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No New Nukes!

Tell Congress to stop the development of new kinds of nuclear weapons!

In the past few months, the rhetorical focus of the Bush administration's foreign policy has been the elimination of weapons of mass destruction: the war in Iraq and the confrontation with North Korea have both been defended as attempts to stop the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. In this light, most Americans would be shocked to hear that the U.S. is contemplating increasing its own nuclear arsenal. Unfortunately, it is all too true.

Congress is currently considering two measures to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal: the repeal of a ten-year-old prohibition on developing low-yield nuclear weapons, and research into building nuclear "bunker busters." Although attempts to develop new nuclear weapons have been slowed or blocked in the past, we need your help to make sure they are not passed in the current climate.

The "Spratt-Furse prohibition," named after two House members and passed by Congress in 1993, bars "research and development which could lead to the production . . . of a low-yield nuclear weapon." "Low-yield" is defined as less than 5 kilotons - approximately a third the size of the bomb that obliterated Hiroshima. This year, the Pentagon sent a draft Defense Authorization bill to Congress which includes the repeal of the Spratt-Furse prohibition. Advocates of developing low-yield nuclear weapons have argued that these weapons could be used in the wars of the 21st century and to destroy the ability of other nations to develop weapons of mass destruction.

In addition, the administration is working to develop a Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, also called a nuclear "bunker buster." This bomb would burrow 20 or more feet underground before exploding a nuclear warhead, and would be used to destroy deeply buried bunkers and other "hard" targets.

The Senate and House may consider both issues in May, after the Armed Services Committees write their annual bills. The House may vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Edward Markey (D - MA) on either the annual Pentagon bill or the Energy and Water Appropriations bill which would cancel funding for the nuclear bunker-buster.

The Council for a Livable World opposes building any new nuclear weapons because:

- The development of low-yield nuclear weapons blurs the distinction between conventional and nuclear war. This would make the use of nuclear weapons more likely, and break a taboo on the use of nuclear weapons in place since World War II. It would also violate the United States' long standing pledge never to use nuclear weapons on a country that does not possess them.

- If the U.S. increases its nuclear arsenal, particularly by adding weapons considered more "usable," it may encourage other nations to develop their own nuclear weapons so that they can deter a nuclear attack. The U.S. would be stepping away from decades of arms control and setting off a nuclear "free-for-all."

- The use of a nuclear bunker-buster of any size could cause massive civilian casualties. Studies have shown that it is not possible for a bunker buster to burrow deeply enough underground to avoid throwing out a massive amount of radioactive dirt and other fallout. If the bunker-buster is used to destroy stocks of chemical, biological or other such weapons, some of these agents would also be spread to the surrounding area. As the war in Iraq demonstrated, many of these hardened bunkers are located in urban or other civilian areas.

- Because of their smaller size and the lower security around them, low-yield nuclear weapons are considered more vulnerable to theft by terrorists.

- Building new nuclear weapons may lead the U.S. to resume nuclear testing, breaking a decade-long moratorium begun by President George H. W. Bush.

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