The Washington Times|
October 29, 1997
Nuclear weapons and the CTBT
BYLINE: Federico Peña
On Sept. 24, 1996, President Clinton signed the Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty, the culmination of a 40-year, bipartisan quest to end nuclear testing.
The treaty is now before the Senate for approval, and this week the first
hearings have begun. The Test Ban Treaty should be approved because it is an
important tool to combat nuclear proliferation and will strengthen regional and
global security. It serves the national security interests of the United
The hearings will focus on two fundamental questions: Can we maintain our
nuclear arsenal without nuclear explosive testing and can we effectively monitor
whether other countries are conducting tests? The answer is yes to both.
In 1992, a bipartisan majority in the Congress led by Sens. Mark Hatfield,
Oregon Republican, James Exon, Nebraska Democrat, and George Mitchell, Maine
Democrat, legislated a ban on U.S. nuclear testing to begin in 1996. In 1993,
Mr. Clinton directed the Energy Department to develop the Stockpile Stewardship
program -- a way of maintaining our nuclear weapons without nuclear testing.
The Stockpile Stewardship program gives us the information necessary to
determine whether our nuclear weapons are safe, secure and reliable, now and
in the future. We are using data from past nuclear tests, high-speed
supercomputers, non-nuclear subcritical experiments and high-tech simulation
experiments to check for and correct problems in the nuclear stockpile --
problems that in the past would have been resolved by nuclear testing. We are
also constructing new facilities, such as the National Ignition Facility which
will have the world's largest laser, to give us the additional laboratory
capabilities and the data we will need to maintain our nuclear weapons in the
Some charge that stockpile stewardship is too costly, that it will be used
to develop new and more destructive nuclear weapons, or that it can not work
and that the United States needs to conduct nuclear tests. Let me address these
First, Stockpile Stewardship costs -- about $4.5 billion in 1999 -- are about
2 cents out of every dollar this nation spends on defense -- a small price to pay
to ensure our nuclear deterrent is safe and reliable. This represents a
significant reduction from Cold War expenditures when the United States averaged
more than $6 billion per year to develop, build, test and maintain our nuclear
Second, Stockpile Stewardship will not support the development of advanced
new types of nuclear weapons. Without nuclear testing, the nuclear weapons
states will not be able to develop, with confidence, advanced new nuclear
Third, Stockpile Stewardship is already working today to maintain our
nuclear deterrent, and it is on course to do so in the future. The president
has directed a new annual certification procedure for each weapons type in the
stockpile, to identify any safety or reliability problems that could undermine
In this review, the defense secretary and I must certify to the president,
in writing, that our nuclear arsenal is safe and reliable. We do so with the
full input and advice from the Energy Department's nuclear weapons laboratory
directors, the Nuclear Weapons Council and the U.S. Strategic Command, after
they thoroughly examine each weapons type. We have completed one annual review
and certification that our weapons are safe and reliable, and we will soon
complete the second certification.
We have a high degree of confidence in Stockpile Stewardship. But if I were
informed by these advisers that there is a problem with the stockpile that we
could not correct without returning to underground nuclear testing, I would so
advise the president.
President Clinton has made clear that Stockpile Stewardship will require
sustained bipartisan support from the administration and the Congress for the
next decade and beyond. We're committed to working with Congress to ensure that
support, both for the Stockpile Stewardship budget and for the president's six
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty safeguards. These safeguards are important - they
strengthen our commitment to Stockpile Stewardship and specify the conditions
under which the United States would be prepared to withdraw from the Treaty in
the event nuclear testing were required.
Critics of the CTBT also argue the United States can not effectively
verify a ban on nuclear testing, and that potential adversaries will be able to
test undetected while we forgo testing. But our intelligence capabilities, the
Treaty's verification provisions and our diplomatic efforts provide the tools we
need to effectively verify compliance.
Moreover, Mr. Clinton has directed a number of enhancements in our
monitoring capabilities and included them in the six Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty safeguards. Congress has not yet provided full funding for these vital
enhancements -- which are needed with or without a CTBT -- and we are committed
to working with Congress to ensure adequate funding.
The vision for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty began with Presidents
Eisenhower and Kennedy. The zero-yield Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty signed by
President Clinton can finally make this vision a reality.
We have the means to end nuclear testing and to maintain the safety,
security and reliability of our nation's nuclear weapons. We look forward to
working with the Senate as it begins its review of this landmark treaty.
Federico Peña is U.S. secretary of energy.