Nuclear Weapons Complex Misconduct
Dec. 3, 2015. POGO: Updated Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, focussing on Nuclear Complex
(see report at POGO)
Click the image to download this large printable map of DOE sites, commercial reactors, nuclear waste dumps, nuclear transportation routes, surface waters near sites and transport routes, and underlying aquifers. This map was prepared by Deborah Reade for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.
Nuclear Warheads: Exploding Costs 1985-2013 Chart provided by Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar for Nuclear Policy at the Institute for Policy Studies. (See full bio).
Mobile Missiles, Hypersonic Bombers
The Air Force has dusted off plans more than two decades old to place fixed nuclear missiles on rail cars or massive road vehicles to protect them from a surprise attack.
The service also wants to explore alternatives to traditional missiles to carry nuclear warheads, which could include hypersonic aircraft capable of crossing the Atlantic Ocean in an hour, said Phillip Coyle of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, a former associate director for national security and international affairs in the Obama administration's Office of Science and Technology Policy. Coyle said that if the Air Force decides to pursue hypersonic aircraft to deliver nuclear warheads, this could confuse nuclear armed countries such as Russia, which would not be able to determine if supersonic aircraft traveling at 4,000 miles per hour were carrying conventional or nuclear warheads, and potentially react with a nuclear strike. (NextGov report) / (US Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center Announcement-PDF) (See also: Army Tests Advanced Hypersonic Weapon)
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Grills SecDef Ash Carter
On dangers of US-Russian collision in Syria going nuclear;
during a House Armed Services Committee hearing Dec 2, 2015
TG: Approx how many nuclear warheads does Russia have aimed at the US, and how many does the US have aimed at Russia?
AC: Uh, Congresswoman, we'll get you those precise numbers as best we know them... Let me just summarize it by the fact that I'm confident we have a strong, safe, secure and reliable deterrent, but it's also true that Russia, like the Soviet Union that precedes it, has a massive nuclear arsenal.*
TG: And it would be accurate to say that both our of countries have the capacity to launch these nuclear weapons within minutes.
AC: We do.
*Note the Secretary's choice of words: The US has "a safe and reliable deterrent", while Russia has "a massive nuclear arsenal".
Current nuclear stockpiles- for country reports and other details see original annotated infographic at Ploughshares.org.
Obama Promised a "World Without Nuclear Weapons," But May Now Spend $1 Trillion on Upgrades Amy Goodman with Elena Sokova, executive director of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation DemocracyNow, Oct.24, 2014
"If you really want a future world free of nuclear weapons, you can hardly make a better investment than to give to Nuclear Watch New Mexico. They need and deserve your support so that they can carry on their groundbreaking work. I urge you to be generous with them!" - Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project on Government Oversight.
Land-Based ICBMs - 642 (400 to deploy) new ICBMs SSBNs: Ballistic Missile Submarines - 12 new Columbia Class SSBNs Bombers & Air-Launched Cruise Missiles - Upgrades to the B-1, the B-2, and the B-52
- LRSB: 100 new B-21 strategic bombers
- LRSO: 1000+ nuclear-capable cruise missiles
Warhead Production and 'Life Extension Programs'
- The W76 was chosen as a SSBN (submarine-launched ICBM) warhead. See SuperFuze upgrade report below.
- The W80-4 is to be the warhead for the next-gen nuclear cruise missile (LRSO).
- The B61-12 upgrade with new Tailkit: details and related news on our B61 page.
- Plutonium pit production: see Nukewatch fact sheet
- Note that the NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) runs all weapons related activities under the DOE. Environmental cleanup of wastes from nuclear weapons production is under the jurisdiction of the DOE without NNSA involvement. While the NNSA budget is set to increase, DOE's is set to decrease.
Warhead Delivery Systems
- New ICBMs (aka GBSD, or Ground-Based-Strategic-Deterrent): This is a contested element of the planned triad modernization. William Perry and others have argued that land-based ICBMs are the one way a computer glitch could end up triggering total nuclear war, and should therefore be eliminated in favor of bombers and SSBNs.
Boeing, Northrup Grumman, and Lockheed have submitted bids for the roughly $70 billion job.
- SSBNs are to be designed and built by Electric Boat in Connecticut. Plans call to build 12, at a cost $5 billion apiece, and no-one knows where those funds will come from. There's been talk of a supplemental Sea-Borne Deterrence Fund; but Air Force wants a similar budgetary trick for its nuclear systems.
- Bombers: Northrup Grumman is prime contractor on the new B-21 as well as the B-2 upgrade. Boeing is contractor for B1 and B52 upgrades.
- Long-Range Stand-Off cruise missiles: This is the other most contested of the new systems planned, with many experts calling it dangerous and unnecessary. Air Force has issued a call for bids for 1000+ missiles. Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin are expected to submit bids.
November 14, 2017: The particular problem of ICBMs
Note that the presidential authority to launch a nuclear strike alone stems from the Cold War, when the US feared a Soviet missile strike against US ICBM silos; our missiles had to be launched before theirs hit, and Soviet missiles would reach targets in the US in 20-30 minutes, so there would be no time to consult a larger circle.
This is one of the reasons Former Secretary of Defense William Perry and General James Cartwright, former Commander of the US Strategic Command, cited in a letter to President Trump on October 31, urging him to abandon the ICBM leg of the triad, rather than forging ahead with an expensive full replacement ICBM arsenal. Because of the 'use 'em or lose 'em' logic, plus the fact that ICBMs cannot be recalled once launched, their letter identifies this leg of the triad as the most susceptible to an unintended or accidental nuclear war. (see letter)
- The Air Force hasn't waited for the Nuclear Posture Review to be released this winter, already awarding contracts to Northrup Grumman and Boeing for the 'modernized' ICBM force, called Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, or GBSD. (Lockheed is also in the competition - the Air Force will 'down-select' from three companies to two for the next phase of the program.) (ref) James Doyle, The Bulletin, October 25: "Ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads are enablers of apocalypse." (read article)
March 4, 2017: How US Nuclear Force Modernization is Undermining Strategic Stability:
The Burst-Height Compensating Super-Fuze By Hans M. Kristensen, Matthew McKinzie, Theodore A. Postol
"The US nuclear forces modernization program has been portrayed to the public as an effort to ensure the reliability and safety of warheads in the US nuclear arsenal, rather than to enhance their military capabilities. In reality, however, that program has implemented revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the US ballistic missile arsenal. This increase in capability is astonishing- boosting the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three- and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.
Click image to enlarge
"The revolutionary increase in the lethality of submarine-borne US nuclear forces comes from a 'super-fuze' device that since 2009 has been incorporated into the Navy's W76-1/Mk4A warhead as part of a decade-long life-extension program. We estimate that all warheads deployed on US ballistic missile submarines now have this fuzing capability. Because the innovations in the super-fuze appear, to the non-technical eye, to be minor, policymakers outside of the US government (and probably inside the government as well) have completely missed its revolutionary impact on military capabilities and its important implications for global security...
"The W76 upgrade reflects a 25-year shift of the focus of US hard-target kill capability from land-based to sea-based ballistic missiles. Moreover, by shifting the capability to submarines that can move to missile launch positions much closer to their targets than land-based missiles, the US military has achieved a significantly greater capacity to conduct a surprise first strike against Russian ICBM silos.
"... In spite of its severe limitations, this growing defense system could appear to both Russia and China as a US attempt to reduce the consequences of a ragged Russian or Chinese retaliation to a US first strike against them.
"We cannot foresee a situation in which a competent and properly informed US president would order a surprise first strike against Russia or China. But our conclusion makes the increased sea-based offensive and defensive capabilities we have described seem all the more bizarre as a strategy for reducing the chances of nuclear war with either Russia or China..."
