TESTIMONY OF SECRETARY FEDERICO PEÑA
Since becoming the Secretary of Energy, I have made the safety and reliability of our nation's nuclear stockpile a top priority. In my confirmation hearing, I stated that I cannot imagine any responsibility more serious than certifying to the President on an annual basis whether or not our nuclear stockpile is both safe and reliable.
Since my confirmation in March, I have visited each of the Department's three weapons laboratories, and have personally engaged each of the weapons laboratory directors in discussions about the strength and adequacy of Stockpile Stewardship. I have also met with other experts both within and outside of the Department, and I am pleased to report that there is a strong consensus that Stockpile Stewardship is the right program to address the challenges of maintaining our nuclear deterrent without underground nuclear testing; that the program is properly sized and funded for the outyears; and that, with the President's six safeguards, we can enter into the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty with confidence that the safety and reliability of our nuclear deterrent can be maintained.
These recent months of analysis and interagency review have also allowed us to complete the technical assessments that form the basis for our second annual certification that the stockpile remains safe and reliable. I expect that Secretary Cohen and I will soon certify to the President that the stockpile is safe and reliable and that there is no need to resume underground nuclear testing at this time. As part of this certification process, I have spoken to each of the weapons laboratory directors, and to the Commander-in-Chief of Strategic Command to ensure that they are confident in their assessment -- and they are -- of the safety and reliability of the stockpile.
The quest to end all nuclear weapons test explosions began decades ago with Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. With the end of the Cold War, we finally have the opportunity to achieve this bipartisan goal.
The transmittal of the Treaty by President Clinton to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification last month represents the culmination of many years of effort on the part of United States government agencies, the National Laboratories, and the Congress. There continues to be overwhelming public support for such a treaty, and for good reason. This treaty provides a significant benefit to the national security of the United States. It will contribute to the prevention of nuclear proliferation and the process of further nuclear disarmament.
We recognize that the global community continues to face difficult security challenges. To meet the challenges, a credible nuclear deterrent -- the foundation of US national security -- must be maintained. As the President has stated,"the United States must and will retain strategic nuclear forces sufficient to deter any future hostile foreign leadership with access to strategic nuclear forces from acting against our vital interests...in this regard...I consider the maintenance of a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile to be a supreme national interest of the United States."
It has been more than five years since our last underground test and, as Secretary Cohen and I will soon certify to the President, the stockpile is both safe and reliable today. Our job now is to continue to maintain the safety and reliability of the deterrent under a CTBT. Why do we think we can meet this challenge, and what are we doing to manage the risks?
In August of 1995, when President Clinton first announced that the United States would pursue a zero-yield CTBT, he declared that US adherence to a CTBT would be predicated upon six safeguards:
I am here today because the Department of Energy plays a vital role in each of these six safeguards. And I am here because I consider the stewardship of our nation's nuclear stockpile to be my highest responsibility. I have emphasized the significance of this responsibility with each of the directors of our nuclear weapons laboratories and I will continue to stress the Department's responsibility to uphold the six safeguards that the President outlined. I would now like to briefly highlight our role in each of these six safeguards.
Safeguard A requires the conduct of a Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship program. President Clinton directed the Department of Energy to develop this program more than four years ago. We have made enormous strides in this program over the last several years. The program has been designed to combine laboratory experimentation with advanced computations in lieu of underground nuclear testing to ensure high confidence in the safety and reliability of the stockpile.
I have visited our three nuclear weapons laboratories to see firsthand the progress of the Stockpile Stewardship program. I am pleased to report that Stockpile Stewardship is working. We are successfully addressing several stockpile warhead issues by using a combination of analysis, new experimental data, archived test and manufacturing data, and most importantly, the collective judgment of our weapon design laboratories. These successes, using the experimental and testing tools available today, provides confidence that those even more powerful computing and testing tools being developed now will allow us to solve future stockpile problems without nuclear testing.
Our stewardship program is also designed so that the day-to-day needs of the stockpile are met in a cost efficient and environmentally responsible manner. The production plants at Savannah River, Pantex, Kansas City, and Oak Ridge are producing critical limited life components, like tritium reservoirs, and making the necessary repairs to support the enduring nuclear weapons stockpile.
Safeguard B requires the maintenance of modern nuclear laboratory facilities and programs in theoretical and exploratory nuclear technology. A number of activities being conducted as part of the Stockpile Stewardship program are designed to help us carry out our responsibilities under this safeguard. In May, I participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. NIF is designed to produce, for the first time in a laboratory setting, conditions of temperature and density of matter close to those that occur in the detonation of nuclear weapons. The ability to study the behavior of matter and energy under these conditions is key to understanding the basic physics of nuclear weapons and predicting their performance without underground nuclear testing.
Another central component of our program is the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative. ASCI provides the leading-edge, high-end simulation capabilities needed to meet weapon assessment and certification requirements without nuclear testing. The national laboratories are focused on providing the application codes and related science needed to address weapon safety, reliability, and performance. They are also developing improved tools and methodologies to utilize this unprecedented volume of data.
