Still partial to the argument that our deterrent can’t be maintained without designing and producing new nuclear warheads? Still think the authors of the 2002 National Academy of Sciences report and the 2006 JASON pit lifetime study belong in the loony bin? Then you’re probably not going to like the September 2009 JASON study on Life Extension Programs (LEPs), the unclassified version of which was released today. According to the executive summary:
JASON finds no evidence that accumulation of changes incurred from aging and LEPs have increased risk to certification of today’s deployed nuclear warheads
This finding is a direct consequence of the excellent work of the people in the US nuclear weapons complex supported and informed by the tools and methods developed through the Stockpile Stewardship program. Some aging issues have already been resolved. The others that have been identified can be resolved through LEP approaches similar to those employed to date. To maintain certification, military requirements for some stockpile warheads have been modified. The modifications are the result of improved understanding of original weapon performance, not because of aging or other changes. If desired, all but one of the original major performance requirements could also be met through LEP approaches similar to those employed to date.
Lifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence, by using approaches similar to those employed in LEPs to date.
The report discusses details and challenges for each stockpile system.
My advice to the remaining skeptics: It’s one…two…three strikes you’re out at the old…ball…game!