Strike back before they pollute our natural fluids
April 6, 2006 5:07 PM   Subscribe

US Rolls out new Nuclear Program. Consolidate nuclear stores. Ok. Plan with "potential for new bomb designs". Whaaaaaa? (partially from here)
posted by phyrewerx (39 comments total)
 
Just you wait for the results of Divine Strake, my friends.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:14 PM on April 6, 2006


Yes, let us continue to point fingers at Iran and North Korea for disobeying the global nuclear non-proliferation treaty while we give up passively disobeying (how many years without actually trying to destroy any of our nukes?) in exchange for brazen active disobedience. Yeah, that sets a great example and really makes us look like swell guys to the rest of the world. Anyone who still supports this administration's foreign policy needs to check into an asylum.
posted by Farengast at 5:16 PM on April 6, 2006


The half-life of Pu-238 is 87.7 years, so the earliest plutonium bombs will have lost about a quarter of their fissionable material.... I don't know what the margins are in those designs, but at least some of those bombs probably won't work anymore.

I don't understand why we don't just reprocess and condense, though, instead of making new. Why on earth do we need to make 125 bombs per year, when we already have thousands?

Obviously I'm missing something somewhere.
posted by Malor at 5:22 PM on April 6, 2006


The nuns aren't going to like this.
posted by homunculus at 5:24 PM on April 6, 2006


"The Administration, however, wants the capability to turn out 125 new nuclear bombs a year by 2022"...that's MAD
posted by RufusW at 5:32 PM on April 6, 2006


We need more effective nuclear weapons. The ones we have now were designed to destroy cities and other easy targets, not underground lunatic hide outs. Smaller missiles that we'd have less guilt in using, because they would cause fewer deaths than the megabombs that we have now.

That seems to me the obvious strategy. It's aggressive and I disagree with it.
posted by recurve at 5:33 PM on April 6, 2006


I think its good that we are doing this. And I think its depraved that you do the moral equivalence thing with NK or Iran. Nuclear weapons have, and will continue to keep us safe.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:35 PM on April 6, 2006



Obviously I'm missing something somewhere.


I think you're missing the strangelovian insanity combined with pork-barrel-lust that pervades the millitary-industrial-complex. It's become such a part of our lives, that when we read about governemnet waste, we forget that we spend
> $0.4 trillion on defense.

Think about that. And weep.
posted by lalochezia at 5:35 PM on April 6, 2006


I think this is an appropriate time to trot out the question: "Which is the only country in history to use atomic weapons on another country?"
posted by blue_beetle at 5:38 PM on April 6, 2006


Nuclear weapons have, and will continue to keep us safe.

American soft power, trade and the export of ideas will keep the world safe. I never understand how weapons with radioactive fallout pointed at some other capital assures safety. It's not safe, it's fear!

Even if nukes are deployed solely for "bunker busting", the use of fissionable materials and not conventional explosives evoke way too many horrific images. US building NEW weapons and a 125 a year missile store will likely compel other countries to rethink their first strike capabilities.

...Or did I miss the class on sarcasm?
posted by phyrewerx at 5:43 PM on April 6, 2006


I fervently hope that 75 years from now, Iran will be proposing to build a controversial "peace shield" missile defense system, against the threat of the nuclear arsenal of the emerging world power "The Floating Republic of (make up your own name) and nobody has been surprised by a mushroom cloud.
posted by longsleeves at 5:53 PM on April 6, 2006


Whatever. I favor a strong, agile nuclear deterent. Feel free to elect officials who don't.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:05 PM on April 6, 2006


You favor Radioactive Man ?
posted by elpapacito at 6:09 PM on April 6, 2006


Here's some more information on the current status of the US nuclear arsenal. The ~5000 active and ~5000 "inactive reserve" weapons are also euphemistically referred to as the Enduring Stockpile.

Non-proliferation considerations aside, if we're going to have a nuclear weapons stockpile of any sort, I'd much prefer that the warheads be modern. The B61, one of the primary bombs in the Stockpile, was designed in 1963 -- from a design standpoint, that's a little long in the tooth.
posted by killdevil at 6:10 PM on April 6, 2006


And I think its depraved that you do the moral equivalence thing with NK or Iran. Nuclear weapons have, and will continue to keep us safe.

Sometimes I think the phrase "moral equivalence" is a favorite of conservatives who don't want to think through (or don't want others to think through) the issue because it reduces the argument to the a deceptively simple question: who do you feel is more moral? who do you trust more?

