November 20, 2009 16:18:42 EST
LOS ANGELES — The military’s top officer in charge of nuclear weapons issued a warning Thursday about the state of the nation’s nuclear programs, saying that new nuclear weapons need to be developed and lamenting the declining numbers of nuclear experts and scientists.
Calling the nuclear arsenal the foundation of the nation’s strategic deterrence capability, Gen. Kevin Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said the military must invest more in the nuclear enterprise.
“First we need to fix the infrastructure that supports our nuclear stockpile,” said Chilton, speaking at an Air Force Association conference in Los Angeles. But “we can’t just continue to sustain [Cold War weapons] in our inventory. … It’s a new world in the 21st century, and we need weapons that were designed for and support the needs of the 21st century.”
Of particular concern, Chilton said, is the deterioration of the nation’s nuclear laboratories, which he called “decrepit.” These laboratories must be modernized in order to attract and retain the scientists needed to sustain a weapons program, he said.
He also said that since the U.S. no longer tests nuclear weapons, the nation must continue to invest in an aggressive stockpile management program to ensure that existing weapons remain reliable and safe.
Chilton warned that the community of nuclear experts has become dangerously small and the military has failed to replenish the talent pool since the 1980s and 1990s.
“We have skipped a generation,” he said. “We’ve got to do something about that.”
An alternative way to frame the issue would be that the bi-partisan consensus for U.S. energy policy is to direct resources toward developing new nuclear technologies, exactly what the Obama State Department is threatening war against Iran to prevent it from having access to.
“Restarting the nuclear power industry is very important in our overall plan to reduce carbon emissions in this country. From me, you are not going to get any reluctance. As you may know, I think that nuclear power is going to be a very important factor to getting us to a low carbon future.”“The Department of Energy is doing with its tools everything it can to restart the American nuclear industry. With the loan guarantees, we are pushing as hard as we can on that. We are going to be investing in the future in bettering the technologies and quite frankly, we want to recapture the lead in industrial nuclear power. We've lost that lead as we've lost the lead in many areas of energy technology and we need to get it back.”