North Korea: FAS Says We Have Nukes!

By Hans M. Kristensen

North Korea’s news agency – Korean Central News Agency – apparently has issued a statement saying that “The Federation of American Scientists of the United States has confirmed (North) Korea as a nuclear weapon state.” According to a report in the Korea Herald, the statement said a FAS publication issued in November listed North Korea as among the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons.

It’s certainly curious that they would need our reaffirmation, but after two nuclear tests we feel it is safe to call North Korea a nuclear weapon state. However, the agency left out that our assessment comes with a huge caveat:

“We are not aware of credible information on how North Korea has weaponized its nuclear weapons capability, much less where those weapons are stored. We also take note that a recent U.S. Air Force intelligence report did not list any of North Korea’s ballistic missiles as nuclear-capable.”

In other words, two experimental nuclear test explosions don’t make a nuclear arsenal. That requires deliverable nuclear weapons, which we haven’t seen any signs of yet. Perhaps the next statement could explain what capability North Korea actually has to deliver nuclear weapons.

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

Estimated Nuclear Weapons Locations 2009

Some 23,300 nuclear weapons are stored at 111 locations around the world (click for map)

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By Hans M. Kristensen

The world’s approximately 23,300 nuclear weapons are stored at an estimated 111 locations in 14 countries, according to an overview produced by FAS and NRDC.

Nearly half of the weapons are operationally deployed with delivery systems capable of launching on short notice.

The overview is published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and includes the July 2009 START memorandum of understanding data. A previous version was included in the annual report from the International Panel of Fissile Materials published last month. Continue reading

China’s Noisy Nuclear Submarines

China’s newest nuclear submarines are noisier than 1970s-era Soviet nuclear submarines.

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By Hans M. Kristensen

China’s new Jin-class ballistic missile submarine is noisier than the Russian Delta III-class submarines built more than 30 years ago, according to a report produced by the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).

The report The People’s Liberation Army Navy: A Modern Navy With Chinese Characteristics, which was first posted on the FAS Secrecy News Blog and has since been removed from the ONI web site [but now back here; thanks Bruce], is to my knowledge the first official description made public of Chinese and Russian modern nuclear submarine noise levels. Continue reading

JASON and Replacement Warheads

Claims that nuclear weapons need to be as safe as a coffee table might drive warhead replacement

By Hans M. Kristensen and Ivan Oelrich

The latest study from the JASON panel is an unambiguous rejection of claims made by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the nuclear weapon labs, defense secretary Robert Gates, and U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) that some or all U.S. nuclear weapons should be replaced to ensure the future reliability of the arsenal.

The executive summary of the study, Lifetime Extension Program (LEP), finds “no evidence that accumulation of changes incurred from aging and LEPs have increased risk to certification of today’s deployed nuclear warheads.”  The study concludes that the lifetime of today’s nuclear warheads “could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence, by using approaches similar to those employed in LEPs today.”  [Emphasis added.]

The JASON appears to have prevented a wasteful and counterproductive nuclear warhead replacement program. Even so, we expect parts of the report’s conclusions to be used by proponents of nuclear warhead replacements in the months and years ahead.   Continue reading