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Aging Nuclear Stockpile Good For Decades To Come

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the still-go-boom dept.

The Military 160

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.'"

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160 comments

FP (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30175298)

frosty piss y'all!

God forbid (4, Insightful)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175302)

We suddenly discover that 50% of stockpile doesn't detonate, and we only have enough nuclear weapons to annihiliate the earth 20 times over. Sometimes 20 just isn't enough!!

Especially when you factor in Russia's advanced ICBM-intercepting capabilities. /sarcasm

Re:God forbid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30175516)

With a bit of luck, 50% of the Russian ICBM-intercepting capabilities won't work either. Problem solved.

Re:God forbid (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30175894)

Sometimes 20 just isn't enough!!

20 is enough if you can get them into orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Re:God forbid (4, Insightful)

WAG24601G (719991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176152)

Maybe I'm being naive, but detonation never seemed all that central to the value of nuclear weapons. Let's face it, if we're ever in the situation where we decide Armageddon is the best option available, whether or not OUR weapons detonate is a triviality. Nuclear weapons are most effective when they AREN'T being used and everyone wants to keep it that way. So unless there's some a priori outward indication that our weapons definitely won't work, thus inviting an attack... nobody (including our enemies) really wants to find out the messy way. Then again, maybe I'm assuming too much rationality for the men with the launch keys...

Re:God forbid (1)

GargamelSpaceman (992546) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176468)

It just means that should the need present itself to annihilate a patch of land, that we send 3 ICBMS to do the work of one. That way one of them ought to work. We wouldn't want any kind of retaliation if for instance a nuclear missile were discovered in an 'evil' country. We want to make sure it's obliterated.

Re:God forbid (2, Insightful)

WAG24601G (719991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176620)

The catch-22 of post-WWII nuclear warfare is that there is no such thing as launch without retaliation. If we find a rogue nation with a lone nuke or two, we attack with conventional weapons, because the risk incurred by escalation is too great. If a threat is substantial enough to warrant a nuclear attack (as the Soviet Union may have been), they are completely capable of retaliating while our birds are still in the air, what with early detection and all. That's where MAD (mutually assured destruction) comes in. LAUNCHING a nuclear weapon is what causes MAD... by the time of detonation, everyone's fate was sealed several minutes ago.

Re:God forbid (1)

Zordak (123132) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176906)

Of course, back in the day, the Peacekeepers had 10 Mk21s each and the Minuteman IIIs had 3 Mk12As each (now with SERV, we only get 1 Mk21 per Minuteman III). So actually, you would need to send 9 missiles for the equivalent of 3 MMIIIs or 30 missiles for the equivalent of 3 Peacekeepers.

Re:God forbid (1)

GargamelSpaceman (992546) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177604)

I dunno, three seemed like a nice number. Ramans always do things in threes.

Re:God forbid (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177222)

This is true. However, as you pointed out, our enemies (and our friends) must be confident that our weapons would work, should we need to use them, in order to ensure their continued effectiveness as a deterrent against first-strikes. It is also important to reiterate to the Ahmadinejads of the world that we will retaliate with overwhelming force, including possibly a reciprocal nuclear strike, in response any first-strikes against us or our allies.

Re:God forbid (1)

interploy (1387145) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177458)

The problem with that line of reasoning is that when your main deterrent is a threat, that threat must never waver. If an enemy doubts your ability to carry out a threat, then the threat loses all credibility. Right now no country is willing to chance it, but if those warheads are just left to sit, then... eventually someone will take the gambit.

Re:God forbid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30176684)

There is 148,940,000 square kilometers of land mass of the earth.
A 1 megaton bomb will have a fireball that extends 1100 meter radius. Assuming this vaporizes the area, it will take 39,200,926 1 Megaton bombs to vaporize the planet.

A 1 megaton bomb will produce a shock wave that will go 10 kilometers in radius. It would take 474,331 1 Megaton bombs to rubble the planet.

The US has about 10,000 as of 2007, and plans to have only 5,000 as of 2012.

