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Posted: 3/6/2006 1:14:58 PM EDT
U.S. Plans to Modernize Nuclear Arsenal

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 4, 2006; Page A02

The Bush administration is developing plans to design and deploy refurbished or replacement warheads for the nuclear stockpile, and by 2030 to modernize the production complex so that, if required, it could produce new generations of weapons with different or modified capabilities.

Referring to goals established two years ago, Ambassador Linton F. Brooks, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), told the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces Wednesday that "we will revitalize our weapons design community to meet the challenge of being able to adapt an existing weapon within 18 months, and design, develop and begin production of a new design within three to four years of a decision to enter engineering development."

A study by NNSA for restructuring the aging weapons complex, which includes dealing with facilities that dismantle retired weapons, should be sent to Congress this spring, Brooks said. Although there is some updating and modernizing of the present complex, "full infrastructure changes . . . will take a couple of decades," Brooks said.

The first step in the long-range plan is focused around the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program that was approved last year. That program contemplates designing new components for previously tested nuclear packages that would make the resulting bombs and warheads safer and more reliable over the long term than older stockpiled weapons that are being refurbished.

The RRW warheads would create, Brooks said, a "reduced chance we will ever need to resort to nuclear testing." In addition, he said, "Once we demonstrate we can produce warheads on a time scale in which geopolitical threats could emerge, we would no longer need to retain extra warheads to hedge against unexpected geopolitical changes."

Under current plans, the number of deployed U.S. warheads on submarines, missiles and bombers would be reduced to between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012. There would be an additional number, said to exceed 2,000, that would remain in a strategic reserve, and it would be the latter that could be further reduced under the RRW program.

However, Brooks told the subcommittee that he believes more funds will be needed to prepare for a new multibillion-dollar facility to produce "pits," plutonium triggers for thermonuclear weapons. There is controversy over how reliable the plutonium pits are as they age because of radioactive decay. Brooks told the panel the current belief is they are reliable for 45 to 60 years, but uncertainties have developed.

A small facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory has been established to build pits, but its capacity will be 30 to 40 pits a year beginning in 2012, which Brooks described as "insufficient to meet our assessed long-term pit production needs" created by the RRW warheads.

Brooks's description of the U.S. plan for nuclear weapons production came one day before President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced their agreement for sharing nuclear technology, while permitting India to continue production of weapons-grade materials at one-third of their reactors. It also came one day after testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee by Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, described how India and other nations are moving forward with their own nuclear programs.

"We believe that India and Pakistan . . . continue expanding and modernizing their nuclear weapon stockpiles," Maples said, adding, "Pakistan has also developed the capability to produce plutonium for potential weapons use."

He also reported that North Korea is continuing to produce plutonium for its nuclear program, and that China "is likely" to increase the number of its nuclear-armed theater and strategic weapons and "has sufficient fissile material to support this growth."

Link Posted: 3/6/2006 1:16:30 PM EDT
That appears to be a good call!
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 1:23:43 PM EDT
I think that modernizing and expanding our nuclear power program is more important than modernizing our nuclear weapons program...
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 1:31:31 PM EDT
'bout time.
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 1:40:13 PM EDT

"Once we demonstrate we can produce warheads on a time scale in which geopolitical threats could emerge, we would no longer need to retain extra warheads to hedge against unexpected geopolitical changes."


JIT warhead production - Not sure I like the sound of that...
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 1:44:22 PM EDT

Originally Posted By MagKnightX:
I think that modernizing and expanding our nuclear power program is more important than modernizing our nuclear weapons program...



In the spirit of AR-15.com....do both.
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 1:46:27 PM EDT
The thing to watch for in the next decade or two, not that the public will hear anything about it is the development of pure fusion weapons rather then two stage warheads with fission primaries.

Pure fusion weapons offer the advantage of being fallout free and not governed by treaty. They are also scaleable from here to infinity.
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 1:49:15 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/6/2006 1:50:24 PM EDT by krpind]

Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist:
The thing to watch for in the next decade or two, not that the public will hear anything about it is the development of pure fusion weapons rather then two stage warheads with fission primaries.

Pure fusion weapons offer the advantage of being fallout free and not governed by treaty. They are also scaleable from here to infinity.



Is that existing technology or wishful thinking?

