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Key Senate Vote on the Reliable Replacement Warhead Coming Up

On 6 June, the House Appropriations Committee eliminated funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead [RRW] requested by the administration. [In an earlier blog entry, I discuss why the Reliable Replacement Warhead is a misnomer.] The report language is quite damning. I believe that the nuclear policy of the United States since the end of the Cold War has been, to put it charitably, absent-minded, programs have been sustained more by momentum than careful analysis. The House report recognizes that, almost two decades after the end of the Cold War, the United States does not have a plausible nuclear strategy and essentially puts a freeze on long-term spending until we develop one.
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President Signs US-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement

On Monday, President Bush signed into law the Henry J. Hyde United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act of 2006. The Federation of American Scientists strongly supports better ties—economic, cultural, technical, even security ties—with India. Specifically with energy production, there are many ways in which U.S. know-how could help India and the technology flow is not all one way, for example, India is, along with the United States, one of the world’s leaders in wind energy. But India made tacit acceptance of their nuclear weapons program the price of better relations. The Federation strongly opposed the nuclear deal because of the proliferation implications. We organized petitions to Congress. Thirty seven Nobel Prize winners from our Board of Sponsors signed a letter to the Congressional leadership opposing the agreement. We had a press conference where Michael Krepon and Len Weiss argued against the agreement and we released the Nobelist letter. In the end, however, the president and the Congress seem to have accepted the price set by India and here we are.
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Entrenched Views of the Defense Science Board

Hans Kristensen has just posted an excellent analysis of the new Defense Science Board (DSB) report Nuclear Capabilities. The report presents what is known to the military as a “target rich environment” so we might make a few more comments over the next couple of days.

I want to focus here on the section, starting on p. 2, entitled “Some Entrenched Views on Nuclear Capabilities.” I will leave to the reader the analysis of the word “entrenched.” This section of the DSB report sets up some straw men and then knocks them down. But the straw is a bit tougher than they think.
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Jason Releases Summary of Long-awaited Plutonium Aging Report

A key uncertainty affecting our confidence in the long-term reliability of nuclear weapons is the stability of the plutonium in the core, or “pit.” The pit is a sphere or shell of plutonium that is compressed by conventional explosives to create the supercritical mass required to sustain a nuclear chain reaction. In hydrogen bombs, this first part is called the primary. The energy of the primary is used to compress the fusion part of a hydrogen bomb or secondary. For large bombs, the great majority of the energy comes from the secondary, but if the primary produces too little energy, the secondary will fail completely.
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Is the Department of Homeland Security interested in serving the public or saving face?

We recently received a letter from the Department of Homeland Security asking us to change the graphics on our website because they believe we have infringed on their “intellectual property” because we used logos and graphics that were similar to those used on their site, which was, of course, part of the point. Today we announce that we have altered the graphics so that we can focus on the fact that the Department of Homeland Security’s emergency preparedness website is inadequate and sometimes misleading and that they should fix it and we have explained how and why.
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Plutonium Reprocessing: two steps forward, one step back.

The administration has submitted a $250M request to Congress to start work on a plutonium recycling program as part of its Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, or GNEP, proposal. Trying to figure out exactly what the proposal is has been like trying to nail Jell-o to the wall. Whatever criticism is raised, DOE responds that, no, it isn’t quite that. So I was getting a good picture of what GNEP was not but could not figure out what it was.
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Perspective on the Debate on the US-India Nuclear Deal.

Last week the House of Representatives debated and passed the United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act of 2006. I think that most of the debate missed what I consider the most important points.

First of all, I should emphasize that every Congressman, even those most strongly opposed to the deal, introduced their remarks with praise for India. I have not yet come across any American commentator anywhere who does not feel that it is natural and desirable for the United States and India to have closer ties. I think that one of the great tragedies of the Cold War was that the United States and India seemed early on to have got their wires crossed because of misjudgments on both sides. The one issue on which everyone seems to agree is that India and the United States should be friends. Some of the Congressional comments in fact went a bit overboard. Congressman Davis of Illinois said, “India is a flourishing democracy that seeks to develop its nuclear program for purely peaceful reasons,” which is, of course, patently false—the purely peaceful part—but never mind, it fit the tone of the debate.
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House Overwhelmingly Approves Path to Nuclear Cooperation with India.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed overwhelming, 359 to 68, a bill that sets out procedures for nuclear trade with India (the link includes the House floor debate and the text of the bill, about a third of way down). It is an entirely different bill than that proposed by the White House. The White House’s suggested bill was an insult to Congress, essentially asking Congress to cede any review rights and to approve details of the nuclear deal that haven’t even been decided yet. Whatever members of Congress thought about the India-US nuclear deal, they were not going to just leave the rubber stamp on the White House steps. The House bill, H.R. 5682, clearly rebukes the President on his request for pre-approval. The ultimate details of any agreement will have to go back to Congress for approval by joint resolution.
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The Early FAS and the FBI

In preparation for the 60th anniversary of the Federation of American Scientists last autumn, I read several books on our early days. One of the best was Jessica Wang’s American Science in the Age of Anxiety. I got in contact with Professor Wang at UCLA (she is about to move to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver) and we discussed her sources. Seems that the FBI has quite a stack of folders from the early days of FAS that Professor Wang and others have collected through Freedom of Information Act requests. Rather than pack up her FAS files and haul them to Vancouver, Professor Wang sent them to the Federation.

The files are not at all what I expected. We have to remember that much of the early life of FAS overlapped with the Red scare and the McCarthy hearings. This was a time when the Consumers’ Union was labeled a communist organization, presumably because questioning the advertising claims of big corporations was considered subversive.
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Legislative Update on Indian-US Nuclear Deal

There have been some legislative developments on the India-US nuclear deal. The results are not what I would like to have seen but I suppose it could have been worse. On 27 June, the House International Relations Committee approved their version of the bill 37 to 5. On 29 June the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 16 to 2 in favor of their bill. Both bills give the administration and the Indians essentially everything they asked for except preapproval.
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