Friday, January 11, 2002
1. NUCLEAR TESTING: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO STOCKPILE STEWARDSHIP?
In 1999, 32 physics Nobel laureates signed a letter bluntly concluding
that "continued nuclear testing is not required to retain confidence
in the safety, reliability and performance of weapons in the stockpile,
provided the science and technology programs necessary for stockpile
stewardship are maintained" (WN 8 Oct
99). The American Physical Society had taken the same position http://www.aps.org/statements/97_2.cfm.
The United States has now spent tens of billions of dollars developing
the necessary programs. Since no other country has this capability,
the US would seem to have the most to lose by a resumption of testing.
So what's behind the administration's position? While reliability can
be ensured without testing, new weapons can't be developed. That's good
for non-proliferation, but bad if, as is widely believed, the real agenda
is to develop a new generation of mini-nukes, more powerful than conventional
bombs, but in a much smaller package, for attacking underground bunkers.
2. THE MORATORIUM: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO CONGRESS?
A moratorium on testing, imposed by the senior Bush, has been upheld
by both Republican and Democratic administrations for almost a decade.
The irony of abandoning the moratorium in order to develop a new class
of weapons to attack terrorists that would be ideally suited for use
by terrorists is not lost. Yesterday, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) sent
a "Dear Colleague" letter to other members of Congress asking them to
add their names to a letter urging the President to pledge not to develop
new nuclear weapons or resume underground testing. It would be good
if all members of Congress heard from constituents, particularly scienctists,
on this issue.
3. ARMS REDUCTION: UH, BETTER ON THE SHELF THAN ON MISSILES.
While abandoning the ABM treaty, the Administration announced it would
cut nuclear weapons from 6,000 to 3,800. Now we find that doesn't mean
reducing the number of warheads, just putting them in storage. Well,
if warheads were always kept separate from missiles, it would be a safer
world, but Russia isn't pleased. In related news, a new intelligence
estimate that the US is more likely to suffer an attack with weapons
of mass destruction by terrorists using planes, trains or trucks than
by countries using long-range missiles. The new estimate will enter
the debate over administration plans to spend $8B on missile defense
4. YUCCA MOUNTAIN: DOE APPROVES CONSTRUCTION OF STORAGE FACILITY.
It won't end the debate. The political war is just beginning.
ERRATUM: WN is grateful to the many readers who took the
trouble to point out that the iodine isotope of greatest concern in
power plant accidents is I-131, not I-125 as we reported (WN
4 Jan 02).