Wednesday, October 26th, 2005 According to the Associated Press, the Bush administration has halted research into controversial “bunker buster”
nuclear weaponry. Republican senator Pete Domenici said a budget request for the weapons research has been dropped.
The idea fueled concerns it would spread nuclear proliferation. Administration officials say they will instead pursue a non-nuclear bunker buster.
Wednesday, October 26th, 2005
According to the Associated Press, the Bush administration has halted research into controversial “bunker buster”
A Press Review by Friends of the Earth - Australia
1) US Newswire 26 Oct 2005 Congress Cuts Funding for New
Nuclear Weapons; Quaker Lobby Hails Decision to Eliminate
Funding for Research on Nuclear Bunker Buster
2) Reuters 26 Oct 2005 Nuclear bunker-buster funds dropped
from US budget
3) Washington Post 25 Oct 2005 Bush Admin. Drops
4) BBC NEWS 26 Oct 2005 US cancels ’mini-nukes’ programme
5) Washington File 26 October 2005 Congressional Conferees Drop
Funding for Bunker-Buster Nuke
6) Aust 27 Oct 2005 Nuclear bunker-buster project abandoned
7) UCS Press Release 26 Oct 2005 Sen. Domenici Drops the Bomb
8) Arms Control Association 26 Oct 2005 Nuclear Bunker-Buster
(As We Know It) Is Dead
1) US Newswire 26 Oct 2005
Congress Cuts Funding for New Nuclear Weapons;
Quaker Lobby Hails Decision to Eliminate Funding for Research
on Nuclear Bunker Buster
10/26/2005 10:37:00 AM
To: National Desk, Congressional Correspondent
Contact: David Culp of Friends Committee on National
Legislation, 202-547-6000, ext. 2517, Web:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 /U.S. Newswire/ — The Friends Committee
on National Legislation (Quakers) today praised the decision
of Congress to eliminate all funding for new research on the nuclear, bunker-buster weapon from the president’s 2006
budget: "This is an important victory for everyone who is
working to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction," explained David Culp, a lobbyist for FCNL who
has been working to block the bunker buster weapon for years.
Funding for $4 million to research the nuclear bunker buster,
also known as the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, had been
included in the president’s budget request for fiscal year
2006. But Senator Pete Domenici (N.M.), who chairs the Senate
appropriations committee that is responsible for approving
funds for this weapon, announced yesterday that House and
Senate negotiators had cut the money in final budget
The Friends Committee on National Legislation led a three-year
campaign to eliminate funding for this weapon, working with
other national organizations and thousands of concerned
citizens around the country to stop funding for this weapon.
Congress approved $15 million in funding for this weapon in FY
2003and then cut all money for the weapon the following year.
"This is the second year in a row that Congress has zeroed out
funding for this weapon," said Culp. "We hope the
administration gets the message that it’s time to end this
program for good."
The Friends Committee on National Legislation is a non-
partisan Quaker lobby in the public interest that represents 26
Yearly Meetings of the Religious Society of Friends (called
Quakers). FCNL speaks for itself and like-minded individuals.
Working with a network of constituents in every congressional
district in the United States, FCNL seeks to bring the
concerns, experiences and testimonies of Friends to bear on
national policy decisions.
/© 2005 U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/
2) Reuters 26 Oct 2005
Nuclear bunker-buster funds dropped from US budget
26 Oct 2005 19:59:56 GMT
WASHINGTON, Oct 26 (Reuters) - The Bush administration has abandoned for the upcoming year its bid to research "bunker buster" nuclear weapons, which Congress struck from the budget last year, lawmakers said on Wednesday.
The Pentagon will instead focus on developing a conventional deep-earth penetrating bomb, said Sen. Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican who chairs a Senate Appropriations subcommittee overseeing nuclear weapons.
Negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate were working this week on a final version of a bill to fund the Energy Department, which houses nuclear weapons programs. The House bill did not include the $4 million to study nuclear bunker-busters, but the Senate’s did.
Domenici said the Senate agreed to drop the funds at the request of the department’s National Nuclear Security Administration. "The NNSA indicated the research should evolve around more conventional weapons rather than tactical nuclear devices," he said.
In a number of votes, Congress has rebuffed the administration on its plans to research a nuclear weapon that the Pentagon argues would be effective against targets buried deep in the earth in fortified bunkers.
Critics said researching such weapon would undermine efforts to stem the spread of nuclear arms among other countries, and said it would produce hugely destructive fallout.
Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a California Democrat who has pushed amendments against the nuclear bunker buster, said she was "pleased that the administration has apparently decided to abandon a counterproductive initiative at a time when strong United States leadership is needed to strengthen global norms against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
3) Washington Post 25 Oct 2005
Bush Admin. Drops ’Bunker-Buster’ Plan
By H. JOSEF HEBERT
The Associated Press
Tuesday, October 25, 2005; 10:58 PM
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has abandoned research into a nuclear "bunker-buster" warhead, deciding instead to pursue a similar device using conventional weaponry, a key Republican senator said Tuesday.
