Given this knowledge and the archive of tests, a new nuclear weapon that is nearly identical to a tested existing design (such as the heavy B83 gravity bomb) and that needs only some relatively insignificant modification could be certified. All existing U.S. missile warheads, however, have smaller M/U ratios than the B83, because they were constrained to maximize yield while minimizing weight and size.

The first project in the RRW program was for a replacement missile warhead. The requirement for yield-to-weight ratio was relaxed considerably for the RRW competition, which enabled a design with substantially greater M/U ratio; this is the WR-1 design of LLNL.

Also relevant to the RRW program is legislation passed by Congress2 that directed NNSA to begin a new Science Campaign called Advanced Certification, saying that “[Congress] believes the recent findings of the JASON group revealed significant systemic gaps in NNSA’s stockpile certification process.” The findings referred to are in a JASON report on the RRW.3 In the legislation, NNSA is directed to report to Congress on Advanced Certification within six months of enactment; at this writing, the mandated report has not yet been issued. To give the reader an idea of what Advanced Certification might embrace, the study committee summarizes here Congress’s direction for Advanced Certification:

  1. Improvement of the weapons certification process through expanded, independent peer review mechanisms and refinement of computational tools and methods.

  2. Advancement of the physical understanding of surety mechanisms.

  3. Further exploration of failure modes.

  4. Manufacturing process assessments.

  5. The study of strategic system-level requirements.

Finally, Congress calls for NNSA to state in its report “progress [NNSA has] made in implementing the JASON’s recommendations and improving the stockpile certification process.” The JASON report specifically concerns RRW, but the committee believes that the intent of Congress is that Advanced Certification should apply to life-extension programs and annual assessments as well as to RRW. This observation is supported by recent Senate action on the FY2009 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill. In the report accompanying its bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee notes its continued support for the Advanced Certifi-

2

U.S. Congress, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, Division C—Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008, House Appropriations Committee Print to accompany P.L. 110-161 (2008), p. 583.

3

JASON, Reliable Replacement Warhead Executive Summary.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement