May 3, 2010 4:07 PM by Melissa Canone

Precise Accounting of the U.S. Nuclear Arsenal

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration is expected to
release a more precise accounting of the U.S. nuclear arsenal
Monday, military and other U.S. officials said, shedding new light
on a secretive arsenal born in the Cold War and now shrinking
The release coincides with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham
Clinton's address to a United Nations conference checking up on
efforts to contain the spread of nuclear weapons around the world.
The move was the subject of a furious debate within the Obama
administration that continued until just hours before Clinton's
Exposure of once-classified totals for U.S. deployed and reserve
nuclear weapons is intended to put pressure on nations such as
China, which has revealed little about its nuclear stockpile.
One U.S. official said Clinton was expected to call on Russia
and China to follow the U.S. lead and make more information public.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not
authorized to discuss the issue publicly.
"You can't get anywhere toward disarmament unless you're going
to be transparent about how many weapons you have," said Sharon
Squassoni, a nuclear policy analyst at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies.
It was not clear whether the administration would spell out
details such as how many nuclear warheads are strategic, or
long-range, and how many are tactical, or shorter-range.
A rough count of deployed and reserve warheads has been known
for years, so the Pentagon figures won't tell nuclear experts much
they don't already know. Estimates of the total U.S. arsenal range
from slightly more than 8,000 to above 9,000.
The warheads are spread among deployed weapons, which are those
more or less ready to launch, and reserve weapons.
Russia and the United States have previously disclosed the size
of their stockpiles of deployed strategic weapons, and France and
Britain have released similar information. All have signed the
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which is the subject of the U.N.
review that began Monday.
The U.S. revelations are calculated to improve Washington's
bargaining power with Iran's allies and friends for the drive to
head off what the West charges is a covert Iranian program to build
a bomb.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamadinejad spoke ahead of Clinton at
the conference, denouncing U.S. efforts to pressure his regime to
abandon its nuclear program.
The U.N. conference will try to close loopholes in the
internationally recognized rules against the spread of weapons
Independent analysts estimate the total world stockpile of
nuclear warheads at more than 22,000.
The Federation of American Scientists estimates that nearly
8,000 of those warheads are operational, with about 2,000 U.S. and
Russian warheads ready for use on short notice.
The United States and Russia burnished their credentials for
insisting that other countries forego atomic weapons by agreeing
last month to a new strategic arms reduction treaty.
The New START treaty sets a limit of 1,550 deployed strategic
nuclear warheads for each side, down from 2,200 under a 2002 deal.
The pact also re-establishes anti-cheating procedures that provide
the most comprehensive and substantial arms control agreement since
the original 1991 START treaty.


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