Current Nuclear Weapons Development

bobbymike

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More Than 23,000 Nukes Found in 14 Nations, Report Says
Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009

There are an estimated 23,360 nuclear weapons stockpiled in 14 nations, with the great majority held by Russia and the United States, two nonproliferation experts said in a report issued this week (see GSN, Oct. 20).

There are nine nations known or widely assumed to possess nuclear weapons -- China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Another five European states -- Belgium, Germany, Italy, Turkey and the Netherlands -- also host U.S. nuclear bombs.

Russia is believed to hold roughly 13,000 nuclear weapons, of which 4,850 are on active or operational status. "The status of the other 8,150 warheads is unclear. Some portion may be in reserve with the balance retired and awaiting dismantlement," Robert Norris and Hans Kristensen stated in the November/December edition of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

...........the rest of the story - http://gsn.nti.org/gsn/nw_20091118_4824.php
 

Hammer Birchgrove

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I thought all the "Grey Zone" weapons (cruise missiles, MRBM) had been moved away from Western Europe. :-\
 

gtg947h

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Hammer Birchgrove said:
I thought all the "Grey Zone" weapons (cruise missiles, MRBM) had been moved away from Western Europe. :-\

I'm pretty sure they have been. The ones mentioned in the article are most likely air-dropped gravity bombs like the B-61 and B-83.
 

CFE

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The estimates of the Israeli arsenal vary wildly. Israel will publicly deny having any warheads. Watchdog groups claim as many as 200 (based primarily on the claims of Mordecai Vanunu, a less-than-reliable source.) Pentagon estimates published by Rowan Scarbrough guess there are 60-80 warheads.
 

Hammer Birchgrove

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gtg947h said:
Hammer Birchgrove said:
I thought all the "Grey Zone" weapons (cruise missiles, MRBM) had been moved away from Western Europe. :-\

I'm pretty sure they have been. The ones mentioned in the article are most likely air-dropped gravity bombs like the B-61 and B-83.
Okay, thanks.
 

Hammer Birchgrove

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CFE said:
The estimates of the Israeli arsenal vary wildly. Israel will publicly deny having any warheads. Watchdog groups claim as many as 200 (based primarily on the claims of Mordecai Vanunu, a less-than-reliable source.) Pentagon estimates published by Rowan Scarbrough guess there are 60-80 warheads.

Why is Mordecai Vanunu "a less-than-reliable source"? ???
 
K

Kiwiguy

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Since he worked at the underground Diamona plant surely his insight is superior to Rowan Scarbrough's?

Scarborough will have based it on analysis of Plutonium breeding capacity at Isreal's nuclear reactor, but other things can be tweaked to boost production values.

200 warheads is more in line with the total number of Jericho I and Jericho II missiles which makes more sense. Why would you build a Jericho missile if you didn't have a warhead for it?
 

quellish

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Kiwiguy said:
200 warheads is more in line with the total number of Jericho I and Jericho II missiles which makes more sense. Why would you build a Jericho missile if you didn't have a warhead for it?

Why would the warhead have to be atomic?
 
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Kiwiguy

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quellish said:
Kiwiguy said:
200 warheads is more in line with the total number of Jericho I and Jericho II missiles which makes more sense. Why would you build a Jericho missile if you didn't have a warhead for it?

Why would the warhead have to be atomic?

Wouldn't have to be, but why go to all that expense simply for High explosive or a bit of nerve gas? That's a bit like the old V-2 story. Dornberger once pointed out to Hitler that he expected to much from a rocket only designed for 2 tonnes of high explosive. Hitler replied that dornberger might only expect that but that he (Hitler) had greater ambitions for the V-2.
 

quellish

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Kiwiguy said:
Wouldn't have to be, but why go to all that expense simply for High explosive or a bit of nerve gas? That's a bit like the old V-2 story. Dornberger once pointed out to Hitler that he expected to much from a rocket only designed for 2 tonnes of high explosive. Hitler replied that dornberger might only expect that but that he (Hitler) had greater ambitions for the V-2.

You would have to ask the Israelis.
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a48bf120-6748-11df-a932-00144feab49a.html
"Mr Peres supposedly responded by saying the “correct payload was available in three sizes”. The Guardian claims that “correct payload” is a reference to a nuclear warhead, and that the “three sizes” suggest the availability of conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons."
 

bobbymike

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A story on deployed weapons from Global Security Newswire

Eight Nations Hold 7,540 Deployed Nukes, Report Finds
Thursday, June 3, 2010

Eight nations at the beginning of 2010 held an estimated 7,540 operational nuclear weapons, a figure that is down somewhat from last year due largely to the withdrawal by Russia and the United States of fielded warheads, according to a yearly report released yesterday by a Sweden-based think tank (see GSN, Nov. 18, 2009).

(Jun. 3) - Russian strategic bombers and fighter aircraft fly over Red Square in May 2009. Russia and seven other nuclear-armed states possess more than 7,500 deployed nuclear weapons, according to a report released this week (Dmitry Kostyukov/Getty Images).

The five official nuclear powers -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- together with India, Pakistan and Israel have an estimated 22,500 nuclear weapons when counting armaments that are in storage, set for disassembly or not yet ready for deployment, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute stated in its annual yearbook.

The five nuclear powers "appear determined to remain nuclear powers and are either modernizing or about to modernize their nuclear forces" the authors wrote. Additionally, "India and Pakistan are expanding their nuclear strike capabilities, while Israel appears to be waiting to see how the situation in Iran develops."

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests "but there is no public information to verify that it has operational nuclear weapons," the report says. The country is thought to possess enough processed plutonium to build seven warheads.

Russia and the United States continue to possess the lion's share of nuclear weapons: an estimated 12,000 and 9,600 warheads, respectively. Washington holds 2,468 deployed strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, compared to Moscow's 4,630.

Both states have moved to meet the requirement under the 2002 Moscow Treaty to draw down their deployed forces to no more than 2,200 strategic nuclear warheads by 2012. The United States has already met that goal.

The pending replacement to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty would require each side to further draw down their operational arsenals to 1,550 strategic warheads (see GSN, May 19).

France holds 300 deployed warheads while the United Kingdom possesses 144, SIPRI researchers said.

China has 240 nuclear weapons that are not believed to be fielded on launch systems. While there are no affirmative reports that Beijing has moved in the last few years to alter the size of its nuclear force, the nation "has been changing the delivery systems for those warheads as part of its long-term modernization program aimed at developing a more survivable force and more flexible nuclear deterrence and retaliatory options," according to the report

India, Israel and Pakistan are not thought to have fully fielded their nuclear arsenals.

Islamabad is projected to have between 70 and 90 nuclear weapons that can be carried on bombers or ballistic missiles. While its existing weapons use highly enriched uranium, there is credible information to suggest Islamabad is making progress in developing a plutonium capability.

"Plutonium-based warheads would normally be lighter and more compact than those using HEU to achieve the same yield," according to the report. "Such warheads could either be fitted onto smaller missiles, possibly including cruise missiles, or would give already deployed ballistic missiles longer ranges."

Two new plutonium-producing reactors under construction, one of which might now be operational, would complement an existing plant that can produce up to 12 kilograms of material each year, the report says. "These new reactors will increase Pakistan's plutonium-production capability several-fold, provided that the country has sufficient capacity to reprocess spent fuel," it adds.

New Delhi is conservatively calculated to possess between 60 and 80 nuclear warheads that could be delivered by aircraft or missiles. India is continuing work on missiles that could be launched from submarines or surface naval vessels, the report says.

Under its long-standing policy of nuclear ambiguity Israel does not disclose information about its suspected arsenal. It is thought to hold an estimated 80 plutonium bombs that could be delivered by ballistic missiles or bombers, researchers said. There are unconfirmed reports that Jerusalem has developed artillery shells or other tactical nuclear weapons and that it possesses nuclear-capable cruise missiles that could be launched from sea, according to the SIPRI report (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 2010 Yearbook, June 2).
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The bolding in the article is mine.
 

ouroboros

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I think there have been recent reports of Burma trying to develop an atomic weapon recently, citing a defector that names Singapore and Germany as enrichment equipment sources. The interesting point is that the military government is not considering the atomic weapon for traditional defense purposes, but rather as a card against internal underground democracy groups. I guess this is a a manifestation of the inherent "loose football" fears regarding nuclear weapons, but to use that as a means of subduing the populace of your own country is a new twist (Would put a kink into Jefferson's image of the US having a revolution every 50 years or so).
 

Hammer Birchgrove

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ouroboros said:
I think there have been recent reports of Burma trying to develop an atomic weapon recently, citing a defector that names Singapore and Germany as enrichment equipment sources. The interesting point is that the military government is not considering the atomic weapon for traditional defense purposes, but rather as a card against internal underground democracy groups. I guess this is a a manifestation of the inherent "loose football" fears regarding nuclear weapons, but to use that as a means of subduing the populace of your own country is a new twist (Would put a kink into Jefferson's image of the US having a revolution every 50 years or so).
:eek: That's weird; it would be more cheaper to use chemical weapons.
 

bobbymike

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The British American Security Information Council (BASIC) has just published its take on what is going on, globally, in terms of nuclear weapons development. One of the conclusions is that “hundreds of billions of dollars are earmarked for spending over the next decade, not only in the United States and Russia but in major development programs in China, India, Pakistan and elsewhere. Almost all of the nuclear armed states covered in this paper are continuing to produce new or modernized nuclear weapons and some, such as Pakistan and India, appear to be seeking smaller, lighter, warheads to allow these either to be delivered to greater distances or to allow them to be deployed over shorter ranges and for more tactical purposes.”

Russia is expected to spend $70 billion through 2020 on its Triad to include financing the fielding of a new ICBM around 2018, the fielding of the road-mobile RS-24, and for a range of other activities, such as the development of a new bomber.

