Nov 10, 2009

Quote of the Day

They just can't stop, whether it's the right thing or not.

--Roger Logan, former head of Directed Stockpile Work at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, describing a U.S. nuclear complex interested in “pushing new, untested toys” such as the Reliable Replacement Warhead.

JASON Panel Offers Secret Nuclear Warhead Upkeep Recommendations

Monday, Nov. 9, 2009
By Elaine M. Grossman, Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON -- A prominent scientific panel last month delivered to the U.S. Energy Department a set of secret recommendations on the future maintenance and modernization of the nuclear arsenal, a document some experts say could significantly influence policy debates on the matter (see GSN, Sept. 24).

The JASON report comes as the Obama administration is readying its Nuclear Posture Review for release next month. The Defense Department-led assessment of U.S. nuclear strategy, forces and operations is expected to include at least a preliminary determination on how the nation should keep nuclear weapons viable for years to come (see GSN, Aug. 27).

The Energy Department's semiautonomous nuclear arm would not describe the JASON panel's classified findings. The National Nuclear Security Administration oversees the U.S. national laboratories and other facilities charged with maintaining the nuclear stockpile.

However, some of those familiar with the findings described the report as supporting ongoing efforts to extend the service lives of existing warheads, rather than replacing them with reworked designs.

The JASON group found that periodic "life-extension programs," or LEPs, remain a viable means of keeping the U.S. arsenal safe, secure and reliable, sources told Global Security Newswire.

Established in 1960, JASON is an independent advisory organization that conducts defense-related science and technology assessments for the U.S. government, mostly during annual "summer studies." The task force that conducted the study on warhead life-extension was reportedly led by nuclear engineer Marvin Adams of Texas A&M University.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and some of his top generals have argued that the existing LEP approach would not ensure that nuclear weapons would function reliably into the future. Rather, it would likely be necessary to incorporate modern features into fresh designs that would replace at least one or two warheads in today's arsenal, Gates recently said (see GSN, Aug. 18).

A draft briefing that U.S. Strategic Command circulated on Capitol Hill this summer underscored the point, asserting that "confidence in [the] reliability of [the] aging stockpile is decreasing."

"Today's requirements can't be fully implemented in current weapons," states the document, drafted by the military organization with combat responsibility for nuclear arms. "Most lack [the] physical space needed to add required reliability, safety and security features."

In 2008, Congress refused to fund the Bush administration's Reliable Replacement Warhead effort for the second year in a row, citing concerns about how it fit into the overall U.S. nuclear weapon strategy. President Barack Obama did not include funding for the program in his fiscal 2010 budget.

Nonproliferation advocates have warned that building a new U.S. warhead could undermine Washington's efforts to foster international support for curbing known or suspected nuclear-weapon programs in nations such as North Korea and Iran.

The JASON report should give nonproliferation proponents a political shot in the arm, according to some observers. The group was said to find that replacing existing warheads in the U.S. stockpile with new designs to be unnecessary at this time.

Instead, a combination of weapon-component refurbishment and the reuse of tested designs should suffice in the absence of nuclear explosive testing, according to those familiar with the panel's conclusions. The United States has observed a moratorium on underground tests since the early 1990s.

"We believe that the report finds that current [life-extension] programs are working extremely well," said one nuclear weapons analyst who asked not to be named, citing the sensitivity of discussing a secret report. "There's no need for any dramatic changes in the programs or indeed a need to produce a new-design warhead."

"It seems that the JASON report has knocked the legs out from under the argument that building new warheads is technically preferable to refurbishing the old ones," said another expert, Jeffrey Lewis, who heads the New America Foundation's Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative. "I would be surprised if the administration didn't put aside the issue of new warheads for the time being."

The top Democrat and Republican on a key House subcommittee first requested the JASON study in February 2008.

"A fuller understanding of the risks, uncertainties and challenges associated with the LEPs will enable a more robust comparison between the current program and any proposed alternatives, including the RRW proposal," then-Representatives Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) and Terry Everett (R-Ala.) wrote in a letter to NNSA chief Thomas D'Agostino.

