Attracting and retaining a high-quality work force in the nuclear-weapon complex will require adequate budgets, other clear signals about future program direction and scope, long-term program commitments to technically challenging assignments, and greater attention to quality-of-work-life issues (including the nature of the burdens imposed by necessary protection of national-security secrets). The lack of requirements for new nuclear-weapon designs and the end of nuclear-explosive tests have eliminated some of the traditional technical opportunities in the nuclear-weapon field, but there are many professional challenges and opportunities in maintaining and developing the nuclear-weapon technology and science base for stockpile stewardship under a CTBT and in preparing for possible future weapon development, and there are increasingly powerful diagnostic, analytical, and computational techniques available that can make working on these challenges exciting and productive. A CTBT, in itself, need not prevent attracting and retaining the needed high-quality work force.
The first line of defense against defects in the stockpile that would adversely affect safety and reliability is an aggressive surveillance program. Accordingly, the Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP) includes an Enhanced Surveillance activity that involves increased focus on the nuclear components, an increased number of diagnostic procedures applied to the weapons that are randomly withdrawn from the stockpile, and increased technical depth of the inspections. While it is prudent to expect that age-related defects affecting stockpile reliability may occur increasingly as the average age of weapons in the stockpile increases in the years ahead, and that such defects may combine in a nonlinear or otherwise poorly specified manner, nuclear testing is not needed to discover these problems and is not likely to be needed to address them.
Remanufacture to original specifications is the preferred remedy for the age-related defects that materialize in the stockpile. This makes it essential that a capability to remanufacture and assemble the nuclear subsystems for nuclear weapons be maintained in the U.S. production complex, with a capacity consistent with best estimates of component lifetimes, stockpile trends, and allowances for occasional unexpected problems. Current estimates, based on projections of the size of the enduring stockpile, indicate that the technical challenges of ongoing repair and remanufacture can be met at existing production-complex sites, provided that their facilities are brought up to and maintained at modern standards of operation. Establishment of a limited-quantity production capability for certified pits at Los Alamos is a particular necessity, as no other facility for this exists in the United States.
A primary yield that falls below the minimum level needed to drive the secondary to full output is the most likely potential source of serious nuclear-performance degradation. Because primary yield margins in these weapons can be increased by changes that would not require nuclear testing, it is possible to use enhanced margins to provide a degree of insurance against minor aging effects and changes in material or process specifications arising in the refurbishment of the weapons. We urge that this be done.
Based on past experience, it is probable that the majority of aging problems will be found in the non-nuclear components of stockpile weapons. Since the non-nuclear components and subsystems can be fully tested under a CTBT, it is possible to incorporate new technologies in these weapon parts as long as these can be shown not to have any adverse effect on proper functioning of the nuclear subsystem. If technologies involved in the non-nuclear components become prohibitively difficult to support with the passage of time because they are no longer utilized in the private sector, needed replacements can be