And honestly, if asked which government I trust more with nuclear weapons, even with all the evidence that the Bush Administration is corrupt and *does not play straight* with the citizenry that elected it, I'd still say that I trust them more with nukes than I do NK and Iran. So I can see why some people come to the conclusions that it's OK for us and not for states we don't trust.

And yet, one starts to actually come to an understanding of the complexity of the situation only when one asks the deceptively simple question above from the point of view of an Iranian. Iran has *many* reasons not to trust the U.S., especially the members of the current administration, who encouraged and actively supported the use of WMDs when we were sicking Iraq on them in the 80s, who've dismissed the efforts the more moderate pre-2005-elections government of Iran had made, and returned them with saber-rattling.

What's the rational thing to do? Especially if you believe nuclear weapons can form a significant deterrent to conflict?

Understanding this perspective is *not* moral equivalence. It's basic strategic analysis, it's the foundation of game theory, it goes back to the ancient advice "know your enemy."
posted by namespan at 6:16 PM on April 6, 2006


I've long supported replacing our long-range rocket nukes with long range hollow rockets, filled with little paper parachutes.

The Hollow Missles will be used only in the case of globothermonuclear war where they will fly over the world, and explode into a gentle rain of parachutes bearing notes in ten different languages.

The note will read: Congratulations, you've killed us! Enjoy your slow death from nuclear winter.

Much cheaper than regular nukes and just as effective. Everyone still dies.
posted by unixrat at 6:30 PM on April 6, 2006


Paris, the problem with nuclear weapons is that they only work as deterrents on sane people, with sane reasoning.

bin Laden would love it if we nuked Afghanistan, or any other bunch of Muslims. There'd be no shortage of eager new recruits after that kind of atrocity.
posted by Malor at 6:30 PM on April 6, 2006


If we're going to continue to have nuclear weapons, we might as well have new ones developed. That is, ones that are less bad than the previous, less fallout, etc. Though I doubt that'd be the focus, it could be a side effect. Just my two cents without even reading the article!
posted by cellphone at 6:50 PM on April 6, 2006


The B61, one of the primary bombs in the Stockpile, was designed in 1963 -- from a design standpoint, that's a little long in the tooth.

So? Does it work?

First, the design has been revised, the last revision being the B61Mk11, in 1997. Heck, the B61Mk11 is the newest weapon we have!

Secondly, what? You want to squeeze a few extra kilotons out of the yield? This is a weapon that, in various versions, can be dialed from .3 kiltons to 350 kilotons.

What else do you need from a bomb design? This thing will go from wiping out a block to wiping out a large city. If the fissionables are getting long in the tooth, you send it down to Pantex, they mill out a new pit, and the weapon's fine.

We don't need new designs. We've got tons of designs, from 20 ton (not kiloton) recoiless rifle rounds to the Mk-41, 25 Megatons worth of End Of The World. We have this down pat. Small, big, one to three stage, lots of fallout, less fallout, neutron flux, whatever. 25MT not enough? We wrap it in U238 and let fast fission from the thermal neutron flux double the yield. We already know how to do this.

The ones we have now were designed to destroy cities and other easy targets

News flash: A nuclear weapon destroys whatever target it hits -- there's no "easy" or "hard" target when 20 tons of TNT lands on it, much less 1,200,000 tons. This is why everyone gave up on bunkers for command protection, and put the guys with the nuclear keys in planes.

What made counterforce possible wasn't larger bombs -- indeed, weapon yields have been dramatically reduced in the US arsenal -- it was better targeting. We needed 9 megaton warheads and 25 megaton bombs when the targeting unit was a county. When missles became accurate, high yields went away, and the majority of the US Arsenal is selectable yield weapons with maximum yields of less than half a megaton or the 100kt warheads from the B52 cruise missle fleet. Just what you were looking for. See the B61Mk11 referenced above, which is build to, gosh, penetrate bunkers.

The largest active weapon is the 1.2MT B83, but it is also a selectable yield weapon, and was built, from the start, as a bunker buster, since, after all, there's little to no difference between destroying a missle in a hardened underground silo and a madman in a hardened underground bunker. There are 50 of the W53s, left over from the Titan missles, that yield 9MT, but that's it for Megaton class nukes -- 50 W53s, 650 B83s, out of the 8000+ weapons in the active stockpile.
posted by eriko at 6:56 PM on April 6, 2006


The latest model. [flash]
posted by tellurian at 7:18 PM on April 6, 2006


Farengast: (how many years without actually trying to destroy any of our nukes?)

