Missouri's 7th District, U.S. House of Representatives




Congressional Issues 2010
Weapons of Mass Destruction -- RNEP

The 112th Congress should
  • Put a halt to Bush Administration plans for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP)

The Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) would be designed to destroy hardened and deeply buried targets such as bunkers containing chemical and biological weapons.

Because of its lower yield and earth penetrating capability, the RNEP is considered to be a more "usable" nuclear weapon than large yield, "strategic" nuclear weapons. However, reports by scientists indicate that the RNEP is far from being a "clean" weapon. If detonated in an urban setting, 10,000 to 50,000 people would receive a fatal dose of radiation within the first 24 hours. This does not take into account injuries from the extreme pressures of the blast or the heat of the explosion. Nor does the casualty estimate consider the consequences of fires and the collapse of buildings from the seismic shock that the explosion would produce.

Development of this new nuclear warhead may require the resumption of U.S. nuclear weapons testing, ending the international moratorium which the U.S. has been observing for ten years.

The development of a Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator would have disastrous consequences for the international arms control regime. A nuclear weapon designed for battlefield use would increase the perception that nuclear weapons were as usable as any other part of the U.S. conventional weapons arsenal and that the U.S. was preparing to use them. If the U.S. proceeds with these weapons, other nations with far less conventional weapons capability will seek to deter a U.S. attack by developing their own weapons of mass destruction, most likely chemical or biological weapons.

Finally, proceeding with the production of the RNEP would significantly undermine the global non-proliferation regime because the obvious targets for these weapons are non-nuclear weapon states. The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) prohibits the use of nuclear weapons against such states. The U.S. and other nuclear weapon states pledged in 1995, not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states (with certain exceptions), as an inducement for those non-nuclear weapon states to agree to extend, indefinitely, the NPT. Therefore, the development or testing of these weapons would be a de facto repudiation of these assurances.

next: Strategic Nuclear Forces and Missile Defense