USA — U.S. Declassifies Nuclear Stockpile Details to Promote Transparency

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2010 — The Unit­ed States released new­ly declas­si­fied details about its nuclear stock­pile today, includ­ing sig­nif­i­cant progress made in dis­man­tling war­heads, in an effort to pro­mote trans­paren­cy and help stem nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion.
The Unit­ed States had 5,113 war­heads in its nuclear weapons stock­pile as of Sept. 30, a senior defense offi­cial told reporters today on back­ground.

That rep­re­sents an 84 per­cent reduc­tion from the end of fis­cal 1967, when the U.S. nuclear arse­nal was its largest, with 31,255 war­heads, the offi­cial said. The cur­rent stock­pile is 75 per­cent low­er than when the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989, and the Unit­ed States had 22,217 war­heads.

The Unit­ed States is mak­ing con­tin­ued progress in dis­man­tling nuclear war­heads: with 8,748 dis­man­tled between fis­cal years 1994 and 2009 and sev­er­al thou­sand more cur­rent­ly retired and await­ing dis­man­tle­ment, the offi­cial not­ed. Mean­while, the num­ber of non-strate­gic nuclear weapons in the U.S. arse­nal dropped about 90 per­cent from Sept. 30, 1991, to Sept. 30, 2009.

“For those who doubt that the Unit­ed States will do its part on dis­ar­ma­ment, this is our record, these are our com­mit­ments,” Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton told the U.N. con­fer­ence on the Nuclear Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty today in New York. “And they send a clear, unmis­tak­able mes­sage.”

A senior defense offi­cial expressed hope that it would set a stan­dard for the rest of the world, includ­ing Chi­na, to be more trans­par­ent about their nuclear weapons pro­grams. Clin­ton said the new Strate­gic Arms Reduc­tion Treaty with Rus­sia, once approved, will fur­ther lim­it the num­ber of strate­gic nuclear weapons deployed by both coun­tries to lev­els not seen since the 1950s.

Clin­ton also not­ed that the new Nuclear Pos­ture Review, released in April, rules out the devel­op­ment of new U.S. nuclear weapons and new mis­sions and capa­bil­i­ties for exist­ing weapons. It also pro­hibits the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are par­ties to the NPT and com­ply with its non­pro­lif­er­a­tion oblig­a­tions. Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has made reduc­ing the threat posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear mate­ri­als a cen­tral mis­sion of U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy, Clin­ton told the con­fer­ence. “I rep­re­sent a pres­i­dent and a coun­try com­mit­ted to a vision of a world with­out nuclear weapons, and to tak­ing the con­crete steps nec­es­sary that will help us get there,” she said. “And, along with my del­e­ga­tion, I come to this con­fer­ence with sin­cere and serous pro­pos­als to advance the fun­da­men­tal aims of the NPT and strength­en the glob­al non­pro­lif­er­a­tion regime.”

Although most nations live up to their non­pro­lif­er­a­tion respon­si­bil­i­ties, Clin­ton said Iran’s nuclear weapons ambi­tions put the entire world at risk and urged the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to hold it account­able.

She called out Iran­ian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ahmadine­jad for spew­ing “the same tired, false and some­times wild accu­sa­tions” against the Unit­ed States and oth­er nations dur­ing his address to the assem­bly ear­li­er today. “Iran will do what­ev­er it can to divert atten­tion away from its own record and … attempt to evade account­abil­i­ty,” she said. Clin­ton urged Iran to join with oth­er coun­tries rep­re­sent­ed at the con­fer­ence to “ful­fill our inter­na­tion­al oblig­a­tions and work toward the goal of a safer world.”

“When Pres­i­dent Oba­ma came into office, he rec­og­nized that the great­est poten­tial dan­ger fac­ing the Unit­ed States comes from a ter­ror­ist group like al-Qai­da obtain­ing a crude nuclear device, not from a glob­al nuclear war,” she said. “The threats of the 21st cen­tu­ry can­not be addressed with a mas­sive nuclear stock­pile. So we are tak­ing irre­versible, trans­par­ent, ver­i­fi­able steps to reduce the num­ber of nuclear weapons in our arse­nal.”

But in the mean­time, Clin­ton empha­sized that the Unit­ed States won’t elim­i­nate all its nuclear weapons until it’s safe to do so. “The Unit­ed States will main­tain a nuclear deter­rent for as long as nuclear weapons exist, one that can pro­tect our coun­try and our allies,” she said.

The U.S. nuclear stock­pile includes both active and inac­tive war­heads, defense offi­cials explained. Active war­heads include strate­gic and non-strate­gic weapons main­tained in an oper­a­tional, ready-for-use con­fig­u­ra­tion, war­heads that must be ready for pos­si­ble deploy­ment with­in a short time­frame, and logis­tics spares.

Inac­tive war­heads are main­tained in a non-oper­a­tional sta­tus at depots, and have their tri­tium bot­tles removed.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)