To these capital costs must be added the circa $44 billion in program
costs expected for these years. The annual cost of this program
($4.5 billion plus $1.5 billion for waste management)greatly
the Cold War average of $3.7 billion (in today's dollars; includes
In sum, there are no safety or reliability concerns that prevent the
U.S. from promptly ratifying the CTBT. It is the oversized stewardship
program itself that is poised to create these problems by gratuitously
creating untested designs.
For further reference, see
: Richard Garwin, "Stewardship:
Don't Claim Too Much or Too Little," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
May/June 1997; Ray E. Kidder, "Problems with Stockpile Stewardship," Nature
April 17, 1997 and "Maintaining the U.S. Stockpile of Nuclear Weapons
During a Low-Threshold or Comprehensive Test Ban" Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory UCRL-53820, October 1987; Greg Mello, "Nuclear Weapons Safety:
No Design Changes Are Warranted," Tri-Valley CAREs, Livermore, July 1995;
Christopher Paine and Matthew McKinzie, "End Run: The U.S. Government's
Plan for Designing Nuclear Weapons and Simulating Nuclear Explosions under
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty," Natural Resources Defense Council,
Washington DC, August 1997; Stephen Schwartz et. al., "Four Trillion Dollars
and Counting," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
1995, pp. 32-52.
The stockpile stewardship program has serious dangers. The underlying
justification for most of these new experimental facilities is to maintain,
exercise, and improve nuclear weapons expertise in the absence of nuclear
testing. That is, the central problem of stewardship, as perceived
by the DOE and the labs, is how to maintain scientists, not weapons. "Stockpile
stewardship" is designed to assure that the stockpile will maintain the
stewards, not vice-versa. Its rising program budgets reflect political
negotiations, rather than any underlying scientific or engineering need
as regards maintaining the existing stockpile.
Instead, the phrase "maintaining the safety and reliability of the stockpile"
has ironically come to mean its opposite: a program of continued
modification and improvement of weapons, including the modification and
replacement of primaries and secondaries with new designs, a program that
easily compromise safety and definitely will
These pending modifications would provide a powerful tool by which nuclear
testing advocates will argue that the CTBT must be at least temporarily
abrogated, or in the alternative that a second or third generation of
advanced "surrogate" testing facilities be built. The dangers of
the first outcome are plain. The second outcome will further undermine
the trust of the non-nuclear weapon states in the regime established by
the NPT and CTBT and will at the same time lead to strong pressures to
share equipment and data with our erstwhile nuclear "enemies" to facilitate
their ratification and subsequent compliance with the CTBT. This
data-sharing and equipment procurement has already begun.
The stockpile stewardship program is a potent vehicle for the internationalization
of nuclear weapons technology, both between weapon states and reflecting
a growing coincidence of interests in the weapons infrastructures in the
weapon states, as well as in the academic computer computation physics
community worldwide for new facilities and programs. The problem
of maintaining scientists and engineers can be greatly simplified by the
observation that, overall, we need far fewer of them.
What is the alternative? A conservative program of stockpile maintenance,
or "curatorship," based on these principles:
- If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
- Don't introduce untestable "improvements" into the stockpile as
a way to "exercise" the labs.
- Provide for the replacement of components which age, with an surveillance
program to detect unwanted changes. This is already in place.
What does an alternative to the present stockpile stewardship program
The U.S. has about 12,000 nuclear weapons of 10 types. At least
90% of this arsenal was created and is being maintained as a deterrent
to Russian nuclear weapons. Russia, however, is broke, and cannot
keep its bombers airworthy or its submarines at sea. The mutual
danger and expense of these huge arsenals could result in further bilateral
arms control initiatives in the coming decades, or even this decade. Thus
the "stockpile" in "stockpile stewardship," is hardly fixed, and it would
be imprudent to make decisions based on a hypothetical "need" to maintain
this arsenal for many decades -- especially when investments and actions
based on that "need" may themselves have serious national security costs.
These costs include: Damage to prospects for entry-into-force of the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The U.S. is formally, although not actually, committed to nuclear disarmament
by Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In addition,
the International Court of Justice has affirmed that the use or threat
of nuclear weapons is generally contrary to international law. The
failure of the U.S. to abide by laws regarding nuclear weapons has affected,
and will continue to affect, the stature and entry-into-force of the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), as well as U.S. nonproliferation objectives. These
facts, which may become more pointed in the next few years, could inspire
a reconsideration of discussions of the U.S. nuclear weapons stewardship
November 15, 1997