Director of the National Nuclear Security Administration Linton Brooks testified yesterday on Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP).

Brooks admitted RNEP will produce a huge amount of fallout:

TAUSCHER: “Is there any way an RNEP of any size that we would drop will not produce a huge amount of radioactive debris?”

BROOKS: No, there’s not. …

[snip]

BROOKS: I really must apologize for my lack of precision if we in the administration have suggested that it was possible to have a bomb that penetrated far enough to trap all fallout…I don’t believe the laws of physics will ever let that be true. It is certainly not what we’re trying to do now. What we are trying to get in the ground is far enough so that the energy goes deep into the ground to hold at risk the deeply buried facilities.”

That is also what the National Academies found; the NAS study is still under classification review.

John Fleck and David Ruppe have quality coverage on Brooks’ testimony.

Jonathan Medalia wrote a recent CRS report entitled Bunker Busters: Sources of Confusion in the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator Debate that suggests the Administration is not totally off the hook for some of the myths that surround RNEP.

Congressional staff have provided examples of disconnects between DOD and DOE, and within DOD, about earth penetrators in general, and RNEP in particular. They have indicated that some in DOD think of RNEP as low yield, while others think of it as high yield. On at least one occasion, a DOD official told staffers that RNEP would be low yield so as to contain fallout, while there is no evidence that DOE has ever claimed that any feasible EPW would be able to contain fallout. Congressional staff stated that some in DOD and DOE told them that the ability to destroy biological agents is a rationale for RNEP, while the DOD official associated with the RNEP program, cited earlier, stated that the goal of RNEP is to destroy HDBTs.

One of the sources of “disconnect” is the Nuclear Posture Review, which states that “With a more effective earth penetrator, many buried targets could be attacked using a weapon with a much lower yield than would be required with a surface burst weapon. This lower yield would achieve the same damage while producing less fallout (by a factor of ten to twenty) than would the much larger yield surface burst.”