Thursday, May 24, 2007

Welcome to Nukesonablog, and first off, some good news!

Welcome to nukesonablog!

We are pleased to launch this new discussion of nuclear nonproliferation, international law, and all kinds of security issues with some great news: the Bush Administration’s nefarious plot to sneak a new nuclear weapon into the arsenal suffered a major setback yesterday as the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee zeroed out all FY 2008 funding for the so-called “Reliable Replacement Warhead.” Subcommittee Chairman Representative Peter Visclosky (D-IN) and ranking member Representative David Hobson (R-OH) demonstrated outstanding bipartisan leadership in the public interest by realizing the Cold War is over and we don’t need a brand new weapon to fight ancient history.

The Reliable Replacement Warhead is especially dangerous because the United States still plans indefinitely to keep thousands of totally extra nuclear weapons we have already pledged Russia we would dismantle under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, because through the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons we have agreed with all but four countries (India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea) to seek nuclear disarmament, and most of all because it leads the world in the wrong direction – backwards, toward a time when we thought threatening millions of civilians would somehow protect us.

The President’s budget request had included $88.8 million for the Department of Energy and $30 million for the Navy for developing a new nuclear warhead (see summary of President’s budget request as it relates to nuclear weapons and non-proliferation programs).

This won’t be the end for new nuclear weapons – maybe not even for this year – the bill still has to get through full House Appropriations Committee, then the House floor, then get through conference with the Senate version of the bill, so there will be several opportunities to sneak taxpayer dollars back into this nostalgic nonsense this year. But it is good news, and let’s us know that there are still some national leaders with the sense to place tomorrow’s security needs ahead of yesterday’s.

While the Subcommittee was at it, they eliminated funding for the Administration’s proposal to build a new facility to make pits (nuclear explosive cores) for new nuclear bombs.

More good news included nearly $1 billion added to the President’s funding request for FY2008 for programs that secure or remove vulnerable nuclear weapon-grade material that could be diverted by terrorists seeking material for a nuclear bomb. The exact increase was $878 million. As nuclear terrorism is one of the gravest threats to US security, and progress on most effectively using our window of opportunity to secure vulnerable fissile material (most of which is in countries of the former Soviet Union and but also in dozens of countries that have research reactors using weapon-usable material) has been slow, this funding is exactly what the doctor prescribed to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism (assuming the United States can gain access to the sites where this material is stored or produced). In February, Andrew Bieniawski, Associate Deputy Administrator of the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration said in an NPR interview that so far, only 48 out of the 129 research reactors worldwide targeted for conversion have been replaced with non-weapon-usable fuel.

And last, but certainly not least, the Subcommittee under Chairman Visclosky leadership cut almost 75% of the President’s request for $405 million, down to $120 million for the dangerous plan to reprocess commercial spent fuel (separating out weapons-usable plutonium) and to theoretically re-use in a new generation reactors (fast reactors which present more safety risks, are more expensive and are more proliferation-prone than the current nuclear power plants in the United States which are light-water reactors).

Hats off to Chairman Visclosky and Ranking Member Hobson for their leadership and for reigning in the Bush Administration’s dangerous plans that directly threatened US security by undercutting much-needed US efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and materials to terrorists and countries and bringing US policy in line with its international commitments.

See the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation’s press release
See Physicians for Social Responsibility’s press release


  1. Great note to start off on. (I'll visit you, along with ArmsControlWonk, TotalWonkerr and Nukes of Hazzard, regularly.) Good luck.

  2. Thank you Russ! We look forward to you coming back to our blog and your comments.