Posts from February, 2006

Navy Personnel Ordered Not To Discuss Public Nuclear Policy

The US Chief of Naval Operations has publicly issued an Instruction that orders US Navy personnel not to tell anyone that US warships do not carry nuclear weapons. Yet the same Instruction states that it is US policy not to deploy nuclear weapons on the ships.

The new Instruction, “Release of Information on Nuclear Weapons and on Nuclear Capabilities of U.S. Forces,” was published on February 6 and updates a previous version from 1993. Both versions state that nuclear weapons were offloaded from the ships in 1992.

The reason for updating the Instruction is to incorporate four guided missile submarines (SSGNs) that are being converted from ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The SSBNs carry nuclear weapons, but the SSGNs will carry conventional weapons, the publicly available Instruction helpfully informs (!).

Background and analysis here.

German Parliament To Debate US Nuclear Withdrawal

A resolution introduced in the German Parliament last week calls for the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany. The resolution, which was submitted by nine parliamentarians from the newly formed party Die Linken, also calls for the German Air Force to end its controversial NATO mission to deliver U.S. nuclear bombs in times of war.

The U.S. Air Force currently has some 440 nuclear bombs in Europe deployed at eight bases in six NATO countries. About 76 percent of Germans favor a withdrawal, but NATO insists the weapons provide a crucial bond between Europe and the United States.

NATO’s defense ministers are set to meet in Taormina, Italy, on February 9-10 for an informal meeting. Nuclear weapons are not on the agenda.

Biosecurity legislation for 2006

Here I detail the two major pieces of biosecurity legislation up for consideration by Congress this year, S.1873, The Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005 and S.1880, The National Biodefense and Pandemic Preparedness Act of 2005. They both address similar issues relating to the nation’s ability to develop countermeasures against emerging public health threats including bioterrorism agents and avian influenza. However, there are fairly significant differences between them. My understanding is that the Republicans and Democrats have not gotten together to discuss these two bills yet. Please feel free to get in touch with me directly if you have any questions. mstebbins@fas.org
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Russia and the Iran Nuclear Program

Russia, along with twenty-seven of thiry-five member nations on the IAEA board, voted on Saturday to refer Iran to the Security Council due to concerns that its leaders want to develop nuclear weapons. Russia has long maintained an enigmatic relationship with Iran, sponsoring the construction of a civilian nuclear power plant at Bushehr, and offering to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian territory. Russia seems to be siding with the United States and Europe on preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, although Vice Premier and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has stated that the Bushehr project and Iranian nuclear weapons development are unrelated: http://www.tass.ru/eng/level2.html?NewsID=2952118&PageNum=0
A diplomatic solution to this problem should be pursued foremost; Russia may have a large and difficult role to play in this tricky endeavor.

Pentagon Cancels Controversial Nuclear Doctrine Documents

The Pentagon has formally cancelled a controversial revision of its Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations after the document was exposed last year in an article in Arms Control Today and described in the Washington Post.

The revised draft doctrine included for the first time descriptions of preemptive use of U.S. nuclear weapons, which prompted the Senate Armed Services Committee to ask the Pentagon for a briefing, and 16 lawmakers to protest to President Bush.

The decision to cancel Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, and with it three other related nuclear documents, was confirmed today by the Pentagon. The cancellation of the documents does not change U.S. nuclear policy which continues to include options for nuclear preemption.

See background briefing and analysis and copies of the doctrine documents.

CRS on Reconfiguration of the Nuclear Weapons Complex

Cross-posted from Secrecy News: A new report from the Congressional Research Service takes a detailed look at proposals to significantly restructure the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

The proposals, offered by a Department of Energy Task Force, include closure and consolidation of various nuclear facilities and production of a newly designed Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW).

“Some express concern that Task Force recommendations may be at odds with U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy,” insofar as they envision the indefinite preservation of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile, the CRS report observes.

See “Nuclear Weapons Complex Reconfiguration: Analysis of an Energy Department Task Force Report,” February 1, 2006.

Global Nuclear Energy Partnership

The President did not mention the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership in the State of the Union Address. He did give a half sentence to nuclear power, along with windmills, but no specifics. The Department of Energy budget will be rolled out on Monday, around 2:00 p.m. It might appear there. Will keep you posted if there are details to report.