Stockpile stewardship


Stockpile stewardship

Stockpile stewardship refers to the United States program of reliability testing and maintenance of its nuclear weapons without the use of nuclear testing.

Because no new nuclear weapons have been developed by the United States since 1992, even its youngest weapons are at least 16 years old. Aging weapons have many places in which they can fail or act unpredictably: the high explosives which condense their fissile material can chemically degrade, their electronic components can suffer from decay, their radioactive plutonium/uranium cores are potentially unreliable, and the isotopes used by thermonuclear weapons may be chemically unstable as well.

Since the United States has also not tested nuclear weapons since 1992, this leaves the task of its stockpile maintenance resting on the use of simulations (using non-nuclear explosives tests and supercomputers, among other methods) and applications of scientific knowledge about physics and chemistry to the specific problems of weapons aging (the latter method is what is meant when various agencies refer to their work as "science-based"). It also involves the manufacture of additional plutonium "pits" to replace ones of unknown quality, and finding other methods to increase the lifespan of existing warheads and maintain a confident nuclear deterrent.

Most work for stockpile stewardship is undertaken at United States Department of Energy National Laboratories, mostly at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Nevada Test Site, and Department of Energy productions facilities, employing around 27,500 personnel for the work and costing billions of dollars per year.

The government under President George W. Bush has introduced a new program to expand upon Stockpile Stewardship, called Reliable Replacement Warhead, or RRW, whose goal it is to enable the development of new weapons without physical testing (using computer simulations instead) within 18 months and construction of the new designs within 4 years.

tockpile Stewardship and Management Program

The Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program is a Department of Energy program to ensure that the nuclear capabilities of the United States are not eroded as nuclear weapons age. It receives approximately $4 billion annually in federal funds for testing of nuclear weapons and for construction of advanced science facilities, such as the National Ignition Facility (NIF). Such facilities have been deemed necessary under the program due to the signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996 by Bill Clinton.

Criticisms

The continued presence of a nuclear arsenal of any kind is criticised by those pushing for nuclear disarmament, and the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program is an integral part of the United States' nuclear readiness. Also, the allocation of funds has been seen by some to be inefficient, whereas the NIF has a large price tag but is not likely to contribute substantially to the maintenance of the US nuclear arsenal.

ee also

*Enduring Stockpile
*Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility

External links

* [http://fas.org/2007/nuke/Stockpile_Stewardship_Paper.pdf] 2007 DOE Stockpile Stewardship Report published by The Federation of American Scientists
* http://cache.technologyreview.com/articles/97/02/collina0297.asp?p=1
* [http://www.learnworld.com/ZNW/LWText.DOE.Stockpile.html The Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program (DOE document, May 1995)]
* [http://www.fas.org/rlg/JSR-99-300.pdf Remanufacturing of nuclear-weapon components within the DOE's Stockpile Stewardship Program]


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