Apr 27, 2007

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Transcript Now Available of ACA Briefing on the Future of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex and the Reliable Replacement Warhead

April 27, 2007

A transcript of ACA’s press briefing last week on the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program is now online. The briefing featured remarks by nuclear weapon experts Sidney Drell and ACA board member Steve Fetter. Daryl G. Kimball, ACA executive director, also spoke at the event.

The purpose of the briefing was to evaluate the administration’s plans to transform the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, particularly the possible introduction of a new type of warhead called RRW. The administration contends that the RRW concept could lead to warheads that are more reliable, easier to maintain, and more secure against possible misuse. It further asserts RRW could be developed without a return to nuclear testing, which the United States halted in 1992.


Drell, Fetter, and Kimball pointed out that current warheads are safe and reliable and there is no technical requirement to build replacement warheads.

Before launching a program for new warheads, Drell argued that the United States first needed to determine the proper role and size of a future U.S. nuclear force. “We have to have a clear policy of where we’re going,” Drell said. He noted, “we don’t have that yet.”

Professor of physics emeritus at Stanford University, Drell said RRW was worth exploring but stated that it should not be developed unless there were sound technical answers to questions about whether it was needed and could accomplish everything the administration contends the program will.

Fetter, dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, further cautioned that the RRW program could lead to warheads with “birth defects,” increasing, rather than decreasing, pressure to renew nuclear testing. “No one can say whether the unreliabilities introduced by these birth defects would be greater or smaller than the unreliabilities that would crop up in the existing warheads due to their age,” said Fetter, who recently participated in a RRW program study conducted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

All three speakers warned that if the United States proceeded with the RRW program it would risk complicating global efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons.

The full transcript of the briefing is at: http://www.armscontrol.org/events/20070419_transcript_rrw.asp.

For further information on the RRW program, please visit ACA’s U.S. nuclear weapons research and development resource site at http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/usnw/#weapons.

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting effective arms control policies. ACA publishes the monthly journal Arms Control Today.

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