In his paper, Los Alamos Associate Director for Nuclear Weapons Steve Younger
states that "[i]t is often, but not universally, thought that nuclear weapons
would only be used in extremis, when the nation is in the gravest danger.....This
may not be true in the future." (p. 2) "Current plans call for [existing
high-yield U.S. nuclear weapons systems] to be retained essentially indefinitely."
(p.12) But Younger goes on to argue that "[s]uch a reliance on high-yield
strategic weapons could lead to 'self-deterrence.' " (p. 13) This echoes
statements recently made by Sandia Lab Director Paul Robertson as well.
Younger presents various future scenarios of nuclear and nonnuclear strategic
forces (and mixes thereof), among which is the design and deployment of "a
new set of nuclear weapons that do not require nuclear testing to be certified.
Such weapons might be, but do not need be, based on simple gun-assembled uranium
designs [like the Hiroshima bomb] that do not require a plutonium infrastructure......."
(p. 15) "Plutonium pit production can be maintained at a small rate at Los
Alamos, but any stockpile above about one thousand weapons will require the construction
of a new large production plant to replace the Rocky Flats facility, which ceased
production in 1989. Should the country go to a precision low-yield nuclear force
that is based on uranium rather than plutonium, the cost of the large pit-production
facility could be avoided, and the remaining high-yield weapons that did employ
plutonium pits could be supported by a modified Los Alamos plutonium facility."
On a final note, Younger declares that "[i]t is almost impossible to conceive
of technological and political developments that would enable the United States
to meet its defense needs in 2020 without nuclear weapons." (p. 16) Clearly
his statement flies in the face of international political developments of three
decades ago, when the U.S. and the other nuclear weapons powers pledged in the
NonProliferation Treaty to enter into serious negotiations leading to total nuclear