As for radiation effects.... http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3748014,00.html

References:
http://www.fas.org/nuke/intro/nuke/effects.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth
http://www.fas.org/blog/ssp/2007/05/estimates_of_us_nuclear_weapon.php

Re:God forbid (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177396)

I'd imagine that they're more worried about what happens if you need to do a limited nuclear strike. If your nukes have a 50% failure rate you need to launch ten to ensure a 99.9% chance of destroying the target. Launching ten nukes at once is a lot more likely to start WWIII and chances are that several are going to work and you'll release a lot more radiation than you would with a single 99.9% reliable nuke. Plus, littering the ground with duds means an enemy will likely retrieve and reverse engineer one.

"Fixing the bombs fixes them!" (2, Insightful)

Dadamh (1441475) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175304)

Well yeah. A program and procedure designed to keep the weaponry usable successfully keeps them usable.

Glad to hear that guys. Way to go. Good work telling everyone that fixing things fixes them.

Re:"Fixing the bombs fixes them!" (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30175396)

A program and procedure designed to keep the weaponry usable successfully keeps them usable.

Not a forgone conclusion. Remember, this is the government we're talking about

Well yes, but... (1)

beatsme (1472991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175986)

Glad to hear that guys. Way to go. Good work telling everyone that fixing things fixes them.

The conclusion isn't just that they're fixed. It's that because they are fix-able, that we don't need to pour money down the R&D drain for modern variants, which would just sit on the same shelves these old ones now occupy.

Re:"Fixing the bombs fixes them!" (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176916)

Unless, of course, there are non-serviceable parts that are degrading. In other words, verifying that our weapons are able to be fixed for the forseeable future.

For example, if the fissile material or shape charges degrade, you're not going to go about replacing them. You'd just buld new ones, and in that case might as well design a better one from scratch.

Re:"Fixing the bombs fixes them!" (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177314)

For example, if the fissile material or shape charges degrade, you're not going to go about replacing them. You'd just buld new ones, and in that case might as well design a better one from scratch.

No, because then you'd either have to test them or somehow convince yourself that they'll work without having ever been tested. The first option would have massive political costs, possibly reigniting a global nuclear arms race, and the second option is wishy-washy.

For the fissile material it would be best to melt them down, re-refine them, and build replacements to the exact original specifications. For the other parts, just build exact replacements.

I don't buy the oft-spouted line that "they can't be replaced because nobody makes the parts any more". Pay someone to develop the capability to build the old components. If they could make them 40 years ago, they sure as hell could make them now. There is no conceivable way that would cost more than an entirely new weapons program.

Easy solution (3, Funny)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175306)

All the U.S. needs to do is pay the Pakistanis and Iranians for the latest nukes.

Re:Easy solution (1)

Radiantal (302895) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175526)

Don't foget about Poor Lil Kim of the North... Remember, he is sooo ronery!

Re:Easy solution (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175582)

Call me when they have a reliable ICBM.

Re:Easy solution (2, Insightful)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175778)

Call me when they have a reliable ICBM

What's your number? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Story.crash.sequence.jpg [wikipedia.org]

Re:Easy solution (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175962)

What's the connection?

Re:Easy solution (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176100)

Jeeese. It spoils it if I have to dumb it down. Plane + wacky terrorist = ICBM

der

Re:Easy solution (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177286)

Jeeese. It spoils it if I have to dumb it down. Plane + wacky terrorist = ICBM

You're even more wrong than I thought initially. Good day, ma'am. Enjoy your government-sponsored conspiracy theory.

Re:Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30176004)

Iranians don't have so much need for ICBMs they have plwnty of volunteer martyrs to carry the warheads strapped to their backs.

Re:Easy solution (1)

Ifni (545998) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176480)

Strapped to their backs? Pussies.

Real men carry them in their crotch [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30177346)

Why, do you need one for your yard?

Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30176944)

They will be Chinese made. The reason is that China is in active production of warheads. In fact, these are neutrons, so even better.

Good... (1)

BiggoronSword (1135013) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175334)

Maybe this will solve our Uranium Shortage [slashdot.org] .

