Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Warheads, schmoreheads.

Most controversies transcend audiences and when it comes to national security; both science and the government have an opinion on what type of weaponry is crucial. One such controversy arises as current weapons age and their usefulness is questioned. In a Nature magazine article, Enough warheads already, scientists argue that the chemicals already found in stockpiled weaponry are reliable and does not need an update. Yet, governmental sources, such as the National Nuclear Security Administration, points out that improving upon already existing warheads would not only be cost effective in the future but also “reduce(s) the cost and risk of maintaining existing warheads by broadening performance margins, enhancing surety and utilizing modern production techniques,” according to a government organization document. These two articles cover the subject of updating warheads, yet from two very different perspectives.

Opponents of the Reliability Replacement Warhead Program (RRW) maintain that both the military and the president do not want to foster nuclear testing because existing nuclear warheads are fully functional. Research has proven that triggers found in weapon stockpiles will not only outlive prior estimates but also could survive for up to a century or longer. With a stockpile that could last one hundred years without deteriorating past a useable age, why waste time and resources in updating weaponry that might never be used? The opponent side also sites that Congress is at a standstill on the issue and the “political will to pursue it just isn’t there” especially considering that outspoken members of Congress are against RRW. Without political support and a dwindling support within the Bush administration, the program seems fated to fail.

Supporters for RRW propose that in replacing warheads now, in the long run, it is more “cost effective and sustainable.” It will not require full nuclear testing, so it is merely maintenance of already existing weapons so there cannot be any real detriment to society and it saves money down the line. Proponents also mention 9/11 in their argument in hopes of harping on the emotional attachment of American citizens in order to garner support. The nation is in a state where having renewed nuclear weaponry would be a good precaution in case of a terrorist attack, therefore a small measure now will save American lives later on. Cost is a major factor in their argument because spending a minimal cost now will save money later on.

Though both sides present valid points, neither side can be completely right. Saving money is good for the nation, whether in the long run or short term. The hope is that after a century has passed, nuclear weapons will not be needed, so why sacrifice time now to improve something that will be obsolete? Then again, being prepared to retaliate against an attack is crucial to the safety of the nation. The supporters of improving the weapons appeal to a realistic sensibility, whereas the opponents appeal to a morally idealistic crowd.

Here are the actual articles for reference:
“Enough warheads, already.”
“NNSA’s Reliability Replacement Warhead Program Will Enable Transformation of the Nuclear Weapons Complex.”

1 comment:

Daniel Lupton said...

Melissa, I think you've done a very good job on your first post. It's well-written and well-edited and comes off as very professional. The one aspect of your argument that I would take issue with is the idea that nuclear weapons will help us in the war on terror. Would nuclear weapons help us retaliate against Al Quaida? I don't think so. It seems to me that nuclear weapons are all about wars between gigantic countries, and are irrelevant (at least to the "good" side) in a war on terror. However, that's just my opinion.

Also, one other small thing: make sure that all of your links work for all users! I couldn't get to your Nature article.