November 30, 2007
By Mathias Rabinovitch, Astoria, NY

If you were strolling down the street and asked random Americans about the Cold War, they would most definitely state that it had ended nearly 15 years ago. I am sure that most people would respond identically, whether they are American or not. However, despite the conflict’s long “departure”, I still cannot avoid pondering the United States’ curiously large and increasing stockpile of nuclear weapons. Our presidential administration has recently claimed that the United States needs a replenishment of weapons; however, Congress is not responding favorably to this request. Fortunately, Congress realizes that the United States does not need more weapons because this acquisition would only increase both internal and external tension.

The Bush administration wants to initiate a Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. According to the NNSA Fact Sheet, this program would allow the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to replace the old weapons with brand new ones. The RRW would be a successor to the W76 nuclear weapon which makes up a third of the available warheads. The United States currently has a total stockpile of roughly 10,000 nuclear warheads (David Biello, 80). According to Gorge Allen, the Director of the Office of Transformations (NNSA), the cost of the replacement weapons is anticipated to approach $21 billion. This is a very large amount of money for it to be spent on new warheads that have not even been tested for functional ability because of the restrictions created by the 1995 Extension of the U.S. Moratorium, which prevents the testing of nuclear weapons. Physicist Frank von Hippel of Princeton University adds, “You never know if you’ve made a mistake until you’ve tested the thing. The existing weapons have the merit of having been tested.” (David Biello, 82). The NNSA promotes these new warheads as better bombs, having a complex “one-two punch” and smarter computerized systems. However, there is no evidence that these technologically advanced warheads are necessarily able to last longer in storage than the already existing weapons.

While it may be satisfying to know that we can have better, stronger nuclear weapons, this is not an international goal in nuclear development. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed by 187 countries including the U.S., strongly promotes achieving nuclear, general, and complete disarmament. Although the program dubiously states that the stockpile will not increase, creating advanced nuclear weapons is not a step towards achieving the proclaimed objectives of the NPT.

The lack of global standards achievement by the United States and its need for new weapons sends out troublesome messages to the world. Sidney Drell, an arms-control expert and physicist, states: “If the United States, the strongest nation in the world, concludes that it cannot protect its vital interests without relying on new nuclear weapons for military missions, it would be a clear signal to other nations that nuclear weapons are valuable, if not necessary, for their security purposes, too.” (David Biello, 85).

The United States cannot proceed with the renewal of the old nuclear warheads. The RRW cannot waste $21 billion. There is no proof of the reliability or durability of these new warheads. They will only provoke various world leaders into believing that nuclear weapons are important to the security of their respective countries as well. Congress should deny efforts to initiate the Reliable Replacement Warhead Program and should show to world that this government can take real steps towards establishing a nuclear free global community.

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