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Context of 'Spring 2003: Funding Allocated to Develop Nuclear Bunker-Buster'

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The proposed 2004 budget of the Energy Department’s Nuclear Security Administration includes some $15 million for the development of a nuclear bunker-buster bomb called the “Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator” and $6 million for two of the nation’s nuclear weapons laboratories, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore. The labs would “assemble design teams to study advanced nuclear concepts,” the Washington Post reports. [Washington Post, 2/20/2003; USA Today, 7/6/2003]

Timeline Tags: US Military

Defense Department officials and representatives from the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos laboratories attend the “Stockpile Stewardship Conference Planning Meeting” called by Dale Klein, the assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to prepare for a secret conference on nuclear weapons during the week of August 4, 2003 (see Early August 2003). The purpose of the conference will be to discuss the construction of a new generation of nuclear weapons, including “low-yield” neutron bombs designed to destroy chemical or biological agents and “mini-nukes,” or “bunker-busters,” which could be used to destroy underground targets. Another purpose of the meeting will be to consider restarting nuclear testing and to discuss how the American public can be convinced that the new weapons are necessary. [San Francisco Chronicle, 2/15/2003; Guardian, 2/19/2003; Washington Post, 2/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Dale Klein

Timeline Tags: US Military

The House of Representatives and the Senate agree to spend $15.5 million to develop a nuclear bunker-buster, or “mini-nuke,” called the “Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator” (see January 2003). They also agree to allocate funds to make changes to the Nevada Test Site (see Early March 2003) in order to shorten the amount of time that would be needed to resume nuclear tests to as little as 18-24 months. [Guardian, 3/7/2003; USA Today, 7/6/2003]

Timeline Tags: US Military

During the week marking the 48th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 150 people attend a secret conference at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska to discuss plans to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons, including the so-called “mini-nukes” and “bunker busters,” that could be used against rogue states and terrorist organizations. The B-29 planes that dropped the atomic bombs on the two Japanese cities, Enola Gay and Bock’s Car, were both built at Offutt. Another topic to be discussed is whether the development of nuclear weapons would require a repeal of the 1992 “Spratt-Furse restriction,” which banned such weapons. Though the exact identities of the attendees are not known, unnamed sources tell the Guardian of London that the meeting is attended by scientists and administrators from the three main nuclear weapons laboratories, Los Alamos, Sandia and Livermore; senior officers from the air force and strategic command; weapons contractors; and civilian defense officials. No representatives from Congress, however, are at the meeting. According to the Guardian, “Requests by Congress to send observers were rejected, and an oversight committee which included academic nuclear experts was disbanded only a few weeks earlier.” One congressional weapons expert tells the London newspaper, “I was specifically told I couldn’t come.” [Guardian, 8/7/2003] According to the January meeting that had planned for this event (see January 10, 2003), other issues to be addressed include the possible recommencement of nuclear testing and how to convince the American public the new nuclear weapons are necessary.

Entity Tags: US Congress

Timeline Tags: US Military

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