The former lawmakers said the new external review should be "analogous" to the JASONs' 2007 assessment of the RRW program, which cast doubt on the ability to certify proposed replacement warheads in the absence of explosive testing (see GSN, Oct. 5, 2007).

D'Agostino agreed in March 2008 to launch the JASON review of the life-extension approach. The House Armed Services Committee two months later elaborated on the Tauscher-Everett request in its report on the fiscal 2009 defense authorization bill.

"The JASON review should encompass a broad range of options, including some not included in previous LEPs," the committee report stated.

The panel also encouraged D'Agostino to undertake an NNSA "assessment of the expected technical and financial costs and benefits of expanding the scope of life extension programs, to include reuse of legacy primary and secondary [nuclear-weapon] components."

Current LEP efforts are focused on extending the service lives of the Air Force's B-61 bomb warhead and the W-76 warhead used on the Navy Trident D-5 missile. Thus far, such life-extension initiatives have mainly overhauled or replaced corroded metal parts and other aging weapons components.

An NNSA spokeswoman, Jennifer Wagner, said last Thursday that agency officials were reviewing the final JASON report, which was expected to "provide an analysis of certification challenges for various future nuclear weapons life-extension options."

"When that review is complete, a copy will be provided to the new chairman and ranking member of the House [Armed Services] Subcommittee on Strategic Forces," she told GSN. "We expect the final report to be ready to be delivered shortly."

Representative Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) chairs the strategic forces panel, and Representative Michael Turner (Ohio) is its top Republican.

Wagner declined to describe her agency's reaction to the JASON findings, saying the issue remained under review. She also left unclear whether an unclassified version of the JASON report would be released, as was the case with the panel's 2007 report on replacement-warhead issues.

Observers said the scientific panel has called into question past NNSA and national laboratory statements that, over time, confidence in the existing stockpile would erode as life-extension programs slightly alter the designs of warheads that were tested prior to the onset of the moratorium.

"The concern that NNSA and the labs have expressed about drifting away from tested designs through repeated [life-extension programs] is overblown because LEPs only happen every 20 to 30 years," said the weapons analyst who asked not to be identified.

"Today's NNSA and [the Los Alamos and Livermore national laboratories] have shown us that they can't resist ... pushing new, untested toys" such as replacement warheads, said Roger Logan, who formerly led Directed Stockpile Work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

"They just can't stop, whether it's the right thing or not," Logan wrote in a recent essay on warhead-certification issues.

If the new JASON report insists that the LEP approach is sufficient for maintaining a safe, secure and reliable stockpile, it could prove more difficult for Gates and others to prevail in arguing that a warhead-replacement effort is the more prudent approach, according to one nuclear-weapons expert.

"The JASONs are the country's pre-eminent, independent scientific advisory body," said Stephen Young, a senior analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Their findings and recommendations should be weighed heavily as the Obama administration conducts its Nuclear Posture Review and makes plans to sustain the U.S. arsenal."

One Capitol Hill staffer said, though, that the JASON report would not necessarily be the final word on the matter.

"It will be a data point" in the debate, said the senior Senate aide, but other experts might draw different conclusions from the same set of facts about how the arsenal is faring in the absence of underground tests.

What might be most likely to evolve out of the JASON findings is a warhead life-extension approach that incorporates at least a few modern components to replace aging parts or materials that prove particularly challenging to refurbish or remanufacture, several observers said.

One example might be an effort to find an acceptable substitute for "Fogbank," -- a highly toxic, Cold War-era material, used between the warhead's two explosive stages, that has been difficult to remanufacture -- in extending the life of the Navy's W-76 warhead, said Hans Kristensen, who directs the Federation of American Scientists' Nuclear Information Project (see GSN, May 29).

In his widely read blog, ArmsControlWonk.com, Lewis has dubbed the anticipated conglomeration of selected RRW features with more traditional life-extension approaches the "FrankenLEP" (see GSN, Sept. 12, 2008).

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Let's see... no RRW and a highly constrained LEP program.

Remind me again why we are implementing Tom D'Agostino's Complex Transformation program to remake the weapons complex?