While the report may not be breaking much new ground, it provides a useful overview of warhead development efforts and also delivery systems. That includes a brief examination of what is believed to be Israel’s Jericho III missile program and a range of different delivery options under development in India.

http://www.basicint.org/sites/default/files/commission-briefing1.pdf
 

bobbymike

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The Incredible Shrinking Balance Of Terror October 31, 2011: Two decades of budget cuts and disarmament treaties have changed the "balance of terror" between the United States and the Soviet Union (now Russia). Back in 1991, the U.S. had 1,947 delivery systems (ICBM, SLBMs and bombers) and 9,745 nuclear warheads. The Soviet Union had 2,483 delivery systems and 11,159 nuclear warheads. Back then, the recently negotiated START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) agreement called for each side to reduce this to 1,600 delivery systems and 6,000 warheads. Twenty years later, the U.S. has 822 delivery systems and 1,790 warheads. Russia has 516 delivery systems and 1,566 nuclear warheads.

START came into force in 1994, and brought with it on-site inspections of Russian and American nuclear weapons and delivery systems, to insure that everyone was in compliance. This allowed the U.S. to shift its spy satellites away from watching Russian nuclear weapons, to other tasks. This became critical after September 11, 2001, when satellite recon was much in demand to track down terrorists. The START 1 agreement expired in December, 2009, and a new one was signed in April, 2010. The new agreement requires Russia and the U.S. to each have no more than 1,550 nukes, and no more than 800 delivery systems to carry them.

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IMHO we have gone low enough there is no reason to reduce further. In fact we should be building replacement systems and new warheads from a fully modernized weapons infrastructure. We should have a new ICBM, Bomber and SSBN (yes it is eventually coming) and a robust R&D program on advanced nuclear weapon concepts to remain on the cutting edge of all things nuclear.

If we are to go this low in deployed systems they better be the best.
 

Avimimus

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Hello Bobbymike,

I don't want to accidentally lead your thread off-topic. However, it got me thinking about research on deployment (and the context around development):
Does anyone know of studies on the actual number of warheads required for an effective deterrent? It would be very interesting to find out more about.
 

bobbymike

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Avimimus said:
Hello Bobbymike,

I don't want to accidentally lead your thread off-topic. However, it got me thinking about research on deployment (and the context around development):
Does anyone know of studies on the actual number of warheads required for an effective deterrent? It would be very interesting to find out more about.

I will try and find you some links but one I remember offhand was a study by the Ploughshares Fund or Union of Concerned Scientists that set the number of warheads for minimum deterrence at 311 (yes odd number) I think it had something to do with large and medium sized cities in Russia.
 

UpForce

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bobbymike said:
The British American Security Information Council (BASIC) has just published its take on what is going on, globally, in terms of nuclear weapons development.[/color] ...


No mention of Pakistani "Econolines of Doom" in the report. That's some seriously irresponsible behavior - but I guess this is roughly in line with the tradition of "it would be high-larious if it weren't about nukes" AQ Khan proliferation mess (... just ask the normally unassuming and understated IAEA officials who've been tasked with following up on that network how much "fun" it's been). Seriously, Pakistan's military and intel agencies need to get their heads outta where they may have stuck'em and start behaving like responsible adults ASAP. They do not want to be in the position of having contributed to some entirely avoidable incident, if only because it leaves the rest of the World with no good options between which we nonetheless would have to choose.

No mention of Iran or Syria either. Syria is teetering on all sorts of edges and it wasn't too long ago that Israel bombed a large undeclared nuclear facility there. What material and knowhow might still be lingering as a result of those fine messes, I don't know. Which brings us around to Iran, the authoritarian leadership of which seems to have taken leave of what might have remained of its senses (witness the harebrained Saudi ambassador assassination plot) and are now universally recognized as pushing towards a weapons capability in the very near future. Maybe they have deluded themselves into thinking they have an opening here (it would be naïve to assume the inability to reach an agreement to stay some US troops in Iraq had nothing to do with Iranian shi'ite influence) following the Mesopotamian Misadventures and their ramifications.

The Iranian elites are obviously highly paranoid about Middle East's "spring" movements and desperate to stave off the already demonstrated desire of their own citizens to exercise self-governance, but the nukes program is growing in scale beyond taunting Israel, the US et. al. to engage in a brief bombing campaign to help re-solidify their internal grip on power. It is irrational, basically rolling the dice. Therefore any action or response - necessary or unavoidable as they may be - cannot be solely based on presuppositions of different parties to the conflict understanding "cold-war-esque" co-mutual game theoretical postures and causalities.

It should also be noted that if the window of options about Iran is closing in about a year, now is the time to let their democracy movement know. Awareness of the larger framework may affect the tactics they (and even other rationally minded unaffiliated people, perhaps even within the Iranian nuclear establishment) choose to adopt.
 

bobbymike

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Supercomputers Seen Offering More Insight Into Nukes Than Testing Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011

Supercomputers in some ways are able to offer U.S. scientists more insight into the workings of nuclear weapons than atomic testing, by permitting weapon laboratories to anticipate and rectify problems before they occur, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday (see GSN, July 15).


"Our current efforts go a step beyond explosive testing by enabling the labs to anticipate the problems in advance and reduce their potential impact on our arsenal -- something that nuclear testing could not do," Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher said in May.


The United States has observed a moratorium on nuclear testing for years; the last test was conducted in 1992. The Obama administration would like to see the Senate ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would prohibit any further tests. Some senators, however, are doubtful that computer simulations can fully replace the information gleaned from detonations on the inner workings of thermonuclear explosions.


