US Plan For New Nuclear Arsenal
Secret Talks May Lead to Breaking Treaties
By Julian Borger in Washington
The Guardian UK
Wednesday 19 February 2003
The Bush administration is planning a secret meeting in August to
discuss the construction of a new generation of nuclear weapons,
including "mini-nukes", "bunker-busters" and neutron bombs designed to
destroy chemical or
biological agents, according to a leaked Pentagon document.
The meeting of senior military officials and US nuclear scientists at
the Omaha headquarters of the US Strategic Command would also decide
whether to restart nuclear testing and how to convince the American
public that the new
weapons are necessary.
The leaked preparations for the meeting are the clearest sign yet
that the administration is determined to overhaul its nuclear arsenal so
that it could be used as part of the new "Bush doctrine" of pre-emption,
to strike the stockpiles of
chemical and biological weapons of rogue states.
Greg Mello, the head of the Los Alamos Study Group, a nuclear
watchdog organisation that obtained the Pentagon documents, said the
meeting would also prepare the ground for a US breakaway from global
arms control treaties, and the moratorium on conducting nuclear tests.
"It is impossible to overstate the challenge these plans pose to the
comprehensive test ban treaty, the existing nuclear test moratorium, and
US compliance with article six of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty,"
Mr Mello said.
The documents leaked to Mr Mello are the minutes of a meeting in the
Pentagon on January 10 this year called by Dale Klein, the assistant to
the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to prepare the secret
conference, planned for "the week of August 4 2003".
The National Nuclear Security Administration, which is responsible
for designing, building and maintaining nuclear weapons, yesterday
confirmed the authenticity of the document. But Anson Franklin, the NNSA
head of governmental affairs, said: "We have no request from the defence
department for any new nuclear weapon, and we
have no plans for nuclear testing.
"The fact is that this paper is talking about what-if scenarios and
very long range planning," Mr Franklin told the Guardian.
However, non-proliferation groups say the Omaha meeting will bring a
new US nuclear arsenal out of the realm of the theoretical and far
closer to reality, in the shape of new bombs and a new readiness to use
"To me it indicates there are plans proceeding and well under way ...
to resume the development, testing and production of new nuclear
weapons. It's very serious," said Stephen Schwartz, the publisher of the
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, who added that it opened the US to
charges of hypocrisy when it is demanding the disarmament of Iraq and
"How can we possibly go to the international community or to these
countries and say 'How dare you develop these weapons', when it's
exactly what we're doing?" Mr Schwartz said.
The starting point for the January discussion was Mr Rumsfeld's
nuclear posture review (NPR), a policy paper published last year that
identified Russia, China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya as
potential targets for US nuclear weapons.
According to the Pentagon minutes, the August meeting in Strategic
Command's bunker headquarters would discuss how to make weapons to match
the new policy. A "future arsenal panel" would consider: "What are the
characteristics and advanced concepts we will need in the post-NPR
The panel would also contemplate the "requirements for low-yield
weapons, EPWs [earth-penetrating weapons], enhanced radiation weapons,
agent defeat weapons".
This is the menu of weapons being actively considered by the
Pentagon. Low-yield means tactical warheads of less than a kiloton,
"mini-nukes", which advocates of the new arsenal say represent a far
more effective deterrent than the
existing huge weapons, because they are more "usable".
Earth-penetrating weapons are "bunker-busters", which would break
through the surface of the earth before detonating. US weapons
scientists believe they could be used as "agent defeat weapons" used to
destroy chemical or biological weapons stored underground. The designers
are also looking at low-yield neutron bombs or "enhanced radiation
weapons", which could destroy chemical or biological weapons in surface
According to the leaked document, the "future arsenal panel" in Omaha
would also ask the pivotal question: "What forms of testing will these
new designs require?"
The Bush administration has been working to reduce the amount of
warning the test sites in the western US desert would need to be
reactivated after 10 years lying dormant.
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