ETA...I guess I should have asked if it was viable instead of existing.
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 1:52:36 PM EDT
What does "scalable from here to infinity" mean?
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 1:53:52 PM EDT

Originally Posted By krpind:

Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist:
The thing to watch for in the next decade or two, not that the public will hear anything about it is the development of pure fusion weapons rather then two stage warheads with fission primaries.

Pure fusion weapons offer the advantage of being fallout free and not governed by treaty. They are also scaleable from here to infinity.



Is that existing technology or wishful thinking?



Quite possible that they exist already, work on the concept using shaped charge of hyperexplosives in tandem with explosivly pulsed electromagents to ignite fusion in tritium-deterium gas cells was started in the white world in the 1980s, but work in this feild goes back to project orion in the 60s when they initially wanted to try and produce nuclear weapons with highly direct explosive arcs, and eventually their work turned to pure fusion.

Assuming that pure fusion weapons do not exist already (or are not in an advanced stage of development) the thing to watch is when the National Ignition Facility makes it's first full power firing. Understanding the basic physics of intertial confinement fusion is going to expand expodentially our understanding of plasma physics and fusion engineering, which would fill in all the gaps to the US producing fallout free fusion weapons.
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 1:55:27 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Coop_K:
What does "scalable from here to infinity" mean?



It means that there is no minimum or maximum theoretical yeild, in theory you can make a fusion explosive as big or as small as you want, although there are practical limits.

This is quite different from fusion weapons which have a definate minimum and maximum theoretical yeilds.
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 2:01:04 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist:
The thing to watch for in the next decade or two, not that the public will hear anything about it is the development of pure fusion weapons rather then two stage warheads with fission primaries.

Pure fusion weapons offer the advantage of being fallout free and not governed by treaty. They are also scaleable from here to infinity.



Didn't the Dems succeed in halting research on neutron warheads for the very same reason - Namely, that they were essentially fallout-free (and thus made nuclear war "thinkable")?
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 2:02:55 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist:

Originally Posted By krpind:

Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist:
The thing to watch for in the next decade or two, not that the public will hear anything about it is the development of pure fusion weapons rather then two stage warheads with fission primaries.

Pure fusion weapons offer the advantage of being fallout free and not governed by treaty. They are also scaleable from here to infinity.



Is that existing technology or wishful thinking?



Quite possible that they exist already, work on the concept using shaped charge of hyperexplosives in tandem with explosivly pulsed electromagents to ignite fusion in tritium-deterium gas cells was started in the white world in the 1980s, but work in this feild goes back to project orion in the 60s when they initially wanted to try and produce nuclear weapons with highly direct explosive arcs, and eventually their work turned to pure fusion.

Assuming that pure fusion weapons do not exist already (or are not in an advanced stage of development) the thing to watch is when the National Ignition Facility makes it's first full power firing. Understanding the basic physics of intertial confinement fusion is going to expand expodentially our understanding of plasma physics and fusion engineering, which would fill in all the gaps to the US producing fallout free fusion weapons.



Wow....interesting stuff.

Link Posted: 3/6/2006 2:05:25 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist:

Originally Posted By krpind:

Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist:
The thing to watch for in the next decade or two, not that the public will hear anything about it is the development of pure fusion weapons rather then two stage warheads with fission primaries.

Pure fusion weapons offer the advantage of being fallout free and not governed by treaty. They are also scaleable from here to infinity.



Is that existing technology or wishful thinking?



Quite possible that they exist already, work on the concept using shaped charge of hyperexplosives in tandem with explosivly pulsed electromagents to ignite fusion in tritium-deterium gas cells was started in the white world in the 1980s, but work in this feild goes back to project orion in the 60s when they initially wanted to try and produce nuclear weapons with highly direct explosive arcs, and eventually their work turned to pure fusion.

Assuming that pure fusion weapons do not exist already (or are not in an advanced stage of development) the thing to watch is when the National Ignition Facility makes it's first full power firing. Understanding the basic physics of intertial confinement fusion is going to expand expodentially our understanding of plasma physics and fusion engineering, which would fill in all the gaps to the US producing fallout free fusion weapons.



So what's to prevent us from using pure fusion reactions as a fallout free source of nuclear energy?
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 2:05:34 PM EDT
Why not just use the ones we have(iran) and make new ones
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 2:15:45 PM EDT

Originally Posted By CitySlicker:

Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist:

Originally Posted By krpind:

Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist:
The thing to watch for in the next decade or two, not that the public will hear anything about it is the development of pure fusion weapons rather then two stage warheads with fission primaries.

