Do we need a reliable replacement warhead or not?
Why do nuclear warheads degrade in the first place? As the plutonium pit ages, it slowly emits high-energy alpha particles that can damage the pit as they bore through nearby plutonium atoms. This could potentially cause the weapon to lose power or not detonate.
From the article:
O’Hanlon and other nuclear thinkers have suggested retooling existing weapons to improve reliability as an option. But the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which develops America’s nuclear weapons, has said it cannot meet the goals set for RRW by modifying existing weapons. Obama’s position has backing in Congress, which has repeatedly refused to fund the program.
Obama would have a difficult time reversing course on what is now a stated policy of his Administration instead of simply a campaign promise. And any move to produce new nuclear weapons will be read by other nations as a U.S. push for nuclear supremacy, even as Washington urges the rest of the world — Tehran, are you listening? — to do without the weapons. Russia would very likely respond by upgrading its own arsenal.