The estimate includes the total cost of strategic delivery systems that have a nuclear-only mission, and a portion of the cost of the B-21 bomber (which will have both conventional and nuclear roles) that according to the department is consistent with the historical cost of delivering nuclear capability to a strategic bomber. The total also includes the cost of modernizing nuclear command, control, and communications systems and an estimate to replace the Trident II (D5) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), though a program of record for this system does not yet exist.

The Pentagon told me in July that this estimate does not include the costs to operate and sustain the recapitalized systems nor does it include any funds in support of NNSA’s warhead life extension programs and other stockpile activities.

The Pentagon also said that when the effects of inflation are included, the $230-$290 billion estimate is equal to $280-$350 billion in then-year dollars. I was told that the range reflects “uncertainty in long-term cost projections” and that the projections will be refined in the future. Some of the department’s upgrade programs, notably the replacement for the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system—also known as the ground based strategic deterrent, or GBSD—are still early in the research and development phase. Most of the programs have yet to enter production.

The cost range projected by the department for recapitalizing the arsenal could be understated for several reasons.

First, the projection covers a period of 23 years. The 30-year cost is likely to be higher given that some upgrade efforts will continue beyond fiscal 2040, most notably the replacement program for the Trident II (D5).

Second, the Pentagon has yet to establish replacement programs of record for the Trident II (D5) and elements of the command, control, and communications system. While the Pentagon recapitalization estimate includes a placeholder for the D5, the value of this placeholder and the assumptions behind it are unknown.

Third, the department’s recapitalization estimate does appear to account for the possibility of cost increases above its current projections. However, it is not clear what accounts for the large gap between the low and high range estimate and thus hard to determine whether the high estimate realistically captures the growth potential.

There is a significant amount of cost uncertainty associated with some of the recapitalization programs of record. For example, the Pentagon’s independent cost assessment and program evaluation office last year estimated the cost of the GBSD program at between $85 billion to over $140 billion in then-year dollars.

Finally, the overall upgrade estimate only includes a small portion of the cost to acquire the B-21. I have been told by multiple sources that the amount the Pentagon attributes to the nuclear mission could be as low as 5 percent of the total cost. If the total acquisition cost of the program were to be counted, this could add as much as $100 billion to the inflation adjusted recapitalization projection.

Sustaining and Upgrading Nuclear Warheads

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is responsible for sustaining and upgrading U.S. nuclear warheads, science and engineering programs to maintain the arsenal without nuclear explosive testing, and maintaining and replacing aging infrastructure.

Since 2014 the agency has published an annual Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (SSMP), which includes a 25-year estimate (in then-year dollars) of the cost off NNSA’s nuclear weapons program.

The most recent version of the plan was published last year and covers fiscal 2017-2041 (the fiscal 2018 version of the SSMP has yet to be released). Given uncertainties about longer-term warhead life extension and infrastructure costs, the SSMP includes a low and high range estimate.

In order to calculate a 30-year estimate starting in fiscal 2018, I subtracted fiscal 2017 from last year’s plan and inflated the fiscal 2041 low and high range estimates at a rate of 2.25 percent through fiscal 2047. The inflation rate of 2.25 percent is the same rate used by NNSA in the fiscal 2017 SSMP to estimate costs beyond fiscal 2026.

Based on these assumptions I project a low range cost of $369 billion and a high range cost of $417 billion.

The projection for NNSA is likely too low, and perhaps significantly so. First, it does not include any funds from other NNSA accounts, such as naval reactors and the office of the administrator that directly contribute to sustaining and upgrading nuclear warheads and their supporting infrastructure.

Second, the cost projections beyond fiscal 2041 do not include any real growth beyond inflation, even though NNSA will still be in the throes of conducting several large-scale warhead life extension programs. The agency is projecting to spend between $73 and $95 billion to upgrade two air-delivered warheads and develop three new interoperable warheads for use on both ICBMs and SLBMs.

Third, NNSA has a troubled history of failing to control the costs of major programs, particularly construction projects. While there is some cost growth built into the high-range estimate, additional growth is probably more likely than not. Moreover, plans for several NNSA priorities, such as sustaining plutonium capabilities and reducing the number of aging facilities that require maintenance, have yet to be fully developed and thus do not have accurate cost estimates.

Finally, the long-term cost projections in the yet to be released fiscal 2018 version of the SSMP could be higher than the fiscal 2017 plan.

Click to View in Browser

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What’s Different Here

There are a number of key differences between the above analysis and other independent projections of the long-term cost of nuclear forces.

In its biennial, 10-year estimate of nuclear weapons costs, CBO attributes 25 percent of the cost to operate the B-52H to the nuclear mission, 100 percent of the B-2A cost, and 25 percent of the B-21 acquisition cost. CBO also includes a higher estimate of the cost of command, control, and communications systems than the Pentagon. Furthermore, CBO includes an estimate of additional costs based on historical cost growth.

