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by cbcbcb

Soaring cost of nuclear weapons to be $180 billion or more over next decade

4:59 pm in Uncategorized by cbcbcb

The whopping $7 billion for nuclear weapons programs that was proposed for 2011 is just the tip of the iceberg in a huge funding increase for the nuclear weapons complex. Last year, Republicans successfully pushed to require the Obama administration to submit a special report on modernizing the nuclear weapons complex, maintaining or enhancing our nuclear weapons stockpile, and the expected costs for the next 10 years. When the New START treaty was officially submitted to the Senate, this report had to be released. Wanting to win over Republican senators’ support for the New START treaty to cut US and Russian nuclear arsenals, the administration put forward a plan that greatly increases nuclear weapons related funding to the level of $180 billion over the next 10 years. From the Washington Post:

The administration on Thursday released a one-page unclassified summary of the classified report sent to lawmakers. That summary shows that spending on modernization of the nuclear weapons complex over the decade will reach $80 billion, growing from $6.4 billion this year to $7 billion in coming years and eventually topping $8 billion beginning in 2016. The growing costs reflect not just construction of facilities but also the refurbishment and possible replacement of some warheads in the next decade, all without the need for testing, according to the summary.

An additional $100 billion is to be spent on strategic nuclear delivery systems such as bombers and land- and submarine-based intercontinental ballistic missiles. Research is underway on a new strategic bomber and a new class of strategic submarines.

You can download the unclassified summary (“Fact sheet on 1251 report”) on the State Department website here.

Key committees in Congress are already deciding whether or not they’ll give the nuclear weapons laboratories taxpayer money for new facilities to build more nuclear weapons. Please write your members of Congress today and urge them to cut this wasteful funding increase.

What will all this money go toward? Much of the funding will likely go to large infrastructure projects, building nuclear weapons facilities that will allow the US to ramp up nuclear weapons production in the future. When the funding for just 2011 was proposed in February, I blogged about three of these facilities that will cost billions over the next decade and, taken together, will lock in US nuclear weapons production for years to come.

Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR) – While there is a need to upgrade the facility due to safety and seismic concerns, the new facility is also being designed to allow for increased plutonium pit production – the bomb cores of nuclear weapons. Currently, the US has the capacity to produce up to 20 “pits” per year at Los Alamos. This new facility would allow the US to produce between 50-80 plutonium pits per year. With this production capacity, a future administration could quickly churn out more or new nuclear weapons.

Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) – The UPF facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee is a uranium manufacturing facility that could increase warhead production capacity. It would allow for 50-80 uranium secondaries to be produced each year.

Kansas City Plant – This facility creates the non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons, such as fuses. The new facility in Missouri will be funded privately in the future, instead of by the federal government. Groundbreaking for the new facility may begin this summer.

What could we do instead with this funding? The possibilities are endless. Especially in this economy, there is no shortage of places where funding for nuclear weapons could be better spent.

Recently, I was in Nevada campaigning for the New START treaty and to cut the nuclear weapons budget. Nevada continues to have the highest foreclosure rate in the nation: 1 in 69 households.  According to the National Priorities Project tradeoff calculator, Nevadans could be using their tax dollars for housing:

Taxpayers in Nevada will pay $158.3 million for proposed nuclear weapons in FY2010. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided: 845 Affordable Housing Units.

In Missouri, the local Kansas City council declared a 180 acre soybean field “blighted” to allow construction of the new nuclear weapons facility to proceed. At the same time that municipal funding will go toward the new Kansas City Plant facility, the Kansas City Missouri School Board “voted to close 26 schools on Wednesday night. As a result of that vote, 700 employees, including 300 teachers, will lose their jobs.”
The National Priorities Project calculates that:

Taxpayers in Missouri will pay $269.5 million for proposed nuclear weapons in FY2010. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided: 5,347 Elementary School Teachers for One Year.

Keep in mind this is the tradeoff for just one year of nuclear weapons funding. For the next decade, we will be spending far more than we do this year if we do not act now to reduce the nuclear weapons budget and realign our nuclear weapons program toward disarmament. Rather than creating new facilities to build up our nuclear weapons stockpile or create new nuclear weapons, the US needs to move toward shrinking our nuclear weapons arsenal and instead funding programs to dismantle nuclear weapons we don’t use.

