Replacement warhead program poses challenges for weapons complex

b directors and senior weapons scientists, former senior DOE officials, and university experts. Two panel members elected to add brief personal comments at the end of the report.

The panel found that surveillance information from systematic measurements of the stockpile shows evidence of age-related findings. However, it also noted that the frequency of such findings has not trended upward, and the recent data on plutonium metal indicates it may have a longer functional lifetime than previously demonstrated. Despite these encouraging results it is not yet possible to predict the future aging behavior of the stockpile.

In the absence of detailed plans on scope, schedule, and costs, the panel said that it is not possible to judge the trade-offs in the weapons and the complex among stockpiles with varying mixes of RRWs and existing legacy weapons. Such assessments can only be achieved, the panel noted, when stockpile requirements have been set and cost and schedule predictions have been made in response.

The panel also concluded that a continuing commitment to stockpile stewardship -- the basis of the current nuclear weapons program -- is essential, whether or not the future stockpile includes RRWs as well as the legacy weapons. They noted that stockpile stewardship has succeeded politically because of the dual bipartisan commitment to a sound nuclear weapons program and to one that proceeds without nuclear testing.

The panel also observed that the Administration has yet to clearly lay out the role of nuclear weapons in a post-Cold War, post 9/11 world "that makes the case for and defines future stockpile needs" and that argues the case for the replacement warheads. Based on past experience, they argued, there cannot be a major transformation of the sort envisioned by the RRW proposal without greater White House leadership to produce substantial bipartisan support. Since the transformation is expected to take 25 years, invol

Contact: Earl Lane
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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