Four.
posted by Dasein at 7:19 PM on April 6, 2006


Well, really, zero, since reductions in strategic arms are ongoing. Anyway, the NPT committment to eliminating nukes is symbolic, since only an insane superpower would eliminate its nuclear detterent. But if you want a recipe for great-power war, go ahead, advocate for a nuclear-free world. Worked real well before 1945.
posted by Dasein at 7:28 PM on April 6, 2006


I think its good that we are doing this. And I think its depraved that you do the moral equivalence thing with NK or Iran. Nuclear weapons have, and will continue to keep us safe.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:35 PM EST on April 6 [!]


It's also depraved to think utterly destructive weapons such as these are the best way to keep "us" safe. It's like being in a Tarantino movie with everyone pointing a gun at each other. It's so cool!

And these weapons did nothing to keep the dead of 911 safe...

But if you want a recipe for great-power war, go ahead, advocate for a nuclear-free world. Worked real well before 1945.
posted by Dasein at 10:28 PM EST on April 6 [!]


Indeed, we have more wars than ever before, and we have the largest military industrial complex in history which is just peachy for so many people the world over.
posted by juiceCake at 8:59 PM on April 6, 2006


I don't understand why we don't just reprocess and condense, though, instead of making new.

I read this:

While the weapons proposal would restore the capacity to make new bombs, Mr D'Agostino said it was part of a larger effort to accelerate the dismantling of ageing bombs left from the Cold War.

as talking about reprocessing old bombs into new ones, not starting with freshly-mined uranium.

Anyone know more about it?

I can't help it, I find nuclear weapons fascinating as physics-in-action. It's also sort of amazing that with a gun-type weapon, we're back to banging rocks together... but if you bang just the right rocks together in just the right way, you can pith a city.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:05 PM on April 6, 2006


"Paris, the problem with nuclear weapons is that they only work as deterrents on sane people, with sane reasoning.

bin Laden would love it if we nuked Afghanistan, or any other bunch of Muslims. There'd be no shortage of eager new recruits after that kind of atrocity.
posted by Malor at 9:30 PM EST on April 6 [!]"

I agree, but this isn't an argument fornot having them.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:46 PM on April 6, 2006


PP.

It is an argument for not having them, but a poor one.

There is an argument for having fewer that is pretty strong.

As noted above the US has better targeting and more sophisticated nukes. Having large numbers of them doesn't add much, other than a slight increase in the ability to retaliate after a massive strike. But it's slight. Having Nuclear Missile equipped submarines effectively means you will be able to land a massive retaliatory strike against anyone anytime.

It is interesting to note how few nuclear weapons the Chinese have. They are meant to have only 20-100 weapons. They are being smart. Nobody can invade China, but they are not spending too much money on them.

The US could save money by reducing the stockpile. Money can be better spent on new UAVs, counter-terrorism measures and many other military things, let alone non-military ones.
posted by sien at 10:14 PM on April 6, 2006


I've been predicting for a few months that a nuke will go off somewhere before the end of Bush's term.

What other bad things are left for him to do!?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:36 PM on April 6, 2006


Paris, what is your argument for having these types of weapons? How does that relate to building new weapons of this class?

Please clearly outline how they keep "us"[0] safe?

[0] "Us" in this context meaning the USA. Not the world, just American interests, right?
posted by ioerror at 11:22 PM on April 6, 2006


Indeed, we have more wars than ever before,

WRONG


"We knew the number of wars was coming down, because that has been around in academic circles for a while, but particularly surprising is how the decline in wars is reflected right across the board in all forms of political conflict and violence," says Andrew Mack, head of the Human Security Center at the University of British Columbia. He directed the team that delivered the report.

That means that not only are interstate wars down, but so are civil conflicts, as well as other forms of political violence like human-rights abuses.

The report finds that the total number of conflicts declined by 40 percent since the cold war ended. The average number of deaths per conflict has also declined dramatically, from 37,000 in 1950 to 600 in 2002. The study found 25 civil conflicts last year - the lowest number since 1976.


more
posted by techgnollogic at 11:36 PM on April 6, 2006


A couple things for the nuke lovers to chew on. First, can anyone here think of a single situation where it would benefit us to use nuclear weapons at all? This is more out of curiosity than challenge. I just can't imagine a situation, even an extreme one, where we'd be better off using nukes than conventional precision tactical weaponry. People always pull out the old cold war canard of we use our nukes when someone else (USSR) launches a bunch of nukes at us. This is a stupid scenario since we are already screwed whether or not we retaliate and because the aggressor will become the universal target of every other country in the world and really not gain anything at all.
It's pretty damned obvious that you can't fight terrorists with nukes. That we'd do more harm to ourselves in terms of foreign affairs then we could ever possibly gain by using them against another nation, like Iran or NK. And enemies that are supposed to be detered know this. Kim Jong Ill knows for damned sure that using a nuke on another country will bring down a shit storm on his country from the rest of the world. So unless anyone here is supposing that NK will blanket every major military nation in the world with nukes, there is no scenario where we benefit from having them ourselves. So when would we use them? Much less when would we use 10,000 of them? Anyone?

