Month: December 2012

Who should manage the nuclear weapons complex?

Who should manage the nuclear weapons complex?

As the lame-duck Congress wraps up business, a serious debate is unfolding over the future of the US nuclear weapons complex. For the first time since the end of World War II, the long-held policy that places control of the design and production of nuclear weapons in civilian hands may be up for grabs. At issue: What is to be done with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), now located inside the US Department of Energy?

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Subcritical experiments

Earlier this month, the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that it had conducted a subcritical experiment with plutonium in an underground tunnel 300 meters below the Nevada National Security Site (formerly, the Nevada Test Site), about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Named Pollux, it was the 27th such experiment that the United States has conducted since it ended test nuclear explosions in 1992.

Underestimated or overestimated? North Korea’s satellite launch in perspective

Underestimated or overestimated? North Korea’s satellite launch in perspective

Despite supposed technical problems with its rocket, North Korea surprised the world this week by launching its Unha-3 rocket and successfully placing a satellite into orbit.The launch — using the same rocket, satellite, and trajectory — was a repeat of last April's attempt, which failed. Overall, it was North Korea's fifth attempt to launch a satellite, and its first success.

Iron Dome: Behind the hoopla, a familiar story of missile-defense hype

Iron Dome: Behind the hoopla, a familiar story of missile-defense hype

Since an Israeli-Hamas ceasefire was announced in November, Israel’s Iron Dome system has been hailed as proof that missile defense has emerged from the realm of the theoretical and assumed the status of a real battlefield weapon. It’s also been called a game changer for the Israel-Palestine conflict. The verdict is in, crowed Max Boot, a defense expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York: “Missile defense works.”

Uncooperative threat reduction

Uncooperative threat reduction

For more than two decades, the United States and Russia have worked together to secure Soviet stockpiles of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and materials, but now the future of this unprecedented partnership, the Cooperative Threat Reduction agreement, is in jeopardy. After several months of negotiations, Russian officials have publicly stated that they will not renew the current agreement, which forms the legal basis for cooperation between the two countries and is set to expire in July 2013.