THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Maintaining nuclear weapons as they age

October 18, 2008
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JAMES CARROLL'S Oct. 13 op-ed "Preventing the other meltdown" may have left readers with the impression that the United States is working against its own goals of nuclear nonproliferation by fielding a nuclear weapons stockpile. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The United States and Russia have agreed to reduce the size of our operationally deployed strategic nuclear weapons to between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012. In addition to this treaty, President Bush has reduced the size of the overall nuclear weapons stockpile, both reserve and operationally deployed, by nearly 50 percent, with an additional 15 percent set for 2012. Currently, the stockpile is the smallest it has been since the Eisenhower administration.

It is my responsibility to ensure that US nuclear weapons are safe, secure, and reliable. Our weapons are aging well beyond their intended life, and as long as we have them, we have an obligation to maintain them in the safest and most secure manner without conducting an underground test. Studying reliable replacement concepts that increase the safety and security of our stockpile is consistent with reducing the global nuclear danger. When you compare the safety and security features of an automobile made in the 1960s and 1970s with the modern automobiles of today, you will understand what we are trying to do.

THOMAS D'AGOSTINO
Administrator National Nuclear Security Administration
Washington

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