CBO is planning to release to 30-year estimate of the cost of nuclear forces, according to news reports.

In 2014 the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey published a report that projected the 30-year costs of nuclear forces between fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2043 at between $872 billion and $1.082 trillion in constant fiscal 2014 dollars (though the estimate for NNSA’s weapons program appears to be in then-year dollars). The report covers an earlier time-period than the above analysis and did not assume any real growth in the cost to sustain and operate the triad. The report also does not appear to have included any projected cost to upgrade command, control, and communications systems.

In 2015 the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) published a report that projected the 25-year costs of nuclear forces between fiscal 2015 and fiscal 2039 at $816 billion in then-year dollars. The CSBA estimate covers a shorter and earlier time-period than the above analysis. In addition, the estimate only included 25 percent of the cost to operate the B-2A bomber and 10 percent of the cost to acquire and 25 percent of the cost to operate the B-21 bomber. The estimate also attributed a much smaller percentage of the costs of command, control, and communications systems to the nuclear mission.—KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament policy

Posted: August 18, 2017

New, ‘More Usable’ Nukes? No, Thanks

Six months into his term of office, President Donald Trump has provided few details about his approach to his most important responsibility as president: reducing the risks posed by nuclear weapons and preventing a nuclear attack against the United States and our allies.


July/August 2017
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

Six months into his term of office, President Donald Trump has provided few details about his approach to his most important responsibility as president: reducing the risks posed by nuclear weapons and preventing a nuclear attack against the United States and our allies.

In the absence of a coherent vision or strategy, the inexperienced new commander-in-chief has instructed the Pentagon to conduct another review of U.S. nuclear strategy, the fourth since the end of the Cold War and the first since President Barack Obama completed his own Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) in 2010.

An Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia on February 6, 2013. (Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James Kimber/U.S. Navy)It is, however, becoming clearer that Trump’s cryptic comments about nuclear weapons, including his tweet that the United States must further “strengthen and expand” its already unparalleled nuclear capacity, are being interpreted by nuclear weapons advocates, including those who will be involved in the review, quite literally.

The administration is already gearing up to accelerate the Obama-era plan to replace and upgrade each leg of the nuclear triad. The plan would maintain a force that is at least one-third larger than required and cost in excess of $1.2 trillion over the next three decades.

Making matters worse, there now is a push to overturn existing U.S. policy barring the development of new nuclear warheads or nuclear weapons for new military missions in order to build new types of “more usable” nuclear weapons.

In December 2016, the advisory Defense Science Board recommended the development of a “tailored nuclear option for limited use” even though board members acknowledged there is no military requirement for such a weapon. John Harvey, a former official in the Energy and Defense departments who is assisting with the Trump administration’s NPR, said at a public forum on June 29 that the United States should modify an existing strategic missile warhead to provide a low-yield option and consider reviving a Cold War-era, sea-launched, nuclear-armed cruise missile to hold Russian targets at risk.

Also in June, the Republican-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee approved a proposal to authorize $65 million for research and development on a new, dual-capable ground-launched cruise missile in response to Russia’s alleged deployment of such missiles in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF)Treaty.

Proponents argue that new nuclear capabilities are necessary to provide the president with “more credible” nuclear options in the event of a military conflict with Russia. They fear Moscow may be tempted to threaten to use or actually use a small number of nuclear weapons to try to coerce the more powerful NATO to back down.

That is dangerous, Cold War thinking. Once nuclear weapons are used in a conflict against another nuclear-armed adversary, even in small numbers or in a regional conflict, there is no guarantee that there will not be a nuclear response and a cycle of escalation leading to all-out global nuclear war.

Despite the deterioration of relations, there is no reason why the United States should try to match Russia weapon for weapon, dumb move for each dumb move.

The United States already has a significant number of lower-yield nuclear weapons in its arsenal, as well as highly formidable conventional capabilities. There is no evidence that Russia might think the United States would not have the tools to respond decisively in any future conflict.

Russia’s apparent violation of the INF Treaty does not significantly alter the military balance, but it does require the United States to confront Russian officials with evidence of the violation at another meeting of the treaty’s Special Verification Commission and to work to resolve all outstanding compliance issues. Washington should also continue to support ongoing NATO efforts to bolster the conventional defenses of those allies that would be potential targets of Russian aggression or intimidation.

The pursuit of new nuclear weapons, however, would represent a radical reversal of existing U.S. nuclear policy and practice, which stipulates that the “fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack.” European governments and their publics, including those near Russia, likely will not favor U.S. efforts to deploy new nuclear weapons on or near their territory, nor would the prospect of a U.S. strategy based on the threat of a “limited” nuclear conflict in their region go down well.

By pursuing new types of nuclear warheads or delivery systems or modifying existing systems to create new capabilities, the United States would invite a further escalation of tensions and the acceleration of an increasingly unstable, global technological arms race.

