Thursday, February 08, 2007
Bill Says: "No New Nukes!"
In Gov.'s Vision, No New Nukes
By John Arnold, The Journal's Jeff Jones contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
Gov. Bill Richardson is expected this morning to propose a halt to new U.S. nuclear weapons development as part of a strategy to curtail nuclear programs in places like North Korea and Iran.
Richardson is scheduled to speak today at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., where his presidential campaign says he will discuss "his vision for a renewed and strong American foreign policy."
In the speech, Richardson is expected to say that the United States must lead a global effort to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world, according to campaign spokesman Pahl Shipley.
"If we are going to go forward with nuclear weapons development, it makes it very difficult to prevent weapons from being developed in countries like Iran, or prevent further development in North Korea," Shipley said.
Asked whether Richardson wants to halt all further U.S. nuclear weapons production, Shipley replied, "Not unilaterally, but possibly at some point, as part of a larger nonproliferation agreement."
He declined to comment further on details of Richardson's speech, which comes as the U.S. Department of Energy moves forward with a plan to design a new nuclear warhead and modernize the country's nuclear weapons complex.
It is not clear whether Richardson's proposal would affect ongoing work at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
LANL figures prominently in the government's plans. The lab is one of five sites the National Nuclear Security Administration is considering for a new nuclear weapon factory. And LANL scientists competed with scientists from California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to design the new weapon, known as the Reliable Replacement Warhead.
The Energy Department's 2008 budget request includes $89 million for continued development of the warhead, meant to replace weapons in the country's aging Cold War-era arsenal.
Supporters of the new warhead say it would be cheaper, safer and easier to maintain than existing weapons and would ultimately allow the government to reduce the size of the arsenal, currently estimated at 5,500.
Critics, however, say there's no need for new weapons, especially in light of a recent study showing that plutonium bomb cores, known as pits, have a much longer lifetime than previously thought. Developing a new weapon, they say, would only undermine global nonproliferation efforts.
The U.S. stopped testing nuclear weapons in 1992.
The national labs ensure the weapons' reliability using advanced computer simulations and other technology.
Richardson oversaw the multibillion-dollar program when he served as energy secretary in the Clinton administration.