View Full Version : U.S. Gearing Up For Nuke Test?

01-10-2007, 08:39 AM
U.S. Gearing Up for Nuke Test?
Announcement of new weapons system may signal end to moratorium


Timothy Savage
Published 2007-01-10 17:57 (KST)

According to recent news reports, the U.S. government intends this week to announce its plan to build a new nuclear warhead, called the Reliable Replacement Warhead, to replace the nuclear weapons in its current arsenal. The new warhead is expected to be a hybrid between elements of older systems and a new design that has never been tested. This has raised fear among nonproliferation experts that the Bush administration is planning to end the 15-year-old U.S. moratorium on underground nuclear testing.

While the U.S. has not publicly announced any plans to resume nuclear testing, support for such a move has been percolating in hawkish circles for some time. The first major blow to the testing moratorium came in September 1999, when the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate failed to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This marked the first time in U.S. history that the Senate refused to ratify a major arms control treaty, and left Bill Clinton with the unpleasant legacy of being the first U.S. president of either party to fail to sign or ratify a nuclear weapons agreement during his tenure.

The CTBT has a dual purpose. The first is to prevent the emergence of new nuclear weapons states. But just as importantly, though less well understood, the CTBT is meant to be the first step toward an eventual global disarmament treaty, as required under article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The U.S. move to instead upgrade and modernize its arsenal is just the latest proof of the Bush administration's complete lack of interest in its treaty obligations in this area.

George W. Bush's lone move toward disarmament was an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin in November 2001 to reduce the number of deployed nuclear weapons on each side from 7,000 to 1,700-2,200 by 2012. (Both the U.S. and Russia currently have around 10,000 warheads in total, including some scheduled for decommissioning under previous agreements). While on the surface this seems significant, in reality the agreement contains no provision for destroying the warheads removed from service, nor even any verification requirements. Instead, the warheads can be put into storage and redeployed at any time.

Supporters of new weapons development argue that it is necessary to ensure the reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal as its weapons start to age. Many scientists, however, dispute this. According to testimony from some scientists involved in a new study of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the actual lifespan of a nuclear warhead may be far longer than the 45-60 years previously estimated.

Even if the lower estimate is correct, the oldest nuclear weapons in the current U.S. arsenal are only around 35 years old. The bulk of deployed warheads were commissioned in the 1980s during the Reagan buildup, and thus still have several years of reliability left, even at the lower estimates. Upgrading to new systems, therefore, would be completely unnecessary were the U.S. simply to decommission the nuclear weapons it has already agreed to remove from active service. This would allow the U.S. and Russia to make some real progress toward disarmament, while at the same time retaining deployed arsenals approximately five times as large as that of the No. 3 nuclear power, China.

But of course, this would assume that the United States saw fulfillment of the NPT's promise of disarmament as a goal worth pursuing. That this is not the case was never stated more clearly than by General James Cartwright, who as head of the Strategic Command is the military officer in charge of U.S. WMD. "Right now, it is not the nation's position that zero is the answer to the size of our inventory," Cartwright was quoted as saying in the New York Times on Jan. 8.

This is in stark contrast to one of Cartwright's predecessors, General Lee Butler, who has said that when he took command of StratCom at the end of the Cold War, he felt that his mission was to make his own position irrelevant. That this still hasn't happened 15 years on is a motivating factor in Butler's continued activism in pushing for disarmament.

One can certainly argue whether the U.S. -- or the other recognized nuclear powers, for that matter -- has ever been serious about nuclear disarmament. Still, the movement toward a more open disdain for even the goal of denuclearization is reason for concern. Neocons argue that by building an even stronger, more reliable nuclear arsenal, potential proliferators can be deterred by the sheer futility of ever matching U.S. might.

The problem with this idea is that it's not supported by history, logic, or even international relations theory. Unlike the Soviet Union, which was engaged in a global superpower struggle against the U.S., today's would-be proliferators, like Iran and North Korea, are not looking to match the U.S. warhead-for-warhead according to the twisted logic of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Rather, facing the reality of American conventional military dominance, they're looking to nuclear weapons as a way to reduce America's coercive power against them. It's no coincidence that after the U.S. attacked Iraq on the false premise that it was developing WMD, North Korea quickly switched from denying its nuclear weapons program to exaggerating it.

The end result of U.S. retreat from the NPT principles -- also demonstrated by its nuclear cooperation agreement with India -- can only be an expansion of the world's nuclear club. And that doesn't make anyone safer.

01-10-2007, 12:45 PM
Why Oh why would you ever unleash such horrible destruction on this planet we live on?

01-10-2007, 12:52 PM
Cause it looks cool, and scares our enemies.

01-10-2007, 03:44 PM
Back in January 2006 this was mentioned in “Physics Today:”

“Stop a U.S. nuclear attack on Iran!”

http://physics.ucsd.edu/~jorge/publicservice.html (http://physics.ucsd.edu/%7Ejorge/publicservice.html)

Non-physicists can also sign the petition: