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New Focus for Weapons Labs

August 06, 2000

"A Climate of Despair Nears Critical Mass at U.S. Labs" (July 30) focused on the national laboratories' upset over the interruption of nuclear research and development due to security breaches and the ensuing investigations. Despair ought be more fundamental. What it should focus on is the taxpayer dollars and intellectual capital that needlessly are being spent to "enhance" a nuclear arsenal that sufficed against the Soviet Union.

We do not need three weapons laboratories to sustain the capability against rogue states, the Russians or Chinese. Rather than perpetuate redundant facilities, a lifting of despair would require either closure or reorientation of two of the labs. The first approach would direct a lot of bright people into commercial ventures. The latter could focus basic research on such critical energy needs as reducing reliance on the gas combustion engine so the U.S. could reduce reliance on Middle East oil. This may not be nuclear science, but it is vital to our national security.

BENNETT RAMBERG

Los Angeles

* I was getting that old "Alice in Wonderland" feeling as I read the article on the poor morale affecting the nation's nuclear weapons labs. The article quotes workers who complain, in light of recent security crackdowns, that "it's hard . . . to be creative." Fewer and fewer of the nation's brightest students are applying to the labs, and many workers are leaving.

Let's all bear in mind the fact that the business of these labs is to invent extremely powerful bombs, intended to vaporize and irradiate children, women and men and render large areas of the Earth uninhabitable. Since the U.S. remains the only country with a track record of actually dropping these bombs, these labs should properly be seen as a huge threat to the world's population, much more so than Saddam Hussein, breakaway Soviet republics, North Korea or other "rogue" elements that our government regularly trots out to justify building more weapons. These bomb-building labs should be shut down.

RANDALL SMITH

Del Mar

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