Good news for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the – now bleak – possibility of warhead replacement. A recent report on Life Extension Programs (LEPs) from the JASON panel, an independent group of scientists that advises the federal government, concludes that stockpile stewardship is working.
According to the executive summary of the report:
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.
This means that the current U.S. nuclear stockpile could last indefinitely under current maintenance programs, a major blow to those on the far right who have argued against the CTBT and for warhead replacement programs.