Several years ago, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California used a supercomputer to model the process that takes place from when a B-83 strategic nuclear warhead is removed from storage to when it strikes a target. Warhead specialists and designers were taken aback to learn from the simulation that at a specific point in the process, the warhead would "fail catastrophically," said Livermore weapons programs Principal Associate Director Bruce Goodwin.


The problem was located in the "real dynamics of the vehicle" -- meaning the warhead's travel path and behavior -- and would not have been detected through a check of the weapon's parts or by underground testing, Goodwin said.


It took several years to remedy the fault in the B-83 bomb and changes in policies were put into place for how the military transports the warheads, officials said.


Livermore's discovery was the first instance in which a serious problem in a warhead had been detected primarily through computer modeling, according to Goodwin. "We have a more fundamental understanding of how these weapons work today than we ever imagined when we were blowing them up," he continued.


A onetime nuclear warhead developer, however, was less convinced of the ability of computer simulations to fully replace the knowledge acquired from underground detonations. "If you want to know if something works, you have to test it," the unidentified former designer said. "The calculations are good, but the issue is one of risk. How good do you think the calculations are?"


Other warhead flaws have been discovered without testing. In 2003, routine monitoring pointed to a prevalent, though not cataclysmic, problem in the U.S. nuclear stockpile. The specifics of the matter are a state secret. Livermore specialists addressed the matter by conducting a number of simulations using laboratory supercomputers. High-yield but nonnuclear testing was also used at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Mexico to affirm that the warheads would not require a significant modification that could have come with a multibillion-dollar price tag, according to Goodwin.


Decades of subterranean nuclear testing have given weapon developers information on how the warheads operate under specific circumstances, "but they could never fully explain how or why" they behaved as they did, Monterey Institute of International Studies nuclear weapons analyst Jeffrey Lewis said.


"The best argument against the test ban [treaty] was always that we didn't understand how nuclear weapons really worked and couldn't simulate them, so underground nuclear explosions were an important reality check," Lewis continued. "But even then, there was never enough testing to establish the kind of confidence that comes from actually understanding the process of a thermonuclear explosion" (David Hoffman, Washington Post, Nov. 1).
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Of course I would argue that when it comes to the assurance that our weapons will work if needed why not test and simulate? We are going down to 1550 deployed strategic warheads from close to 13,000 in the 80's, they better work along with the delivery vehicles.
 

Avimimus

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bobbymike said:
Avimimus said:
Hello Bobbymike,

I don't want to accidentally lead your thread off-topic. However, it got me thinking about research on deployment (and the context around development):
Does anyone know of studies on the actual number of warheads required for an effective deterrent? It would be very interesting to find out more about.

I will try and find you some links but one I remember offhand was a study by the Ploughshares Fund or Union of Concerned Scientists that set the number of warheads for minimum deterrence at 311 (yes odd number) I think it had something to do with large and medium sized cities in Russia.

It was the Ploughshares Fund - thanks for the lead!

I suppose the number of warheads which would get through is critical to such calculations? I'm finding it a very interesting equation - lots of uncertainties (between air defenses and psychology).
 

bobbymike

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Avimimus said:
bobbymike said:
Avimimus said:
Hello Bobbymike,

I don't want to accidentally lead your thread off-topic. However, it got me thinking about research on deployment (and the context around development):
Does anyone know of studies on the actual number of warheads required for an effective deterrent? It would be very interesting to find out more about.

I will try and find you some links but one I remember offhand was a study by the Ploughshares Fund or Union of Concerned Scientists that set the number of warheads for minimum deterrence at 311 (yes odd number) I think it had something to do with large and medium sized cities in Russia.

It was the Ploughshares Fund - thanks for the lead!

I suppose the number of warheads which would get through is critical to such calculations? I'm finding it a very interesting equation - lots of uncertainties (between air defenses and psychology).

I find the most contradictory thing about these so called peace groups is that in order to get as low a number as possible for nukes they always revert to saying "X numbers of warheads can still wipe out Y's major cities"

So the "peace" groups want weapons whose sole purpose is not counter force with minimized (yes that is relative with nuclear weapons) collateral damage but want instead to kill 50 million plus people as the only deterrent option, does that makes sense?
 

UpForce

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bobbymike said:
I find the most contradictory thing about these so called peace groups is that in order to get as low a number as possible for nukes they always revert to saying "X numbers of warheads can still wipe out Y's major cities"

So the "peace" groups want weapons whose sole purpose is not counter force with minimized (yes that is relative with nuclear weapons) collateral damage but want instead to kill 50 million plus people as the only deterrent option, does that makes sense?

I think the logic is quite clear: So long as things don't make sense there's still no reason to run (excessively) redundant risks when it comes to building and maintaining existential threats. Even if you sometimes wanted your adversary to waste its resources, all the better if it's the most benign waste possible. Nukes proliferation isn't solely about weapons, but also lots of people with obscure (to the general public) knowhow and few means to translate that decades long personal investment into something constructive. Just today Danger Room featured an article about "Loose Geeks", look it up. Nukes also have a way of undermining freedoms in ways that tend to play into the hands of those forces in the World who can't even be bothered with the thinnest veneer of democracy; therefore the "function" of nuclear deterrence can be regarded as somewhat self-defeating, self-contradictionary and self-perpetuating.

