Knoxville News Sentinel: New START is on right path

Posted on December 28, 2010

U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker hopped off the fence last week and helped push the New START treaty toward ratification, an outcome that is good for the country and for our region.

Tennessee's Republican senators joined 11 others from the GOP and a host of Democrats on Wednesday to ratify this important arms control treaty.

First and foremost, the treaty is good for the country. It reduces the number of nuclear warheads in American and Russian arsenals from 2,200 to 1,550 each and requires the resumption of inspections. Concerns about its possible restrictions on missile defense systems were exposed as unfounded. A collateral benefit could be Russia's aid in reining in nascent nuclear powers Iran and North Korea.

Corker, Alexander and other Republicans withheld whole-hearted support of the treaty until it was accompanied by assurances from President Barack Obama that his administration would invest in the modernization of America's nuclear weapons. Obama has pledged $85 billion in upgrades to nuclear weapons plants, including Oak Ridge's Y-12 National Security Complex.

Tops on the Y-12 wish list is the proposed Uranium Processing Facility for refurbishing and recycling old warheads. It would replace the plant's Cold War-era production facilities at a cost of up to $5 billion.

New START had the support of a bipartisan pool of current and former military and diplomatic officials. Tennessee's senators wisely set aside recent partisan posturing for the good of the country.

And workers in Oak Ridge will have the means to beat some older swords into plowshares while sharpening the remaining blades in our nuclear quiver.