Cross posted on Groundswell

by cbcbcb

World gathers for major conference on Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

12:24 pm in Uncategorized by cbcbcb

To stop the spread of nuclear weapons, the NPT has a basic bargain. It requires non-nuclear weapons states to promise not to try to acquire nuclear weapons. In return, the five recognized nuclear weapons states (the US, Russia, China, France, and the UK) were required to pursue negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons. Additionally, countries signed on to the treaty are allowed to pursue nuclear energy programs. Today, 4 other countries have joined the nuclear club: Israel, India, and Pakistan have not signed the NPT, while North Korea dropped out of the treaty. However, the treaty has helped slow the spread of nuclear weapons to new countries. President John F. Kennedy stated in a presidential debate that he feared nuclear proliferation would be much worse:

"There are indications because of new inventions, that 10, 15, or 20 nations will have a nuclear capacity…. by 1964. This is extremely serious. . . I think the fate not only of our own civilization, but I think the fate of world and the future of the human race, is involved in preventing a nuclear war."

Every five years, countries gather to discuss how to strengthen the treaty. The non-nuclear weapons states would like to see countries like the US and Russia make more concrete progress toward reducing their nuclear arsenals. The US will likely want to emphasize nuclear non-proliferation, and raise questions about Iran’s nuclear energy program.

The New START treaty between the US and Russia will be pointed to as a sign of progress since it requires reductions in both countries’ nuclear stockpiles. However, merely signing the treaty is not enough. The US Senate must ratify New START for it to enter into force. A two-thirds majority of the Senate, or 67 senators, must support ratification. The Obama administration is expected to hand the treaty over to the Senate sometime in May to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Senator Kerry. This committee will hold hearings about the treaty, and has already begun with a hearing on the history of arms control between the US and Russia. As the Boston Globe notes:

No arms control treaty with Russia or the former Soviet Union has garnered fewer than 84 votes in the Senate but that is likely to change, Kerry said. He expressed confidence that he will be able to get at least the minimum 67 votes for passage, but perhaps not nearly as many as for previous treaties.

"I could argue that 68 is 84 in 2010," Kerry said. "My goal is to pass it. If it is 68 votes it is 68 votes. So be it. That is a lot of senators these days."

While support in the Senate is less certain, recent polls have shown that large majorities of the US public recognize reducing the nuclear threat and our arsenals is in our best interest. This weekend, before the NPT Review Conference kicks off, thousands of people from around the world will gather in New York to march and rally, demanding action to eliminate nuclear weapons. An international petition effort, which Peace Action West supporters took part in, has gathered more than 4 million signatures and will be delivered at the conference.

Cross posted on Groundswell.

by cbcbcb

Obama signs New START treaty in Prague, but will the Senate ratify?

6:00 pm in Uncategorized by cbcbcb

After a year of negotiations, President Obama and Russian President Medvedev signed a new treaty today to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles in both countries and make the world that much safer.

But will the Senate do the right thing and ratify the treaty, or will they hold it hostage to partisan politics?

At the signing ceremony today in Prague, President Obama spoke about how the treaty opens the door to further actions to reduce the threat posed by nuclear weapons. Here’s an excerpt:

Together, we’ve stopped that drift, and proven the benefits of cooperation. Today is an important milestone for nuclear security and non-proliferation, and for U.S.-Russia relations. It fulfills our common objective to negotiate a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. It includes significant reductions in the nuclear weapons that we will deploy. It cuts our delivery vehicles by roughly half. It includes a comprehensive verification regime, which allows us to further build trust. It enables both sides the flexibility to protect our security, as well as America’s unwavering commitment to the security of our European allies. And I look forward to working with the United States Senate to achieve ratification for this important treaty later this year.

Finally, this day demonstrates the determination of the United States and Russia — the two nations that hold over 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons — to pursue responsible global leadership. Together, we are keeping our commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which must be the foundation for global non-proliferation.

While the New START treaty is an important first step forward, it is just one step on a longer journey. As I said last year in Prague, this treaty will set the stage for further cuts. And going forward, we hope to pursue discussions with Russia on reducing both our strategic and tactical weapons, including non-deployed weapons.

The White House has posted both the treaty text and the protocol online here.

The treaty allows for modest reductions down to 1,550 Russian and US deployed strategic nuclear warheads, a total of 800 missiles and bombers to deliver nuclear weapons, and limit of 700 deployed missiles and bombers. Significantly, once it is ratified, it would put in place verification measures to ensure both sides are playing by the rules by allowing on-site inspections and data exchanges. Putting in place legally binding verification measures is important, as the expiration of the original 1991 START treaty means that there are no such measures officially in place. The treaty allows a full 7 years for these reductions to be made and once the treaty enters into force will remain in effect for 10 years.

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