Second point to chew on is the fact that Paris and some others TOTALLY missed the point about the NK/Iran/US nuke hypocrisy. The point is NOT that it is hypocritical of us to tell them they can't have nukes when we have nukes. Not even a little bit. The point is that it is hypocritical of us to tell them they have to obey the global nuclear non-proliferation treaty which they signed when we do not obey that same treaty, which we also signed. So the issue has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of "we are more moral, we can have nukes and you can't" dialogue. It has everything to do with the fact that all parties involved signed an agreement saying we should have nukes and Iran/NK shouldn't and now we want to chide them for breaking the agreement when we have been breaking it all along by refusing to destroy nukes in a timely manner, as stated in the agreement, and more recently breaking it overtly by developing new nuclear weapons.

If we just got rid of them all we'd have license to develop that missle defence program which other nuclear powers declared that they would consider an act of war for us to even research. We'd have license to tell Iran and NK that they can't have them. And we'd be just as effective militarily since we don't have anything to shoot them at anyway.
posted by Farengast at 1:25 AM on April 7, 2006


I found the chapters on logic and MAD in Douglas Hofstadter's Metamagical Themas to be excellent reading. He is very concerned about nuclear stockpiles.

IMO, since you cannot win at Prisoner's Dilemma (that is, the expected payout is negative) you should not even play the game. MAD proponents have to pretend that we have no choice in the matter.
posted by sonofsamiam at 5:00 AM on April 7, 2006


If we just got rid of them all we'd have license to develop that missle defence program which other nuclear powers declared that they would consider an act of war for us to even research.

Part of me agrees.

Part of me thinks that even a madman can be dissuaded by the prospect of everything he knows being destroyed.

I'm not sure what the right number of nuclear weapons is, but I'm pretty sure that it is more than 0, and I'm completely sure it is much less than 8000.
posted by eriko at 5:57 AM on April 7, 2006


These new warheads won't be nearly enough. What we really need is constant mass-production of briefcase-sized warheads, as high yield as possible, as many as possible, to be distributed through all nations. Think about it! If everyone is carrying around one of these babies, no-one would ever attack each other ever again! World peace would reign! Free love in the streets! Flowers and rabbits and bluebirds and cotton candy and kindly old men and everyone would be lo=20 ]} $}1}&}=3Dr}'}"m_ occur fr** exp:::re to a si!gle massive ds r#d##t##n"}[NO CARRIER]
posted by Drexen at 8:36 AM on April 7, 2006


Dreken: ITYM PyrE. HTH. HAND.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:51 AM on April 7, 2006


Nuclear weapons have, and will continue to keep us safe.

yes, and soon they might keep North Korea and Iran safe too
posted by mr.marx at 11:15 AM on April 7, 2006


Funny how that works, it's completely logical.

Dr. Strangelove and Wargames are wiser movies than you might think at first blush.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:26 AM on April 7, 2006


Nuclear weapons have, and will continue to keep us safe.
against a massive foreign power that also has nukes, sure. But the USSR is gone now. Think, man- don't just parrot the party line.

Actually, by that argument, the more countries with nukes, the safer the world is. doesn't that sound... insane?
posted by Miles Long at 11:30 AM on April 7, 2006


No, because all countries aren't like the US, France or Canada. Iran and NK, and a host of other countries are run by dangerous, despotic, and in some cases, lunatic regimes.

You need to be able to distiguish the lunatic wacko government from the sane government before deciding who should have the biggest and most lethal weapons.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:58 AM on April 7, 2006


I contend that it is not possible to distinguish between wacko governments and sane governments to within a useful degree of error, since we are weighing against what amounts to existential risk.

If the potential payout is infinitely negative, and we only have a finite ability to stave off that potential, no sane person would ever participate in that game.

But... these decisions are not made by sane people like you and I. They are made by committee, by fiat, by contingency, by history.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:07 PM on April 7, 2006


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