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(MSNBC)-Bush administration moves on first such weapon since end of Cold War
The military and the Energy Department selected a design developed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California over a competing design by the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
The decision to move ahead with the warhead, which eventually would replace the existing arsenal of weapons, has been criticized as sending the wrong signal to the world at a time when the United States is assailing attempts at nuclear weapons development in North Korea and Iran and striving to contain them.
But military and Energy Department officials said the new U.S. warhead will not add to the nuclear arsenal, but replace existing warheads with ones that are safer and more reliable.
The decision Friday establishes a clear blueprint for designing the new warhead, officials said. A final go ahead is expected to be made by the president within two years, with the first warheads to be completed by 2012.
It has not been determined how much the program will cost. The administration asked Congress for $119 million for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 to push ahead with further design work.
Advocates for the warhead say it would give military commanders greater assurance of reliability and could speed the reduction of the deployed number of nuclear warheads from 6,000 to fewer than 2,000 by 2012.