Our H-Bomb Meth Habit Running to Trillion$

Hypocrisy is the respect that vice pays to virtue. -- Anonymous
In 2008, the Obama Administration made eye-popping headlines by announcing a 10-year, $14-to-80 billion nuclear weapons development program.
By 2010, the rebuild projects had grown to what the Congressional Budget Office estimated was a $355 billion, decade-long cash cow that amounts to $1 trillion over 30 years. The colossal expense has already been adopted in broad terms by the House and Senate in the Defense Authorization Act.
 The question is: Since when does the country need new nuclear warheads?
 One of three new production sites -- a $700 million non-nuclear parts plant run by Honeywell in Kansas City, Missouri -- just opened. The other factories include a uranium fabrication complex at the Y-12 site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and plutonium processing works in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The two latter programs have chalked up so many enormous cost increases that even Obama’s White House has blinked.
 Plans for the Los Alamos plutonium facility -- originally expected to cost $660 million -- expanded into a $5.8 billon golden goose. The project was suspended in 2012, and engineers went back to the drawing boards. At Oak Ridge, the uranium processing behemoth rocketed from a $6.5 billion proposal to a $19 billion war contractor’s dream. The White House halted the scheme this year and the lab is reworking plans for its multi-billion-dollar nuclear meth habit.
 New US H-bomb production is promoted under soothing guises like “revitalization”, “modernization”, “refurbishment” and “improvements”. The euphemisms are used by corporate weapons contractors and their congressional lapdogs who speak of the “40-year-old submarine warhead” known as the W-76, or who feign concern over “fires, explosions and workplace injuries” that are “deplorable” because the equipment “breaks down on a daily basis” -- according to the New York Times, Sept. 22.
 The bomb builders always neglect to mention that 15,000 plutonium warheads are currently maintained at Pantex, Texas and are “good” for 50 years, according to The Guardian, Sept. 29. The proposed trillion dollar bomb-building would produce up to 80 new warheads every year by 2030. President Obama may be powerless and a con artist or both, but this is hardly the “world without nuclear weapons” that he promised to pursue in 2009.
 Independent observers and critical think tanks have argued for decades that the US arsenal can be reduced and made less alarming: a) by not replacing retired warheads; b) by taking deployed warheads (including the 450 on land-based missiles) off hair-trigger alert status; and c) by separating warheads from missiles and bombs. This separation or limited stand down would lengthen warning-to-launch times, thus easing international tensions and ending the terrifying likelihood of accidental or unauthorized launches.
 Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group, which bird dogs the Cold War laboratory, says the reason new H-bomb production is being considered at all is simply private profit making. For-profit corporations now run all the government’s nuclear weapons labs, ever since they were privatized in 2006. Mello says, “The nuclear weapons labs are sized for the Cold War, and they need a Cold War to keep that size.”
 The military currently deploys almost 5,000 nuclear warheads -- on submarines, land-based missiles, and heavy bombers. This, even though Pentagon Chief Chuck Hagel signed a report (before he was appointed to his current job) that found that only 900 nuclear warheads were “necessary.” Hagel’s report recommended abolishing 3,500 warheads now in ready reserve, saying, the US artificially sustains nuclear [warhead] stockpiles that are much larger than required for deterrence today.
 Further, in a report leaked last year, the Navy itself questioned the need of producing any new warheads. (The Navy controls at least 1,152 warheads spread across its 14 Trident submarines.) And James Doyle, a 17-year veteran scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (who was fired this past July 8 for independently publishing a scholarly article in defense of nuclear disarmament), told The Guardian this week, “I’ve never seen the justification articulated for the 50-to-80- pits per year by 2030.”
 Jay Coghlan, of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, was shocked by the President’s double talk, telling the Guardian, “Obama’s proposed 2015 budget is the highest ever for nuclear weapons research and production. And at the same time, they’re cutting non-proliferation budgets to pay for it.”

John LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin.