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hat itself from a nuclear yield itself. So it really would be dising or spreading of radioactive material around, and therefore ot a weapon in the military sense of the weapon.
think it is an issue which we need to take extremely seriously ause of the terrorism capabilities that it brings. It offers the potial to disrupt significant areas, to spread radiation over signifit areas and, from that, both cause a degree of panic and some nomic disruptions that could be quite serious. The concept of ing that to actually kill people in the sense of weapons, is probly not very good at that. And we have tended to say that the peoe that would die, certainly at least immediately, from such a eapon would be those who would actually be caught up in the emical explosion that was used to disperse the material.
That said, I would say it is a serious issues because it would ave huge economic disruptions and raise significant concerns mong the populace as a whole and the people that might live in r around those areas.
There are in this country a full variety of controls and lack of ontrols on these weapons. Those types of materials, those materials that are under the custody of the Department, are tightly bound, tightly controlled. Those that are in out of reactors itself I think are well controlled. One has to keep the mind open to the possibility of sources from many, many areas, including commercial sources, medical sources. And I think this is an area that as a whole the country needs to take a little harder look at, a lot harder look at, actually.
Mr. WELDON. One of the concerns from our delegation CODEL that just returned from a 10-day swing through Moscow, Uzbekistan, China, and Korea was in Uzbekistan we learned back in 2000 there had been an attempt to transfer nuclear waste coming out of Belarus that was heading for Pakistan, and it was because of the cooperation of the Uzbekis that that was turned away. And the concern that many of us have is that while it is very unrealistic that our own nuclear stockpile and our weapons-grade material could be stolen, there are certainly uncertainties with other nations in the world that have that nuclear capability. So it is an important question. I realize it is not within your direct jurisdiction. We have had the appropriate agency people in here to talk about that and the steps that we are taking from both a detection and monitoring standpoint. But I want to give you a chance to respond.
General GORDON. I would like to comment with respect to reaching outside the borders of this country. The Department, the NNSA and the Secretary of Energy, have begun a significant initiative and began to speak with Minister Rumyantsev and others about seeking ways to really bring tighter controls to all the fissile material, the nonweapons-grade fissile material that might be in Russia and other countries; again, in the wake of the September 11th event, has raised-opened a lot of eyes that the full spectrum of fissile material ought to be more tightly controlled, both spent fuel and preprocessed fuel that might come into play in such countries as Russia and others. That is a program that is beginning, and the Secretary has taken great interest in it. We have had direct and immediate conversations with Rumyantsev and others about it.
Mr. WELDON. On our recent trip to Moscow, Kurchatov, we couldn't help but notice the extensive security on the facility that we had to go through, and all of that was purchased with and supported by the program which your Agency does oversee. So we are seeing the physical evidence of the work that is being done on that nuclear security issue.
In your testimony you mentioned some concerns about legislative language. I would like to focus on that a little broader and respond to specific language that we put in which does provide some additional research flexibility at the labs, but also perhaps legislation that has been proposed on the Senate side that might not be as acceptable or as supportive of you and your subordinates. Would you comment on what you meant by legislative language concerns?
General GORDON. I think that you basically made the point, Mr. Chairman, that we are building a new generation of designers. We have to do that. We have to give them the ability to be creative, to explore ideas out of the box, to test ideas both that they come up with and test mentally and computer ideas that they come up with with the older designers while they are still available, while they are still working. And anything that would put restrictions on the thought process, the early processes, that would limit the ability to explore the scientific side of this I think is broadly harmful to that goal.
The number of people who have tested, actually conducted tests, designed weapons, and tested them underground is a vanishing number. And there are not so many of them working with them. We are putting the young designers with them. We need to not tie their hands in how they proceed in their development process. That said, we are fully cognizant of the need-we are only interested in designing weapons and pushing forth weapons for which there is a military requirement when you get to the end of it.
Mr. WELDON. One final point, General, and Admiral, we haven't conducted a nuclear test for some time and yet we rely perhaps even more today than we have in the past on nuclear deterrence. Is it not true-and obviously I know the answer to this question but I want to ask it for the record-is it not true that the Russians continue to produce new nuclear weapons on a regular basis and those weapons in fact, because they are being produced, doesn't that give them a capability that we perhaps don't have the same level of, because they have scientists actually designing and actually constructing nuclear weapons on a continual basis?
General GORDON. As the Russians continue to produce a small number of nuclear weapons it keeps their skills sharp, it he keeps their facilities up and running. It is a different approach. Their ability to do stockpile certification, stockpile science at the level we do is not as high, but they do maintain an ongoing capacity and capability which keeps both facilities and individuals sharp.
Mr. WELDON. Thank you. Admiral.