It would seem to me that his grand plans to re-make the complex with a strong production flavor can now be totally scrapped.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, some seem to think that if we prevent the design & manufacture of new nuclear weapons we can therefore make them obsolete and end their existence. I say you cannot uninvent nuclear weapons in the world anymore than you can uninvent the need for deterrence by the world’s countries.

Reducing nuclear weapons beyond our need is sensible but disarmament is naive.

It seems the arguments convolute on themselves when they criticize (in numerous articles) the DOE/Military for unsafe weapons and then argue against replacing our aging weapons stockpile with safer & more secure weapons for fear that America might need to test them to prove-in the design. This, despite many weapons designers who think testing might not be necessary.

A stockpiled nuclear weapon with modern safety & security improvements (e.g., IHE, a fire resistant pit, etc., etc.) makes sense. If they’re to remain in the U.S. stockpile for decades, why would you not want them to be the safest & most secure weapons we can provide?
Were other products with similar potential consequences subjected to this practice, it would most likely result in a serious lawsuit because of negligence (you could have made the product safer & more secure but you didn’t because it would require testing, for which you’re against). Kind of a poor analogy I agree, but you get the gist of my argument.

Think if terrorist should cause an incident with a nuclear weapon which resulted in (not a nuclear yield) but rather an incident that resulted in an explosion/fire that spread plutonium contamination over a regional populace.

If terrorist should ever acquire access to a nuclear weapon or commit a terrorist attack on a nuclear weapons site, would you prefer it to involve nuclear weapons that have all the modern safety & security enhancements or those that might not have this latest technology?

Anonymous said...

Poster 2:45 PM, you are wasting your time with your long-winded arguments. Give it up.

The controversial subject of RRW has been decided by Congress and the outside experts. That you don't like the decision is largely irrelevant.

I would like to see the US go back to some highly limited underground testing of our nukes, "just to be sure". However, while I can give lots of good reasons to do this, I know it's a dead issue.

Anonymous said...

11:56 am: "Let's see... no RRW and a highly constrained LEP program."

Dream on. This is a recommendation, not a done deal. Do you get the difference, and what actaully causes the difference? I guess not. That's called naivete.

Anonymous said...

The cash cow just fell over dead. Fortunately, LANS can start taxing the hell out of WFO to cover the losses.

Anonymous said...

“I would like to see the US go back to some highly limited underground testing of our nukes, "just to be sure". However, while I can give lots of good reasons to do this, I know it's a dead issue.11/10/09 9:25 PM”

Yes, I suspect you’re correct- especially under the current Administration. Perhaps even future Administrations as well.

Nevertheless, it’s not an issue that’s going away anytime soon, imo.

Anonymous said...

"The cash cow just fell over dead."

Are you kidding me? LEP's are extremely lucrative - possibly more so than an RRW program would be. It took a full decade to take the W76-1 from the 6.2 concept studies to FPU. Lots of hydros, lots of simluations, lots of engineering studies, lots of material characterization, lots of recovery of process knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I suspect you’re correct- especially under the current Administration. Perhaps even future Administrations as well.

And any US Administration may not want to risk that other nuclear powers follow suit and revive their nuclear test program.

Anonymous said...

"The cash cow just fell over dead."

Are you kidding me? LEP's are extremely lucrative - possibly more so than an RRW program would be. It took a full decade to take the W76-1 from the 6.2 concept studies to FPU. Lots of hydros, lots of simluations, lots of engineering studies, lots of material characterization, lots of recovery of process knowledge.

11/11/09 8:35 AM

Where's the FPU? The last time I checked, the Navy was indicating they never received the FPU, even though Mikey stated in writing that Glenn Mara and Brett Knapp personally hand-delivered it. They delivered by the their hand alright. These clowns were not even involved until the awards ceremony we gave ourselves. Take my word for it, this LEP was an absolute disaster, lousy planning, poor documentation, far over budget, missed deadlines, compromised requirements, etc. Don't worry though, the guys that lead this mess have been promoted to lead the next LEPs. The only problem is that Knapp ensured there are no weapon engineers left at LANL to participate, except for his great engineers at LLNL and his brother's (Corey Knapp) engineers at Sandia Livermore.

Anonymous said...

