Nuclear Update

Received in today’s (e-)mail.

Dear Mr. Jehn :

I would like to take the opportunity to personally thank you for bringing this very important issue to my attention.

I share your concerns about the large stockpile of nuclear weapons in the United States . I have been a long time advocate of reducing the amount of nuclear warheads while still protecting our national interest.

The United States has maintained nuclear warheads for many years so our friends, allies, and adversaries will be confident about the safety and effectiveness of U.S. nuclear forces. Most of the current U.S. nuclear warheads were built in the 1970s and 1980s and have been retained much longer than originally expected. These warheads however deteriorate with age. To correct the problem, the aging warhead components have been replaced in the Life Extension Program (LEP), a part of the larger Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP). Some of the replaced components, however, required a nuclear test but the United States has observed a test moratorium since 1992.

The new approach that has been recommended to address the nuclear warhead issue is called the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. This program trades key Cold War features such as “high yield and low weight” to gain more valuable features, such as low cost, greater ease of manufacture, and a further increase in use control. This is completed by replacing large stockpiles of non-deployed nuclear warheads with fewer warheads. This program plans to make these improvements by designing replacement warheads that would not add military capability. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) views RRW as part of a comprehensive plan that would also modernize the nuclear weapons “Complex 2030″ (the ” strategy ” to modernize the cold-war nuclear weapons complex), avoid nuclear testing, and reduce non-deployed weapons.

Congress, upon the onset of the program, spelled out specific goals to be accomplished before continuing to fund the RRW program. These goals included increasing the confidence, without nuclear testing and developing warheads that will perform as intended over the long term. Other goals included increasing the ease of the manufacture and certification, reducing the life cycle cost, increasing weapon safety and use control, and reducing the environmental burden.

Last week, I along with the House Appropriations Sub-committee on Energy and Water voted no to provide funding to the RRW initiative. The Committee noted that it is premature to continue to design activities for a nuclear warhead until a revised U.S. nuclear weapon strategy (Complex 2030) is developed that describes the long term nuclear stockpile requirements and demonstrates how a new nuclear warhead is necessary to address specific U.S. national security requirements and nuclear nonproliferation commitments.

Again thank you for your concern in this matter.

Congressman Norm Dicks
District 6, State of Washington

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