Re:Good... (2, Insightful)

beatsme (1472991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175450)

"Solve" it? Or keep it from getting worse because we won't need to use it in the manufacture of fresh warheads?

Not atypical (5, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175350)

Many programs which require significant development, and then get shelved into "production" with no push to advance or modernize fall prey to this. NASA maned spaceflight vehicles is a prime example.

If you only need to do research and development once every 25-50 years you end up starting nearly from scratch every time you decide to upgrade. Now, I'm not advocating some kind of special nuclear bomb advancement program. Still, by the time somebody wants to "replace" these, there will be nobody left who actually worked on them tom begin with. Humans are particularly bad at passing this kind of knowledge over extended time gaps.

Re:Not atypical (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30175514)

NASA maned spaceflight vehicles is a prime example.

Is this some sort of mission spearheaded by Fabio?

Re:Not atypical (4, Insightful)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175722)

Yes, as unpolitically correct as it may be, an active nuclear weapons program might be necessary. Complete disarmament is all well and good, and a slow loss of weapons and skills to age could be one way to accomplish that. But complete disarmament isn't worthwhile without permanent disarmament also, and I don't see how that's possible. The knowledge and technology exists, and as the general level of technology in this world increases it will only become easier to build nuclear weapons. Without permanent disarmament (which would be impossible without some form of world government), you have to accept one of these possibilities:
1. A hostile power is nuclear armed and you are not.
2. You are now racing a hostile power to rearm yourself... except they have a headstart, since you only found out they've been building weapons after their program has progressed considerably. And that in turn gives them an incentive to use their weapons before you finish yours...
3. Abandon disarmament and proactively maintain a deterrence force.

Look, the technology to build nuclear weapons is never going to go away. Until we find a technology to neuter these devices without playing deterrence/MAD games, then a continued nuclear weapons program is essential. Otherwise we are locked in a cycle of decay, and panicked rebuilding. I'd rather things be as boring as possible, even if that means the occasional underground bang.

Re:Not atypical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30175818)

For an "active nuclear weapons program" do you need to conduct underground tests if the weapons and weapons designs in-hand are known to function due to previous tests? If "no", then ratify the darn treaty, and worry about the question of "complete disarmament" later.

Re:Not atypical (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175908)

we only need to keep a low grade (slow development) program going. Other than the Russians, no one has more than a couple hundred warheads. the U.S. has, what, 10,000 or so with around 2400 in active deployment of some form. We could drop that an order of magnitude with little or no risk.

Exactly. (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176136)

Politician: How many of these nukes do we need to keep in our arsenal?
Engineer: How long do they have to last?
Politician: Forever.
Engineer: All of them.

If we knew we were going to be designing/building a new nuke every 10-15 years, then we could decrease our stockpile to the number we need now (whatever we decide that is) without adding on a huge margin to account for obsolescence.

I think we could restart a nuclear program without restarting an arms race with existing nuclear powers provided it was talked out first in a treaty were we all agreed to keep yields (size of boom made by the bomb [wikipedia.org] ) the same and agreed to decrease our stockpile even more. As far as the emerging nuclear powers go, sure this would give them more reason to feel justified about building a bomb (and would happily wave that fact in everyone's faces), but I don't think it would change the rate of their development at all.

Re:Not atypical (1)

init100 (915886) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176178)

1. A hostile power is nuclear armed and you are not.

Well, we are already in that situation, just like many other countries. So it's not like it's a new situation, except it would be for the US.

Re:Not atypical (1)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176968)

If it's going to become increasingly easy to build nuclear weapons in the future, why worry about maintaining obsolete stockpiles and fading institutional knowledge of said obsolete, more difficult to build stockpiles?

Re:Nuke advancement program. (0, Troll)

GargamelSpaceman (992546) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176598)

I am for regularly scheduled above ground nuclear testing. All the films are old and grainy. I want HDTV thermonuclear devestation. If possible, I want to camp nearby ( but not too nearby ) and watch it. And before you say: well X amount of people are going to die because of radioactive pollution, remember that those X people would have died from the pollution the observers would have caused doing whatever else they were going to do on vacation. People get run over by cars heading to amusement parks. The rides break. Shit happens - deal with it.

