Nuclear Weapons Issues & The Accelerating Arms Race: February 2024


Release of federal FY 2025 budget expected March 11 (it will initially be just topline numbers).

Meanwhile on the FY 2024 budget: House and Senate Armed Services Committee authorized funding exceeding Biden’s request, including money for the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile and nuclear warhead (reminder: that the President doesn’t want), plus adding $$ for plutonium pit production at the Savannah River Site. But appropriations bills are still not happening because of ever increasing congressional dysfunction. This is now best exemplified by Republicans rejecting an immigration bill they initially drafted but that Trump denounced because he wanted immigration to remain a hot issue during the presidential election campaign.

The current second “laddered” Continuing Resolution that is keeping the government running expires March 1 and 8.

The first date has Energy and Water funding for the Department of Energy (DOE). There has been some progress on appropriations after committee chairs and ranking minority members of the subcommittees spent time on bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on final text of the dozen funding bills. But it is clear that House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) will need Democratic votes to pass these bills to overcome the opposition of the far right of his party. Therefore, the outcome is still very uncertain. There is likely not time to pass the appropriation bills thereby leading to another Continuing Resolution. And there is still a possibility the far right could revolt and shut down the government, even forcing Johnson from the Speakership. The dysfunction marches on!

Construction funding for the Uranium Processing Facility was doubled from FY 2023 levels in the still current Continuing Resolution (CR) as a requested “anomaly” (the UPF is now grossly overbudget and schedule). We may see more requested nuclear weapons anomalies in a third Continuing Resolution which could possibly run until the end of FY 2024 (i.e. September 30, 2024).


It’s now official, modernization of two legs of the Triad is now way overbudget (specifically new strategic submarines and the Sentinel ICBM). We may never know for the third leg because B-21 heavy bomber costs are classified.

B-21 Raider bomber zooms into fast-track production | Gabriel Honrada January 24, 2024

…The B-21 Raider was unveiled to the public at a ceremony December 2, 2022 in Palmdale, California. Photo: US Air Force

The US has announced that its next-generation stealth bomber is now slated for production, signaling a new era in aerial warfare and strategic deterrence amid renewed great power competition with China and Russia.

The B-21 is designed to reduce risk by pairing mature and semi-mature systems with an advanced airframe that leverages lessons learned from other programs. The aircraft is part of a family of systems, including the Long-Range Stand-Off (LRSO) stealthy nuclear-tipped cruise missile and the RQ-180 strategic reconnaissance drone.

While the B-1B and B-2 were designed to penetrate heavily defended Soviet airspace, wear and tear, evolving enemy defenses and cost spiral have made developing a next-generation bomber more practical.

Air Force’s next nuclear missile at risk after costs spike |

WASHINGTON — The Air Force’s next nuclear missile program has exceeded its planned costs severely enough to trigger a report to Congress, potentially putting the program’s survival at risk.

The Northrop Grumman-made LGM-35A Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile has overrun its initial cost projections and incurred a critical Nunn-McCurdy breach, an Air Force spokesperson confirmed to Defense News. The Air Force notified Congress about the breach Thursday.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense will now review the Sentinel program, the Air Force said, and will decide whether to restructure the program, or cancel it entirely…

A finding by the Department of Defense that the Sentinel is national security-critical is pretty much pre-ordained. See counter-argument below.

Plutonium Pit Production: The first 800 new pits to be manufactured will be W87-1 pits for the likely purpose of MIRVing the new Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile. [MIRV is Multiple Independently-targeted Reentry Vehicles, meaning multiple warheads.] This will follow the expiration of the New START treaty in February 2026, which will remove the cap on not greater than 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons. – Source: Government Accountability Office report

The October 2023 Strategic Posture Commission report foreshadows all this, saying:

“The Commission recommends that a strategy to address the two-nuclear-peer threat environment be a prerequisite for developing U.S. nuclear arms control limits for the 2027-2035 timeframe. The Commission recommends that once a strategy and its related force requirements are established, the U.S. government determine whether and how nuclear arms control limits continue to enhance U.S. security…”

“… these threats are such that the United States and its Allies and partners must be ready to deter and defeat both adversaries simultaneously… we find that the United States lacks a comprehensive strategy to address the looming two-nuclear-peer threat environment and lacks the force structure such a strategy will require… we make clear that the fundamentals of America’s deterrence strategy remain sound, but the application of that strategy must change to address the 2027-2035 threat environment. Those changes drive necessary adjustments to the posture of U.S. nuclear capabilities – in size and/or composition.”

Note that it is not only to deter but also to defeat, meaning nuclear warfighting. And to understand what that means, please read Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine.

Specifically, the Strategic Posture Commission report recommends:

The following strategic nuclear force posture modifications should be pursued with urgency:

  • Prepare to upload some or all of the nation’s hedge warheads;
  • Plan to deploy the Sentinel ICBM in a MIRVed configuration;…
  • Pursue the feasibility of fielding some portion of the future ICBM force in a road mobile configuration;

The report also recommends that “DOE/NNSA plan to increase production capacity beyond current POR [program of record].” The National Nuclear Security Administration’s current plan is to produce at least 30 plutonium pits per year at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and at least 50 pits per year at the Savannah River Site (SRS). In alignment with that, the Commission recommends the replacement of LANL’s pit production facility known as PF-4. That would be a huge shift from the current program of record of ~$5 billion in upgrades to the facility over the next 5 years. It would be a huge and controversial expense, when at the same time both LANL and SRS are experiencing serious cost increases and schedule delays.