More widely, it's only beyond existential threats that a dialogue intrinsic to a state of peace is possible. What we have now is a kind of a schitzophrenic simulation wherein most of the constructive, creative stuff - and I don't mean in defense or politics alone, but the economy, academia, religion, environment, etc. - only happens because people choose to be oblivious to a very precarious potentially all-overriding concern that, realistically, profits and/or is controlled by an absurdly small minority provided we/they can avoid an actual exchange. Repackaged subprime mortgage derivatives have nothing on the plutocracy of proliferation. Bringing the World at least close to the treshold of potentially destroying itself just once over gives the perspective - and more importantly the option - to substantially relieve those risks should compelling reasons to do so emerge, be they positive or negative. Lest we forget the challenges on humanity are in may ways far more substantial than those we've managed to inflict on ourselves. The ability to nuke ourselves into oblivion really shouldn't be our crowning, defining achievement either.

Perhaps it's best that we let "peace groups" (a description many of those groups may balk at as basically too unsubstantial, and frankly wistful) speak for themselves. You can always try and put the questions direct to them. The stated aim of the Ploughshares Fund (for instance) is to support initiatives to prevent the spread AND use of nuclear weapons, among other things. No-one said it'd be easy, no-one even half-way serious (and many of these groups aren't short of people with quite some credentials to their names) is proposing they have all the answers. That is not to say some guy with his hand on the button can claim his position to be rational or unambiguous either, even if his world is ultimately reduced to a Hamlet-like binary. If you count yourself among the self-styled hawks (on defense etc.) and want to profile yourself and your social framework partly through negation, it is probably still hard to argue diametrically against Ploughshare's basic premise ("... spread and use nukes?").

Putting the "contrast cart" ahead of the "substance horse" is in many ways intrinsic to the nuclear "logic", of the fate of the future we inherited from our recent forefathers. That approach can be argued as having a track record of some strengths and some weaknesses, all precarious as life itself can be. So I don't dismiss it out of hand, nor reject it entirely. But my perspective can perhaps best be summed in a simple, basic question: If I - or we - want to move above and beyond what we have and are now, how do I - or we - do it? It's the kind of thing where one doesn't necessarily have to have answers but it is in my humble opinion nonetheless essential that the question is being asked in a substantial, actionable way. Otherwise, wherefore reason? This is why I respectfully but strongly disagree with those - anywhere - who maintain that an extinction size nuclear arsenal (for all "practical" purposes) is all we can do and nurture for the foreseeable future.

Call it mutually assured irrationality, if you will. Or perhaps just "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."
 

bobbymike

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Decided to start a new topic capturing current nuclear weapons news of interest. Other SP members please feel free to to add stories, links, reports, etc. that you find in your Interwebz searches ;)

Further U.S. Nuclear Tests Highly Unlikely: Former NNSA Chief
Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011 By Diane Barnes

Global Security Newswire WASHINGTON -- The United States is “almost certain” never to conduct another test detonation of a nuclear device, a former top U.S. nuclear weapons official said on Monday (see GSN, Oct. 21). In the nearly 20 years since the nation’s last nuclear trial, technological alternatives to such detonations have advanced substantially while political obstacles to testing have grown close to insurmountable, said Linton Brooks, who headed the National Nuclear Security Administration from 2002 to 2007 under President George W. Bush.


The negotiation in the early 1990s of a global ban on atomic trial blasts marked “the beginning of the end of the U.S. nuclear testing era,” Arms Control Association head Daryl Kimball added in a panel discussion. The independent expert called for U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the Senate previously rejected in 1999. Upon taking legal effect, the pact would prohibit explosive nuclear testing by any member state. “The United States current bears all the responsibilities of a CTBT signatory state, but because we haven’t ratified, we do not enjoy the considerable benefits of a legally binding global ban,” including the ability to demand on-site inspections of suspected violators, Kimball said.


The 182-signatory pact cannot become binding until it is ratified by 44 "Annex 2" states that participated in drafting the 1996 treaty while operating nuclear power or research facilities. Nine of those nations have yet to acquire legislative approval for the agreement: China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States. The U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program has achieved significant strides in obviating the need for test explosions to ensure the U.S. nuclear arsenal remains safe, secure and reliable, Brooks said. The effort, which includes surveillance of aging weapons and production of replacement components, is overseen by the semiautonomous Energy Department agency he once led. During his tenure, Congress repeatedly refused to provide funding for basic preparations that would be required to resume testing. “We aren’t going to test,” Brooks said. “Therefore, the question is not, ‘Should you support stockpile stewardship because you like the CTBT?’ The question is, ‘Should you support stockpile stewardship because you think it’s important that nuclear weapons remain safe, secure, reliable and effective?’”


Nuclear test blasts carried out during the Cold War were not intended to confirm that fielded U.S. systems operated as intended, said the former official, now a consultant to four Energy Department laboratories and a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “This was not like you pull every 18th device off an assembly line and test it to make sure it works,” he said. “It gathered data, it was a tool of scientific exploration. And the question, therefore, for the Stockpile Stewardship [Program] is, ‘Can we replace that tool [testing] with another?’” Advocates consider the treaty a means of discouraging explosive tests necessary for the development of new or more sophisticated nuclear weapons, but detractors contend that a U.S. pledge never to conduct such work could undermine confidence in the country’s nuclear deterrent (see GSN, July 15).