Re:Nuke advancement program. (0, Troll)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177118)

How about we test over your house ? Twat.

Re:Not atypical (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177070)

Humans are particularly bad at passing this kind of knowledge over extended time gaps.

Good! If we have to relearn how to create nuclear weapons every single time, we won't be able to create them in such a hurry. Also, if we're really desperate, can't we use the old designs? You only start from scratch if you want to improve it.

Re:Not atypical (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177106)

Consider this factor: lots of people think that blowing up the planet is a really bad idea. No Armageddon, no need for Armageddon weaponry. Such Ludditism may shock you, but there it is.

honestty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30175416)

can we please stop wasting ALL of our money on the military? what the hell are we gonna do with a nuke anyhow...they are well established as unusable in warfare...all you can do it it is say 'I lost so screw everyone, I'm gonna make a nuclear winter'

Re:honestty (1)

Wolvenhaven (1521217) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175574)

they can be used to stop the russians from invading washington by detonating them in orbit, the only problem is it could destroy the ISS.

Re:honestty (1)

init100 (915886) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176196)

the only problem is it could destroy the ISS.

As well as a multitude of other spacecraft.

Re:honestty (4, Insightful)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175580)

Well, having a nuke can tell others "don't send your nukes my way or I'll respond in kind, and we will both lose". It also deters conventional war because you wouldn't want to go to war with an enemy who has nukes and may use them if the war goes badly.

Not having nukes can invite an attack from an enemy who does have them ("I'll drop my nuke on you, and what you'll do about it?"), also conventional war becomes more possible.

Re:honestty (0, Flamebait)

lord_rotorooter (1482955) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175692)

I don't really see it mattering much if they work or not. The current administration would never authorize a launch. It is hard enough to get them to make a decision on sending troops much less launching something that might make a spotted owl glow in the dark.

Re:honestty (2, Insightful)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175948)

Oh yes. You're right. President Obama's concern would be the spotted owl. Just like Nixon didn't launch them because he was worried about their effect on magnetic media.

You sir, are an ass.

Re:honestty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30176034)

same anonymous poster as the start (too lazy to make an account)

All those reasons sound like intense paranoia to me...The logic of 'If I don't have ways to kill other people everyone else will try to kill me' is self fulfilling and moronic at best.

Re:honestty (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176832)

So, you provide a button for Osama Bin Laden (or the favorite Muslim religious fanatic of your choice) to push that would wipe out all the infidels in the USA, Europe, Israel and Russia and China.

Think it wouldn't get pushed? Really?

Re:honestty (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177102)

Welcome to the right to bear arms.

Re:honestty (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30177250)

It is quite logical to me. Most people are rational and sane. They just want to go about their lives and their business. However, some people are batshit crazy, especially when they get a little bit of power. Some people just feel they can do whatever they wish because they have way more to gain than they have too lose. Some people are just sadists. These small minorities seem to gravitate to positions where they can do harm. It is most logical to have some way to deter them from starting shit. Police are a form of deterrence in normal society. Personal weapons are another form of deterrence.

Now look on a larger scale, not between people, but between societies. Instead of personal weapons we now have armies. Now, through various circumstances through the ages, we have unlocked a more powerful weapon than has been known through the ages. The genie is out of the bottle, nukes are here to stay. If every nuke on the earth is destroyed in a gesture of goodwill, there is nothing stopping a lucky and well funded whackjob from building one himself.

If I don't have ways to kill other people everyone else will try to kill me

I will agree that this line of reasoning is paranoid and moronic. However, this is not the reasoning of deterrence. The reasoning of most rational people is closer to "I have a weapon. I do not want to use it. If you attack me, however, I will be forced to use it on you." I do not know about certain countries that may or may not frighten and indoctrinate their citizens to believe that 'the US is the most evil country on earth and wants to destroy them and eat their babies at all cost', but I am assuming that most of the world knows that the US does not want to start a nuclear war and that few people are actually prepared and willing to give the order to use nuclear force. But if some madman wants to threaten and posture, we have them.