(Read more, w/ detailed graphs and charts, at The Bulletin)
Former Secretary of Defense William Perry: No To a New Generation of ICBMs. "As long as we have ICBMs, there will be the possibility of the President launching them in response to a false alarm."
Former Secretary of Defense William Perry: "Since the ICBMs are known in fixed locations, they can be attacked and we presume that any nuclear attack on the United States would include attacks against those ICBMs. And therefore, we have a policy called launch-on-warning which means if we have a warning of an attack, then the President would be notified and he has the option of launching those ICBMs before the attack actually reaches its targets.
Now the danger with that, of course, is that if the warning of attack is wrong, if it's a false alarm, and the President actually launches the ICBMs, he will have no way of calling them back or destroying them in-flight if in fact the alarm is a false alarm.
So the problem with the ICBMs fundamentally is that if we get a false alarm and the President launches the ICBMs, we will have started a nuclear war capable of ending civilization based on a mistake, based on an accident, based on a false reading. That is not very likely to happen- it's a low probability- but a low probability with a very, very high consequence. So thatŐs my concern with the ICBM program and it's a fundamental concern; as long as we have ICBMs, there will be the possibility of the President launching them in response to a false alarm."
Source: Arms Control Center /
Visit The William J. Perry Project
March 3, 2017: Defense Science Board Recommends "A More Flexible Nuclear Enterprise"
Sometimes, maybe, the status quo is something we need to safeguard, not disrupt. That may be the case when it comes to a new push to abandon the US-Russian mutual prohibition on deployment of low-yield nuclear weapon systems as part of theater warfighting doctrine.
Since the late 1980s both US and Soviet, now Russian, policy has been to not develop and deploy 'tactical' nuclear weapons, including theater range missiles, because it was agreed that it would be very difficult to prevent a 'tactical' exchange in a regional conflict from progressing rapidly to a civilization-ending 'strategic' exchange.
But new doubts are arising about the credibility of a strategic deterrent in the case of a local or regional conflict- one which, for example, the US could be involved in, even though the stakes may not put essential US security at risk. In such cases some US warfighters would like to have the option of threatening counterforce and intermediate range strikes using low-yield nukes. Or, they argue, what if an adversary uses a tactical nuke to "escalate to de-escalate"? Some want to be able to respond in kind.
These doubts about classical deterrence, along with a 'multipolar' landscape of nuclear-armed states, are the basis for the nuclear boosters' meme of "The Second Nuclear Age").
- Pentagon Panel Urges Trump Team to Expand Nuclear Options, Roll Call, Feb 2, 2017
Senator Feinstein: Bad Idea. Don't Do It.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D.CA) Senate Intelligence Committee Vice-Chair, argues that the potentially rapid and uncontrollable progression from tactical use to strategic exchange means there is effectively "No Such Thing as 'Limited' Nuclear War".
"Let me be crystal clear: There is no such thing as "limited use" nuclear weapons, and for a Pentagon advisory board to promote their development is absolutely unacceptable. This is even more problematic given President Trump's comments in support of a nuclear arms race.
"As Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work testified in 2015, 'Anyone who thinks they can control escalation through the use of nuclear weapons is literally playing with fire. Escalation is escalation, and nuclear use would be the ultimate escalation.'
"Nuclear weapons present us with a paradox: We spend billions of dollars building and maintaining them in the hope that we never have to use them. The sole purpose of nuclear weapons must be to deter their use by others. Designing new low-yield nuclear weapons for limited strikes dangerously lowers the threshold for their use. Such a recommendation undermines the stability created by deterrence, thereby increasing the likelihood of sparking an unwinnable nuclear war."
(read full statement, Washington Post, March 3, 2017)
Update: Former Secretary of Defense William Perry agrees with Sen. Feinstein.
"This White House has caved to the nuclear priesthood"
"The United States can deter any country from using nuclear weapons against America and its treaty allies with a nuclear force that is far smaller, less destabilizing, and less expensive than the one the Pentagon is planning to build.
