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Energy And Water Development Appropriations Act, 2006

Location: Washington, DC




The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To prohibit the use of funds for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator and utilize the amount of funds otherwise available to reduce the National debt)


Mr. KENNEDY. First, I commend my friend and colleague, Senator Feinstein, for her attention to this issue. She has long been an advocate for sensible and responsible nuclear arms policy. Again, this evening, she is leading the way in the Senate. All of us are grateful for her leadership. I welcome the opportunity to join with her in offering this amendment.

It is intended to reverse a reckless proposal by the Bush administration to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons.

We do not ``provide for the common defense,'' as called for in our Constitution, by launching a new nuclear arms race and making the world more dangerous, but that is precisely what the administration plans to do.

President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld want to develop a new tactical nuclear weapon called the robust nuclear earth penetrator, and their hope is that these bunker busters can crash deep into the Earth and destroy bunkers and weapons caches. They hold the dangerous and misguided belief that our Nation's interests and values are served by developing what they consider a more easily usable nuclear bomb.

I think most Americans believe that is wrong. Our challenge in addressing nuclear nonproliferation issues is not that there are too few nuclear weapons in the world but that there are too many; not that they are too difficult to use but that they are too easy to use.

North Korea has them and is rattling its nuclear saber every day. Iran is moving forward on the development of nuclear capability. We all hope and pray that al-Qaida and other terrorist groups never ever get their hands on a nuclear weapon.

So why on Earth, in this dangerous nuclear world, with the specter of a nuclear cloud at the hands of terrorists and rogue states, should the United States be adding more nuclear weapons to the global arsenal? What moral authority do we have to ask others to give up their nukes if we are determined to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons of our own?

For the past 2 years, Congress has raised major doubts about the program and significantly cut back on its funding. But the administration still presses forward for more work on these robust nuclear earth penetrators. Last year, the administration requested $15 million for it and Congress reluctantly provided half that amount. For 2005, they requested another $27 million and submitted a 5-year request for nearly $500 million.

But cooler heads prevailed, and the House Appropriations Committee rejected the request. As the committee report stated,

The Committee continues to oppose the diversion of resources and intellectual capital away from the most serious issues that confront the management of the nation's nuclear deterrent ..... The Committee remains unconvinced by the Department's superficial assurance that the RNEP activity is only a study ..... The Committee notes that the management direction for the fiscal year 2004 sent to the directors of the weapons design laboratories left little doubt that the objective of the program was to advance the most extreme new nuclear weapon goals irrespective of any reservations expressed by Congress.

This year, nothing has changed. The FY06 budget request from the President includes $4 million for the Department of Energy to study the bunker buster and $4.5 million to the Department of Defense for the same purpose. Thankfully our colleagues in the House were wiser and decided to eliminate its funding.

The administration obviously is still committed to this reckless approach. Secretary Rumsfeld made his position clear in January, when he wrote to Secretary Abraham:

I think we should request funds in FY06 and FY07 to complete the RNEP study ..... You can count on my support for your efforts to revitalize the nuclear weapons infrastructure and to complete the RNEP study.

The fiscal year 2006 budget requests funds only to complete the feasibility study for these new nuclear weapons. But we already know what the next step is. In the budget they sent us last year, the administration stated in plain language that they intend to develop it.

Ambassador Linton Brooks, the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, claims those future budget projections are merely placeholders, ``in the event the President decides to proceed with development and Congress approves.'' But their fiscal year 2005 budget clearly shows the administration's unmistakable intention to develop, and ultimately produce, this weapon.

The Bush administration would like us to believe that this is a clean, surgical nuclear weapon. They say it will burrow into underground targets and destroy them with no adverse consequences for the environment. They can believe all they want, but the science says their claims are false.

The National Academy of Sciences confirms exactly what most of us thought--that these nuclear weapons, like other nuclear bombs, result in catastrophic nuclear fallout. The fallout can poison tens of millions of people and create radioactive lands for years and years to come.

The study goes on to say, ``Current experience and empirical predictions indicate that earth-penetrator weapons cannot penetrate to depths required for total containment of the effects of a nuclear explosion. . . .

To be fully contained, a 300 kiloton weapon would have to be detonated at the bottom of a carefully stemmed emplacement hole about 800 meters deep. Because the practical penetration depth for an earth penetrating weapon is a few meters--a small fraction of the depth for the full containment--there will be blast, thermal, initial nuclear radiation, and fallout effects from use of an EPW.

This chart simulates the likely nuclear fallout from a one megaton bunker-buster detonated at a hypothetical underground target 20 kilometers east of an Iranian air force base in Dezful. This model uses the same simulation program as the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency. During summer months, the nuclear fallout is predicted to travel 150 to 200 miles, across Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The radiation could kill up to 650,000 people.

Even the person in charge of the program, Linton Brooks, conceded at a House Armed Services Committee Hearing on March 2 that the robust nuclear earth penetrator could not be used without significant nuclear fallout. He stated:

I really must apologize for my lack of precision if we in the Administration have suggested that it was possible to have a bomb that penetrated far enough to trap all fallout. I don't believe that--I don't believe the laws of physics will ever let that be true.

This chart depicts a 400 kiloton bunkerbuster hitting underground facilities at North Korea's Air Base at Nuchon-ni. Fallout from this explosion would blow southeast across the DMZ towards Seoul. This attack could kill over 4 million people.

Even if the United States were willing to accept the catastrophic damage a nuclear explosion would cause, the bunkerbuster would still not be able to destroy all of the buried bunkers the intelligence community has identified.

So we would have a new bomb that can kill and poison tens of millions of civilians, spread fallout for more than a thousand miles, make their lands radioactive, but still not destroy its target.

The huge, one megaton weapon that the administration is contemplating cannot reach deeper than 400 meters. All an adversary would have to do is bury its bunker below that depth.

Bunkerbusters also require pinpoint accuracy to hit deeply-buried, hardened bunkers. This requires precise intelligence on the location of the target. As the National Academy Study emphasized, an attack by a nuclear weapon would be effective in destroying weapon or weapons materials, including nuclear materials and chemical or biological agents, only if it's detonated in the actual chamber where the weapons or materials are located. Even more disturbing, if the bomb is even slightly off target, the detonation may cause the spread of such deadly chemicals and germs, in addition to the radioactive fallout.

As we know from the Iraq experience, our intelligence isn't always accurate. In fact, the Bush administration told us there were weapons of mass destruction and there and we had to send in troops to take them out. If we had robust nuclear earth penetrators at the time, what if this White House had used them against suspected chemical or biological bunkers--which turned out not to exist? Charles Duelfer, the head of the Iraqi Survey Group, shows us how dangerous this approach could have been when he told the Senate Armed Services Committee last October that, we were almost all wrong on Iraq. Despite the administration's claims, Mr. Duelfer's Comprehensive Report on Iraq's WMD stated, ``There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical weapons.

The intelligence community still faces many challenges in getting its intelligence right. In their report in March for the President's Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, Laurence Silberman and Chuck Robb found that The flaws we found in the Intelligence Community's Iraq performance are still all too common. In some cases, it knows less now than it did five or ten years ago.

How can we contemplate using a weapon of this destructive power, if our intelligence can't guarantee where an underground target really is?

Finally, if it were clear that this weapon is needed to protect our troops, then I believe many more in Congress would support it. But that's not the case. At the House Armed Services Committee hearing in March, program chief Linton Brooks once again was asked if there was a military requirement for the bunker buster. He stated categorically, No, there is not.

Robert Peurifoy, the retired Vice President of Sandia National Laboratory, one of our premier nuclear weapons labs, had this to say: If you can find somebody in a uniform in the Defense Department who can talk about the need for nuclear bunker busters without laughing, I'll buy him a cup of coffee. It's outlandish. It's stupid. It is an effort to maintain a payroll at the weapons labs.

The administration's effort to build a new class of nuclear weapon is only further evidence of their reckless nuclear policy. This action contradicts the spirit of our obligations under the nonproliferation treaty to disarm our stockpiles.

It demonstrates the administration's contempt for the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, the foundation of all current global nuclear arms control. The nonproliferation treaty, signed in 1968, has long stood for the fundamental principle that the world will be safer if nuclear proliferation does not extend the five nations that nations lan possessed nuclear weapons at the does not extend beyond the five nations that possessed nuclear weapons at that time--the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, China, and France. It reflected the worldwide consensus that the greater the number of nations with nuclear weapons, the greater the risk of nuclear war.

The Bush administration's policy jeopardizes the entire structure of nuclear arms control so carefully negotiated by world leaders over the past half century, starting with the Eisenhower administration. This is just another example of the administration's Do as I say, not as I do policy.

How can we ask Iran and North Korea to halt their nuclear research, when we fail to halt our own? By proceeding with the Robust Nuclear Earth penetrator, we are headed in the wrong direction. Our efforts will only encourage other nations to follow our example and produce nuclear weapons of their own.

We have studied this issue long enough. It is ridiculous for the administration to try to keep this program going, and it could be suicidal for the Nation and for our troops. If we need this kind of weapons system, we ought to follow the conventional weapons research that is being undertaken and not support this proposal. I hope the Senate will reject it.

Mr. President, I yield the time back to the Senator from California.


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