U.S. could step up dismantle rate of older nuclear warheads

In a new initiative, the United States is likely to step up the rate at which it dismantles older nuclear warheads no longer deployed in the arsenal, officials and experts report.

The nation now maintains roughly one backup warhead for every warhead actively deployed, according to Hans Kristensen, who heads the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. The Defense Department has approximately 2,100 strategic warheads and 500 tactical warheads on active deployment, and almost an equal number in reserve, he said.

Under a fresh approach, the Defense Department might dramatically reduce the number of warheads in the backup force, which U.S. officials typically regard as a "hedge" against a resurgent Russia or the potential discovery of malfunctions in a line of warheads.

A key motivation has been to identify bold initiatives the White House could tout at the five-year review conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to take place in New York City in May.

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Specifically, Washington could point to an increased rate of warhead dismantlement as evidence of Obama's intent to "take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons," as he pledged last April during a major speech in Prague.


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