The United States maintains stockpiles of weapons-usable fissile materials—plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU)—that are much larger than needed. This material is a security risk, and is also expensive to store safely. Some of this fissile material has already been declared “excess to military needs” and is awaiting disposition. Even after that excess material is disposed of, however, the United States will still have far more material than it needs for its current or future arsenal. President Obama should declare additional material excess and schedule it for disposition as soon as possible. If done correctly, this would reduce opportunities for nuclear terrorism. It would also be a step toward making nuclear reductions more difficult to reverse.
December 8, 2016 10:59 AM EDT
One of the things President Obama could still do before leaving office is to cut the “hedge” force. These are nuclear weapons that the United States keeps in reserve for two reasons: technical and geopolitical. The argument for the technical hedge is that, if deployed weapons of one type experienced a problem, the U.S. could instead deploy weapons of another type from the hedge force. The geopolitical argument is that the international security situation could change, leading the United States to want to increase the number of deployed weapons. Read more >
June 2, 2016 12:38 PM EDT
Yesterday the National Nuclear Security Administration posted the executive summary of a study by JASON, the independent science advisory group, of the “3+2” program to replace most of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile with a suite of new weapons. The summary is deeply skeptical of the 3+2 approach, noting several potential problems and offering only lukewarm support for some of the benefits that the programs’ supporters tout. Read more >
May 5, 2016 7:00 AM EDT
After several years and multiple studies, the Obama administration—led by the Department of Energy (DOE)—finally has a new plan to get rid of the excess plutonium generated by the U.S. nuclear weapons program: dilute the fissile material with non-radioactive materials and dispose of it in a geological repository. Read more >
April 11, 2016 5:01 PM EDT
Last week the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) released its Fiscal Year 2017 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan, the agency’s annual update on its 25-year plan for the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. It is the most comprehensive, long-term plan related to nuclear weapons available from any government.
The key takeaway from this year’s stockpile plan is that very little has changed since last year. The overall vision has not changed, the schedule has not shifted, and the budget estimates, while modestly smaller for some projects, are still harrowingly large.
And that is a bad thing, because the NNSA’s plan has significant problems.