As our nation tries to turn back the tide of nuclear proliferation worldwide, we can ill afford to take actions that needlessly suggest that nuclear weapons are just another weapon in a military arsenal. The diplomatic and security costs of developing and possibly testing new types of nuclear warheads far outweigh any marginal benefits of such arms.


The monthly “Focus” editorials from Arms Control Today are available for reprint on a non-exclusive basis
with permission from the Arms Control Association and link to the original publication online.

 

Posted: July 10, 2017

Trump Budget Supports MOX Termination

Trump Budget Supports MOX Termination


July/August 2017
By Kingston Reif

The Trump administration, following in the footsteps of its predecessor, is seeking to end construction of the mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication plant at the Energy Department’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina, although it remains to be seen if Congress will support the proposal.

The plant, which is under construction, is designed to turn surplus plutonium from the U.S. nuclear weapons program into fuel for power reactors.

A May 26 aerial view of the mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication plant at the Energy Department’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina. (Photo credit: Photo Courtesy of High Flyer ©2017)



The administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget request, released May 23, would provide $270 million for termination costs. In addition, the administration would spend $9 million for preliminary work on an alternative plutonium-disposition path chosen by the Energy Department and its semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

The proposal is part of the admini­stration’s $1.8 billion request for NNSA nonproliferation programs in fiscal year 2018.

The U.S. effort to dispose of its plutonium via the MOX fuel path has experienced major cost increases and schedule delays that put the project in jeopardy. The NNSA estimates the total construction cost of the project at $17 billion, of which approximately $5 billion has already been spent. The agency projects the annual cost to operate the facility at $800 million to $1 billion.

The alternative “dilute and dispose” process would down-blend the plutonium with an inert material for direct disposal in a repository. That approach can be implemented decades sooner, at a much lower cost, and with fewer risks, according to the NNSA. (See ACT, June 2015.)

The agency plans to spend $500 million to get the alternative approach up and running and $400 million annually to implement it.

Despite the Energy Department’s efforts to terminate the MOX fuel project, Congress, led by the delegation from South Carolina, has refused to abandon it. Congress provided the NNSA with $335 million to continue construction of the MOX fuel plant in fiscal year 2017, rejecting the Obama administration’s proposal to end the project. (See ACT, June 2017.) Congress also provided $15 million, the same as the budget request and an increase of $10 million over the fiscal year 2016 level, to complete design activities for the dilute-and-dispose alternative.

Excluding the MOX fuel program, the Trump administration is asking for $1.5 billion for NNSA nuclear nonproliferation and counterterrorism programs, roughly the same as the fiscal year 2017 appropriation.

When measured against what the NNSA said it would request for these programs in its fiscal year 2017 submission, however, the fiscal year 2018 proposal would provide more than $200 million less than projected. The 2018 request continues a trend of either flat or reduced funding for core NNSA nonproliferation activities. (See ACT, March 2016.)

The largest proposed reduction in the request is to the Global Material Security program, which has the task of improving the security of nuclear materials around the world, securing orphaned or disused radiological sources, and strengthening nuclear smuggling detection and deterrence. The program would get $337 million, a $30 million reduction from the fiscal year 2017 appropriation.

According to budget documents, the decline from the enacted level “reflects a commitment to reduce” unspent money left over from previous fiscal years by spending it in fiscal year 2018, permitting a lower request.

The Material Management and Minimization program, which supports the removal of civilian highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium around the world and converts HEU-fueled research reactors and medical isotope production facilities to the use of low-enriched uranium, would receive $332 million, an increase of $44 million over the fiscal year 2017 appropriation.

Nuclear material removal activities would get $33 million, a decrease of $66 million. The drop is based on “the political and technical challenges that have delayed implementation of several removal efforts including those in Belarus, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan,” according to budget documents.

Some lawmakers continue to question the wisdom of proposed reductions in funding for NNSA nuclear and radiological security activities.

The fiscal year 2018 budget request “is part of a long and troubling trend,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing June 14. Although the NNSA’s nuclear weapons program “has increased a staggering $3.8 billion” since 2010, Feinstein said, “the nonproliferation program has seen a $343 million decrease.”

“Troublemaking by Russia, the rise of the Islamic State, and nuclear provocation by North Korea—tell me now is not the time to let down on nuclear security,” Feinstein added.—KINGSTON REIF

Posted: July 10, 2017

Banning the Bomb—A Blog of the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Talks

Alicia Sanders-Zakre will be tweeting and blogging throughout the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Talks at the United Nations. Follow her real-time updates at twitter.com/azakre . Second Negotiating Session: June 15-July 7, 2017 UN Adopts Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons July 7, 2017 Today by a vote of 122-1 with 1 abstention, states adopted a historic treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons at the United Nations in New York. The Netherlands voted against the treaty and Singapore abstained. Before adopting the treaty, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez declared that “after many decades, we have managed to...

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