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The Military

A Case For Unilateral US Nuclear Warhead Reductions 211

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the someone-has-to-start dept.
Lasrick writes "Interesting read of the geopolitics between the U.S. and Russia when it comes to reducing nuclear warheads. Pavel Podvig is a physicist trained at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology who works on the Russian nuclear arsenal, US-Russian relations, and nonproliferation. His take here is essential to understanding what is happening between Washington and Moscow on nuclear weapons cuts." Reader auric_dude also sent in a link to a few other views on the issue.
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A Case For Unilateral US Nuclear Warhead Reductions

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  • "Deployed" (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 01, 2013 @07:39PM (#44160901)

    TFA consistently refers to a reduction in "deployed" warheads. For those who don't understand the nuance, there are still many more warheads not currently deployed. We call those "stockpiled" arms. A reduction in deployed warheads is pointless unless we talk about a global (no pun intended) reduction in arms. Why, you ask? Because we have stealth bombers and fighters with global reach. Those stockpiled weapons could be locked and loaded on our jets in short order if we wanted. Suddenly, they are now "deployed" warheads.

    The truth remains, until nuclear weapons stockpiles are reduced below MAD levels, reduction in arms is just for show. We'll always have enough in storage to kill each other a few times over, but that's not really what matters. What matters is that we are constantly trying to establish a dialog with people who don't like us rather than take a beligerant stance. That, more than anything else will result in reduced nuclear tensions.

  • by tlambert (566799) on Monday July 01, 2013 @08:31PM (#44161161)

    Maintaining a nuclear arsenal is really pricy. They're full of dangerous things.

    Which is why it makes sense to leave them where they are. Decommissioning is even more pricey.

    They require LOTS of upkeep. You have to guard them. (They have the power to destroy the world after all) The infrastructure to maintain your active arsenal is massive and costs piles of money, which seems silly for something you hope to never use.

    Most of the cost is military. Personally, I think guarding holes in the desert is a much finer jobs program than bombing people in the Middle East. Safer for the people who get the make-work jobs, too.

    Some say the nuclear arms race was as much as way to drain money out of the USSR until it collapsed as much as anything else.

    Yeah, those people obviously don't work for the Brookings Institute, or the Sante Fe Institute, and so they have no understanding of the games theory basis that led to the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), resulted in the "Cold War", and kept us out of a hot war.

    We're done with that, and I'm sure both sides are sick of throwing money in to a pit. You really only need to blow the world up once, if you're going to do it at all.

    If we were sick of throwing money into a pit, we wouldn't have approved TARP, TARP2, and we would have had some campaign promises kept, like closing Gitmo, and getting us out of our two major wars, instead of getting us into two new ones as well. That'd save a bunch of money right there.

    I also hear that most nuclear material for peacetime power reactors comes from decommissioned nuclear warheads.

    You heard incorrectly. RTG's, or Radioisotope Thermionic Generators, operate on Plutonium. These are used in spacecraft and space probes, Mars landers, and so on. The U.S. mostly buys the Plutonium for those from Russia and other former Soviet republics. Commercial power reactors, other than breeders, run off of Uranium, and the Uranium not only isn't weapons grade, it *can't* be, since if it were, the reactors wouldn't operate properly. Breeders can run on Plutonium, but most of them operate from reprocessed fuel, or as a means of reprocessing fuel.

    The U.S. only operates two breeder sites, for the purpose of producing medically useful isotopes, and they are generally not run at capacity. They are under the control of the DOE, and there has been serious talk lately about shutting the one in Oak Ridge down. At which point we will be buying those isotopes from Japan and France - assuming Japan restarts their reactor network again, rather than it committing seppuku after Fukushima made them paranoid.

  • by Zontar The Mindless (9002) <plasticfish.info ... m ['gma' in gap]> on Monday July 01, 2013 @08:40PM (#44161203)

    Which is why it makes sense to leave them where they are. Decommissioning is even more pricey.

    There's a little thing called "shelf life". Nukes have one, too.

  • Re:"Deployed" (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 01, 2013 @09:26PM (#44161471)

    "constantly trying to establish a dialog with people who don't like us"

    Who is it that you think does not like you? I work with the Russians every day and know for sure that they have no animosity towards Americans although they do get seriously annoyed with the fact that most Americans seem to believe that they won WWII which is contrary to history. Most of it is more like sympathy as they see that America now has a level of propaganda that they had 30 years ago and that American people actually believe what they are told but this is not the same as dislike. Governments and people are different and Russians understand this far more than most and they see the American government as dangerous and evil but that does not mean that they see the American people as any different to people of their parents generation.

    Russia did not "collapse" 20 years ago. They had 4 times the military that the US had and the cost was stupid so they cut it by 75%. They still do not see the US as a threat. One reason I work with Russians is because they have more money and can pay me. Our economy collapsed more than theirs did but our propaganda told the story differently.

  • by Arker (91948) on Monday July 01, 2013 @10:31PM (#44161837) Homepage

    "No such arsenal has ever existed that could do that once, much less a dozen times."

    There are a little over 5,000 warheads in the US stockpile (as of 2010 wikipedia quoting reuters.) That's enough to hit every small city in the world, and most of them twice. Each is many, many times more powerful than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The initial blast fatalities alone from a full scale launch would decimate any nation on earth, it would make things like hurricanes look like hangnails.

    The rural population outside the cities would survive the initial blasts, but the lingering effects of radiation would decimate that remnant in short order - as well as the populations of any areas that were not initially struck directly. And only a small fraction of those weapons would need to be detonated to invoke a nuclear winter which would make survival problematic even if all the explosions are on the other side of the globe from you.

    Life would continue, yes, the cockroaches would inherit the earth. But humanity would be lucky to survive even in stone age form.

  • Re:wrong (Score:2, Informative)

    by jelizondo (183861) * <jerry...elizondo@@@gmail...com> on Monday July 01, 2013 @11:39PM (#44162145)

    Mt. St. Helens did not affect weather because the blast was horizontal, if you remember the news there was a hole in the side of the volcano and later the whole north side colapsed. Also there was less sulphur dioxide expelled (1.5 million tons [usgs.gov]) versus 25 million tons of Pinatubo. (see below)

    Now, Pinatubo did have a global effect. PBS writes [pbs.org]: In 1991, Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines produced ten times as much ash as Mount St. Helens and released more than 25 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. The resulting cloud - which formed a wide band around the planet within about a month - resulted in an overall cooling of the global surface temperature by about 1 degree Fahrenheit.

    As you point out, Toba did have a greater global effect, but because it coincided with other fenomena, such as a solar minimum and several previous volcanic eruptions not by sheer magnitude alone.

    Now, let's try exploding several nuclear bombs in different parts of the world and see what the effects are... If taking some classes in physics was enough for us to accurately predict the effects, we would be Lords of the Universe and not meek, tree-climbing monkeys. So I vote we dismantle the damn things and to hell with experimenting...

  • by SnarfQuest (469614) on Monday July 01, 2013 @11:52PM (#44162209)

    There are a little over 5,000 warheads in the US stockpile (as of 2010 wikipedia quoting reuters.) That's enough to hit every small city in the world, and most of them twice.

    I call bullshit!
    There are 50 states in the US. If each state has 100 cities, that would use all of your missiles. I'm guessing there are more than 100 cities per state on the average.
    So, what about the rest of the world? Is there truly less than 5000 cities on Earth?
    To hit all cities twice, there would have to be fewer than 2500 cities worldwide.
    Your "facts" are nonsense! Even if you had 10X the nukes, it would still be nonsense.

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