Getting Rid of the Bomb — Sort Of

By Michael Chesney

Dec 18, 2007 5:26pm

ABC News’ Jon Garcia Reports: No more nukes?

Not quite, but one thing is sure: it’s no longer your parents’ (or grandparents’) Cold War.

As the days of bomb shelters, ‘duck-and-cover’ drills and talk of ‘nuclear winter’ fade into memory, it shouldn’t be a surprise that US has been quietly destroying the thousands of nuclear weapons it keeps ‘just in case.’

What is a surprise is just how fast they’ve done it: half of the nation’s stockpile — thousands and thousands of nukes — has been destroyed five years ahead of schedule. Now, by the end of 2007, "the U.S. nuclear stockpile will be less than one-quarter its size at the end of the Cold War," press secretary Dana Perino wrote in a statement.

"We just don’t need them," says Bryan Wilkes, a spokesman for the little-known National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency tasked with keeping track of and destroying the weapons.

The workers at the NNSA were following the instructions of President Bush, who issued a directive in 2004 to cut the stockpile in half by 2012. (The NNSA won’t release the exact numbers because they are classified.) But the workers at the destruction facility, which is located in Texas, did such a fast job, they finished in just three years. Now they have a new goal: 15% more.

But don’t let all the bomb-busting lead you to think that the US is going nuke-free anytime soon. Perino continued: "A credible deterrent remains an essential part of U.S. national security, and nuclear forces remain key to meeting emerging security challenges."

And the NNSA confirms that long-range operational nuclear weapons covered under a 2002 treaty with Russia are part of a separate deal — and the US has a separate deadline (2012) to cut those weapons. That treaty specified numbers — cutting from as many as 6,000 nukes to as little as 1,700 — and the US is still in the process of meeting that goal, Wilkes said.

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