Obama Increases Nuclear Weapons Production and Research

Monday, October 27, 2014
President Obama Receives the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 (AP Photo)

The U.S. nuclear weapons complex is greatly expanding the production of fissile cores to levels not seen since the end of the Cold War three decades ago.


The dramatic increase comes as part of a long-term billion-dollar effort to renew the nuclear arsenal under President Barack Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize largely because of his promise to greatly reduce the nation’s stockpile of these weapons—a promise he has not kept.


Instead, the Department of Energy, which oversees the nuclear weapons laboratories, is planning to produce 80 explosive plutonium cores—the key to every warhead—a year by 2030, according to The Guardian. The U.S. hasn’t needed this level of production since it was facing nuclear Armageddon with the former Soviet Union last century.


Over the next decade, the federal government plans to spend $355 billion modernizing the nuclear arsenal even though there are 15,000 cores in reserve in a Texas facility.


“I’ve never seen the justification articulated for the 50-80 pits per year by 2030,” James Doyle, a former scientist in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Division at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said. Doyle was fired last summer for publishing an article that urged nuclear disarmament, even though the laboratory had approved the article for publication.


The commitment to build more cores stands in stark contrast to Obama’s declaration after taking over the White House in 2009 to cut the stockpile from 5,113 warheads to 1,500 by 2016. Only 309 weapons have been destroyed under his watch. His predecessor, George W. Bush, “cut the nuclear stockpile in half during his eight years in office,” Caty Enders at The Guardian reported.


Plans to expand nuclear weapons production come at a time when the Energy Department is still recovering from a significant accident earlier this year at the nation’s only repository for nuclear weapons waste. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico has been closed since February, when a drum of radioactive waste exploded and exposed 22 workers to radiation.  

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Nuclear Weapons Expansion Pushed in Congress Despite Accidents at Lab (by Caty Enders, The Guardian)

What Happened at WIPP in February 2014 (Department of Energy)

Nuclear Weapons are not Going Away…3,970 Still Deployed (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

GAO Audit Accuses Obama Administration of Lowballing Cost of Maintaining Nuclear Arsenal (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)



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