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said funding for the nuclear bunker-buster as part of the Energy Department’s fiscal 2006 budget has been dropped at the department’s request.
The nuclear bunker-buster had been the focus of intense debate in Congress, with opponents arguing that its development as a tactical nuclear weapon could add to nuclear proliferation.
An administration official, speaking on condition on anonymity because negotiations on the department’s spending bill have not yet been completed, confirmed that a decision had been made to concentrate on a nonnuclear bunker-buster.
Administration officials have contended the country must try to develop a nuclear warhead that could destroy deeply buried targets including bunkers tunneled into solid rock. Potential adversaries increasingly are building hardened retreats deep beneath the earth, immune to conventional weapons, the officials said.
But Congress has been cool to the idea of a new nuclear warhead. The House blocked funding for the program, even though the Energy Department had requested only $4 million, scaling back earlier requests.
The Senate approved the $4 million, but a final decision was up to lawmakers working out a compromise between the House and Senate on the department’s budget.
Domenici, chairman of the subcommittee that oversees DOE’s budget, said the conferees had agreed to drop funding for the program at the request of the department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency that oversees nuclear weapons programs.
"The focus will now be with the Defense Department and its research into earth penetrating technology using conventional weaponry,"
Domenici said in a statement. The NNSA "indicated that this research should evolve around more conventional weapons rather than tactical nuclear devices," the senator said.
"This is a true victory for a more rational nuclear policy," said Stephen Young, a senior analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nuclear nonproliferation advocacy group. "The proposed weapon, more than 70 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, would have caused unparalleled collateral damage."
Last April, a National Academy of Sciences panel concluded that an earth-penetrating nuclear device would likely cause the same casualties as a surface burst if the weapons are of the same size.
Such a bomb could cause from several thousand to 1 million casualties, depending on its yield and location, according to the report requested by Congress.
At a congressional hearing earlier this year, NNSA chief Linton Brooks acknowledged there is no way to avoid significant fallout of radioactive debris from use of a bunker-buster warhead.
He said the administration never intended to suggest "that it was possible to have a bomb that penetrated far enough to trap all fallout. I don’t believe the laws of physics will ever let that be true."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., one of Congress’ most vocal opponents of the bunker-buster, has said the nuclear bunker-buster "sends the wrong signals to the rest of the world by reopening the nuclear door and beginning the testing and development of a new generation of nuclear weapons."
On the Net:
4) BBC NEWS 26 Oct 2005
US cancels ’mini-nukes’ programme
The US has abandoned controversial plans to develop a nuclear
"bunker-buster" warhead, a key Republican senator has said.
Sen Pete Domenici said funding for the bombs - part of the Energy
Department’s 2006 budget - had been dropped.
He said research would now focus on conventional penetrating weapons.
The warhead had been the focus of intense debate in Congress, with
opponents arguing against the US developing new nuclear arms.
An administration official, speaking on condition on anonymity,
confirmed the move to the Associated Press news agency.
The Senate had approved $4m in funding for the programme, but it was
subsequently blocked by the House of Representatives.
Sen Domenici, chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the
Department of Energy’s budget, said the request for funding had been
dropped at the request of the department’s National Nuclear Security
Administration, which oversees nuclear weapons programmes.
The proposed nuclear "bunker-busters", also called mini-nukes, would
have penetrated bunkers deep underground, including those tunnelled
into solid rock.
The small nuclear charge would be buried in the explosion, and the
However, critics doubted whether the weapon could go deep enough to
contain any fall-out.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/10/26 08:49:00 GMT
5) Washington File 26 October 2005
Congressional Conferees Drop
Funding for Bunker-Buster Nuke
Defense Department will focus instead on conventional weaponry
Washington — U.S. Senate and House budget conferees have canceled
funding for an Energy Department study to design a new generation
nuclear "bunker-busting" bomb, says Senate Subcommittee Chairman Pete
"The focus will now be with the Defense Department and its research
to [develop] earth-penetrating technology using conventional
weaponry," Domenici said in a prepared statement October 25.
Previously, the Bush administration had asked for $4 million for the
"Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator" study in the 2006 Energy
Department’s budget and another $4.5 million in the Defense
Domenici, who is chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Subcommittee, said the Energy Department’s National
Nuclear Security Administration asked for the project funds to be
"The NNSA indicated that this research should evolve around more
conventional weapons rather than tactical nuclear devices," Domenici
The nuclear bunker-buster bomb, which would have been a new
generation of nuclear weapons, was being researched by the Energy
Department for the Pentagon to determine if a tactical nuclear weapon
could penetrate deeply buried targets, such as caves and underground
tunnels that might be used by terrorist groups, U.S. officials
testified before Congress this year.