Will they ever be used again? Hopefully not. They are only good for destroying very large areas very quickly. They are useless in modern warfare when we can precisely target and destroy objectives of interest with a push of a button with very little collateral damage. Why level a city when you can just blow up the enemy headquarters and take the city intact with no need to rebuild.

Feeder Reactors (1)

locallyunscene (1000523) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175480)

So does that mean we can use the saved money to fund feeder reactors that don't have the potential to produce weapons grade material?

Probably a pipe dream for a while still, but at least that's one less lobby pushing against building new-styled reactors.

Re:Feeder Reactors (1)

lord_rotorooter (1482955) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175826)

I would like to see more funding go into these kind of projects. Something that would actually benefit all of mankind, save the planet and cut energy costs.

Re:Feeder Reactors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30176104)

Didn't we just use all our money to feed funders?

Refurbishing Nukes... (3, Funny)

Landshark17 (807664) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175510)

It's not only possible... it is essential!

"Guarantee their Destructiveness" (4, Funny)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175552)

Does that mean nukes will now have a new label on them?

"Best if used to initiate Global Armageddon by December 12, 2054"

Re:"Guarantee their Destructiveness" (1)

Wolvenhaven (1521217) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175608)

They only need to last until 12/12/12.

Re:"Guarantee their Destructiveness" (1)

beatsme (1472991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175696)

They only need to last until 12/12/12.

I think you mean 12/21/12, the end of this Long Count cycle.

Re:"Guarantee their Destructiveness" (1)

Wolvenhaven (1521217) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175806)

yea, my handwriting sucks and cellwriter typed it wrong and I didn't notice.

Re:"Guarantee their Destructiveness" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30175712)

I am more concerned with 13/13/13. Thats the date to worry about. In fact I PROMISE the world is far more likely to end on that date then the 12/12/12 hyped date.

Re:"Guarantee their Destructiveness" (1)

st0lenm0ments (1682952) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175772)

I pitched 2013 to Columbia.. no luck.

Re:"Guarantee their Destructiveness" (1)

Anonymous Monkey (795756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175836)

In other news, the federal government is switching to a 13 month calendar as of 2010 in order to make life simpler for payroll accountants.

Man... (3, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175636)

Can you imagine what the world was like 100 years ago? Where wars were fought on foot and were mostly civil wars, or simple trade disputes? Where mutually assured destruction and worrying how long your nukes will last were never present.

Or go back even further, like 500 years, where the world was a bold new place worth exploring, and if a war were to be fought, it'd be because you want to rescue the pope, or payback for a political insult, or because you were bored...

Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong century. The internet is way over-rated.

Re:Man... (1)

st0lenm0ments (1682952) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175700)

Well, if you were able to challenge anyone who insults you over the net to a duel, pistols drawn at dawn, i'm sure the net would be a much friendlier place.

Re:Man... (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175764)

Well, if you were able to challenge anyone who insults you over the net to a duel, pistols drawn at dawn, i'm sure the net would be a much friendlier place.

I'm a pacifist, you insensitive clod!

Re:Man... (1)

st0lenm0ments (1682952) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175868)

See, i don't even have a glove to slap you with. What is the world coming to?

Re:Man... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30175912)

A century ago, wars were mostly fought between artillerists lobbing shells and shooting machine guns at the poor morons walking slowly across, and Bulgaria and Turkey were busy inventing aerial bombing.

Re:Man... (1)

ascari (1400977) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176170)

>The internet is way over-rated. You can do all those things you mention in WoW.

Re:Man... (1)

init100 (915886) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176294)

100 years ago? Where wars were fought on foot and were mostly civil wars, or simple trade disputes?

Yeah, like WWI (which started 95 years ago).

Re:Man... (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177368)

Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong century. The internet is way over-rated.

Be careful what you wish for; the stories of the "good old days" are most often promulgated by those who did not live during those centuries. Before industrialization, antibiotics, and the green revolution life was nasty, brutish, and short for 90%+ of the population. If you don't believe that, then look at the one continent that has largely not experienced these modern benefits, Africa, and tell us that you would find life in some backwards village or the slums of Nairobi strangely romantic.

Re:Man... (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177572)

I know, I was just poking fun at the fact that the world was a much simpler place when it was nasty brutish and short. I mean if I was a peasant in feudal times, the idea of all life on Earth ending instantly in a series of explosions, each large enough to level the town I lived in, I would have had no other explanation then Divine intervention.

Now-a-days, you're taught that it can happen if you aren't careful who you vote for.

Jon Kyl (0, Troll)

Bassman59 (519820) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175660)

... is a fucking idiot. Anything he says should be ignored or ridiculed.

Signed, one of his constituents.

The Nuke version of Y2K? (2, Interesting)

ka9dgx (72702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175682)

Y2K was mostly a result of the radical shift in the nature of software development brought about by the IBM 360 and other computers which included a new feature of backward compatibility. Prior to that time it was safe to assume that programs would only live until they needed to be re-written to run on the next generation of computer. So as a result, we had many programs living well past retirement age. This then lead to a sane design decision from the 1950's getting us into trouble 40 years later.

Now we have a similar situation with Nukes. The Test Ban Treaty radically changed the nuclear weapons development environment, and as a result our nukes are now well past their retirement age. They were meant to be replaced, but haven't been.

It is important to note that in both cases, the eventual cost are still WELL below the development and other costs which were avoided.

Re:The Nuke version of Y2K? (1)

careysub (976506) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177092)

Now we have a similar situation with Nukes. The Test Ban Treaty radically changed the nuclear weapons development environment, and as a result our nukes are now well past their retirement age.

The age of U.S. nukes has absolutely nothing to do with either of the Test Ban Treaties (that is, the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Threshold Test Ban Treaty, the only two of which that are in force). Every single nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal was designed, developed, tested and manufactured after the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and all of the most advanced (and the large bulk of the U.S. arsenal) were tested and manufactured after the Threshold Test Ban Treaty went into effect.

The age of U.S. warheads is simply due to the fact that we stopped making them. If we want younger warheads we can simply build new ones to match existing designs, and the extended Life Extension Program comes close to doing that (every component in every bomb can be eventually refurbished as needed).

They were meant to be replaced, but haven't been.

But as with classic cars (there it is - the inevitable car analogy) which were meant to be replaced after several years (believe me - Detroit designed them that way), but can be maintained indefinitely, if the warheads can be refurbished then replacement is unnecessary.

NPT (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175714)

One of the stated requirements of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty is that nations that sign it that don't already have nukes don't develop them, and nations that do work towards phasing their own out of existence. If we want to restart nuclear weapons testing to work on replacement nukes, then we need to stop pressuring Iran and other nations to not develop their own, because it would be very hypocritical for us to demand other nations stick to the terms of the NPT when we ourselves are blatantly violating it. Alternately, if we are serious about the NPT, then we have no need to be working on the next generation bombs -- we should be instead working on making sure the current generation is the last generation.

There are arguments to be made either way, but make up your minds, people. Don't talk out both sides of your mouths on this one. Let's either start working on new bombs and bless Iran on its quest to make its own, or let's take the NPT seriously and both press Iran on compliance, and comply with it ourselves.

Re:NPT (3, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175886)

The NPT was one of the silliest, most useless treaies ever invented. It was signed by people who either had more nukes than they knew what to do with (sort of situation the USA was in), had too little funding to build any more (eg UK) or lacked the funding or will to ever try to get them.

Noone who actually wanted to develop nukes paid the slightest bit of attention to it.

All it did was to get people to keep on doing whatever they were doing anyway.

Useless, pointless and silly.

Butnot as silly as disarming a deterrant when people are actively trying to develop one.

Re:NPT (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176648)

You can argue whether the NPT caused (or contributed) to this, but I think that ending the arms race - the continued increase in capabilities by the US and Russia - was a very good thing.