Pure fusion weapons offer the advantage of being fallout free and not governed by treaty. They are also scaleable from here to infinity.



Is that existing technology or wishful thinking?



Quite possible that they exist already, work on the concept using shaped charge of hyperexplosives in tandem with explosivly pulsed electromagents to ignite fusion in tritium-deterium gas cells was started in the white world in the 1980s, but work in this feild goes back to project orion in the 60s when they initially wanted to try and produce nuclear weapons with highly direct explosive arcs, and eventually their work turned to pure fusion.

Assuming that pure fusion weapons do not exist already (or are not in an advanced stage of development) the thing to watch is when the National Ignition Facility makes it's first full power firing. Understanding the basic physics of intertial confinement fusion is going to expand expodentially our understanding of plasma physics and fusion engineering, which would fill in all the gaps to the US producing fallout free fusion weapons.



So what's to prevent us from using pure fusion reactions as a fallout free source of nuclear energy?



Mostly due to the fact that producing what is essentially a catosrophic run away fusion reaction for a fraction of a second is much easier then producing a slow, high density plasma that is undergoing a self-sustaining fusion reaction in a tokomak, especially with helium-3/deuterium which would allow for electrostatic containment and without producing a free neutron.
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 2:18:21 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist:
The thing to watch for in the next decade or two, not that the public will hear anything about it is the development of pure fusion weapons rather then two stage warheads with fission primaries.

Pure fusion weapons offer the advantage of being fallout free and not governed by treaty. They are also scaleable from here to infinity.



Are you saying it would be possible to "dial-the-yield"? In effect you could make the 'spolsion as big or little as you want?
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 2:19:39 PM EDT

Originally Posted By COLE-CARBINE:

Originally Posted By MagKnightX:
I think that modernizing and expanding our nuclear power program is more important than modernizing our nuclear weapons program...



In the spirit of AR-15.com....do both.



+1000 Megawatts
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 2:20:30 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/6/2006 2:21:14 PM EDT by jj01]

Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist:

Originally Posted By CitySlicker:

Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist:

Originally Posted By krpind:

Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist:
The thing to watch for in the next decade or two, not that the public will hear anything about it is the development of pure fusion weapons rather then two stage warheads with fission primaries.

Pure fusion weapons offer the advantage of being fallout free and not governed by treaty. They are also scaleable from here to infinity.



Is that existing technology or wishful thinking?



Quite possible that they exist already, work on the concept using shaped charge of hyperexplosives in tandem with explosivly pulsed electromagents to ignite fusion in tritium-deterium gas cells was started in the white world in the 1980s, but work in this feild goes back to project orion in the 60s when they initially wanted to try and produce nuclear weapons with highly direct explosive arcs, and eventually their work turned to pure fusion.

Assuming that pure fusion weapons do not exist already (or are not in an advanced stage of development) the thing to watch is when the National Ignition Facility makes it's first full power firing. Understanding the basic physics of intertial confinement fusion is going to expand expodentially our understanding of plasma physics and fusion engineering, which would fill in all the gaps to the US producing fallout free fusion weapons.



So what's to prevent us from using pure fusion reactions as a fallout free source of nuclear energy?



Mostly due to the fact that producing what is essentially a catosrophic run away fusion reaction for a fraction of a second is much easier then producing a slow, high density plasma that is undergoing a self-sustaining fusion reaction in a tokomak, especially with helium-3/deuterium which would allow for electrostatic containment and without producing a free neutron.




Yep, what he said. Although, I've heard that there is no such thing as a free neutron, or maybe that was lunch, I forget
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 2:23:24 PM EDT




Yep, what he said. Although, I've heard that there is no such thing as a free neutron, or maybe that was lunch, I forget




roflmao, w00t for physics jokes.
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 4:16:09 PM EDT
bump
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 4:20:18 PM EDT

Originally Posted By CitySlicker:
So what's to prevent us from using pure fusion reactions as a fallout free source of nuclear energy?



containment
Link Posted: 3/6/2006 4:24:22 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/6/2006 4:24:44 PM EDT by OFFascist]
So lets talk about antimatter weapons.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antimatter_weapon

Since it seems that we really cant crank out the stuff all that fast yet, no pure antimatter bombs yet.

But some people think you could use them to replace the fission trigger in H-bombs. Thus the whole fusion reaction with little radioactive fallout.
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