Admiral BYRD. If I could just comment briefly. We are the only nuclear power that does not have a nuclear production capability. And that plays into our thinking at STRATCOM as we consider the confidence in our ability to execute our mission. As the weapons age, our concern over the reliability of these weapons that cannot be reproduced is a major concern and affects our planning.
Mr. WELDON. So we are the only nuclear power that does not have production.
Admiral BYRD. Yes, sir.
Mr. WELDON. Mr. Taylor.
Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I think you have started us down an interesting path. General, it has been a great learning experience for me to be a Member of Congress and get some idea from dealing with the Navy, the Air Force and Army of the life expectancy of the different weapons platforms. I know, for example, we have got about 900-plus UH-1 Hueys out there that people are still flying every day that are 30 years old. We have got B-52s in some instances that might be older than myself. They have also given us a pretty good outline of when we could expect to retire those things. Mr. Weldon and I wrestle with a shrinking fleet and the resources that are not being made available to replace it.
For this Member, how long can you stretch the life of a nuclear device, considering that we don't have enough money for ships or for aircrafts or to replace those old Hueys, which we are using every day; I am curious how long we can stretch the life of the nuclear devices we have in your estimation.
General GORDON. Mr. Taylor, it is not obvious that there is an end to the life of these in the system. What happens is that individual components become-age out as a piece in a old car might. And most of those, if not all of those, can be replaced piece by piece by piece by piece by piece, until in fact you have a new weapon. When we say we are not building new weapons and have the capability to build new weapons now is primarily because we don't have a pit facility that is producing weapons-quality material in any quantity. So there is probably an indefinite life, if you are prepared to take a weapon with the design like it is today, that functions and is used in a military way like it is today.
Where we get into issues with the aging is when do we need to spend the money, and how many millions of dollars, millions and millions of dollars is it going to take to replace some of those parts? So we try to be careful when we do it and do what is needed.
Unlike an airplane or hull, there is nothing that is really wearing out. They are aging out. There are organic materials in them that get old and change, high explosives that may change, metals that may oxidize. So in effect and theory, you can replace them part by part by part or rebuild the same design for a very, very long time. If you want to change, however, any parts of the system. to increase the safety, to increase the reliability, to put in a modern part or to get a slightly different military capability out of it, then is we start getting on the edge of what we can do with these new features. Can we add a new safety feature without interrupting the confidence we have in the nuclear function device? That is the question we really started with.
People say the one question really comes back to how long is this metal going to last? How long is this plutonium going to last? When are you going to really need a new pit facility? The stuff we are seeing now says this metal will be good for 45, 60 years.
Mr. TAYLOR. Additional years?
PAIN Total. But even that is a very, very uncertain re dang what we call accelerated aging studies. ok to see how plutonium might age, and we are trying I make it go faster, take our oldest plutonium and make it go faste: We are going to be able to replace weapons just like they are with some pain and some difficulty. But it is going to be hard to reach out really far into new areas, if that were ever required, into this system. I am not sure I am getting at what where you are tying to get.
Mr. TAYLOR. If you are uncomfortable talking about this in pub lic. I would like to just get some idea of what is a reasonable life expectation of these weapons, knowing that we have funding shortfails for ships, that we have funding shortfalls for helicopters, we gve funding shortfalls for fixed wing. We have already hit those
General GORDON. I have got pieces that are oxidizing, rusting. ing Androgen compounds now that need to be replaced. So we going to replace piece part by piece part by piece part in our e extension programs and have weapons of the quality we todex The question is-and I don't see that significantly Donging the long term.
ne point again I don't want to get maybe too gory details, we wing build new plutonium pits, we are building new pluto
it & Los Alamos to back up the W-88 deployments. They like the pits we made at Rocky Flats umpteen years ago. We ...thing like 100 different processes, metallurgical, chemi
ning processes, that are different. We can't use the same that we used 10 or 15 years ago because the materials
able, chemistry is not available, environmental rene significantly different, our own safety requirements y different. So I am going to make a piece of metal different way and I am going to try, through great ce, to convince ourselves that it will function exactly did that was made in a different state, by different 100 different techniques.
what the Stockpile Stewardship Program is really about, At the aging out of a simple system, because some system get replaced every 4 years or 8 years, some are eplaced at 30 years. But I would be glad to come and ... detail.
I hope you will.
cond thing, I will shift gears. I have not visited any of your faellers other than to see layouts and charts of them. Without namname I am concerned about the waterside security for some of them We got burned with the Cole turning the waterside secux for that vessel over to a Third World ship channeler, and we know what happened.
have got to tell you, I was concerned when it was at Pascagoula Mississippi. I didn't feel like the waterside security was good enough, and I brought that to the attention of the CNO and some other folks. Warned the Coast Guard just how close the Mississippi River is to the Super Bowl for fear that someone might try to breach the levy in February when the Super Bowl was down there