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U.S. Department of Defense, Components of a Peacekeeper missile are subjected to a wall of fire as part of Stockpile Stewardship test, Wikimedia Commons

Issue Brief

Stockpile Stewardship

The Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP) was created in 1995 with the goal of studying and developing the U.S. nuclear arsenal through scientific means. Though the expansion of the nuclear stockpile was limited by the terms of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) of 1992, the continued maintenance and upkeep of existing nuclear weapons was considered vital to the ability of the U.S. to provide effective deterrence in the post-Cold War era. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), founded in 2000 under the Department of Energy, carries out the implementation of the program. Their activity includes the dismantling and removal of retired warheads and missile components and the subsequent disposal or preservation of parts for the Life Extension Program. The NNSA works with the Department of Defense to limit the number of costly test launches by using surveillance and monitoring techniques. Critics of the program point to the way it actually allows the U.S. to maintain and modernize its nuclear arsenal, thus undermining commitments to START I and II; it also creates jobs programs and new research programs that perpetuate reliance on nuclear technology. One example is Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC), where research on supercomputers and visual mapping software was used to develop nuclear warhead models and predict their behavior.


Mello, Greg, Andrew Lichterman, and William Weida. "The Stockpile Stewardship Charade." Issues in Science and Technology 15, no. 3 (Spring 1999). Accessed August 3, 2020.

National Nuclear Security Administration. "Maintaining the Stockpile." Accessed August 3, 2020.

Reis, Victor H., Robert J. Hanrahan, and W. Kirk Levedahl. "The Big Science of Stockpile Stewardship." Physics Today 69, no. 8 (August 1, 2016). Accessed August 3, 2020.


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