PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 1585, NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2008 -- (House of Representatives - May 16, 2007)
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Mr. MATHESON. Madam Speaker, the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense have been proposing the development of a new nuclear warhead under the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, and they are also proposing an ambitious nuclear weapons complex modernization proposal called Complex 2030. And the bill we are going to be voting on today provides funding for those activities.
This is a multibillion dollar agenda, and it's being proposed, in my opinion, in a policy vacuum without any administration statement on the national security environment that the future nuclear deterrent is designed to address.
The lack of any definitive analysis or strategic assessment defining the agenda of future nuclear stockpiles makes it impossible for Congress to weigh the relative merits of investing the billions of taxpayer dollars in new nuclear weapon production activities when the United States is facing the other challenge of having too large a stockpile as a legacy from the Cold War.
Now, the argument for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program started out with a concern that was most frequently expressed, at least was about, the expected lifetimes of the plutonium pits, which are the nuclear core of our existing nuclear weapons. At the time, their projected life span was 45-60 years, and with some of our arsenal having entered the force in the 1970s and 1980s, there would be a cause for concern.
However, just a few months ago, we received a new study performed by the independent JASON panel, a highly respected body often consulted on technical issues. That study, using data compiled by the nuclear weapons labs, shows that all the plutonium pits in our existing weapons have life spans of at least 85 years, and most are good for 100 years or more. The labs themselves agree with the studies. So, it seems there isn't a threat to the reliability of our current nuclear warheads.
So I think we need to be careful. This bill, while funding was reduced somewhat on the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, I think we need to be careful about going down a path that we may not need to go down.
In conclusion, we should be careful not to hurry down a path when the reliable plutonium pit is no longer an issue. Should we be in a hurry to go down a path when the history of the Department of Energy includes a long list of cancelled and over-budget projects that were started before the objective was thoroughly thought through and understood? We should not make that mistake with the Nation's nuclear weapons complex or the decisions to begin building new nuclear weapons.
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