Issue Date: May 7, 2007
Panel To Review Nuclear Weapons
A House Armed Services subcommittee approved legislation on May 2 to create a congressionally appointed, bipartisan commission to begin a public discussion of U.S. nuclear weapons strategy and policies. The subcommittee voted to slow down and reevaluate a U.S. defense program to develop the nation's first new nuclear weapon in decades, the reliable replacement warhead (RRW). Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), chair of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, also successfully pressed for wording in the legislation to zero out funding for the Department of Energy's proposed plutonium center to build the new pits, or fissile cores, for the RRW. Instead, Tauscher directed DOE to assess the feasibility of reusing existing plutonium pits in new warheads. The bill would allow DOE to proceed with engineering of the first weapon, which is taking place this year. However, further action would be blocked until the commission's work is completed over the next year or so, according to House staff, who stress the measure has bipartisan support. DOE is currently initiating a program to replace its nuclear warheads and build a new weapons complex (C&EN, March 19, page 34).
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