American nukes are storage time bomb - Gates

U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, says he’s not happy with the way his country is storing its atomic weapons. Gates says Russia does a much better job. He is also calling for a new agreement to reduce the number of nuclear warheads held by Russia a

The Defense Secretary said the two sides should push for a new deal on arms to replace existing accords.

“I believe the U.S. and Russia should conclude a new Strategic Arms agreement instead of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the U.S.-Russia Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty concluded in Moscow in 2002,” he said.

At the same time, he said nuclear weapons must remain a viable part of the U.S. arsenal as long as other countries have or are going to have them.

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which was signed in 1991 and came into effect in December 1994, obliges the sides to reduce the number of deployed warheads to not more than 1,600, and total warheads to 6,000.

In compliance with the 2002 Treaty, the sides must reduce the number of their deployed warheads to 1,700-2,200 for each side by December 2012.

Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain both advocate negotiating with Russia to further reduce nuclear weapons.

On the issue of nuclear safety, Robert Gates was critical of American methods. He said that while the U.S.’s more than 5,000 nuclear weapons are safe, the future prospects for keeping them safe and reliable is “bleak”, partly because the U.S. is now experiencing a brain drain in the laboratories that design and develop nuclear weapons.