nuclear-explosion testing. The intervening 10 years have seen the SSP discover and resolve significant stockpile issues, but notable concerns have also arisen about maintaining the physical and human infrastructure needed for the SSP.
Finding 1-1: The technical capabilities for maintaining the U.S. stockpile absent nuclear-explosion testing are better now than anticipated by the 2002 Report.
Finding 1-2: Future assessments of aging effects and other issues will require quantities and types of data that have not been provided by the surveillance program in recent years.
Finding 1-3: The committee judges that Life-Extension Programs (LEPs) have been, and continue to be, satisfactorily carried out to extend the lifetime of existing warheads without the need for nuclear-explosion tests. In addition to the original LEP approach of refurbishment, sufficient technical progress has been made since the 2002 Report that re-use or replacement of nuclear components can be considered as options for improving safety and security of the warheads.
Finding 1-4: Provided that sufficient resources and a national commitment to stockpile stewardship are in place, the committee judges that the United States has the technical capabilities to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without nuclear-explosion testing. Sustaining these technical capabilities will require at least the following:
• A Strong Scientific and Engineering Base. There must be continued adherence to the principle that the ability to assess and certify weapons rests on technical understanding of weapons phenomena, data from past nuclear-explosion tests, computations, and data from past and ongoing experiments. Maintaining both a strategic computing capability and modern non-nuclear-explosion testing facilities (for hydrodynamic testing, radiography, material equation-of-state measurements, high explosives testing, and fusion testing) is essential for this purpose.
• A Vigorous Surveillance Program. An intensive surveillance program aimed at discovering warhead problems is crucial to the health of the stockpile.
• Adequate Ratio of Margin to Uncertainty. Performance margins that are sufficiently high, relative to uncertainties, are key ingredients of confidence in weapons performance.
• Modernized Production Facilities. Most of the nuclear weapons production facilities are old (50 years in some cases) and are both difficult and costly to operate in accordance with modern standards of safety and security.
• A Competent and Capable Workforce. Nuclear weapons work (e.g., the SSP) is key to meeting a range of challenges in the broader national security landscape. Exploration of these broader areas (nonproliferation programs, render safe, etc.) can provide opportunities for intellectual stimulation and professional development that will attract a diverse, capable workforce. It is equally important to ensure that the Department of Defense, particularly the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the Navy’s Strategic Systems Project Office, and the Air Force’s Ballistic Missile Organization, maintain a technically competent workforce.
Recommendation 1-1: To address each of the essential elements of stockpile stewardship listed in Finding 1-4, NNSA, working with the Administration and Congress as appropriate, should: