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Transforming the U.S. Strategic Posture and Weapons Complex For Transition to a Nuclear Weapons-Free World

WASHINGTON (April 8, 2009) -- The Nuclear Weapons Complex Consolidation Policy (NWCC) Network, a collaboration of six national and regional groups, released a study today that provides the roadmap for a large and swift reduction in the nation’s nuclear weapons and the sprawling government complex that develops and produces them. The study outlines the case for a tenfold reduction in the nation’s active nuclear weapons stockpile, to 500 deployed nuclear warheads by 2015, supported by a weapons complex reduced from the current eight sites in seven states to just three sites in two states, Texas and New Mexico.

Contributors to the study include two national organizations, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), and four regional groups located in the vicinity of major weapons complex sites: Nuclear Watch New Mexico, near the Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs; Tri-Valley CAREs, near the Lawrence Livermore National Lab; the Greater Kansas City Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, near the Kansas City Plant (KCP); and JustPeace of Texas, near the Pantex Plant.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Robert Civiak, a physicist and former OMB budget examiner for DOE nuclear weapons programs, commented, “As a matter of overriding policy, the United States should view its strategic force for one purpose and one purpose only— to deter the use of nuclear weapons by others until the world is free of nuclear weapons. The Department of Defense and the National Nuclear Security Administration should structure U.S. nuclear forces and the weapons complex accordingly.”

Christopher Paine, Director of NRDC’s Nuclear Program and a co-author of the report, added, “The U.S. government has wasted hundreds of billions in the 20 years since the Cold War ended maintaining nuclear forces and a make-work weapons laboratory complex far larger than needed for deterring a nuclear attack on the United States or its allies.”

“If we want to regain the world’s cooperation in a serious global effort to prevent further nuclear weapons proliferation and nuclear terrorism,” Paine noted, “we have to get serious about demonstrating that we are willing to radically reduce and ultimately forego reliance on these terrible weapons, in concert with other nations.”

“The U.S. government should move swiftly,” Paine continued, “to reduce its deployed nuclear weapons stockpile by a factor of ten, to 500 warheads—the threshold for engaging China and the smaller nuclear powers in multilateral disarmament talks—while encouraging Russia to do the same and offering to go further with a verifiable agreement that would ensure the final destruction of excess nuclear warhead components by both sides.”

President Barack Obama has declared that a nuclear weapons-free world is a long-term national goal. The NWCC report details how that vision can begin to be implemented in the near-term, including numerous recommendations for the Administration’s pending Nuclear Posture Review. The report integrates a critique of current nuclear weapons doctrine, strategic force structure and the supporting complex, and identifies a path forward for achieving the transformation of all these related elements. The resulting plan would radically reduce the role of nuclear weapons in US national security strategy and enable a 60% reduction in the size of the US nuclear weapons complex, and an even sharper reduction in the level of its research, development, and production activities, in marked contrast to the NNSA’s existing plan for so-called Complex Transformation inherited from the Bush Administration.

“An obvious corollary of the shift to a minimal deterrent policy,” Paine said, “is that a much smaller weapons complex is needed to maintain the residual stockpile. Our report specifically recommends that NNSA adopt a ‘curatorship’ approach that emphasizes changing existing weapons as little as possible, and refrains from introducing new military capabilities through so-called ‘Reliable Replacement Warhead’ or ‘Enhanced Life Extension’ programs.”

Marylia Kelley of Tri-Valley CAREs observed, “This is the plan that the Bush NNSA should have proposed for “Complex Transformation” – but did not. The agency’s plan is dead on arrival in the Obama Administration, while our plan sets a reasonable path for 21st Century security on which the U.S. can and should embark. Our plan takes the Lawrence Livermore Lab out of NNSA nuclear weapons programs and directs it toward the energy, environmental and global climate change research that our country so desperately needs. It also ends NNSA control of the Sandia Lab in California and the Nevada Test Site by 2012, and ends weapons work at the Kansas City Plant by 2015. As the arsenal is reduced toward 500 warheads, the Savannah River Site and then Y-12 would also cease to be part of the weapons complex.”

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch NM stated, “We believe that already existing capabilities at three sites can more than adequately maintain a 500-warhead stockpile as an interim step toward a nuclear weapons-free world. These remaining sites would be: The Los Alamos Lab for nuclear components curatorship, Sandia-New Mexico for non-nuclear components curatorship, and the Pantex Plant for accelerated dismantlements and storage of plutonium pit “triggers” while they await final disposal. Given a 500-warhead stockpile maintained through curatorship, residual activities should result in no net increase in nuclear weapons work or funding at any of the three remaining sites, other than the desired increase in dismantlements.”

Anne Suellentrop of PSR-Kansas City noted, “Historically the Kansas City Plant has been responsible for producing or procuring 85% of all nuclear weapons components. Currently the NNSA is scheming to have private developers build and operate a new plant on its behalf. Our plan would cancel this new plant, transfer any needed residual operations elsewhere, and clean up the heavily contaminated old plant so that it can be reused for local economic development. The nuclear weapons complex should be cleaned-up, not built-up!” NRDC is assisting PSR-Kansas City and other groups in the NWCC network with environmental litigation opposing the construction of the new plant. 

Mavis Belisle of JustPeace of Texas noted, “The Pantex Plant has long been the site for final assembly of nuclear weapons, with dismantlements as a secondary mission, often used to just fill in time between production jobs. President Bush’s obsolete plans to process a few thousand warheads through Life Extension Programs should be halted pending the required new Nuclear Posture Review. It’s time to change priorities and make irreversible dismantlements number one, instead of tying up Pantex facilities in endless improvements of nuclear weapons.”

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) focused on the study’s security recommendations for the nuclear weapons complex. POGO’s Ingrid Drake commented, “The potential impacts of a terrorist attack using nuclear weapons on U.S. soil are too horrific to permit the documented ineffective security at NNSA facilities that has persisted for many years. We specifically recommend that the agency more rapidly reduce the number of places where weapons-grade and weapons-quantities of special nuclear materials (SNM) are stored, especially highly enriched uranium, which is inherently easier to use in an improvised nuclear device. We further recommend that NNSA federalize its protective forces, ending the current hodgepodge of contractors managing security, which is clearly an urgent governmental function.”

The study’s recommendations would cut NNSA spending on nuclear weapons by $2.3 billion in fiscal year 2010, compared to the recently released budget request of $6.3 billion. By 2020, our recommendations would further reduce NNSA nuclear weapons spending to around 2 billion dollars in FY09 dollars, one-third of what it is today.

The report’s executive summary, full report and map of the current and proposed nuclear weapons complex will be available at www.nrdc.org/nuclear, www.nukewatch.org and http://www.trivalleycares.org beginning 6:00 PM EST, Tuesday, April 7.


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.



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