EMBATTLED LAB UNVEILS NEW NUKES

The United States' arsenal of 10,000 nuclear weapons isn't enough. The country needs more bombs, and the place to make them is the scandal-plagued, security-challenged Los Alamos National Laboratory.That seems to be the meaning behind yesterday's announcement by Los Alamos officials that the lab has constructed, for the first time in a long while, a plutonium pit -- the deadly heart of a nuclear warhead -- that's bomb-ready.It's been 14 years since the last one was completed. The United States hasn't had the ability to make the pits since the FBI stopped production at the Energy Department's Rocky Flats plant for environmental violations in 1989.It's the opening trickle in what is scheduled to eventually become a torrent of new nuclear cores. For the next four years, Los Alamos will make about a half-dozen pits per year. After that, capacity will ramp up to 10 pits per year -- and then to as many as 500 new pits annually, as the new U.S. Modern Pit Facility comes online in 2018.According to the Bush administration's central plan for atomic weapons, the Nuclear Posture Review, making additional nuclear cores is key to keeping America's potential adversaries cowed.The ability to "upgrade existing weapon systems, surge production of weapons or develop and field entirely new systems (will) discourage other countries from competing militarily with the United States," the review says.In other words, the mere threat of blowing up opposing countries a thousand times over isn't enough. America must have the option to make more nuclear weapons -- and faster -- than any other nation on earth.My Wired News story has more.

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