Nuclear Experts Warn Against US Production of “Low-Yield” Weapons
Global Zero Says Trump Administration’s New W76-2 Missile Encourages Nuclear Arms Race and Makes Use of Nuclear Weapons More Likely
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Late yesterday, it was reported that the U.S. Department of Energy has started building a new, low-yield nuclear weapons, the W76-2, at its Pantex Plant in the Texas Panhandle. The fact that the new weapon was under production was first shared in an email to the Exchange Monitor, an industry trade magazine, and independently confirmed.
In reaction to the announcement, Derek Johnson, executive director of Global Zero, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons, issued the following statement:
“The fact that the Trump administration is now building new nuclear weapons is alarming news that makes Americans less safe and puts the world at risk.
“You might imagine a ‘small’ nuclear weapon is a safer nuclear weapon, but nothing could be further from the truth. The two bombs that killed hundreds of thousands of people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and poisoned generations of Japanese civilians were considered ‘low yield.’ These are not normal military capabilities. What’s uniquely dangerous about these so-called ‘low-yield’ nuclear weapons is that they’re more tempting to use in a conflict.
“Don’t let the label fool you: there is no such thing as a ‘small’ nuclear weapon. A nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon. Size does not in fact matter: The use of even one nuclear weapon of any category would be a catastrophic attack that invites catastrophic retaliation. In the ensuing crisis and panic, nobody will stop to measure the size of the mushroom cloud before deciding how to respond.
The idea that we can ‘nuke our enemies a little bit’ is delusional: once we go there all bets are off.
“Arguments that the U.S. needs this new weapon are deeply flawed and dangerous. The United States already has roughly 1,000 lower yield nuclear weapons in its stockpile. American pursuit of these weapons is based on the questionable assumption that Russia would initiate a nuclear conflict with the West under the belief the U.S. would not reply because its weapons are too large to use.
“By commissioning the production of these weapons, the Trump administration is fueling a new arms race with Russia and undermining global and crisis stability — increasing the risk that nuclear weapons will be used again. The first use of nuclear weapons, no matter the size, runs an unacceptably high risk of escalation to all-out nuclear war.
“Congress must act to stop the Trump administration’s misguided and dangerous new nuclear policy — by committing the U.S. to never use nuclear weapons first in any conflict, and by defunding construction of these new and unjustifiable nuclear weapons.”