U.S. land-based ICBMs are currently not MIRVed but sub-launched missiles (SLBMs) are. MIRVed ICBMs are regarded as deeply destabilizing because first they are a good first strike weapon and second an adversary would be tempted to pre-emptively take them out. SLBMs are not regarded as so destabilizing because subs are hard to find, whereas ICBMs are at known fixed points. Moreover, there is a “nuclear sponge” theory where U.S. ICBMs act as sitting ducks to force Russia to use up much of its stockpile in attacking. But for the inconceivable catastrophic effects see

To recap: No future pit production is to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing, extensively tested nuclear weapons stockpile. Instead, future pit production will be for MIRVed warheads on the new Sentinel ICBM, which instead of enhancing our national security will strategically destabilize it. Rather than inviting Armageddon as a “nuclear sponge,” the land-based ICBM leg of the Triad should be eliminated.

Moreover, new pits cannot be full-scale tested because of the existing testing moratorium. This may erode confidence in the stockpile or worse yet could prompt the U.S. to resume testing, which would have severe international proliferation consequences. In addition, NNSA’s plutonium pit production program is already overbudget, behind schedule, has no credible cost estimate or Integrated Master Schedule, violates National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements, has a chronic record of nuclear safety infractions, faces uncertainty over long-term transuranic waste disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and will cause more contamination. Finally, and perhaps most consequentially, NNSA’s plutonium pit production program is helping to fuel and accelerate the new nuclear arms race. That leads to the question, what could possibly go wrong?


Russia’s Nuclear Modernization Drive Is Only a Success on Paper – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Maxim Starchak March 1, 2024

Despite all the hype, Russia’s nuclear modernization program is suffering from significant delays. The replacement of Soviet-era systems will take years because of production issues, poor management, and financial problems.

Modernizing its nuclear triad—the ability to launch nuclear missiles from land, sky and sea—is a key priority for the Kremlin. The long-held objective is to replace Soviet-era delivery systems with new, Russian designs. Yet these plans are behind schedule, and only a fraction of the targets for 2023 were met. Serious production and management problems are to blame—and they are unlikely to be overcome any time soon.

As Trump looms, top EU politician calls for European nuclear deterrent Jakob Hanke VelaNicolas Camut January 25, 2024

Center-right leader Manfred Weber says EU needs to prepare for war without US help and must build its own atomic shield.

Trump’s seemingly imminent coronation as Republican presidential contender after wins in Iowa and New Hampshire have spooked Europe | Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images

Facing the potential return of Donald Trump to the White House, the head of the EU’s biggest political grouping is calling for Europeans to prepare for war without support from the United States and to build its own nuclear umbrella.

Manfred Weber, leader of the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) — currently tipped to come first in the European Parliament election in June — described Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin as “the two who set the framework” for 2024.

Trump’s seemingly imminent coronation as Republican presidential contender after wins in Iowa and New Hampshire have spooked Europe, where he is remembered as a NATO skeptic, accusing EU countries of not paying their way and threatening not to come to Europe’s defense if it were attacked.

“We want NATO, but we also have to be strong enough to be able to defend ourselves without it or in times of Trump,” Weber said in a phone interview with POLITICO on the return leg of a train trip to Kyiv. “Regardless of who is elected in America, Europe must be able to stand on its own in terms of foreign policy and be able to defend itself independently,” the influential German conservative said.

That brought him to the vexing question of European nuclear defenses. NATO currently relies heavily on U.S. nuclear warheads, which are deployed on six military air bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.

“Europe must build deterrence, we must be able to deter and defend ourselves,” he said. “We all know that when push comes to shove, the nuclear option is the really decisive one.”

Belarus adopts new military doctrine involving nuclear weapons Mariya Knight & Chris Lau January 20, 2024

Belarusian Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin speaks at the Beijing Xiangshan Forum in China on October 30, 2023. Belarus on Friday adopted a new military doctrine that – if approved – would be the first step toward deploying nuclear weapons across the country.

“The deployment of tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of the Republic of Belarus is considered an important measure of the preventive deterrence for potential adversaries from unleashing armed aggression against the Republic of Belarus,” Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin told a briefing Friday. Belarus had been “forced” to put the measure in place, he added.


Holtec wants “Consolidated Interim Storage” of high-level radioactive wastes in southern NM. The below is more evidence of wide-spread corruption in Holtec and more generally the nuclear energy industry.

[The New Jersey Attorney General filed suit to claw back $260 million in previous NJ tax breaks for Holtec.  The AG said/wrote:]

Holtec must not be allowed to get away with lying on its application for the largest tax break in state history. Rewarding Holtec’s “material” misrepresentations, [NJ AG] Platkin argued, would undermine state contract law and encourage other applicants to deceive the state. “The question is whether a business that concealed prior misconduct when seeking millions in incentives can nevertheless walk away scot-free…”

“The public has the right to demand honesty and integrity from businesses who sign agreements with the State of New Jersey, especially when hundreds of millions in tax incentive dollars are at stake. When a business misleads the State about misconduct in its past, that business cannot escape liability. We are proud to fight to hold unscrupulous businesses accountable, no matter how big and powerful they are…”

“That Holtec withheld this information — despite the views of its senior executives — is also evidence that the company realized the challenges that candor would present.”

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