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Obama Administration Releases Size of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

Obama Administration Releases Size of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile
05-03-2010

Author: Monica Amarelo

Type: Release


(WASHINGTON, DC) --The Obama administration is to be commended for announcing the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. The Pentagon announced today that the U.S. stockpile currently includes 5,113 warheads.

We are pleased that the announced stockpile is only 13 bombs off our recent estimate.

For thirty years we have written about and estimated the sizeand composition of the stockpiles of the nations that possess nuclear weapons. We have done this by closely following weapon system deployments and retirements, reading Congressional testimony and obtaining documents through the Freedom of Information Act.  Reporters and scholars have used our figures repeatedly.

This disclosure ends years of unnecessary and counterproductive secrecy and supports further nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation efforts.

The Administration should follow up this announcement by declassifying additional nuclear stockpile information related to historical warhead builds and historical and future retirement and dismantlement plans by warhead type.

Disclosing the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile puts pressure on other nuclear weapon states to reciprocate. Russia, whose arsenal is more difficult to track and assess, should respond by divulging comparable information about the size and status of its nuclear stockpile.  There is simply no national security justification for Russia and the United States to continue to classify nuclear warhead stockpile inventories. The declassification of such data is necessary to achieve deep reductions in the arsenals of all the nuclear weapon states.

The 5,113 warheads in the stockpile do not account for all assembled nuclear warheads currently in the U.S. inventory. We estimate that there is an additional 4,500 retired warheads in storage awaiting dismantlement for a total inventory of approximately 9,600 warheads.

Estimated U.S. Nuclear Weapons Inventories, 2010

Warhead Category

Number

Operational warheads

2,468

    Strategic operational warheads

1,968

        Strategic alert warheads

800

    Active non-strategic warheads

500

Inactive warheads

2,613

Warheads in stockpile

5,113

Retired intact warheads

4,500

Total assembled warheads

9,600

The U.S. government produced or acquired 111.45 tonnes of plutonium. After nuclear weapon testing, other removals andmaterial unaccounted for, 99.5 tonnes remained in the inventory in 1996, of which 85.15 tonnes were weapon-grade plutonium (the balance fuel- or reactor-grade plutonium), including approximately 68 tonnes which were in plutonium pits. In 1996, the U.S. government declared 52.5 tonnes of plutonium to be in excess of national security needs, including 38.2 tonnes of weapon-grade plutonium of which about 22.7 tonnes was in the form of pits in assembled weapons and from disassembled weapons. Since 1996, the United States has reduce the amount of plutonium reserved for weapon needs from approximately 68 tonnes to approximately 38 tonnes, all in the form of plutonium pits. Assuming plutonium pits contain on average about 3 kilograms of plutonium, we estimate the plutonium reserved for weapons is approximately:

15 t of plutonium in the 5,113 stockpiled weapons

         23 t of plutonium in approximately 7,700 war reserve pits

         38 t of plutonium reserved for weapons

As indicated above, there are approximately 4,500 retired intact warheads awaiting dismantlement, and stored at the Pantex facility near Amarillo, Texas, there are approximately 14,000 plutonium pits from warheads already retired. So eventually there will be nearly 20,000 pits stored at Pantex, which now has the authority but not the capacity to store this amount. Of the nearly 20,000 pits, 7,000 to 8,000 will be retained as war-reserve pits, and the remainder, containing about 30 tonnes of plutonium, are in excess of national security requirements. The United States and Russia each have agreed to convert 34 tonnes of weapon-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial power reactors, and the excess pits at Pantex will contribute most of the U.S. commitment.

The 2010 NPT Review Conference promises to be a greater success than the previous one because of the leadership of the Obama administration who in recent weeks has concluded an arms treaty with Russia, made public the Nuclear Posture Review, hosted a Nuclear Security Summit,and now disclosed the size of the nuclear weapons stockpile. 


About FAS (www.FAS.org): 
The Federation of American Scientists (www.fas.org) was formed in 1945 by atomic scientists from the Manhattan Project. Endorsed by Nobel Laureates in biology, chemistry, economics, medicine and physics as sponsors, FAS addresses a broad spectrum of security issues in carrying out its mission to promote humanitarian uses of science and technology.  
 

Contact:

Monica Amarelo
TEL 202-454-4680
[email protected]


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