"This White House has caved to the nuclear priesthood in the bureaucracy. Instead of staying on nuclear autopilot, the next administration needs to fundamentally rethink the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy, the costs of implementing the current strategic force modernization program, and the alternatives that could provide greater stability and less risk of nuclear conflict at a much lower cost."
-Richard Sokolsky, Gordon Adams, Carnegie Endowment, January 18, 2016. (see: Obama Is About to Launch a New Nuclear Arms Race. There's a Better Way.)
Former Secretary of Defense Perry: "On the Brink of a New Nuclear Arms Race"
"We're now at the precipice, maybe I should say the brink, of a new nuclear arms race. This arms race will be at least as expensive as the arms race we had during the Cold War..."
Perry was speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Defense Writer's Group on December 3rd.
"Today, probably I would not have said this 10 years ago, but today we now face the kind of dangers of a nuclear event like we had during the Cold War, an accidental war."
Re Russia: "'If you look over a 20-year period and put the scoreboard together, there are at least as many American mistakes as there were Russian.' He cited the expansion of NATO and the decision to send U.S.-led NATO forces to Bosnia in 1996 as the start of the downfall of U.S.-Russia relations. Perry also criticized the United States and NATO program to install 'Aegis-ashore' ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems in Romania and Poland (which sparked some of Moscow's recent nuclear saber rattling). 'There is literally no justification for it. The reasons they give for it don't stand up.'"
Perry reiterated his opposition to the Air Force's plans to modernize the ICBM force and to field 1000 new air launched cruise missiles, calling both "uniquely destabilizing". (Perry supports modernization of the other two legs of the triad: replacement of the Ohio class strategic submarines and the long-range strategic bomber force.)
(More at DefenseNews.com)
November 23, 2015: A New Arms Race Threatens to Bring U.S. and Russia Back to the Nuclear Brink
Joe Cirincione, author, Nuclear Nightmares.
"The Russians are building new nuclear-armed missiles, bombers, and submarines to replace those built in the 1980s and now reaching the end of their operational lives. They claim that they must modernize their arsenal and increase the role of nuclear weapons in their military doctrine to counter U.S. missile interceptors being deployed in Europe. These, they say, could "neutralize" their nuclear deterrent, allowing the U.S. and NATO to dominate Russia.
"Meanwhile, the U.S. plans to deploy almost 200 new nuclear bombs in Europe. More accurate than the current bombs, proponents argue the B61-12s are more usable in battles. The U.S. Navy is developing 12 new submarines to prowl the world's oceans, carrying over 1,000 warheads on missiles that can hit any spot on earth. The U.S. Air Force is developing a new strategic bomber and wants 1,000 new cruise missiles to go with it, plus a new fleet of almost 650 intercontinental ballistic missiles..." (more at WorldPost)
June 3, 2015, The Hill: Nuclear weapons: The "All Of The Above" Strategy
"This week, the Senate is scheduled to begin consideration of the annual defense authorization bill. In a move detached from budgetary reality, the bill backs an unaffordable plan to modernize or replace nearly every aspect of the United States' oversized nuclear arsenal. It is an 'all of the above' strategy that avoids any of the hard, but necessary, strategic choices...
"The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2016 (NDAA) passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee includes a long wish list of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. The current plan is to design and build 12 new nuclear missile submarines, as many as 100 new nuclear-capable bombers, as many as 1,100 new nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, and to modernize around 400 intercontinental ballistic missiles and the various nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal. In addition, the Committee requires the modernization and replacement of forward-deployed nuclear weapons, dual capable fighter-bomber aircraft and perhaps the development of intermediate range nuclear weapons.
"The Pentagon itself is concerned about the affordability of this plan. Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's Undersecretary of Acquisitions, characterized the nuclear modernization plans as 'unaffordable.'"
