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the Peace Farm

Winter 2004

Some wins, some losses on new nukes

The lame duck session of Congress this fall handed the disarmament community a surprising and welcome victory on new nuclear weapons. Funding for many new nuclear weapons, including the bunker buster and mini-nukes, was deleted from the 2005 budget.

While this victory - and the recognition of the hypocrisy of the U.S. position on nuclear weapons' proliferation - is important, it's also important to note that the victory is by no means either secure or complete.

There are already rumblings of efforts to restore funding by some budget mechanism, or in the 2006 budget, and it will take hard work by disarmament activists to see that this doesn't happen.

We must also be realistic about what nuclear weapons programs didn't get cut. There was, for example, a major cut in the Modern Pit Facility funding (for a new facility to produce plutonium pits for nuclear weapons), but the facility was not deleted. The competition for siting - and Pantex is one of the candidate sites - is expected to continue. Tritium production, a necessary component for nuclear weapons, was fully funded. This work is now taking place at commercial nuclear reactors. Also funded is work on Yucca Mountain's high level nuclear waste disposal site.

It's also important to recognize that much of the money cut from nukes is redirected to robust uranium bombs and other conventional weapons. And the total DOE budget is $44 million above what Bush requested and $400 million more than last year.

Much of that money is going to maintaining existing U.S. nuclear weapons. It's innocuously called the Stockpile Lifetime Extension Program, which sounds sort of like

changing the oil in the car or the filter in the air conditioner. In fact, the maintenance program is really an upgrade, making the existing nuclear weapons more flexible and "usable."

This work is ongoing at both Pantex and at Y-12 at Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge is currently working on the W76 (Trident) warheads. Last year they completed a six-year project to upgrade the W78 (Minuteman 111 ICBM), and the B61 is scheduled next. The B61 is a multi-use "small" bomb. A number of them were upgraded as "bunker busters" at Pantex several years ago.

Just as the budget victories were being announced, Pantex announced completion of its upgrade of the W87 warhead, which is carried on the Peacekeeper ICBM. The program, which began in 1999, was characterized by cost overruns and other problems, drawing the attention of congressional investigators.

Three other weapons programs have been scheduled for upgrades at Pantex, including the W80 warhead, which is carried on a cruise missile launched from a bomber or submarine. That production is expected to begin in 2006. Also beginning in 2006 is work on additional B61 bombs, which are carried on B-52 or B-2 bombers. Work on the W76 warhead, carried on the Trident 11 missile, is planned for 2007.

Also left in the funding, but with some uncertainties, is the W80, which is designed to be launched either from ships or submarines, or from B-52 or B-2 bombers.

These upgrades are seen as "noncontroversial" because they have drawn little public attention or protest nationally. But they detract from our national credibility in addressing nonproliferation and increase risks of nuclear accidents and war. It's time we began to make them "controversial."

News from the Peace Farm

Slightly more than a year ago, the Peace Farm undertook an effort to get the title for the land transferred from an individual to the organization, and to begin an accelerated mortgage payoff. With the generous support of friends that goal is almost in sight. There is still major work to be done on the physical facilities.

We have enthusiastic new board members and volunteers, and our program work, both Pantex-related and other environmental and peace activities, remains vital.

As always, we need your support to continue this work. Please think about making an extra contribution this year, as we see the need to continue our antiwar activities as well as maintain work against nuclear weapons.

If you want to see some of our activities, look at our website at http://peacefarm.us With deepest thanks for your support of our voice a safer, more just world.

Mavis Belisle,director