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Dismantling fewer, not more, nukes

June 11, 2007

Re "U.S. is speeding up nuclear disarmament," June 7

This article would have benefited from scratching a little below the surface. The reported feat that the Department of Energy has met its goal "four months early" of accelerating nuclear warhead dismantlement at the Pantex plant by more than 50% stems from a fact the article overlooks: that dismantlement of nuclear weapons is at an all-time low in U.S. history.

The 50% increase probably amounts to a total of about 200 warheads, a fraction of the average of nearly 1,200 warheads that were dismantled each year during the 1990s. Although the administration highlights the 50% increase in 2007 over 2006, the rate will actually decrease again by 25% in the following years, the Department of Energy has stated.

The reason is simple: The administration's focus is not on disarmament but on extending the life of the remaining nuclear weapons. Because life-extension work at Pantex has priority over dismantlement in the next decade and a half, dismantling the backlog of retired warheads will not be completed until the early 2020s.

It took the Clinton administration 10 years to dismantle more than 11,000 warheads in the 1990s, but it will take more than 15 years to dismantle less than half that number under the Bush administration's plan. In fact, this administration has dismantled the smallest number of nuclear weapons of any U.S. administration since 1957, a rate that is expected to continue through 2023 under current plans.

HANS M. KRISTENSEN

Director, Nuclear

Information Project

Federation of American

Scientists

Washington

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