"The only problem is that Knapp ensured there are no weapon engineers left at LANL to participate, except for his great engineers at LLNL and his brother's (Corey Knapp) engineers at Sandia Livermore." - 10:42 AM


Brett Knapp (LANL), Roland Knapp (LANL), Corey Knapp (LLNL).... just how many Knapp brothers are there feeding off the weapon complex golden tit in positions of lab executives?

Are they related to the Bechtel family? They must be.

Anonymous said...

Bret Knapp certainly had nothing good to add to the W-76 LEP and destroyed the WE groups in the process. He has been taking credit for what good did come of it since he was in Livermore. Same with Mikey. At least Mara added some value.

Anonymous said...

“Yes, I suspect you’re correct- especially under the current Administration. Perhaps even future Administrations as well”.

“And any US Administration may not want to risk that other nuclear powers follow suit and revive their nuclear test program.”

Yes, that’s a valid point but, to argue my point further, , I say that if nuclear weapons are to remain in our stockpile for decades, redesign & testing (if necessary) that makes nuclear weapons safer & more secure should be not only acceptable but mandatory.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see some informed discussion here on this topic, thanks to prior posters.

On a related note, has anyone else see the quarterly "newsletters" that Roger Logan sends out (and from which the opening quote in this article was taken). Logan's notes are very-nearly incoherent. His rants make even the loopy posts here seem downright profound.

Anonymous said...

"And any US Administration may not want to risk that other nuclear powers follow suit and revive their nuclear test program.
11/11/09 8:55 AM"

I understand the logic but it did not deter North Korea from testing. Who knows what Iran might do.

Is the world any safer today as a result of our test moratorium?

Anonymous said...

"Who knows what Iran might do." - 6:53 am


As soon as they have the proper materials and design for a bomb, they'll test it. I can almost guarantee you this will happen.

Iran will want the world to know that they have perfected the art of building a nuclear bomb, much like North Korea. At that point in time, it will be too late for anyone to stop them from going further with nuclear weapons development. Their possible counter-response could be too dangerous.

Anonymous said...

1. Nuclear testing is the hub of US nuclear weapons design, and US nuclear deterrence, due to the following:

-- Between July 16, 1945 (Trinity) and September 23, 1992 (Divider), US has conducted 1,054 nuclear tests by official count, and nuclear testing was the very heart of the nuclear weapons business.

And the reasons for nuclear testing were, and they still are 24/7/365:

-- Nuclear weapons scientists were trained by nuclear testing.
-- To validate your designs of the nuclear weapons by nuclear testing.
-- Certifications of the nuclear weapons by nuclear testing.
-- To find problems of the nuclear weapons by nuclear testing.
-- The way you identify the fixes to the problems you find of the nuclear weapons is by nuclear testing.
-- The way you verify that the fixes works of the nuclear weapons is by nuclear testing.
-- The way you integrate these two worlds of DOE/NNSA nuclear weapons scientists, producers, and the DoD community is by nuclear testing.
-- The verification within DoD of key nuclear weapons performances is by nuclear testing.
-- Et cetera.

1.1. The white paper, "US Nuclear Deterrence in the 21st Century: Getting it Right," July 2009, outlines a strong support of nuclear testing, nuclear weapons modernization (RRW), new delivery systems, missile defense, and new nuclear weapons systems, with low yield, high precision, low radiation, RNEP, i.e. that fits the threat dynamics, as of today.

1.2 But, if you belive that the RRW, or other future nuclear weapons systems should be approved into the US nuclear stockpile, without nuclear testing, you fool US nuclear deterrence and national security, with the political correctness doctrine, that will risk to denuclearize US by default, if you don´t allow nuclear testing for thyself, if we continue with the nuclear freeze since 1992.

Anonymous said...

10:43 AM, fair enough, I should have put "FPU" in quotes with a smiley. Regardless, it was a cash cow.

Anonymous said...

