FAS Roundup: March 9, 2015

US Nuclear Forces, 2015 Over the next decade, the United States plans to spend as much as $350 billion on nuclear force modernization and maintenance. In the latest Nuclear Notebook, FAS’ Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris estimate that the United States maintains about 4,760 nuclear warheads. Of this total, 2,080 warheads are deployed while 2,680 are in storage for potential upload onto missiles and aircraft. Additionally, there are 2,340 retired (but still intact) […]

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The Nuclear Weapons “Procurement Holiday”

By Hans M. Kristensen It has become popular among military and congressional leaders to argue that the United States has had a “procurement holiday” in nuclear force planning for the past two decades. “Over the past 20-25 years, we took a procurement holiday” in modernizing U.S. nuclear forces, Major General Garrett Harencak, the Air Force’s assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, said in a speech yesterday. Harencak’s claim strongly resembles the […]

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Rumors About Nuclear Weapons in Crimea

The news media and private web sites are full of rumors that Russia has deployed nuclear weapons to Crimea after it invaded the region earlier this year. Many of these rumors are dubious and overly alarmist and ignore that a nuclear-capable weapon is not the same as a nuclear warhead. Several U.S. lawmakers who oppose nuclear arms control use the Crimean deployment to argue against further reductions of nuclear weapons. NATO’s top commander, U.S. General […]

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CIA Torture Report: Oversight, But No Remedies Yet

The release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation program is, among other things, an epic act of record preservation. Numerous CIA records that might not have been disclosed for decades, or ever, were rescued from oblivion by the Senate report and are now indelibly cited and quoted, even if many of them are not yet released in full. That’s not a small thing, since the history of […]

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Energy Policy and National Security: The Need for a Nonpartisan Plan

As I write this president’s message, the U.S. election has just resulted in a resounding victory for the Republican Party, which will have control of both the Senate and House of Representatives when the new Congress convenes in January. While some may despair that these results portend an even more divided federal government with a Democratic president and a Republican Congress, I choose to view this event as an opportunity in disguise in regards to the important and urgent issue of U.S. energy policy. President Barack Obama has staked a major part of his presidential legacy on combating climate change. He has felt stymied by the inability to convince Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to mandate substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, his administration has leveraged the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to craft rules that will, in effect, force the closure of many of the biggest […]

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Thinking More Clearly About Nuclear Weapons: The Ukrainian Crisis’ Overlooked Nuclear Risk

The destructive potential of nuclear weapons is so great that decisions impacting them should be made in a fully conscious, objective manner. Unfortunately, there is significant evidence that this is not the case. One of my Stanford course handouts1) Available at http://www-ee.stanford.edu/~hellman/sts152_03/handout03.pdf lists almost two dozen assumptions which underlie our nuclear posture, but warrant critical re-examination. This column applies that same kind of analysis to the current Ukrainian crisis. It is surprising and worrisome that almost none of the mainstream media’s coverage of the Ukrainian crisis has mentioned its nuclear risk. With the West feeling that Russia is solely to blame, and Russia having the mirror image perspective, neither side is likely to back down if one of their red lines is crossed. Add in America’s overwhelming conventional military superiority and Russia’s 8,000 nuclear weapons, and there is the potential for nuclear threats. And, where there is the potential for nuclear threats, there […]

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Seismic Risk Management Solution for Nuclear Power Plants

Abstract Nuclear power plants should safely operate during normal operations and maintain core-cooling capabilities during off-normal events, including external hazards (such as flooding and earthquakes). Management of external hazards to expectable levels of risk is critical to maintaining nuclear facility and nuclear power plant safety. Seismic risk is determined by convolving the seismic hazard with seismic fragilities (capacity of systems, structures, and components). Seismic isolation (SI) is one protective measure showing promise to minimize seismic risk. Current SI designs (used in commercial industry) reduce horizontal earthquake loads and protect critical infrastructure from the potentially destructive effects of large earthquakes. The benefit of SI application in the nuclear industry is being recognized and SI systems have been proposed in American Society of Civil Engineer Standard 4, ASCE-4, to be released in the winter of 2014, for light water reactors facilities using commercially available technology. The intent of ASCE-4 is to provide […]

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The New York Times: Which President Cut the Most Nukes?

By Hans M. Kristensen The New York Time today profiles my recent blog about U.S. presidential nuclear weapon stockpile reductions. The core of the story is that the Obama administration, despite its strong arms control rhetoric and efforts to reduce the numbers and role of nuclear weapons, so far has cut fewer nuclear warheads from the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile than any other administration in history. Even in terms of effect on the overall stockpile size, […]

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How Presidents Arm and Disarm

By Hans M. Kristensen [updated] It’s a funny thing: the administrations that talk the most about reducing nuclear weapons tend to reduce the least. Analysis of the history of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile shows that the Obama administration so far has had the least effect on the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile of any of the post-Cold War presidencies. In fact, in terms of warhead numbers, the Obama administration so far has […]

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W80-1 Warhead Selected For New Nuclear Cruise Missile

The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Council has selected the W80-1 thermonuclear warhead for the Air Force’s new nuclear cruise missile (Long-Range Standoff, LRSO) scheduled for deployment in 2027. The W80-1 warhead is currently used on the Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM), but will be modified during a life-extension program and de-deployed with a new name: W80-4. Under current plans, the ALCM will be retired in the mid-2020s and replaced with the more advanced LRSO, possibly starting […]

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