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Nuclear Weapons

China and MIRVed Warheads

A recent Pentagon report on Chinese Military Power reported that for the first time China has apparently begun to put multiple warheads on some of its ballistic missiles. This would mean that China can use its existing missile force to launch more nuclear warheads. This change was also reported in a New York Times article over the weekend. Read More

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NPT Brief: Keeping Chinese Nuclear Weapons Off Hair-Trigger Alert

An overwhelming majority of NPT member states agree that keeping nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert presents an irresponsibly high risk of an accidental or mistaken launch. The final report of the last NPT review conference, held in 2010, included a requirement to lower alert levels. The United States is doing its best to make sure that requirement is stripped from the final language of the 2015 report, despite the wishes of many close U.S. allies. Read More

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U.S. Plays Word Games in Statement about Alert Level of Nuclear Weapons

On Tuesday, the U.S. delegation to the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York issued a statement on the alert level of U.S. nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, the statement is disingenuous and misleading, and relies on word games to obfuscate the real issues. It inappropriately seeks to dispel NPT delegates’ concerns about the U.S. practice of keeping nuclear missiles ready to be launched within minutes, giving the president the option of launching these missiles based on warning of an incoming attack. Read More

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The End for MOX

Last week the Aerospace Corporation sent to Congress its new analysis of the costs of the mixed oxide (MOX) program and other alternatives to dispose of excess plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons. UCS was the first outside organization to obtain and distribute a copy of the one-page summary of the analysis.

The results it shows are stunning: The cost to complete the MOX program going forward are $47.5 billion, 90% higher than the comparable estimate from just a year ago. Read More

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Hair-Trigger Alert and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: Fact-Checking the U.S. Fact Sheet

In the lead up to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference (NPT RevCon, for those who enjoy acronyms), opening today, the U.S. Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation released a fact sheet titled “Myths and Facts Regarding the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and Regime.”

Judging by the selection of “myths” they chose to include, the United States seems to be feeling a bit defensive about its track record in making progress towards the main objective of the NPT—nuclear disarmament. That is the central bargain of the NPT: the five countries designated as nuclear weapon states—the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France—agree to give up their nuclear weapons in exchange for all the other non-nuclear weapon states agreeing not to develop or acquire nuclear weapons of their own. Read More

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The 45th Anniversary of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

This year is the 45th anniversary of the entry into force of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), on March 5, 1970. It also marks the approach of the treaty’s latest Review Conference (RevCon)—a once-every-five-years meeting that will take place at the United Nations in New York from April 27 to May 22. Read More

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Why is China Modernizing Its Nuclear Arsenal?

As we approach the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) the 178 nations that have honored their obligation not to develop nuclear weapons are wondering when the five nuclear weapons states who are party to the treaty will honor theirs. The NPT entered into force in 1970. They’ve been waiting a long time.

Article VI of the NPT requires Britain, France, Russia, the United States and China to “pursue negotiations in good faith” on “a treaty on general and complete disarmament.” But instead of negotiating, these five nuclear nations are investing heavily in modernizing their arsenals and making sure they can be kept in good working order for generations to come.

China’s nuclear modernization program receives more attention than the other four even though its several hundred nuclear weapons are technologically inferior to the many thousands of nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia. It was the only program highlighted at this year’s iteration of the world’s largest non-governmental nuclear policy conference. An international panel of experts, including three technically trained specialists from China, discussed why China is modernizing its nuclear arsenal, despite its NPT obligations. Read More

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China’s Nuclear Forces Feeling U.S. Pressure

A new UCS white paper on Chinese nuclear strategy indicates China’s military may increase alert levels in response to U.S. investments in missile defense and conventional prompt global strike technologies.  Chinese military strategists believe the combination of these two technologies could permit a disabling U.S. first strike against China’s comparatively small nuclear force. Chinese military planners intend to counter this perceived U.S. threat with new early warning systems that would permit Chinese nuclear forces to launch on warning of an incoming U.S. nuclear attack. Read More

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Obama’s Nuclear Legacy #4: Give Nuclear Weapons a Sole Purpose

As I outlined in an earlier piece, President Obama has the opportunity to make significant changes in nuclear policy in the remaining two years of his presidency—changes that would make every American more secure, while also saving money and enhancing his legacy.

The first item on the list is to reduce U.S. long-range nuclear forces to 1,000 deployed warheads.

The second is to remove U.S. ground-based long-range nuclear-armed missiles from their current “prompt launch” status.

The third is to cancel the planned new nuclear-armed cruise missile.

The fourth is to declare that the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter a nuclear attack on the United States and its allies, and to respond to such an attack if necessary. Read More

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The Man Who Saved the World

There are few stories from the cold war more dramatic than that of Soviet Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov. After all, earning the nickname “the man who saved the world” doesn’t happen everyday. Read More

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