Previously, the House of Representatives passed a $24.3 billion
version of the budget in May without including funds for the
bunker-buster research. The Senate included the request in its $25
billion version of the budget that passed in July. The conference
committee has been attempting to resolve differences.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs,
U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
6) Aust 27 Oct 2005
Nuclear bunker-buster project abandoned
WASHINGTON: The Bush administration has abandoned research into a
nuclear "bunker-buster" warhead 70 times more powerful than the bomb
dropped on Hiroshima, deciding instead to pursue a similar device
using conventional weaponry.
Republican senator Pete Domenici said funding for the nuclear
bunker-buster had been dropped at the request of the Energy
The nuclear bunker-buster had been the focus of intense debate in
Congress, with opponents arguing that its development as a tactical
nuclear weapon could add to nuclear proliferation.
An administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity,
confirmed that a decision had been made to concentrate on a
Administration officials have contended the country must try to
develop a nuclear warhead that could destroy deeply buried targets,
including bunkers tunnelled into solid rock. Potential adversaries
increasingly are building hardened retreats deep beneath the earth,
immune to conventional weapons, the officials said.
But Congress has been cool to the idea of a new nuclear warhead. The
house blocked funding for the program, even though the Energy
Department had requested only $US4million ($5.29million), scaling
back earlier requests. The Senate approved the $4 million, but a
final decision was up to legislators working out a compromise between
the house and Senate on the department’s budget.
"The focus will now be with the Defence Department and its research
into earth-penetrating technology using conventional weaponry,"
Senator Domenici said in a statement.
Stephen Young, a senior analyst for the Union of Concerned
Scientists, a nuclear nonproliferation advocacy group, hailed the
decision as a "true victory for a more rational nuclear policy".
"The proposed weapon, more than 70 times the size of the bomb dropped
on Hiroshima, would have caused unparalleled collateral damage," he
Last April, a panel of the National Academy of Sciences concluded
that an earth-penetrating nuclear device would likely cause the same
casualties as a surface burst if the weapons are of the same size.
Such a bomb could cause from several thousand to 1 million casualties.
Democrat senator Dianne Feinstein, an opponent of the bunker-buster,
has said the nuclear device "sends the wrong signals to the rest of
the world by reopening the nuclear door and beginning the testing and
development of a new generation of nuclear weapons".
7) UCS Press Release 26 Oct 2005
Sen. Domenici Drops the Bomb
October 26, 2005
Sen. Domenici Drops the Bomb
Agrees to Strip Funding for ’Bunker Buster’ in Energy and Water Conference
in Nuclear Weapons
Nuclear Bunker Buster (RNEP) Animation
WASHINGTON, Oct. 26-Yesterday, Senator Pete Domenici agreed to cancel
funding for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, also known as the
nuclear bunker buster, in the Energy and Water Appropriations
"This is a true victory for a more rational nuclear policy," said
Stephen Young, Senior Analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists’
(UCS) Global Security Program. "The United States undercuts its own
efforts to stop the spread of the bomb by pursuing new nuclear
weapons for new ’war-fighting’ missions."
"The proposed weapon, more than 70 times the size of the bomb dropped
on Hiroshima, would have caused unparalleled death and destruction,"
said Rob Nelson, UCS’ Senior Scientist. "The bunker buster would not
have performed many of the missions for which its supporters claimed
it was needed, while spreading intense nuclear fallout over thousands
of square miles."
"This is an enormous achievement by a nation-wide coalition of
grassroots groups, scientists, and policy experts combined with
opposition from many leading members of Congress," Nelson continued.
"Particular credit goes to Rep. David Hobson, Sen. Domenici’s
counterpart on the House side, who has been an outspoken opponent of
8) Arms Control Association
26 Oct 2005 Nuclear Bunker-Buster (As We
Know It) Is Dead
Analysis by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
October 26, 2005
Yesterday, the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations
Subcommittee Pete Domenici (R-NM) announced that Senate Energy
appropriators would recede to the House position and eliminate funds
for the controversial Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) from the
fiscal year 2006 budget. As a result, for the second year in a row, a
bipartisan coalition of forces has denied funding for RNEP,
effectively killing the program.
The catalyst for the RNEP program was the Pentagon’s 2001 Nuclear
Posture Review, which called for the United States to develop "new
nuclear weapon capabilities" to deal with targets located in deep
underground, hardened bunkers. The next year, the Bush administration
requested funds for research for a modified, high-yield bomb for this
At first, Congress grudgingly supported research on the RNEP, also
known as the "nuclear bunker-buster." But over the last four years,
the depth and breadth of congressional opposition has grown as public
interest groups, former military officials, and former weapons
designers have campaigned against the nuclear bunker-buster. Much of
the credit for the complete elimination of the RNEP funding from the
fiscal year 2006 Energy Department appropriations bill goes to
Domenici’s counterpart in the House, Chairman David Hobson (R-OH).
