A new congressionally commissioned report just stuck it to Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). Kyl is the leading advocate in the Senate for testing nuclear weapons and has led the charge against the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) – a treaty that seeks to stop countries from testing nuclear weapons.
Obama has made ratifying the treaty a major priority and there are hopes that the Senate will bring it up next year, yet conservatives led by Kyl are looking to block it. One of Kyl’s main arguments against CTBT is that it would prevent the U.S. from physically exploding nuclear weapons, which he insists we need to do to ensure the effectiveness of the US nuclear arsenal. Writing an oped in the Wall Street Journal last month titled Why We Need To Test Nuclear Weapons, Kyl wrote that “a ban on testing nuclear weapons would jeopardize American national security.” He asserted that “concerns over aging and reliability have only grown” and insisted that “the reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons still cannot be guaranteed without testing them, despite more than a decade of investments in technological advancements.”
Unfortunately for Kyl, a new congressionally-commissioned study (pdf) conducted by a panel of independent scientists has proven him dead wrong. The study concluded that the current programs in place to maintain the effectiveness of the US nuclear arsenal – a program called the Life Extension Program (LEP) – have demonstrated that:
Lifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence, by using approaches similar to those employed in LEPs to date.
In other words, there really is no need to ever test a nuclear weapon – something the US hasn’t done in the last 17 years – or build new replacement warheads. This study effectively undercuts one of the main arguments of CTBT opponents and should strengthen the push to ratify the treaty next year. As Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association concluded: “There is no technical or military reason to resume U.S. nuclear weapons testing, and it is in the U.S. national security interest to prevent nuclear testing by others. A growing list of bipartisan leaders agree that by ratifying the CTBT, the U.S. stands to gain an important constraint on the ability of other states to build new and more deadly nuclear weapons that could pose a threat to American security.”