Both the "America´s Strategic Posture," United States Institute of Peace, 2009, Dr. Johnny Foster (former LLNL director, member of the Strategic Posture Commission), and "Dangerous Trajectories: Obama´s Approach to Arms Control Misreads Russian Nuclear Strategy," November 9, 2009, by Dr. Ariel Cohen, Heritage Foundation, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/RussiaandEurasia/bg2338.cfm, states:

"The US and Russia have also undertaken an informal moratorium on nuclear weapons tests. However, ´the Russian nuclear labs continue an active underground test program at Novaya Zemlya [islands in the Arctic Ocean] which includes release of low levels of nuclear energy.´The US interpretation of the testing moratorium involves a zero-yield standard; therefore, Russia is in violation of the arrangement." (Dr. Ariel Cohen, ibid.)

Anonymous said...

11:20 am: "Iran will want the world to know that they have perfected the art of building a nuclear bomb, much like North Korea. At that point in time, it will be too late for anyone to stop them from going further with nuclear weapons development."

Anyone who thinks Iran will follow the "standard" model of "nuclear weapons development" is insane. As soon as Iran has a (maybe) workable device, it will give it to Hezbollah and Al Quaida. At that point the world becomes immediately unstable and vulnerable to mass catastrophe. Iran doesn't need to "go further" with nuclear weapons. What they produce initially will be bad enough for the world to experience. First to go will be a large portion of lower Manhattan. Followed by most of Israel. No big yields or fancy delivery systems. A few KT, on a transportainer ship into NY harbor. Get ready folks, Obama is asleep.

Anonymous said...

But, if you belive that the RRW, or other future nuclear weapons systems should be approved into the US nuclear stockpile, without nuclear testing, you fool US nuclear deterrence and national security, with the political correctness doctrine, that will risk to denuclearize US by default, if you don´t allow nuclear testing for thyself, if we continue with the nuclear freeze since 1992.

11/12/09 8:29 PM

Nice try but yur lack of skill in English tells me that you have no part in this discussion. Just another foreigner with an agenda we can't trust. Get lost.

Anonymous said...

But, if you belive that the RRW, or other future nuclear weapons systems should be approved into the US nuclear stockpile, without nuclear testing, you fool US nuclear deterrence and national security, with the political correctness doctrine, that will risk to denuclearize US by default, if you don´t allow nuclear testing for thyself, if we continue with the nuclear freeze since 1992.

11/12/09 8:29 PM

Nice try but yur lack of skill in English tells me that you have no part in this discussion. Just another foreigner with an agenda we can't trust. Get lost.

11/12/09 10:01 PM
Is this the guy/gal who's on-line correcting everyone's spelling and grammar who can't spell or write? He/she must be a LANS Manager, he/she fits the profile. Yur (yeah yur) must be from Livermore. Worthless.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone who thinks Iran will follow the "standard" model of "nuclear weapons development" is insane. As soon as Iran has a (maybe) workable device, it will give it to Hezbollah and Al Quaida." - 9:06 pm


Iran, and esp. their crazy President, are eagerly awaiting the return of the Hidden Iman and the start of the Muslim "end of days".

They'll probably want to help speed things along and pass a nuke or two to some very nasty people. The current Administration and the rest of the Western world better wake up before it's too late. Iran with nukes is actually far more dangerous than North Korea.

Anonymous said...

It appears to me Iran like Korea is destined to acquire nuclear weapons. It’s just my assessment after reading & hearing the various discussions of the subject.

From my perspective, Arms Control is only successful temporarily depending on how much America & others like us are willing to pay. Korea, et al want us to give them something for not doing their nasty deed.

I think if Arms Control is to really work we should simply say “do as you prefer for your country & live by the consequences. We’ll not pay a dime to talk you out of it. We, like you can destroy countries-including yours. Want to play games – fine – but we’ll not give you a penny to deter your efforts.

Anonymous said...

7:29 pm: "I think if Arms Control is to really work we should simply say “do as you prefer for your country & live by the consequences."

Arms control and nonproliferation programs have already shown themselves to be abject failures. Why the US continues to pump good money after bad into these programs is a mystery. All we are doing is making ourselves feel good and buying off the bad feelings of our "allies."

Anonymous said...

Proliferation Pays:

Updated November 13, 2009
Obama Urges Cooperation Between U.S., Asia

"In a 40-minute speech, Obama offered incentives for North Korea to abandon the nuclear weapons it is believed to already have and the production program it continues in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions."

Anonymous said...

5:01 am: ""In a 40-minute speech, Obama offered incentives for North Korea to abandon the nuclear weapons it is believed to already have..."

"Believed to already have"???? Hey, bucko, they tested a weapon for all the world to see. Incentives?? Gee, that's never been tried before! Obama is such a naive jerk. Unfortunately, US citizens will have to pay the deadly price for his naivete.

Anonymous said...

Incentives to North Korea...change we can count on.

Anonymous said...

Despite incentives provided by various US Administrations, non-proliferation has failed, except for a few of our allies (e.g., Mexico & Bangladesh) :)

Anonymous said...

5:01 am: ""In a 40-minute speech, Obama offered incentives for North Korea to abandon the nuclear weapons it is believed to already have..."

Hey,give this GenY-er a break. He is multi-tasking and has much more worries than North Korea. No different than his idiot predecessor Bush. At least Obama has a Blackberry and sees the bigger picture of the world. BTW, we are not the center of that universe...

Anonymous said...

3:44 pm: "Hey,give this GenY-er a break. He is multi-tasking and has much more worries than North Korea. No different than his idiot predecessor Bush. At least Obama has a Blackberry..."

People who have blackberries are the idiots. The definition of "multi-tasking" is doing multiple things poorly all at the same time. Obama is a naive, self-centered jerk. Like most "GenY-ers".

Anonymous said...

"And any US Administration may not want to risk that other nuclear powers follow suit and revive their nuclear test program..."

Unless of course, the test implemented a safer design, better failsafes -- less likely to go off on impact, in fire, or by terrorist action.

In that case, by all means, please test, soon.

Anonymous said...

"As soon as they have the proper materials and design for a bomb, they'll test it.."

Yep.

That's what the US did (along with Manhattan project partners, UK and Canada.

Then Russia.

Then France.

Then Israel.

Then India.

Then Pakistan.

Then North Korea.

But there is hope, Argentina, Libya, and Switzerland stopped. Many of the Stans gave them back to Russia, and Japan, Canada and Germany haven't completed the final steps.

The Shias want a bomb and have the means.

Anonymous said...

the reason you test is cause you never get it all right.

mankind has the hubris to be perfect, especially in the excitement of the rut, but not much else.

and the further strangers are from the unpleasant uncertainty of inquiry, the more certain the world seems.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone who thinks Iran will follow the "standard" model of "nuclear weapons development" is insane. As soon as Iran has a (maybe) workable device, it will give it to Hezbollah and Al Quaida."

Can't.

The U sources in Iran are known.
The fission products of the blast would point the finger.

And like many observers who have been to Trinity, they have seen the glass at ground zero.

Just too dangerous.

Rather, they want Shia to be taken seriously. A rather easy thing to do for a nuclear power that dominates the straights of hormuz.

Anonymous said...

"Unless of course, the test implemented a safer design, better failsafes -- less likely to go off on impact, in fire, or by terrorist action.

In that case, by all means, please test, soon.
11/16/09 3:22 AM"

I couldn't agree more.

Most likely will not happen though – unless some PX PT goes postal.

Anonymous said...

"Unless of course, the test implemented a safer design, better failsafes -- less likely to go off on impact, in fire, or by terrorist action."


You mean the military has been telling fibs all these decades about the safety of their nuclear bombs? I'm shocked, do you hear, shocked!!!

One of my favorite "war stories" about STRATCOM and nuke safety comes from the early 1960's. In 1962, DOD chief Robert McNamara found out that the US nukes had no safety features to prevent detonation so he ordered that all US nukes be outfitted with combo safety locks. STRATCOM promply saw to it that the combos were always set to same combo of "0-0-0-0". When this little STRATCOM secret was finally discovered by the Carter Administration in 1978, they immediately ordered all nuke combo locks to be implemented with valid combinations.

It's amazing that we made it through the 60s and 70s without an ugly nuke incident, but, somehow we did, thank God.

Anonymous said...

3:44 am: "Can't. The U sources in Iran are known. The fission products of the blast would point the finger."

You think the crazies that run Iran care about that? You count on that for deterrence?? What a joke.

Anonymous said...

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