A renewed arms race has the United States ramping up production of plutonium “pits,” which are bowling ball-sized tips for nuclear weapons, in the $1.5 trillion program to modernize the nuclear arsenal of the U.S.
The use of the heartland of America to stash the nuclear weapons silos is effectively a target for enemies of the United States, including China and Russia, warn international experts.
“Why plant a $100-billion nuclear ‘kick-me’ sign on the country’s breadbasket?” wrote Scientific American editors in the magazine’s December issue.
“The only real way to use nuclear weapons is never,” concluded the editorial. “They should exist only in numbers large enough to deter their use by others, which they already abundantly do, with not one warhead more.”
The United States has not used the 3,708 nuclear weapons (1,938 reserved and 1,770 deployed) that it stockpiles for deterrence. However, they degrade over time, necessitating expensive updates that hopefully will remain unused for decades, reported The Guardian.
“A worrisome new arms race is brewing,” said António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, in September. “This is madness. We must reverse course.”
2018, under former President Donald Trump, the National Security Administration (NNSA) planned to produce 80 pits per year, but the program stalled and was canceled in 2020.
Biden administration is realizing the necessity of upgrading the nuclear arsenal
President Joe Biden’s administration is realizing the necessity of upgrading the country’s nuclear arsenal.
The 2022 Nuclear Posture Review states, “Much of the stockpile has aged without comprehensive refurbishment.”
“At a time of rising nuclear risks, a partial refurbishment strategy no longer serves our interests,” continued the publication.
However, the high costs and nuclear waste that cannot be disposed of with outdated weapons, as well as new ones, create issues for the safety of the public.
“Many of us thought the problem of nuclear weapons was over at the end of the Cold War,” said Frank von Hippel, Princeton University professor, to The Guardian. “I remember a strategic air command officer saying we were on a glide path. But, we’re not on a glide path anymore.”
“Nuclear war is a probability thing, and it’s been 80 years, a lifetime since we had one to deal with one. So, people have assumed the probability was close to zero, which it isn’t, unfortunately.”
The Department of Defense states nuclear deterrence is the #1 priority mission. The nuclear deterrent underwrites all U.S. military operations around the globe and is the foundation and backstop of our national defense and our allies.