(Read John Isaacs and Greg Terryn's report at The Hill)
April 28, NPT RevCon 2015: The "Modernization" of Nuclear Weapons and the Disarmament We Seek
- 1st Panel at 3 PM: Global "Modernization" of Nuclear Weapons & Bomb Plants
With Hans Kristensen, Federation of American Scientists; Natalia Mironova, former legislator, Movement for Nuclear Safety, Russia; Jean-Marie Collin, French Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament; Dave Webb, CND, UK; Wilbert van der Zeijden, PAX, Netherlands; moderated by Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs, USA.
- 2nd Panel at 4:30 PM: U.S. "Modernization" of Nuclear Weapons & Bomb Plants
With Matthew McKinzie, Natural Resources Defense Council; Ralph Hutchison, Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance; Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs, Livermore; Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico; James Doyle, nuclear security and nonproliferation specialist, formerly at Los
Alamos National Laboratory; moderated by Rick Wayman, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
Sept 26: International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons* As Nuclear Arms Modernizations Surge, Welcome to "The Second Nuclear Age"
Nuclear Watch has been documenting and reporting on the growing discrepancy between, on the one hand, this nation's avowed goal of reducing both our doctrinal reliance on nuclear weapons as well as actual nuclear weapons stockpiles, and on the other, the ballooning budgets assigned to massive, across-the-board 'modernizations' of weapons, delivery systems, and weapons production facilities. There has been a lot of criticism in the expert press and in Congress (and notably from Senator Diane Feinstein), of the Administration's recent FY 2015 budget request, which cuts funds for nuclear security worldwide while increasing funding for new nuclear warheads, ICBMs, strategic bombers, and costly additions to US nuclear weapons facilities.
The New York Times, in an editorial Sept 22 titled Backsliding on Nuclear Promises, wrote "The administration is making a foolish trade-off... Investing in nuclear security protects Americans more than unwise investment in new nuclear weapons."
"A nationwide wave of atomic revitalization"
The Times editors note: "When he first came to office, Mr. Obama was clear-sighted about nuclear dangers and ambitious in his disarmament goals... But to win Republican support for the [New Start] treaty in 2010, Mr. Obama made a Faustian bargain, promising to spend $84 billion to upgrade aging nuclear weapons over the next decade."
Now, 4 years later, "the Congressional Budget Office estimates that Mr. Obama's plans will cost $355 billion over the next decade; other studies put the price at $1 trillion over three decades."
Recent News and Resources
"We think it is time to step back and take a fresh look. It is not clear that the United States needs to arm its bombers with a new generation of nuclear-armed cruise missiles. Similarly, the United States should review plans to replace its ground-based ICBMs [which] are in danger of being launched in the case of another false alarm."
- William Perry and James Cartwright in their letter to President Trump, Oct.31, 2017
Above, a Boeing ad for its bid on the ICBM contract.
(GBSD= Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent)
April 18, 2017:
"The executive order initiating a new nuclear posture review aims "to ensure that the United States nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored..." - terms that are sometimes applied to low-yield and special effects warheads. If Russia and China interpret these signals to mean that nuclear modernization is a US attempt to expand capabilities rather than maintain them, it could increase the likelihood that these countries will take steps to counteract a perceived threat to strategic stability."
- Adam Mount, The Bulletin:
"Adapting nuclear modernization to the new administration"
March 21, 2017:
Letter to the Comptroller General, GAO, from Reps Adam Smith and Marcy Kaptur.
"We are concerned about the cost and executability of ambitious and expensive plans to modernize nuclear weapons, particularly plans to produce new nuclear weapons..."
August 1, 2016: Op-Ed- It's Time to Ditch the ICBM, America's Thermonuclear Dinosaur
"In the face of an uncertain and ballooning program cost, the real question we should be asking is- why aren't we just retiring the ICBM part of the arsenal? ICBMs are an anachronism, a thermonuclear dinosaur, and have been for a long time. The strategy for their use is a relic of the Cold War, they do nothing to counter the real threats we face today and they can easily stand to be eliminated from the U.S. nuclear arsenal." (more)
August 1, 2016: Air Force Issues RFPs for New Nuclear Cruise Missile (LRSO)
and New ICBM (GBSD)
"The Air Force moved ahead with two critical nuclear modernization programs on Friday, releasing requests for proposals for its intercontinental ballistic missile replacement and a nuclear cruise missile.
