pickens writes "The NY Times reports that the Jason panel, an independent group of scientists advising the federal government on issues of science and technology, has concluded that the program to refurbish aging nuclear arms is sufficient to guarantee their destructiveness for decades to come, obviating a need for a costly new generation of more reliable warheads, as proposed by former President Bush. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona and other Republicans have argued that concerns are growing over the reliability of the US's aging nuclear stockpile, and that the possible need for new designs means the nation should retain the right to conduct underground tests of new nuclear weapons. The existing warheads were originally designed for relatively short lifetimes and frequent replacement with better models, but such modernization ended after the US quit testing nuclear arms in 1992. All weapons that remain in the arsenal must now undergo a refurbishment process, known as life extension. The Jason panel found no evidence that the accumulated changes from aging and refurbishment posed any threat to weapon destructiveness, and that the 'lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss of confidence.' But the panel added that federal indifference could undermine the nuclear refurbishment program (as this report from last May illustrates). Quoting the report (PDF): 'The study team is concerned that this expertise is threatened by lack of program stability, perceived lack of mission importance and degradation of the work environment.'"