NukeWatch New Mexico Says: With New START Ratified - It's Time to Examine the National Security and Economic Costs of "Modernization"
December 31, 2010
In a recent press release, Nuclear Watch New Mexico applauded Senate ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). www.nukewatch.org/index.php
They stated, "While this arms reduction treaty is modest in scope, we nevertheless believe its ratification is an absolutely essential step toward subsequent treaties that 1) progressively make deeper cuts to strategic weapons; 2) cut tactical (battlefield) weapons, which are particularly prone to theft and diversion; and 3) lead to multilateral negotiations involving all nuclear powers.
"But with ratification now accomplished, the nation should seriously question the national security and economic costs of so-called 'modernization' of the nuclear weapons stockpile and its supporting research and production complex. New START ratification has come with a heavy price, that being the massive rebuilding of the production side of U.S. nuclear weapons complex and the future makeover of an extensively tested nuclear stockpile that is known to be reliable.
"Critics in the Senate, led primarily by [Arizona] Republican Whip Jon Kyl , claimed that multiyear funding commitments to 'modernization' had to be made as a quid pro quo for ratification. Given the necessity to 'buy' at least 9 crucial Republican votes, in February President Obama raised the fiscal year 2011 budget for the nuclear weapons programs of the Department of Energy's semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) by 14%. In April, the Administration announced long range plans to increase funding for NNSA nuclear weapons programs from $6.4 billion in 2010 to just under $10 billion by 2020, nearly double the historic Cold War average of $5.1 billion. Still this did not satisfy Kyl et al, and in November the Obama Administration further pledged another $4.5 billion dedicated to 'modernizing' the nuclear weapons complex, for a total of $85 billion over the next decade.
"Concerning the rebuilding, [NNSA plans call] for a 'Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project (CMRR) Nuclear Facility' to be built at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It will provide analytical capabilities to support expanding plutonium pit production from the currently approved rate of 20 per year to up to 80 per year by 2022. When first proposed to Congress in 2004 NNSA claimed that the CMRR Project would cost $660 million. Estimated costs are now $5 billion and rising."
NukeWatch Director Jay Coghlan commented, "Wasting money on vastly expensive new facilities and serious modifications to already safe and highly effective nuclear weapons will undermine our own national security. It also means diverting funding from other programs that could help rebuild America and keep its citizens healthy and prosperous. Reducing the federal debt is in the real interests the nation's security, not shoveling more money into unneeded, badly managed, provocative nuclear weapons programs."