Re:NPT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30176112)

If you look up the NPT on Wikipedia, you will see that the other parts of the treaty are about increasing the use of nuclear energy, and sharing the needed knowledge and nuclear materials between all countries that signed the treaty. It looks like Iran is trying to do exactly what this treaty was about, despite the lack of sharing from other countries.

Testing existing weapons is important (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30175746)

I say we test a bomb from our stockpile on Congress. It'll confirm that the weapons are ready for use and save us hundreds of billions a year in out of control spending.

Re:Testing existing weapons is important (1)

Trent Hawkins (1093109) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176552)

the question is, are you ready for a super mutant Congress?

Re:Testing existing weapons is important (0, Flamebait)

inerlogic (695302) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176790)

i vote we test 'em on iran, iraq, afghanistan and pakistan if they don't get their shit together....
when france and germany bitch about it to the UN, we'll send a few to paris and berlin....

How convenient (1)

hansraj (458504) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175750)

Hey we don't need to do further testing so everybody let's sign a deal saying no one would.

Fast forward a few years..

Hey our stockpiles are ageing. You know what guys, we would like to reserve the rights to do nuclear tests.

What about the Foam? (3, Insightful)

jddj (1085169) | more than 4 years ago | (#30175810)

My wife and I toured the museum of stuff that blows up (Bradbury museum?) at Los Alamos on our honeymoon (the site does say "news for nerds", right?).

One of the displays said that special styrofoam-like stuff that holds reactive parts of some in-stockpile nuclear weapons in place has a service life of 10 years, but the weapons using it are 25 or more years old. Meanwhile, they've lost the recipe to make more foam.

I wonder if they're able to refurbish these nukes (and what happens as the foam ages if not).

Re:What about the Foam? (4, Informative)

georgewilliamherbert (211790) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176356)

"Fogbank", widely presumed to be a heavy-metal doped aerogel material.

We can manufacture it again. There was a gap - we couldn't for a while, but it's back in production.

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/FOGBANK [wikimedia.org]

What if nobody knew? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30175938)

Here's a thought...what if the people that knew the missiles needed to be replaced eventually kept that quiet? What if the entire world believed our nuclear weapons were still good, but we just silently let them degrade and didn't spend any more money or time on nukes?

Re:What if nobody knew? (1)

Miseph (979059) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176238)

What if we never even HAD a huge stockpile of nukes, just a huge stockpile of cardboard cutouts made to LOOK like nukes?

Seriously though, it was pointed out that our current arsenal is sufficient to annhilate all life on earth several times over, and STILL people are wetting themselves at the idea that we might not be able to deter our enemies... wtf? How much more "deterred" can they be? I just can't believe that somebody willing to launch nukes when we can kill everything with fire 40 times over would suddenly think twice about it if we could do it 1000 times over, because that would be batshit fucking insane.

I call this phenomenon "Tom Clancy Syndrome", it's a state of believing that the US military is not only better in every way than everyone else anywhere, but that this doesn't give rational people any reason to seriously reconsider their half-baked world domination plans. It also has been known to result in popping a semi whenever you learn about a new and phenomenally expensive technology that is almost as effective at killing people as good old fashioned bullets, and experiencing wet dreams about a full-on modern military confrontation between ourselves and another nuclear world power.

Re:What if nobody knew? (4, Insightful)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177306)

> I call this phenomenon "Tom Clancy Syndrome", it's a state of believing that the US military is not
> only better in every way than everyone else anywhere, but that this doesn't give rational people any
> reason to seriously reconsider their half-baked world domination plans.

ROTFL! I think you just hit the nail on the head!

There is a real tendency for people to look back at history for patterns and, lo and behold, if you look hard enough for a pattern, and are willing to ignore enough facts, then, you sure can find patterns.

I think the reality is that people hate war. The world over, nobody really likes getting into wars. Oh, there may be some gung ho kids, or guys who don't know much esle. There are excitement junkies etc. However, in the end, nobody really likes the result. The sacrifice, the bloodshed etc.

Sure, we can be talked into liking it. We can like it in context. Who didn't love that we fought WWII and liberated europe? Who didn't want to see Bin Ladens head on a pike after 9/11? Who can't understand fighting off an invading force?

