Technical Study on Test Ban Cites Progress

By Kimball, Daryl G. | Arms Control Today, April 2012 | Go to article overview

Technical Study on Test Ban Cites Progress


Kimball, Daryl G., Arms Control Today


A U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee report reviewing technical issues related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has concluded that the U.S. nuclear weapons Stockpile Stewardship Program "has been more successful than was anticipated in 1999," when the Senate last considered and voted on the CTBT.

The report, which was released March 30, also said that "the status of U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System [IMS] has improved to levels better than predicted in 1999."

The study was requested by the Obama administration in 2009 following President Barack Obama's call for "immediately" pursuing reconsideration and ratification of the treaty, which was signed by President Bill Clinton in September 1996 but has not yet been approved by the Senate. Although the report was completed in early 2011, its release was delayed by an extensive declassification review.

"[P]rovided that sufficient resources and a national commitment to stockpile stewardship are in place...the United States has the technical ability to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without nuclear explosion testing," says the report, which is by the National Research Council, the operating arm of the NAS.

Stockpile stewardship is the responsibility of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous unit of the Department of Energy. Since 2009, funding for the NNSA nuclear weapons complex has increased by 13 percent. The Obama administration's $7.6 billion budget request for fiscal year 2013 would boost the funding even more, by 5 percent over the fiscal year 2012 appropriation of $7.2 billion.

The NAS panel, which was chaired by Ellen Williams, a physicist and now chief scientist at BP, was charged with reviewing technical changes related to the U.S. nuclear stockpile and to nuclear explosion test monitoring that have occurred in the 10 years since the NAS's 2002 report on the subject. The panel's eight other members include former NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks; Richard Garwin, a veteran weapons designer and adviser to U.S. national laboratories; Adm. Richard Mies, the former head of U.S. Strategic Command; and former Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Director Bruce Tarter. …

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