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Missile Defense in Poland: Not a Done Deal

[NOTE: The Federation of American Scientists is delighted to have a Scoville Fellow this year, Ms. Katarzyna (Kasia) Bzdak. Kasia reads the Polish language press and, in particular, follows the ongoing political debate about the US missile defense deployment in Poland. This is her second blog entry on the subject; the first was written before the last Polish elections. The following is her report on the missile defense decision as seen from the Polish side.]

In recent weeks, Polish-US missile defense negotiations have seemingly progressed after a lull following elections in Poland last October. The Polish election changed the style and substance of the debates significantly, as the administration of staunchly pro-American Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski was ousted by the Civic Platform (PO), headed by current Prime Minister Donald Tusk. While Kaczynski supported the deployment of US missile defense components (10 interceptor missiles) on Polish soil without reservation throughout the campaign, Tusk promised to toughen negotiations with the United States, work to gain concessions for continued Polish support of US military operations and foreign policy, and improve relations with Russia, which is viscerally opposed to the deployment. Continue Reading →

Congress Zeroes Out Money for the Reliable Replacement Warhead. Part Funding for Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.

The spending bill just agreed by Congress over the weekend explicitly specifies zero funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead, or RRW, and support for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, but below the administration’s request.

The RRW is a new nuclear weapon that the administration claims is essential to maintaining the integrity of the nuclear arsenal. Most outside experts believe that existing nuclear weapons are more than adequately reliable. Moreover, as I have commented previously in this blog, the Reliable Replacement warhead will almost certainly not be more reliable than current warheads and absolutely certainly will not be meaningfully more reliable. Moreover, it will not replace existing warheads but be deployed alongside them for decades, and it is not even the reliable replacement warhead, because a minimum of four new types were planned.
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Curious Omission in a Congressional Budget Office Report on Plutonium Reprocessing

On 14 November, Peter Orszag, Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about the relative costs of plutonium reprocessing and direct disposal of used nuclear fuel. The oral testimony was quite brief and, unless otherwise noted, my comments are based primarily on the longer and presumably more carefully prepared written testimony. The testimony contained many errors, not all of them trivial, but one gigantic omission discussed at the end of this essay is inexcusable and calls into question the credibility of the entire CBO report.
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The Future of US Missile Defense in Poland

[NOTE: The Federation of American Scientists is delighted to have a Scoville Fellow this year, Ms. Katarzyna (Kasia) Bzdak. Kasia comes to FAS from Columbia University has been following the Polish language press since before the recent national elections there and submitted this report on the political status of the US missile defense deployment.]

Although the recent election in Poland promised to bring change in the style of Polish foreign policy, it was not a definitive referendum on the future of US missile defense components on Polish territory. The outgoing ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), lead by former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, supported the deployment of US interceptors in Poland wholeheartedly during its tenure and during the campaign. The victorious Civic Platform (PO), conversely, failed to clearly articulate a position on the missile defense shield, and seemed to hedge its position on what the US would concede to Poland for its participation in the program. Reports in the Polish press directly following the election suggested that certain concessions from the United States—the transfer of short and medium-missile defense systems, relaxed visa restriction, or economic investments—could induce the Civic Platform’s consent. More recent reports in the Polish press, however, suggest that the PO has tempered its enthusiasm for the project, and negotiations with the United States have been postponed pending discussions with Poland’s neighbors, including Russia. Nonetheless, given the dual-executive system codified in Poland’s constitution, President Lech Kaczynski (former PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s twin, biologically and ideologically, and a leader of PiS) will continue to wield substantial power in Polish foreign policy, so the effect of the PO’s potential change of heart remains dubious.
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Oh, No! Not another “Uranium Dirty Bomb” Story!

According to a recent report from AP, Slovak police arrested people trying to sell highly enriched uranium to undercover agents. According to the police, the material, said to be about a kilogram of uranium, could be used for a dirty bomb. This is a replay of the Padilla case, the so-called “Dirty Bomber,” who was allegedly going to use uranium to make a radiological, or “dirty,” bomb. (The government later dropped reference to the dirty bomb but convicted Padilla on other charges.) I don’t think what the Slovaks have is actually uranium (see below) but, even if it is, dirty bombs are not the problem.
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A Rebuttal to Brown and Deutch Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal

Arguments justifying the continuing existence of the world’s nuclear arsenals are like the tired joke about the joke convention. Many of these arguments have been with us for decades. Some made sense decades ago but do no longer, now that the Cold War is history. Others never made sense even during the Cold War but have, through sheer longevity, taken on a wholly undeserved intellectual authority. And some statements are not really logical arguments at all but merely catch-phrases that have been with us so long we no longer question their truth; indeed, we don’t even reflect on what, if anything, they actually mean. So one can, like at the joke convention, just shout out “Number 37!” and, instead of laughing, the wise ones of the nuclear establishment nod in sage agreement.
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National Academy of Science Report Calls for Putting the Brakes on the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) Program.

This afternoon, a committee of the National Research Council, a research arm of the National Academy of Science, issued a report that is extremely critical of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, or GNEP, an administration plan to restart separating plutonium from used commercial nuclear reactor fuel, something the United States has not done for three decades. I have argued that the goals of GNEP, while scientifically possible and perhaps someday economically justifiable, are decades premature. I am relieved to discover that the committee report comes to essentially the same conclusion.
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The Federation of American Scientists has moved

They are tearing down our building, so we’re moving. Effective Monday, September 24, 2007, the Federation of American Scientists’ new address is:

1725 DeSales St. NW, 6th Floor, Washington, D.C., 20036
(same phone/fax: 202-546-3300/202-675-1010)

No more noisy K Street, around the block to quiet DeSales – a small side street to Connecticut Avenue, one block from Farragut North Metro Station. Get a map here.

In case you’ve encountered difficulties reaching us by phone, the reason is that it took Time Warner three days to figure out how to connect our phones. Apologies!

Through the Indian Looking Glass

In an earlier blog (see below), I discussed how, during the Congressional debate about the US-India nuclear deal, even those members of Congress opposed to the deal bent over backwards to declare their support for closer ties between the world’s two largest democracies. And everyone agreed the deal is generous, opens long-closed doors, and sets minimal and perfectly reasonable expectations of India.

So what are we to make of the brouhaha in New Delhi? According to reports in both the Indian and western press, the US-Indian nuclear deal is being denounced, mostly by the communist and allied parties, as an unacceptable constraint on Indian sovereignty. (I want to thank Leonor Tomero for her extremely helpful India news summary.)
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We Can Hear You Just Fine, It’s the Nuclear Missions that Don’t Make Sense

On Thursday 14 June, Dr. John Harvey, the Director of Policy Planning Staff of the National Nuclear Security Agency, spoke at the New America Foundation to explain the government’s plans for the future of nuclear weapons and the nuclear weapons manufacturing complex. While I disagree with him on virtually every point regarding nuclear weapons, I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Harvey because, after hearing his presentation, at least I know what I am disagreeing with, which is not true for every administration spokesman. I will comment on the description of the complex later; this entry comments on the government’s justifications for nuclear weapons.
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