Arguments for RNEP Not Credible
After a detailed examination of the proposal, Hobson did not buy the
administration’s arguments for the program. As he did last year,
Hobson once again led the bipartisan opposition to RNEP and prevailed
in the end-of-year conference committee to reconcile differences
between the House and Senate spending measures.
Administration officials have argued that the RNEP would make U.S.
nuclear capabilities and threat of their use more credible in
potential future conflicts, presumably with states such as North
Korea or Iran. Although the "nuclear bunker-buster" became an symbol
around the globe of the administration’s "do as I say, not as I do"
nuclear nonproliferation attitude, the administration insisted that
program would only "slightly complicate" U.S. nonproliferation
Hobson and many of his Republican and Democratic colleagues realize
the nonproliferation costs of trying to enhance the credibility of
U.S. nuclear threats are high and the benefits illusory. Maintaining
and expanding the role of U.S. nuclear weapons not only contradicts
accepted international norms of nonproliferation behavior, but it
invites countermoves by other countries. The devastating power and
collateral effects of the proposed new weapons also make it clear
that their use or threat of use is no more credible, necessary, or
justifiable than existing nuclear weapons.
"Other than a Cold War ’Russia gone bad’ scenario, I don’t believe
our nuclear stockpile is useful against our new foes," Hobson told a
National Academy of Sciences gathering last year. "What worries me
about the nuclear penetrator is that some idiot might try to use it,"
Hobson has good reasons to worry. Destroying a deeply buried bunker
requires a high-yield blast too large to avoid dispersal of
radioactive debris and fallout even if the weapon is designed to
penetrate tens of meters before detonation. Even if new,
smaller-yield nuclear weapons are developed and used against
suspected chemical or biological weapons sites, the fallout would
still be significant, and small errors in intelligence and targeting
could disperse rather than destroy deadly chemical or biological
material. Improvements in specialized conventional munitions offer
significant and more practical capabilities without the risk of
crossing the nuclear threshold.
The Debate Evolves
RNEP may be dead, but the debate in the United States over the roles
and missions of existing and possibly "new" nuclear weapons is far
In response to the Nuclear Posture Review and a 2001 Bush National
Security Presidential Directive, the Pentagon is still pursuing a
revised "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" that calls for
maintaining an aggressive nuclear posture with weapons on high alert
to strike adversaries armed with weapons of mass destruction (WMD),
pre-emptively if necessary. Details of the draft doctrine are
reported and analyzed in an article by Hans Kristensen published in
the September issue of Arms Control Today, the monthly journal of the
Arms Control Association.
And, even though it failed to convince Hobson on the RNEP, the
National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has won his initial
support for a program to research new "reliable replacement warheads
to sustain existing military capabilities" that will supposedly lower
costs and not require nuclear explosive proof testing. NNSA
Administrator Linton Brooks told Congress the goal of the effort
should be to develop and produce a "small build" of the new warheads
Reliable replacement warheads may sound more attractive, but the
rationale for the program is dubious, the scope is vague, and it is
potentially dangerous. Congress must carefully define the scope and
direction of the program.
Why? New replacement warheads are not necessary to preserve existing
U.S. nuclear-weapon capabilities. Each year, a representative sample
of the existing arsenal is inspected to check for signs of
deterioration, and limited-life components are replaced if necessary.
The reliability of existing warheads has been and can continue to be
maintained if the weapons labs avoid unnecessary alterations to the
existing weapons during refurbishment.
Worse still, if weapons scientists get the green light to build more
rugged nuclear weapons and the program is given carte blanche, the
weapons labs may, in the end, be able to achieve their controversial
new nuclear weapons research ambitions denied with the defeat of
RNEP. In a revealing comment to The Oakland Tribune earlier this
year, the former NNSA deputy administrator Everet Beckner said,
"[T]hat’s not the primary objective, but [it] would be a fortuitous
Finally, replacing existing, well-proven nuclear warhead designs with
"new" and "improved" replacement warheads or warhead components
could, if carelessly pursued, increase pressure to conduct nuclear
explosive proof tests. Even if it does not, replacing existing
systems with more robust systems would likely require costly testing
and retrofitting of the delivery systems to carry the new
Rather than continue to pursue its obsession with a new generation of
more "usable" nuclear weapons, the White House should focus the NNSA
on its primary mission: maintaining the reliability of the remaining
nuclear stockpile without testing, while dismantling the tens of
thousands of excess strategic and tactical weapons here and abroad.
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