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Congressional Testimony

Testimony on the Nuclear Posture Review Before the House Armed Services Committee
Apr 14, 2010
Administrator Thomas D'Agostino

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. I am pleased to appear before you today with the panel of General Chilton, the Honorable Ellen Tauscher, and Dr. Miller, to discuss the key elements included in the Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, released last week.

My remarks will focus on the Department of Energy’s equities included in the NPR.

The NNSA is actively engaged in direct support of the first NPR objective, “preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.” The most important steps we can take to keep terrorists from developing and using an improvised nuclear device or a radiological “dirty bomb” is to prevent them from acquiring nuclear material. This job is not new to the NNSA. We have led the effort for several years, and now we are accelerating and broadening the scope of these efforts. Current NNSA programs include:

• Securing nuclear materials, technology, and expertise, including the most vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide within four years;

• Disposing of excess U.S. and international fissile materials;

• Implementing a cradle-to-grave framework to promote civil nuclear power and nonproliferation objectives;

• Strengthening international safeguards system by developing new safeguards technologies, expertise, policies, concepts, and partnerships;

• Developing an active nuclear and radiological security dialog and cooperation with key domestic and international partners; and,

• Developing highly sensitive and wide-area nuclear materials detection technology.

NNSA programs are also supporting the President’s arms control and nonproliferation agenda by using the technical capabilities within the Nuclear Security Enterprise to demonstrate the technical ability to support the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, and any follow-on arms control requirements.

The Department of Energy and NNSA are also actively engaged in direct support of the fifth NPR objective, “sustaining a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal.”

For more than 65 years, our program has been able to do just that -- assure the Nation that the nuclear weapons stockpile is safe, secure, and effective in meeting the nuclear deterrent needs of the United States. The need to maintain the weapons stockpile without nuclear testing has been a national policy for nearly 20 years. And, we will continue to do that in the future, consistent with the key principles included in the NPR. To that end, the United States:

• Will not conduct underground nuclear testing;

• Will not develop new nuclear warheads; and,

• Will study options for ensuring the safety, security, and effectiveness of nuclear warheads on a case-by-case basis.

Applying these principles, the NNSA will:

• Fully fund the ongoing Life Extension Program for the W76 submarine-based warhead for completion in 2017, and the full scope LEP study and follow-on activities for the B61 bomb to ensure first production begins in 2017; and,

• Participate with the Nuclear Weapons Council on a study of LEP options for the W78 ICBM warhead.

In any decision to proceed with warhead LEPs, we will give strong preference to options for refurbishment or reuse of the nuclear components. The NPR makes it clear that replacement of nuclear components would be undertaken only if critical Stockpile Management Program goals could not otherwise be met, and then only if specifically authorized by the President and approved by Congress.

The NPR also concluded that the NNSA needed to recapitalize the aging infrastructure and to renew our human capital -- the critical cadre of scientific, technical, and engineering experts who carry out our stockpile management work and support our other missions.

To that end, the NNSA will:

• Strengthen the science, technology, and engineering base, including the supporting computational and experimental capabilities, needed for conducting weapon system LEPs, weapons surety, certification without nuclear testing, and providing annual stockpile weapons surveillance.

• NNSA will also fund two key facility projects: the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory to replace the existing 50-year old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research facility by 2021; and a new Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee to come on line for production operations by 2021.

Responsible stockpile management requires not only the supporting infrastructure, but also a highly capable workforce with the specialized skills needed to sustain the nuclear deterrent and to support the President’s nuclear security agenda.

The NPR noted the importance of recruiting and retaining the “human capital” needed in NNSA for the nuclear security mission. In order to succeed in our mission, we need to be able to recruit and retain the next generation of nuclear security professionals – because our highly specialized work force is our greatest asset.

The President has now clearly outlined the importance of nuclear issues for our national security, and the importance of keeping the U.S. nuclear deterrent safe, secure, and effective for the foreseeable future. The Administration’s commitment to a clear and long-term plan for managing the stockpile, and its comprehensive nuclear security agenda, ensures the scientists and engineers of tomorrow will have the opportunity to engage in challenging research and development activities.

I want to share with the Committee a statement from our National Laboratory Directors that provides their views on the NPR. The Directors universally state that:

“We believe that the approach outlined in the NPR, which excludes further nuclear testing and includes the consideration of the full range of life extension options …. provides the necessary technical flexibility to manage the nuclear stockpile into the future with an acceptable level of risk. We are reassured that a key component of the NPR is the recognition of the importance of supporting ‘a modern physical infrastructure -comprised of the national security laboratories and a complex of supporting facilities--and a highly capable workforce…..’”

Mr. Chairman, I would like to provide that statement for the record so the unanimity of support for the NPR is fully understood and clear.

This Nuclear Posture Review is an important step toward ending Cold War thinking and adopting a 21st century approach to nuclear weapons and a broader array of nuclear security issues. This path forward will require a long-term commitment from the Congress to provide the support and the resources necessary to sustain our nuclear deterrent and enable future arms reductions.

As the Committee directed in the 2010 language, we have formulated and will soon submit to the Congress a Stockpile Management Plan that will describe how the NNSA will implement the policy, strategy, and force structure included in the NPR.

With the Committee’s endorsement, the Nuclear Security Enterprise will have the science, technology, and engineering expertise to carry out the full range of nuclear security missions – not just managing the stockpile, but using the capabilities to address a broader spectrum of national security efforts.

Secretary Chu recently stated that “the Department of Energy must discover and deliver the solutions to advance our national priorities.” The NNSA and the Nuclear Security Enterprise are poised to provide those solutions.

I would be pleased to respond to your questions.