Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear weapons consortium enthusiastically revving up their business.

Nuclear weapons consortium faces new global threats, JIM CARRIER S The Gazette, Feb 26, 2023

WASHINGTON • Thirty years after the Cold War, the United States is again running in a nuclear arms race.

Officially, no one calls it a race. It is contest between four or five adversaries who could destroy the world, or much of it. But it is shaping up to be a costly, unpredictable, generational competition that will shadow international nuclear geopolitics for decades.

Team USA, which is leading the pack at the moment, gathered in a hotel ballroom in Alexandria, Va., Feb. 14 to hear how it can win. The forum was the 15th Nuclear Deterrence Summit, a gathering of people employed by the “nuclear security enterprise,” the complex of laboratories, factories, corporations and federal branches that make and use nuclear weapons.

The atmosphere was by turns alarming and auspicious as contractors, who operate most of the nuclear enterprise and employ 95% of its 70,000 employees, heard of the growing threats to U.S. security, while contemplating lucrative federal contracts to counter those threats.

“Delivery of mission is becoming paramount while the fiscal environment is evolving from being cost-constrained to being cost-conscious,” reported a new study of the enterprise.

The result of that shift is clear: The first millions of trillions of dollars are flowing toward labs and factories that are designing, and starting to build, new thermonuclear bombs and new fleets of missiles, airplanes and submarines to deliver them.

For the 531 people in attendance the summit at times resembled a pep rally.

In a keynote address, Jill Hruby, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), described the U.S. buildup as a “renaissance.”

Nuclear weapons remain the “cornerstone of national defense,” she said. The current stockpile of 3,750 aging warheads — down from more than 31,000 at the height of the Cold War in the mid-1960s — is being “modernized.” They include five existing warheads for gravity bombs, Minuteman and cruise missiles, and the Trident missile for new Columbia-class submarines, now being built.  One warhead, the W93, is a new design for the Sentinel, a new intercontinental ballistic missile that will replace the Minuteman III missiles in silos in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota.

To make that warhead, the U.S. will again make plutonium “pits,” the core of hydrogen thermonuclear bombs, at a remodeled plant in Los Alamos, N.M., and a new $10 billion plant in Savannah River, Ga.

The pit factories, which replace the infamous and now cleared from the landscape Rocky Flats factory outside Denver, are still being designed, and are the subject of lawsuits by activist groups who say the government sidestepped required full environmental impact statements. If they become operational, Los Alamos will make 30 pits a year starting in 2026 and Savannah River 50 pits a year — a number that is likely to grow, Hruby said.

In the next five years NNSA, a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for applying nuclear science to military weapons, plans to complete five warhead modernizations, build at least six major construction projects and rebuild numerous facilities and capabilities that have “atrophied or disappeared” since the Cold War, she said. Many of the plants and labs are still cleaning up deadly contamination left from the Cold War.

“The American people are hearing more about nuclear issues than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, or the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Hruby said.

At the conclusion of her talk, which began at 8:30 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, moderator DJ Johnson, vice president of Honeywell’s Federal Solutions Business Enterprise, prompted the audience like a cheerleader………………

The audience applauded, a bit halting at first, perhaps because of two sobering messages that accompanied NNSA’s accomplishments. The first involved new international threats that in the last year shattered the foundations of nonproliferation treaties and the delicate balance of power and peace that had prevailed since the 1960s:………………………………………………………………………….

The second sobering message involved the enterprise’s brain deficit. Last year, the complex hired 11,000 people, but lost 7,000……………

Attrition at some plants is as high as 10% a year, nearly a third of the federal overseers are nearing retirement and 40% of the workforce has less than five years’ experience……………….

As the 500 enterprise employee met and contemplated a future full of nuclear weapons, two men stood across the street from the hotel, holding hand-painted signs. “Nuclear Weapons are illegal,” said one. “The World Wants Nuclear Disarmament,” said the other.


February 27, 2023 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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