Union of Concerned Scientists: Your New Mexico senator needs to stop a dangerous new nuclear weapon
Paul Stokes, former member of the 18-Nation Disarmament Conference
The Union of Concerned Scientists has asked its members to urge their senators to stop the development of a low-yield nuclear warhead that would be deployed on Sea-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) in our submarine fleet.
The W76-2 is a low-yield version of the W76 nuclear warhead carried on SLBMs. It has been reported in the press as being considered more usable by the Trump administration because of its low yield – 6.5 kilotons.
I am disappointed that NNSA and the nuclear weapons labs (Sandia and probably Los Alamos) agreed to undertake this project. There was a time when the establishment of the nuclear weapons program in the AEC (now DOE/NNSA) and not in the Department of Defense was considered to provide some push-back on the zeal of the Defense Department to develop weapons that would increase its war-fighting capability when that capability also increased the likelihood of nuclear war. That idealism may be totally absent today.
Many decades ago, when I was a young member of the US delegation to what was then known as the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Conference in Geneva, the Conference had become aware of the development of what were then called mini-nukes, and were worried that they would be considered more usable because of their low yields, thereby lowering the threshold for nuclear war. I wrote a short speech for the US Ambassador, assuring the Conference that US policy on the use of nuclear weapons was the same for any yield of the weapons. (I don’t remember what levels of authority I had to go through to get approval for that position.)
Today, US policy is apparently different, at least as reported in the media. Now, it seems that President Trump does, indeed, want these low yield weapons because they are more usable.
The firebreak representing the policy difference regarding the use of conventional and nuclear weapons has, thankfully, held since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It would be tragic if the firebreak were weakened.
Last week, The House Armed Services Committee voted to delete language from the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act for the development of the W-76-2, the low-yield weapon for deployment on SLBMs. But it may come up again in the Senate or the Senate/House Conference Committee.Senator Heinrich sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which could stop the development of this weapon. Senator Udall sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee which might have jurisdiction. Let them know that you are opposed to the development of the W76-2, a low-yield nuclear weapon, because it would increase the likelihood of nuclear war.