REPORT SAYS NEW PROGRAM COULD LEAD TO NEW NUCLEAR
By Jeff Shuttleworth
January 24, 2006
LIVERMORE (BCN) - A Livermore-based watchdog group alleged
today that the U.S. is embarking on a major program that could
launch the nation down a "slippery slope" to developing
new nuclear weapons and starting a new arms race.
Leaders of Tri-Valley CAREs said a new study released today,
"The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program: A Slippery Slope
to New Nuclear Weapons," provides the first comprehensive
review of an emerging Department of Energy (DOE) initiative.
The report, written by Robert Civiak, a physicist who served
for more than a decade in the White House Office of Management
and Budget as program examiner for DOE national security programs,
says the initiative could "significantly harm our national
security, disrupt international cooperation in non-proliferation
and diminish pressure on North Korea and Iran to forego their
Civiak, who also served as a visiting scientist at the Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory, said the program may ultimately
lead to a resumption of full-scale nuclear weapons testing.
He said Congress initiated the RRW program in fiscal year 2005
with $9 million and gave direction in the form of a single sentence
stating the lawmakers' intent to limit the program to "improving
the reliability, longevity, and certifiability of existing weapons
and their components."
For fiscal year 2006, Congress appropriated $25 million for the
RRW program, he said.
Tri-Valley CAREs executive director Marylia Kelley said the
study is "extremely timely" because she believes President
Bush will highlight non-proliferation challenges such as Iran
in his upcoming State of the Union address before sending his
own nuclear weapons budget to Congress in early February.
Civiak said his study finds that there is no need for any replacement
"The existing stockpile is extremely safe," Civiak
said. "New warheads resulting from the RRW program might
well wind up being less safe and reliable than existing warheads."
He said adding more plutonium to the "pit" can degrade
a nuclear weapon's safety and increase the chance that some of
the material could explode or spread in an accident. Changes in
a nuclear weapon's core may alter characteristics that were fully
tested before each design was certified to be safe and reliable,
according to Civiak.
He said that's why he believes the Department of Defense would
likely demand that any new replacement warhead undergo full nuclear
explosive tests before the agency would accept it into the stockpile.
Civiak said, "If the U.S. were to conduct even a single
full-scale nuclear weapons test, other nations would surely follow
suit, which could lead to a new arms race. The danger this would
impart to the international non-proliferation regime would far
exceed any conceivable advantage the U.S. would gain from new
Civiak alleged that the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico are the biggest
supporters of the new program.
Lawrence Livermore officials declined to comment on the report,
stating that officials at the National Nuclear Security Administration
would be the best people to respond.
A spokesman for that agency wasn't immediately available for
Kelley said Tri-Valley CAREs will send a copy of the report to
every member of Congress and to relevant committee staff.
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