- - Sunday, November 15, 2020

Once again a Commentary article in The Washington Times is right on target. “Our stockpile of nuclear weapons may not work” (Web, Nov. 12) by Robert Monroe outlines the risks of relying on computer programs instead of testing to determine stockpile reliability.

Mr. Monroe is right in pointing out that most of the scientists and engineers who developed and proved the capability of those weapons have long since retired, and the facilities they used have been allowed to decay. What is less well recognized is that the warheads contain many non-nuclear materials on which the functioning of the weapon is highly dependent. Most of these components were manufactured by companies that may no longer exist. Even those that remain will no longer use identical machinery and processes to remake the rubber, plastic and other components that will have aged and need replacing.

At one time I was responsible for the life-extension program of the British nuclear stockpile, and the greatest problems were encountered in replacing such materials with assured properties. No computer simulation can satisfy such a requirement.

Our leaders need to recognize that life-extension programs merely provide a Band-Aid to avoid facing the real issue. We need to reauthorize a modernization of our nuclear stockpile by developing and designing new warheads. New warheads would incorporate current (rather than 50-year-old) technology. The remaining problem, however: Where are the scientists and facilities to allow these programs to proceed?

We have real problems in retaining our deterrent posture, a policy that cannot be allowed to lapse further as we face a proliferated world, with too many hostile entities.


Rockville, Md.

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