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Published:April 26th, 2007 02:54 EST
NNSA Responds to AAAS Study on Reliable Replacement Warhead

NNSA Responds to AAAS Study on Reliable Replacement Warhead

By SOP newswire

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) acting head Thomas D’Agostino today commended an independent study released today on the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. Recommendations from the report by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) are consistent with NNSA’s ongoing plans to move forward with RRW, and its related efforts to transform and modernize the infrastructure of the nuclear weapons complex.

The AAAS study identified risks in sustaining the current, aging nuclear weapons stockpile by either extending the life of the legacy warheads or replacing them with RRWs. It concluded that “pursuing the initial phases of this [RRW] path could be a prudent hedge against the uncertainties of an all-legacy future and an opportunity that might result in the creation of a better long-term posture.”

The study also pointed out that RRW “could lead to a final design that is certifiable without a nuclear test.”

“The AAAS study provides a valuable contribution to the discussion on RRW. The RRW program will allow us to ensure the long-term reliability of today’s aging stockpile,” said D’Agostino. “RRW will also give us the chance to dramatically improve the security and safety of the weapons themselves. In this age of terrorism and uncertainty, America should have the smallest, most secure and most reliable stockpile possible – RRW will give us that opportunity.”

The report also discusses the importance of moving forward with NNSA’s efforts to modernize and transform the aging nuclear weapons complex, known as Complex 2030.

“Several of the AAAS report’s recommendations reaffirm our ongoing plans to study the RRW concept and move forward with our modernization and transformation efforts, which will lead to smaller, more efficient and more secure nuclear weapons facilities, said D’Agostino.

Specifically, the report recommends changes at the Pantex Plant “to accommodate the weapons throughput necessary for a reasonable range of stockpile options and development of a plutonium strategy that can produce pits in reasonable quantities on a timely basis.” NNSA is already implementing both of these recommendations with demonstrated progress.

NNSA’s “Pantex Throughput Improvement Plan” started last year and has substantially increased its capacity for warhead assembly and disassembly operations. This plan will lead to a 50 percent increase this year in the dismantlement of Cold War-era nuclear warheads. Moreover, this year NNSA will deliver the first production-certified plutonium pit to the stockpile in nearly two decades

D’Agostino said that NNSA officials will review the report’s recommendations, and also noted that the report validates NNSA’s current plan to develop a detailed cost and schedule plan for RRW. “The next step, before we go any further and seek approval from Congress to begin engineering development, is to answer questions about RRW’s cost and timeline,” he said.

Regarding the report’s policy recommendations, the administration will be looking closely at them in connection with the President’s desire for the smallest nuclear weapons stockpile consistent with our nation’s security.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the United States and abroad. Visit www.nnsa.doe.gov for more information.

Contact:
NNSA Public Affairs   (202) 586-7371