A US Senate panel decided Wednesday to scrap funding for a program to develop "bunker buster" bombs - small-scale, tactical nuclear weapons once deemed an indispensable addition to the US anti-terrorism arsenal.
Republican Senator Pete Domenici said the decision to abandon the four million dollar program to develop the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetratorcame at the request of the National Nuclear Security Administration, a quasi-autonomous agency within the US Department of Energy which oversees US nuclear programs.
"The focus will now be with the Defense Department and its research to earth-penetrating technology using conventional weaponry," said Domenici, chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee.
Opponents of nuclear weapons cheered the decision to scrap the program.
"This is a significant victory for those of us who believe that pursuing a nuclear bunker buster will only reopen the nuclear door and encourage the very proliferation we are trying to prevent," said Senator Dianne Feinstein in a statement.
"As we have long argued, it is simply not possible to develop a nuclear bunker buster that can survive a thrust into the earth without spewing massive amounts of radiation into the atmosphere," she said.
The weapons were seen as a way to penetrate underground bunkers, tunnels and other hardened or deeply buried targets that could hide terrorists or insurgents, particularly in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere in the Middle East or Central Asia.
But Feinstein said the technology poses substantial dangers.
"As the National Academies of Sciences has found, a nuclear buster can kill between several thousand and a million people," she said.
"The move to research and develop new nuclear weapons is misbegotten and wrong-headed," Feinstein said.
The California Democrat warned to continue to fight the weapons, which have only been temporarily sidelined, she said.
"The policies underlying the request for a nuclear bunker buster remain in place," said Feinstein.
"I believe as more people learn about what the Administration plans that the opposition to the development of these weapons will grow stronger."
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Marshall Islands Seeks Pacific Support For Nuclear Compensation
Port Moresby (AFP) Oct 24, 2005
The Marshall Islands said Monday it is receiving support from neighbouring Pacific countries in its bid to win compensation from the United States for the continuing effects of nuclear testing carried out half a century ago.
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