But there is a difference between being willing to do something, and wanting it to happen.

The trend, that I see, is actually very anti-war. War seems like it was much more popular when it was out of the way. When it took days for the real effects of a battle to get out. When stories of bravery were all that were heard.

The faster information moves.... the less people seem to like war. Nothing eroded support for the Viet-Nam conflict like pictures and stories coming right home from the front lines. Stories of collective punishments, stories of rapes and murders, villages burned, families massacred. This is war, this has always been war. No matter how good we get (and we are much better than ever before by any standard), war is ALWAYS a travesty.

I dare say the internet is the pacifier. The faster information moves, the less freedom troops have to loot, pilliage, and generally act atrociously. The more we see, the less we support. The more apparent the hell, the less apt we are to create it.

I think we should be doing as much as possible to make SURE that EVERY country ends up with their forces as hamstrung by public opinion and internet fueled information leaks as our own is. When any member of the public, in any country can tune in and watch the carnage from any conflict in the world, in real time as heads explode and body parts fly... I predict that the closer to that point we get, the less desire for conflict we will see.

That is, until someone starts buying ad space on soldiers uniforms and they start just fighting for the ad dollars....

er... actually... lets not give them any ideas.

Re:What if nobody knew? (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176244)

Then the ostrich who takes it's head out of the sand first wins, and everyone else loses.

Re:What if nobody knew? (2, Insightful)

pezpunk (205653) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176250)

#1 there's no strategic advantage to nto knowing whether your nukes work or not. so, this study needs to be done.

#2 in case you haven't noticed, keeping secrets is not exactly what our government is good at. in fact we're horrible at it. if our nukes were paper tigers, word would eventually get out. and if the rest of the world were to suddenly realize that our nukes didn't work, that would probably be horrendously destabilizing revelation, with potentially cataclysmic consequences.

Re:What if nobody knew? (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177272)

Then we'd be safe from wiping each other out but we'd be f*##ed when the 6-mile wide asteroid decided to pay us a visit.

Supply Saddam. (1)

st0lenm0ments (1682952) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176418)

I still don't get what the US wants with over 10, 000 Nuclear weapons. Surely they could have supplied Iraq with a few so that weapons of mass destruction were actually found!

JASON (1)

Ifni (545998) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176572)

July, August, September, October, November - so does this indicate that the study is leading up to a nuclear winter?

Re:JASON (1)

3waygeek (58990) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176680)

More likely an alien invasion [milk.com] .

why don't we.... (1)

inerlogic (695302) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176666)

just outsource the warheads to india or china....
that's where all the technical expertise, and all the jobs are.....

"Good" (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176674)

Good is such an.... "interesting" term.

Who knew? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30176946)

Who woulda guessed that nukes come with the same Use-By date as Hostess pastries? Now we know that, also just like those Hostess Twinkies, our nukes are good for decades after those dates. That's awesome news for the Apocalypse survivors, who will have dessert AND won't have to bother making their own M.A.D. devices from scratch.

"Good news, everyone! We found nukes from Fry's time and they're as fresh and tasty as the day they were put in the wrappers!"

The boredom problem (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177028)

The problem with nuclear weapons development is boredom. It took a huge establishment to make the things, with way too many smart people. The plants are run down or closed, and the smart people are retired or dead.

It's like NASA. Who goes to work for NASA today? At least NASA launches something once in a while. Imagine going to work for Pantex and spending your whole life on refurb jobs. That's not going to attract the best and the brightest.

Some of the bomb designs are "too clever". The AEC had too many smart people around in the glory days, and some of the designs are more complex than they need to be. The effort to shrink fusion bombs down to MIRV and cruise missile size resulted in some designs that took actual nuclear tests to validate and are hard to check without real tests. That's why everyone is so nervous about keeping the old designs going. Yes, there are simulations, but without tests, they're hard to validate.

Phew! (1)

Balial (39889) | more than 4 years ago | (#30177448)

Aging Nuclear Stockpile Good For Decades To Come

Well, that's a relief for me! I was getting worried!

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