Modernizing Nuclear Weapons Contradicts Pledge of Nuclear Weapons-Free World

President Barack Obama is at an Asian summit where one of the main topics is the securing of loose nuclear materials. One of the news accounts referred to the meeting as a step toward a nuclear weapons-free world. Securing loose nuclear weapons and the materials to build them is a laudable goal but it won’t free the world of nuclear weapons, when the United States, in particular, in increasing its capacity to build more of them. I am indebted to the Peace Action New York States fact sheets for the material that appears below.

CMRR Project

The Chemistry and Metallurgy Replacement (CMRR) Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory is designed to replace the existing CMR building, which is designed to perform technical analyses on materials, in particular, the plutonium used in U.S. nuclear weapons. President Obama zeroed it out of the FY 2013 budget.

CMRR will not help with warhead maintenance: seven of the eight warhead types in the stockpile are in, or will soon undergo major  Life Extension Programs (LEPs).

Not building the CMRR Nuclear Facility could save $3-5 billion short-term. Not expanding pit production could save tens of billions more long-term. Pits are the triggers for nuclear weapons. The Project will not create any new permanent jobs, because employees will be shifted over from the old facility.

MOX Fuel

The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX plant) was originally designed to reduce quantities of excess U.S. and Russian weapons-grade plutonium. The centerpiece is at the Savannah River site near Aiken, South Carolina. The Department of Energy has stated that the current projected life-cycle costs of the program have increased to $7.1 billion.

There is currently no U.S. customers for disposing of MOX fuel. MOX increases proliferation dangers and is a more expensive option for disposing of plutonium than dry cask storage. The Global Threat Reduction Initiative is a more effective non-proliferation program.

Nuclear-Capable Strategic Bombers

The U.S. currently has an air wing of nuclear-capable strategic bombers that will last well into the 2030s. Delaying the Long-Range Penetrating Bomber (LRPB) for 10 years would save at least $3.7 billion in research and development costs. Canceling it would save $50 billion in procurement costs alone. The five-year cost is $6.3 billion. The LRPB was not in the 2012 Aircraft Procurement Plan projecting ten years ahead.  Its mission would be dropping nuclear gravity bombs.

There are now 76 B-52 Hs and 18 B-2s. Through 2016 the plan is to spend an additional $1.1 billion for the B-52s and $2.9 billion for the B-2s. The plan is to eventually purchase 80-100 LRPBs. $39 billion in procurement costs could be saved if the 30-year LRPB program was canceled.

Nuclear-Capable Ballistic Missile Submarines

The Navy’s nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) fleet is currently comprised of 14 Ohio class submarines, of which 12 are operational and two are in refueling overhaul at any given time. The Ohio class submarines will be retired between 2027 and 2040. The Navy has plans to build 12 new nuclear-capable submarines (SSBNCX) over the next 30 years as replacements. They will be operational through 2070.

There is $565 million for the SSBNCX in the FY 2013 budget.

According to the Ploughshares Fund, cutting procurement to eight subs would save $27 billion over 10 years, or $123 billion over its lifetime.

Eight of the Ohio class subs can carry 192 Trident II D-5 missiles, with 1,536 warheads; eight of the SSBNCX subs, with 16 tubes, could carry 128 missiles, with 1,024 warheads.

The SSBNCX and the other nuclear modernization programs contradict President Obama’s pledge to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, and they violate the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty calling for signatory nations to chart a path to get to zero in the near future.

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