I follow the issue of plutonium pits, and I have uncovered many surprising nuggets of knowledge and insight. Recently, I read an article by Cheryl Rofer, a chemist retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory, titled “Plutonium pits are a critical obstacle in U.S. nuclear plans.”
It was published in August on foreignpolicy.com.
The article examines the current nuclear weapons modernization effort and how it relies on plutonium pits that are planned to be manufactured in Los Alamos and Savannah River, S.C.
This article informs us that Charles Verdon, acting administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the care and feeding of U.S. nuclear weapons, testified to Congress in June that the plans for manufacturing pits are not going to happen on time, in 2030. Instead, he suggests 2035 is a reasonable target.
In effect, he is moving the goalposts for the delivery of new nuclear weapons. Why is this a problem? Shouldn’t we be glad the delivery will be delayed? I suggest reading “Special report: In modernizing nuclear arsenal, U.S. stokes new arms race,” published Nov. 21, 2017, at reuters.com. It provides an overview of why the production of new plutonium pits is a costly, confusing and peace-destabilizing effort.
I scratch my head over this situation because former President Barrack Obama, who kick-started this nuclear weapons “modernization” effort in 2010, had campaigned in 2009 to work toward a nuclear-free world.
Rofer points out that these weapons may not even be necessary.
I’d like to point out that when these suggested deliveries are supposed to happen, perhaps in 2035, 25 years will have passed since nuclear weapons modernization was announced. During this time period, the costs have ballooned from billions to trillions.
Rofer sums up the incoherent scheduling and misleading logic that makes plutonium pits “necessary” by writing: “The United States cannot make its projected numbers of plutonium pits for nuclear weapons. Not now nor the immediate future. Maybe never.”