The Perils of Our Aging Nuclear Infrastructure
Fox News: Nuclear-Warhead Upgrade Delayed; Government Labs Forgot How to Make Parts
The Department of Defense and the National Nuclear Security Administration had to wait more than a year to refurbish aging nuclear warheads — partly because they had forgotten how to make a crucial component, a government report states.
Regarding a classified material codenamed "Fogbank," a Government Accountability Office report released this month states that "NNSA had lost knowledge of how to manufacture the material because it had kept few records of the process when the material was made in the 1980s and almost all staff with expertise on production had retired or left the agency.
While the NNSA tried to figure out how to make "Fogbank," scheduled upgrades for U.S. and British Trident SLBMs were put on hold. As a result, the submarine-launched ballistic missiles didn't begin receiving refurbished warhead until last month--almost a year behind schedule.
This report should come as no surprise to anyone who's read this blog in recent months. Our nuclear deterrent forces face two very real--and growing--problems. Not only is our arsenal getting long in the tooth (the last new warheads were delivered in the 1980s), but the infrastructure used to produce nuclear weapons is also dated. Many of our nuclear scientists have retired, and there has been no serious effort to replace them.
Don't get your hopes up. The commander of the nation's nuclear forces, Air Force General Kevin Chilton, has been lobbying (unsuccessfully) for the modernization of our strategic arsenal, highlighting the problems encountered in the Trident upgrade. How has the Obama Administration responded? By proposing even greater cuts in our nuclear stockpile. Some solution.