Even at this early stage in their development, advanced ASCI codes are providing unprecedented capabilities to our weapons program. For example, we have reduced the time it takes to complete one simulation from 74 days to 7 hours. We are not only doing the same things faster, we are performing calculations and simulations that we once only imagined possible.
I believe that with the sustained, bipartisan support of the Administration and the Congress, the new experimental facilities and programs will expand and enhance the scientific and engineering base for Stockpile Stewardship, and assure that we can continue to attract and retain the high quality personnel needed to make the sound scientific and technical judgments on the safety and reliability of the stockpile in the absence of underground nuclear testing.
Safeguard C requires the maintenance of a basic capability to resume underground testing. We are meeting this requirement through a number of important activities at the Nevada Test Site, including the conduct of subcritical experiments. I visited the Nevada Test Site in August and spoke to the scientists responsible for the successful completion of our subcritical experiments. These experiments -- a key element of Stockpile Stewardship -- will help us improve our basic knowledge of the properties of plutonium. In addition, consistent with this safeguard, we are maintaining the capability at the Test Site to resume nuclear testing, if directed by the President.
My visit in August is the first that a Secretary of Energy has made to the Test Site in more than a decade. I was impressed by the dedication and the talent of the scientists and engineers who are responsible for conducting the subcritical experiments.
SAFEGUARDS D and E
The President's inclusion of Safeguards D and E recognizes the importance of continuing research and development in monitoring and verification to the success of the Treaty. The Department of Energy's CTBT research program is further developing the necessary core monitoring technologies to increase confidence in verifiability. The research program addresses all of the CTBT International Monitoring System (IMS) technology areas -- seismic, infrasound, radionuclide, and hydroacoustic -- as well as technologies for on-site inspection and confidence building measures. For example, to provide for CTBT radionuclide regional monitoring, we have developed an automated ultra-sensitive near real-time radionuclide detection and analysis system. These technologies meet IMS specifications, and are available commercially.
In addition, Department of Energy research programs are helping to improve US National Technical Means related to CTBT monitoring. For example, the Department is also conducting research and development for satellite-based detection systems.
Safeguard F specifies that if the President is informed by the Secretaries of Energy and Defense, advised by the Nuclear Weapons Council, the directors of the weapons laboratories, and the Commander-in-Chief of Strategic Command that a high-level of confidence in the safety or reliability of a weapon type critical to the nuclear deterrent could no longer be certified, the President, in consultation with the Congress, would be prepared to withdraw from the CTBT under the Supreme National Interest Clause in order to conduct whatever nuclear testing might be required.
To determine the overall safety and reliability of the stockpile, the President directed the establishment of a rigorous, annual certification process. As I noted, we expect to complete the second of these annual certifications soon. I would like to take a moment to explain how this process works. As you can see, it is a comprehensive and thorough procedure.
The certification process requires that the weapons design laboratories and the Department of Defense review all weapons types -- both active and inactive. From this review, the laboratory directors, the Nuclear Weapons Council, and the Commander-in-Chief of Strategic Command each independently advise the Secretaries of Energy and Defense on the results. Based upon these results, we determine whether or not to certify to the President that there is no need to return to underground nuclear testing.
The rigor and thoroughness of this procedure ensures that, from the level of the technicians working with the weapons on a day-to-day basis, to the designers who know the inner workings of the weapons, to Secretary Cohen and myself, every level of authority is appropriately informed of and accountable for the safety and reliability of the weapons stockpile.
And let me stress that if I am advised by the nuclear weapons laboratory directors that there is a problem with the stockpile that is critical to our nuclear deterrent and that we are unable to correct without returning to underground nuclear testing, I will not hesitate to advise the President of such.
President Clinton has made the CTBT one of his highest national security priorities and is committed to working with the Congress on the Stockpile Stewardship program. At the same time, the Administration's continuing support for Stockpile Stewardship underscores that our nuclear forces will continue to serve as a deterrent against aggression and coercion, a hedge against an uncertain future, a guarantee of our security commitment to allies, and a discouragement to those who would contemplate developing or otherwise acquiring their own nuclear weapons.
When President Clinton made the United States the first signatory of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty at the United Nations General Assembly last year, he demonstrated that the United States is committed to being the leader in this arena. He signed the Treaty with the very same pen that President Kennedy used to bring the Limited Test Ban Treaty to life. A symbolic gesture, but a meaningful one. The gesture symbolized the passing of a torch from one generation to the next.
At our weapons laboratories right now, the torch is being passed. A generation of scientists and engineers who created the awesome power behind the mushroom cloud are passing the torch to a generation of scientists and engineers, who may never know its shadow. To this new generation of scientists and engineers, the CTBT, and the stewardship program that underpins it, is our commitment to the national security that they work so very hard every day to protect.
It is because we believe that this Treaty is fundamentally in the national security interest of the United States that we ask your support. Millions of Americans, perhaps more than ever before, long for the peace of mind that comes with knowing that our world is safe from either accidental or intentional nuclear disaster. By constraining not only nuclear weapons development by non-nuclear weapons states, but also the development of more advanced weapon types by nuclear weapon states, the Treaty serves our nonproliferation and disarmament goals, and moves us closer to achieving this peace of mind.