The Obama administration has pledged to bring the treaty before the Senate for ratification, though the schedule for that initiative remains unclear. Kimball warned that insufficient time remains for the Senate to scrutinize, debate and vote on the test ban treaty prior to the November 2012 elections. To help lay the groundwork for legislative consideration of the pact in 2013, the Obama administration should “step up its CTBT outreach work and … pursue a fact-based, quiet discussion with Senate offices and staff about the issues that are at the center of the [treaty] discussion,” he said. Brooks said he had observed no serious discussion of a potential resumption in regular U.S. nuclear testing. “What’s on at the very most, even from enthusiasts for testing outside the government, is two or three tests. And nobody is prepared to divert the funds from stockpile stewardship into two or three tests,” he said.


“There is no plausible situation in which current stockpile stewardship and the deep scientific understanding … will not be enough to ensure the safety, security and reliability of our nuclear weapons for the indefinite future,” Brooks later added. The program “has been successful to date,” though its future effectiveness would depend on updates to nuclear weapons facilities and a continued infusion of skilled personnel, said Marvin Adams, a veteran nuclear weapons scientist who has served at the Los Alamos, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories. To date, the U.S. arsenal’s safety, security and reliability -- and the absence of need for new tests -- has been verified each year by the Defense and Energy secretaries, the directors of the three nuclear-weapon laboratories and the head of the U.S. Strategic Command, Adams said. Brooks noted that the NNSA administrator cannot influence the findings of the annual stockpile assessment.


Brooks said he was unaware of any proposal for a new nuclear weapon that would require testing, including a potential deep earth penetrator. “It’s not just against our current policy, it’s solving a problem that we don’t appear to have,” he said. The former NNSA chief said he had not heard from technical experts “opposed to the CTBT” any potential “safety or security problem that’s so great that the only way you can fix it was to involve nuclear testing.” In addition, it is “extremely difficult” to conceive of a problem that would require testing to diagnose a problem or certify a solution, he said. Putting the treaty into effect might deter Iran from potentially conducting a nuclear-weapon test, panel experts suggested. The Middle Eastern nation maintains its uranium enrichment operations operations are strictly civilian in nature (see related GSN story, today).


Brooks noted, though, that every past test of a uranium-based weapon has proven successful, and South Africa maintained a small nuclear arsenal for a period with no testing. “CTBT does not prevent people from developing nuclear weapons,” he said. If Iran opted against nuclear testing under a potential CTBT regime, it would have less confidence in any nuclear-capable missile it produced, Adams said. The nation might still move to produce such delivery systems, he added.


U.K. Commits $3.1B to New Nuke Facilities Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011 The United Kingdom has committed $3.1 billion for work on new nuclear arms facilities before the government has made a final determination on whether to replace its submarine-based nuclear deterrent, the London Guardian reported on Monday (see GSN, Oct. 24). The Conservative Party, which leads the current British coalition government, has thrown its support behind a Labor-era initiative to build four new ballistic missile submarines to replace Vanguard-class vessels slated for retirement in the 2020s. Cost estimates for the plan have risen in the last year to as much as $40 billion, according to a previous report. The government has said it would delay a final decision to construct the submarines until after the 2015 election. A decision is also pending on replacing the nuclear-tipped missiles carried by the submarines. The funds would play a role in preventing problems involving the nation's current nuclear warheads, and would uphold the capacity to develop an additional weapon "should that be required," the British Defense Ministry said. The money includes $1.15 billion for a weapon construction and dismantlement site dubbed "Mensa"; a $989 million bomb-grade uranium site dubbed "Pegasus"; and a $361 million explosives facility dubbed "Circinus."



"This investment maintains the safety of the current Trident warhead stockpile by sustaining essential facilities and skills," according to a Defense Ministry spokeswoman. "It also helps maintain the capability to design a replacement warhead should that be required following decisions in the next parliament." "The fact that the [Defense Ministry] signed off on these costs before a decision has even been made on replacing the Trident warhead makes a complete mockery of the democratic process," countered Green Party lawmaker Caroline Lucas. The new facilities could remain operational for more than four decades, said Peter Burt of the Nuclear Information Service. "By spending billions of pounds now, the MoD is trying to force the hands of future governments into developing a new nuclear warhead, regardless of whether it will be necessary or affordable," he said (Rob Edwards, London Guardian, Nov. 28).
---------------------------------------------
It would be very interesting if US politicians tied our weapons laboratories and scientists hands to the point that we "subcontract" our weapons work to the British. Some say it all started with Rutherford anyway so there is a fine tradition of British Boffinry. I say why not.
 

