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May 3, 2010 / J. Shaw

U.S. to Release Details of Nuclear Weapons Inventory

Associated Press 

The Obama administration is going to say how many nuclear weapons the U.S. has and how many it has destroyed.

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 rapidly.

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 speech.

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 disclosed 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.



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