The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), which replaces the 1960s-era Minutemen III ICBM, and the Long Range Standoff (LRSO) weapon, which will supersede the AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile, are seen by the service as pivotal for maintaining the nuclear triad and an effective strategic deterrent.." (more)
August 1, 2016: NNSA Greenlights B61-12 Nuclear Bomb Production Engineering Phase
"The decision marks the final development phase prior to actual production. The NNSA says the first production unit of the weapon is planned for fiscal year 2020..." (more)
Worldwide Nuclear Weapon Modernization Programs
Extensive report by Hans Kristensen, director, Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists, presented at ANA conference at the UN April 28, 2015. View/download PDF.
Modernizing nuclear arsenals: Whether and how
9-part 2015 roundtable on the modernization of nuclear arsenals at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
("Modernizing..." at the Bulletin)
ANA 2016 Report:
The Trillion Dollar Trainwreck
"What few Americans realize is that the U.S. is completely rebuilding the production side of its nuclear weapons complex, with new multi-billion dollar factories expected to operate until ~2075. The aim of the for-profit nuclear weapons establishment is a never-ending cycle of exorbitant Life Extension Programs for existing nuclear weapons. These programs will not only extend their service lives for up to six decades, but also endow them with new military capabilities, despite denials at the highest levels of government..."
-Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico; comment on NYTimes article U.S. Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms 21 Sept, 2014.
"The unfortunate truth of the US nuclear weapon 'modernization' is that it clearly demonstrates that the United States plans to build more and 'better' nuclear weapons for at least the next 30 to 50 years."
- James Doyle (ref)
Long-range-standoff bomber update Shrouded in Mystery, New Bomber Makes Waves
"The program is targeting a production line of 80-100 planes. It will replace the fleet of B-52 and B-1 bombers. It will be stealthy, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, and optional manning has been discussed. A down-selection will be made this spring or early summer, with initial operating capability planned for the mid-2020s. Nuclear certification will follow two years after that.
"The target price, set by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is $550 million a copy. To keep the price down, the Air Force is looking to use mature technologies that are available now, rather than launching new developments... " (Defense News, Jan 19, 2015)
"Both Russia and the United States are now officially and publicly using the other side as a justification for nuclear weapons modernization programs" - Hans Kristensen, The Intercept, 2/23/16
Massive Upgrade For B-2 Stealth 6/25/14: Air Force officials have started planning a ten billion dollar modernization of the B-2 stealth bomber fleet to include a new receiver using VLF waveform technology that allows the bomber to receive messages in the event of a high altitude electro-magnetic pulse, and outfitting the aircraft for next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with the new tail kit, and Long Range Stand-Off weapons- (air-launched nuclear cruise missiles). (more)
Defense Bills Would Create Separate Fund for New Ohio-Class Nuclear Submarines "Far-reaching implications"
"The creation of a National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund to pay for an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine replacement could significantly alter the typically underfunded Navy shipbuilding account, while also establishing a precedent that other military services may attempt to leverage in years to come.
More: Frank Oliveri, CQ Roll Call, 6/9/14
"There's one role- and only one role- for nuclear weapons, and that's deterrence. We cannot, must not, will not ever countenance their actual use. There's no such thing as limited nuclear war, and for the Pentagon's advisory board to even suggest such a thing is deeply troubling."
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (ref)
Our Mission: Through comprehensive research, public education and effective citizen action, Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks to promote safety and environmental protection at regional nuclear facilities, mission diversification away from nuclear weapons programs, greater accountability and cleanup in the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex, and consistent U.S. leadership toward a world free of nuclear weapons.