Japan’s ‘nuclear deterrence without building a bomb’

Robert Windrem, “Japan Has Nuclear ‘Bomb in the Basement,’ and China Isn’t Happy,” 12 March 2014, NBC News

… But government officials and proliferation experts say Japan is happy to let neighbors like China and North Korea believe it is part of the nuclear club, because it has a “bomb in the basement” -– the material and the means to produce nuclear weapons within six months, according to some estimates. And with tensions rising in the region, China’s belief in the “bomb in the basement” is strong enough that it has demanded Japan get rid of its massive stockpile of plutonium and drop plans to open a new breeder reactor this fall. …
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US nuclear missile force faces questions about their discipline, their professionalism and even the rationale for their job

Robert Burns, “When do nuclear missteps put security in jeopardy?,” AP, 18 January 2014

The disclosures of disturbing behavior by nuclear missile officers are mounting and now include alleged drug use and exam cheating. Yet Air Force leaders insist the trouble is episodic, correctible and not cause for public worry. …
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Nun Faces up to 30 Years for Breaking Into Weapons Complex

Josh Harkinson, “Nun Faces up to 30 Years for Breaking Into Weapons Complex, Embarrassing the Feds,” Mother Jones, 15 January 2014

Nestled behind a forested ridgeline on the outskirts of Knoxville, Tennessee, is the sprawling Y-12 National Security Complex, America’s “Fort Knox” of weapons-grade uranium. The complex’s security cameras and machine gun nests are designed to repel an attack by the world’s most feared terrorist organizations, but they were no match for Sister Megan Rice, an 83-year-old Catholic nun armed with nothing more than a hammer and bolt cutters.
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Estimate of nuclear weapons costs undershot by more than $140 billion

R. Jeffrey Smith, “Obama administration understated nuclear weapons costs,” The Center for Public Integrity, 24 December 2013

The Obama administration’s plan for maintaining and upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal will likely cost around 66 percent more over the next decade than senior Pentagon officials have predicted, according to a new assessment by the independent Congressional Budget Office.

Under the administration’s plan, operating, maintaining and upgrading the nuclear stockpile will cost a total of $355 billion from 2014 through 2023, said the CBO report, published just before the holidays and shortly after Congress finished action on a 2014 budget bill that restored some planned Pentagon spending cuts.
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The unfulfilled promise of minimum, credible deterrence

Michael Krepon, “Fifteen years later,” The Express Tribune News Network, 26 December 2013

India and Pakistan have travelled a long distance since testing nuclear devices in 1998. Back then, government officials and leading strategic thinkers on the subcontinent expressed confidence that these tests would have stabilising effects. Going public with the Bomb would relieve anxieties and facilitate diplomatic efforts to normalise relations. In countries where many lived in poverty that placed a premium on economic growth, all that was needed was minimum, credible deterrence.  It’s worth recalling these aspirations 15 years later, during which Pakistan and India have fought one limited war and have experienced two severe crises. Their nuclear arsenals have grown steadily as diplomacy has faltered.
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US to spend billions ‘modernizing’ nuclear arsenal

Mathieu Rabechault, “US to spend billions ‘modernizing’ nuclear arsenal,” AFP, 7 November 2013

Washington — The United States plans to spend billions to upgrade a decades-old atomic bomb designed to stop a Soviet invasion of Europe, as part of a controversial project to modernize its nuclear arsenal.

Some lawmakers and experts dismiss the effort as a colossal waste of money that could derail arms control talks with Russia. …

Some members of Congress are wary of the price tag, as the estimated cost for modernizing the B61 bomb keeps rising, from an initial $4 billion to $8.1 billion. And a Pentagon panel has projected the cost could reach $10 to $12 billion.

“The case against the B61 life extension is simple: it is unaffordable, unworkable and unnecessary,” said Kingston Reif of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
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Blowing Up Asteroids: The Latest Excuse to Keep Nuclear Stockpiles?

Douglas Birch, “Blowing Up Asteroids: The Latest Excuse to Keep Nuclear Stockpiles?,” Center for Public Integrity, 16 October 2013

“It was a really bizarre thing to see that these weapons designers were willing to work together—to build the biggest bombs ever,” said Melosh, an expert in space impacts who has an asteroid named after him.

Ever since, he has been pushing back against scientists who still support the nuclear option, arguing that a non-nuclear solution—diverting asteroids by hitting them with battering rams—is both possible and far less dangerous.

But Melosh’s campaign suffered a setback last month when Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz signed an agreement with Russia that could open the door to new collaboration between nuclear weapons scientists in everything from plutonium-fueled reactors to lasers and explosives research. Continue reading

Nuke the Budget

Tom Z. Collina, “Nuke the Budget,” Foreign Policy, August 9 2013

Consider this: The Pentagon, as directed by Congress, must dramatically cut its budget. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warns the projected cuts are so large that they would “break” key parts of the military’s national security strategy, and even then “the savings fall well short” of meeting the $500 billion 10-year target.

At the same time, President Barack Obama, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Pentagon have determined that the United States has more strategic nuclear warheads than it needs to deter potential threats and can therefore reduce the deployed stockpile by up to one-third, to about 1,000 warheads. Hagel supported even deeper nuclear reductions before he was tapped to head the Pentagon.

Perfect target for budget cuts, right? Wrong, says Hagel, who has taken the U.S. nuclear weapons budget off the chopping block, all $31 billion per year of it. …
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For a New Approach to Iran

William Luers, Thomas R. Pickering, and Jim Walsh, “For a New Approach to Iran,” The New York Review of Books, August 15, 2013

My administration is now committed to diplomacy…and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran, and the international community. This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.
—President Obama, March 2009

Could this be the year for an engagement with Iran that “is honest and grounded in mutual respect,” as President Obama proposed over four years ago? That goal seems unlikely without a shift in Iranian thinking and without a change in American diplomatic and political strategy. But two developments, one in Iran and one in the region, provide reason to think that diplomatic progress might be possible.
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The real cost of getting rid of Trident from Scotland: £150m

The real cost of getting rid of Trident from Scotland: £150m“, HeraldScotland, 14 July 2013

Westminster warnings that the bill for ridding an independent Scotland of Trident would run into billions have been undermined by revelations that the UK Government previously put the cost at £150 million.
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The British nuclear stockpile, 1953–2013

Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, “The British nuclear stockpile, 1953–2013“, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 2013, 69 (4)

Recent research has revealed new facts about the British nuclear arsenal over a 25-year period starting in 1953. This accounting and the authors’ own research support an estimate that the British produced about 1,250 nuclear warheads between 1953 and 2013. From a peak of about 500 warheads in the period between 1974 and 1981, the UK arsenal has now been reduced to some 225 weapons.

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