Orionblamblam

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Georgetown students shed light on China’s tunnel system for nuclear weapons http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/georgetown-students-shed-light-on-chinas-tunnel-system-for-nuclear-weapons/2011/11/16/gIQA6AmKAO_story.html?hpid=z1

Most of the attention has focused on the 363-page study’s provocative conclusion — that China’s nuclear arsenal could be many times larger than the well-established estimates of arms-control experts.
“It’s not quite a bombshell, but those thoughts and estimates are being checked against what people think they know based on classified information,” said a Defense Department strategist who would discuss the study only on the condition of anonymity.
The study’s critics, however, have questioned the unorthodox Internet-based research of the students, who drew from sources as disparate as Google Earth, blogs, military journals and, perhaps most startlingly, a fictionalized TV docudrama about Chinese artillery soldiers — the rough equivalent of watching Fox’s TV show “24” for insights into U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
 

bobbymike

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With China its the old hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That's why I always said Start II's 3500 warhead limit was far enough. I don't think China was prepared to "match us" at those levels at 1550 with a decaying nuclear weapons infrastructure..........maybe?
 

unclejim

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Just a personal feeling but I seriously doubt that the Chicoms would settle for an Israeli level of warheads. I have been hearing and reading that the PRC has about 3-400 warheads for at least fifteen years. That maks no sense to me. Perhaps they have a limited number of delivery systems, ICBMs, H-6s and so forth. Production of warheads say 20 to thirty per year? "Arms-control specialists" are way too credulous about accepting at face value Chinese or indeed any nations claims regarding stockpile size.
 

bobbymike

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Snapshot of ICBM Force:

The Air Force had 448 Minuteman III ICBMs on operational status in their silos as of Sept. 1, according to a State Department fact sheet issued on Thursday based on the periodic data exchanges now occurring between the United States and Russia under the provisions of the New START arms control agreement. It also had an additional 266 Minuteman III missiles on non-deployed status, 58 additional silos not in operational status, and six silos used for tests, states the fact sheet. While the Peacekeeper ICBM fleet is now out of service, some assets remain, and the United States must count them for the purposes of the treaty and its caps on strategic offensive warheads and launchers. The fact sheets states that there are still 58 non-deployed Peacekeeper missiles, 51 remaining silos, and one test silo. The Air Force has announced plans to eliminate 50 of those silos (see below).


New START Silo-Elimination Process Under Way:

The Air Force is moving forward with the task of eliminating 100 deactivated ICBM silos and their associated alert facilities in accordance with the provisions of the New START agreement with Russia. Air Force Global Strike Command officials announced on Thursday that environmental impact assessments are now under way at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., and Malmstrom AFB, Mont., per US law, to clear the way for this empty infrastructure to be imploded or filled with gravel to render it useless. The Air Force intends to get rid of 50 silos and 5 alert facilities at each of the two missile bases. At F.E. Warren, the service will eliminate former Peacekeeper missile silos and alert facilities once belonging to the 400th Missile Squadron. On the books for elimination at Malmstrom are Minuteman III silos and alert facilities formerly used by the 564th Missile Squadron. Under New START, the United States has until February 2018 to eliminate this infrastructure. (Barksdale release)
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Two observations:

1) As OBB's article shows we just don't know what is happening in China with regard to nuclear weapons. It might have been OK to not worry if they had 400 or 2000 warheads when we had 12,000 at the end of the Cold War or 6000 after Start I but we are rapidly disarming down to 1550 we should really insist the Chinese be part of any future weapons negotiations.

2) Under New Start the US is allowed a hedge force of 100 launchers so I would keep the 50+ Peacekeepers (and not destroy their silos) which could be deployed and uploaded to 10 MIRVs - see point 1) above for rationale.
 

bobbymike

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Concerns Remain on New Plutonium Lab After Years of Planning Monday, Dec. 5, 2011

The ultimate function of a planned multibillion-dollar plutonium research facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is still unresolved after years of planning. the Associated Press reported on Sunday. Questions on atomic safety and other matters also persist (see GSN, Oct. 24). The Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement complex is intended to replace a World War II-era plutonium facility at an earthquake-prone location. However, the specific types of nuclear and plutonium research activities to be conducted there remain in question, according to AP. Officials argue the new plutonium complex will allow the laboratory to continue its role as the nation's leading center for nuclear arms upkeep and development by performing analytical research that will aid the work of the Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos -- the sole facility in the country in which plutonium warhead cores are produced.


Antinuclear groups accuse the Energy Department of seeking to ramp up generation of new nuclear bombs by turning what had primarily been a scientific institution into a weapons production plan. The activist Los Alamos Study Group has filed two separate lawsuits against the project. The anticipated final $5.8 billion expense for the facility exceeds by close to $1 billion New Mexico's entire yearly budget and represents a twofold boost from the annual appropriation for entire Los Alamos site. It comes at a time of severe federal belt-tightening. Still, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages the nation's nuclear-weapon complex, is progressing forward with the laboratory. Project chief Herman Le-Doux said the blueprints have been modified to incorporate advice from the country's foremost specialists on earthquakes.


The semiautonomous Energy Department agency has "gone to great extremes" to make certain the complex could handle a seismic eruption of a maximum 7.3 magnitude. The majority of earthquake specialists think that a 7.3 magnitude earthquake is the strongest Los Alamos is likely to experience. However, a number of residents living in the area say there is not sufficient justification for taking the risk. The laboratory has faced danger from wildfires on two occasions in the last decade. "The Department of Energy has learned nothing from the Fukushima disaster," watchdog group Citizens Action New Mexico Director David McCoy said at a recent hearing on the laboratory. The meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan was caused by an earthquake and tsunami in March. The damaged plant has leaked radiation on a level not seen since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and has forced tens of thousands of residents to evacuate from the area. Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Chairman Peter Winokur said "the board believes that no safety issue problem (in the nation's nuclear complex) is more pressing than the Plutonium Facility's vulnerability to a large earthquake" (see GSN, Nov. 18).


