Ԫ TX.029=2003.11.19.UCS.html

Date: Wed, 19 Nov 2003 17:05:31 -0500 (EST)
From: "SecurityNet Union of Concerned Scientists" <securitynet@ucsaction.org>
Subject: Congress Constrains New Nuclear Weapons 11/19/03

Dear SecurityNet Subscriber,

Congress has completed both the FY (Fiscal Year) 2004 Defense Authorization bill and the FY 2004 Energy and Water spending bill. Together these laws set policy direction and provide funds for nuclear weapons programs. After sharp and largely partisan debates, Congress has placed some restraints on the nuclear weapons programs of the Bush administration. Thanks and congratulations to SecurityNet subscribers who have taken action to raise congressional awareness and concern about dangerous new nuclear weapons programs. Despite some victories in Congress, the administration garnered congressional support sufficient to further its nuclear weapons agenda. It is expected that debates about new nuclear weapons, strategic nuclear posture and nuclear testing policies will continue with the administration’s coming FY 2005 budget.

This email includes:
1. The “Mini-Nukes” Provision
2. Constraints on Nuclear Weapons Programs
. . .

1. The “Mini-Nukes” Provision

Background on the Ban
See UCS Backgrounder: The Spratt-Furse Law on Mini-nuke Development http://www.ucsaction.ctsg.com/ctt.asp?u=446046&l=9392

Repeal of the Ban
The Defense Authorization conferees agreed to the Senate repeal of the decade-old Spratt Furse ban on research and development of low yield (below 5 kilotons) nuclear weapons. (The House version would have modified the ban instead of repealing it.) See SecurityNet Updates from May http://www.ucsaction.ctsg.com/ctt.asp?u=446046&l=9393 and August 2003 http://www.ucsaction.ctsg.com/ctt.asp?u=446046&l=9394 for previous congressional action.

But Restrictions Still Apply
While the final bill authorizes research including design and cost studies on low yield nuclear weapons, development engineering, production, and testing are still restricted. The bill explicitly clarifies that prior to beginning the development engineering phase work on a new or modified nuclear weapon (phase 3 for a new nuclear weapon, or phase 6.3 for a modification), the Energy Department must request specific authorization and funding from Congress. The development engineering phase is the point at which development becomes reoriented from conceptual design work to steps required to create an actual design for production

A similar restriction is imposed on the proposed nuclear bunker buster, or RNEP (Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator). The Energy Department’s planned 6.2/6.2A research and cost study is authorized, but the Defense Authorization bill clarifies that prior to 6.3 development engineering work, specific congressional authorization is required. (There are also funding restrictions on the RNEP and other new or modified nuclear weapons development - explained below.)

2. Constraints on Nuclear Weapons Programs
The Energy and Water Appropriations bill sets the funding level for the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons programs. The House Energy and Water appropriators cut much of the Administration’s requested funding for new nuclear weapons. In the Senate, an amendment to cut these programs led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D CA) and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D MA) failed 53-41, leaving the Senate version of the bill fully funding these programs. The final reconciled bill reflects a compromise resulting in some significant hurdles for these programs. See SecurityNet Update from September 26, 2003 for previous congressional action: http://www.ucsaction.ctsg.com/ctt.asp?u=446046&l=9395

The conferees for the Energy and Water Appropriations bill cut half the funds requested for the nuclear bunker buster, or RNEP, from $15 million to $7.5 million. This may slow the currently planned study, and it is likely that the Energy Department will be forced to request more funding than planned in its FY 2005 budget. (The program is in the 2nd year of a planned thee-year study that was estimated to cost approximately $45 million, or $15 million each year.)

Advanced Concepts
In addition to the RNEP study, the Administration requested $6 million for additional advanced concept studies on other new nuclear weapons capabilities, potentially including low-yield nuclear weapons. The final Energy and Water Appropriations bill will fence $4 million of the $6 million request. The Department of Energy must submit a report to Congress detailing the nuclear weapons stockpile plan, including the planned strategic reductions. Congress will release the $4 million after taking 90 days to review the submitted stockpile plan.

Modern Pit Facility
The conferees also approved $10.8 million for the Modern Pit Facility, a reduction of $12.0 million from the Administration’s request. The Modern Pit Facility is a planned full-scale production facility that would produce up to approximately 450 new nuclear weapons per year. The appropriators stated that “until the Congress reviews the revised future Stockpile plan it is premature to pursue further decisions regarding the Modern Pit Facility.”

Enhanced Test Readiness
While the final bill fully funds the requested $24.891 million dollars for test readiness, the appropriations conferees instructed that the funds be used to support a 24-month requirement, rather than the Administration's planned 18-month test readiness posture. Currently the test readiness requirement - the time required to prepare a diagnostically meaningful test if the President should call for a test - is 24-36 months.

UCS delivered a statement to Congress signed by a number of prominent scientists and engineers, many with extensive experience designing and building nuclear weapons. The statement explains the dangers linked to efforts to “enhance” test readiness. See http://www.ucsaction.ctsg.com/ctt.asp?u=446046&l=9396

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