- Stockpile stewardship
Stockpile stewardship refers to the
United Statesprogram 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 fissilematerial can chemically degrade, their electronic components can suffer from decay, their radioactive plutonium/ uraniumcores are potentially unreliable, and the isotopes used by thermonuclearweapons 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 physicsand chemistryto 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 Statesare not eroded as nuclear weaponsage. 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 Treatyin 1996by Bill Clinton.
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.
Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility
* [http://fas.org/2007/nuke/Stockpile_Stewardship_Paper.pdf] 2007 DOE Stockpile Stewardship Report published by The Federation of American Scientists
* [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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