Winokur said the safety board has no worries about radiation fallout from an earthquake at the planned plutonium center so long as NNSA officials "follow through" in implementing all design plans. Los Alamos Study Group head Greg Mello countered that laboratory officials could not be trusted to implement all of the safety designs for the new plutonium center. "Los Alamos doesn't have the safety ethos needed for a facility that will store the bulk of the nation's stockpile of plutonium." Winokur highlighted two recent documents that touched on issues with atomic safeguards at Los Alamos. The memos show "that the operations out there are very challenging and that there is plenty of room for improvement," he said. Nonetheless, "it's fair so say" the contracting team that assumed management of Los Alamos in 006 has "improved safety at the sites," Winokur added.


The board chairman said he would leave it to Washington to judge the wisdom of building a new plutonium center near major earthquake fault lines. "I'll leave that to Congress and DOE about whether or not they want to build a facility of that nature in that region of the country where they do have a fairly large earthquake threat" he said (Jeri Clausing, Associated Press/Google News, Dec. 4). -------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Red print, really? The US needs to stay on the leading edge of all things nuclear and be able to research, develop and build a new generation of modern, robust nuclear warheads if required (also delivery systems but that is for another post).
 

bobbymike

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From the Chicago Municipal Code.<blockquote> Phase-out of present activities. No person shall knowingly, within the City of Chicago, design, produce, deploy, launch, maintain, or store nuclear weapons or components of nuclear weapons. This prohibition shall take effect two years after the adoption and publication of this ordinance...


...Each violation of this ordinance shall be punishable by up to 30 days’ imprisonment and a $1,000.00 fine. Each day of violation shall be deemed a separate violation.
</blockquote>

Nuclear Free Zones- because nothing deters nuclear terrorism like the threat of 30 days in prison.
 

Orionblamblam

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bobbymike said:
No person shall knowingly, within the City of Chicago, design, produce, deploy, launch, maintain, or store nuclear weapons or components of nuclear weapons.

A fun thing to do: find some local designer/manufacturer of some mundane little trinket - a nut or bolt, say - and then show how that would be used in a nuclear weapon (thus they "design" a "component" of a nuclear weapon). Convince a city prosecutor to bring cherges. Then sit back and watch as the defense attorneys eviscerate the city, hopefully suing the city into bankruptcy.

Chicago sucks.
 

Orionblamblam

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Triton said:
The nuclear weapon problem has just gotten out of hand in Chicago. ;)

Given how well Illinois' anti-gun laws have done in Chicago, I can only imagine that by sometime next week gangbangers will be setting off H-bombs at various liquor stores along Lakeshore Drive.
 

Artie Bob

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IIRC, the world's first nuclear reactor lit off under a football stadium in Chicago. Could this ordnance be just a NIMBY reminder of those heady days of early bomb research?

Best Regards,

Artie Bob
 

Grey Havoc

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Possibly related to Iran's Nuclear weapons program? :

An explosion at a steel factory in Iran has killed seven people including foreign nationals, say reports in Iranian state media.

The blast in the city of Yazd was caused by discarded ammunition which arrived at the plant with a consignment of scrap metal, the official Irna news agency reported.

It happened late on Sunday at the privately owned plant, Irna said.

At least 12 other people are reported to have been injured.

The governor of Yazd region in central Iran, Azizollah Seyfi, said "several of those killed were foreign nationals".

He gave no further details of their nationalities or what caused the blast, although he did say it was being investigated.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-16144780
 

Lauge

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Grey Havoc said:
Possibly related to Iran's Nuclear weapons program? :

"The blast .... was caused by discarded ammunition which arrived at the plant with a consignment of scrap metal...."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-16144780

If the quoted article is correct, I'd say it has no relation to any nuke program. Why in the Wide World of Sports would you transport discarded ammunition to a nuclear weapons research facility? Or scrap metal?

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg
 

Grey Havoc

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The official Iranian explanation is that the blast was caused by discarded ammunition which arrived at the plant with a consignment of scrap metal.
 

Orionblamblam

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Lauge said:
Why in the Wide World of Sports would you transport discarded ammunition to a nuclear weapons research facility? Or scrap metal?

Discarded ammo: old Soviet suitcase nukes.
Scrap metal: bits of enriched uranium.

It's all in how you sell it.
 

bobbymike

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I am trying to find an article I read recently that said "at this point the US is capable of producing about 40 new warheads a year at Los Alamos and will not have the ability to ramp up production until the 2023 completion of another facility"

Sorry for the paucity of information but this situation is scary given the lack of information we have about China's nuclear program. Also given that Russia has active production lines how did we let this happen?

Combine this with the lack of will, it seems, to modernize the Triad's deliver systems.........
 

Hobbes

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You must be very pessimistic to think that the US needs more than 40 new warheads per year.
 

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