September 14, 2014

But... When We Started From Scratch We Did it in Three

This article discusses the state of america's aging nuclear arsenal and points out once again that the United States is no longer are making nuclear pits (the core of atomic weapons) and hasn't since 1989.


 I think the article is sightly unfair to Bush (1) in that canceling the deployment of the new generation of weapons that were originally intended to come online in the early 90's was absolutely necessary to calm the Russians down after the collapse of the U.S.S.R.

 In any event, there is this damning revelation at the end of the article...
  In 1989 the executive branch shut down the nation's only facility to produce plutonium pits — the hearts of nuclear weapons — making us the only nuclear weapons state in the world unable to produce nuclear arms. Since then, executive branch fumbling and congressional denials have combined to prevent replacement of this absolutely essential production facility. If a decision were made today, it would still be 10 to 15 years before pit production could start.
Emphasis mine.

Although the Manhattan Project started in 1939, it was only a fact finding and technology feasibility assessment project until it got seriously spun as a weapons project in early 1942. By late 1944 and early 1945 pit production was a reality and they started out going into a previously unknown field. Thus, one can reasonably assume, given 70 years of experience and the leaps and bounds technology has made since Trinity, that, the tripling of the time necessary to do what was done with 1940s technology in 2014 is due to institutional inertia and bureaucratic asshattery.  Most of the Chinese dynasties ended due to the machinations of the eunuchs and other bureaucrats in administrative empire building at the expense of the state, rendering it vulnerable to new developments.  The Mandarins in Washington are a Gordian Knot that we really need to cut. 

Note that this is specifically talking about plutonium pits. Plutonium is necessary for most modern weapons especially if they are lightweight and compact. However, it is my understanding that Oralloy (a type of highly enriched uranium)  can be used to make perfectly effective bombs but they are heavier and less safe to store in the confines of a submarine (due to their higher radioactivity) and in any event not using plutonium would require extensive testing of new bomb designs or the use of old ones ill suited to our current delivery methods. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 01:13 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
Post contains 417 words, total size 3 kb.

1

Plutonium weapons have to be reprocessed periodically. The plutonium builds up impurities which will eventually prevent the weapon from detonating properly.

That's not the case for uranium weapons; the metal there is stable enough to last a long time without reprocessing.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Sun Sep 14 14:50:37 2014 (+rSRq)

Hide Comments | Add Comment

Comments are disabled.
24kb generated in CPU 0.0158, elapsed 0.1805 seconds.
68 queries taking 0.1702 seconds, 211 records returned.
Powered by Minx 1.1.6c-pink.