The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

UK’s surviving atomic test veterans cautiously welcome David Cameron’s statement

Thorpe St Andrew nuclear test veteran speaks of defect fears, after PM gives flag-UKhope to families, Norwich Evening News 24, 17 April 14

“………Veterans say they were made ill as a result of being exposed to radiation during the tests, and have been battling for recognition and compensation for years.

 Fewer than 3,000 veterans survive and while welcoming Mr Cameron’s pledge, Mr Freeman said: “We are concerned it’s just an election ploy. Tony Blair said something similar in opposition, then did nothing when he was elected.”

Mr Freeman, a father-of-three and grandfather-of-eight, said his ninth grandchild was expected next month, but added: “I’ve got grandchildren who suffer from deafness and one was born with one kidney. With another grandchild due, we are all worried that everything is going to be OK, as you can never tell.”

Nuclear test campaigners say Mr Cameron’s pledge is the closest they have been to formal recognition of the suffering caused by the South Pacific explosions. The meeting between Mr Cameron and Tory MP John Baron last week was the first time the veterans had their case put forward to any prime minister.

Mr Baron, patron of the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association, told the PM descendants had 10 times the normal rate of birth defects, their wives had elevated rates of ­miscarriage, and no other veterans’ group had suffered harm which spread down the generations. France, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, China and even the Isle of Man ­recognise and compensate test veterans. The MoD has always insisted no harm befell the men.

Are you a veteran of nuclear testing living in the Norwich area? Email reporter David Bale at

April 18, 2014 Posted by | health, social effects, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Ukraine crisis: a good opportunity for USA to put even more nuclear missile bases in Europe?

missile-risingAfter Ukraine, Countries That Border Russia Start Thinking About Nuclear Deterrents, NewsWeek, By  / April 15, 2014“………In a new report, Doran and several co-authors, including The Economist’s Europe editor Edward Lucas, argue that since Russia violated international treaties by annexing Crimea, NATO can renege on its promise not to base nuclear weapons in former Warsaw Pact states……

“The people who’ve been arguing for a continued role for nuclear weapons are milking the [Ukraine] crisis for all it’s worth,” says Hans Kristensen, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project. ….
In response to the Crimea crisis, the U.S. has temporarily moved fighter planes from their base in Aviano, Italy, to Poland, while U.S. Army and Navy units are being deployed to the Baltic states. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has asked NATO to station 10,000 troops on its soil. But no European government has publicly said it wants a new nuclear base, and because nuclear installations are supposed to be secret, they’re unlikely to do so. Koziej notes, “In nuclear deterrence, the most important aspect is keeping your adversary in the dark about your plans, so it’s best not to talk about where it would be suitable to base U.S. nuclear weapons.”

April 16, 2014 Posted by | EUROPE, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The West arranges to allow Israel to take part in nuclear trade

exclamation-Smflag-IsraelInternational nuclear body to curry favor with Israel: Exposed Press TV, 15 April 14 The US and some European allies seek deeper nuclear ties with Israel and other non-members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a confidential paper reveals. Israel which by policy does not confirm its estimated stockpile of 80 or more nuclear warheads, is the first on the list, according to the report…….The paper also outlined different types of “possible benefits the NSG could consider granting” an entity that is even not in the 48-member group.

These could include sharing of information, access to NSG meetings and “facilitated export arrangements,” suggesting possible access to some nuclear trade with NSG members.

Israel, the only possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, is widely known to have between 200 and 400 nuclear warheads.

The Israeli regime rejects all the regulatory international nuclear agreements — the NPT in particular — and refuses to allow its nuclear facilities to come under international regulatory inspections.

April 16, 2014 Posted by | Israel, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Strong reasons why UK should abandon Trident nuclear weapons system

flag-UKFive interesting stories about Trident

By ANDREW GIBSON | Published: APRIL 15, 2014 he fate of the UK’s nuclear weapon system will be decided in the next few years. Whether to renew Trident and what defensive posture to take will be the subjects of internal party debates when manifesto writing, when preparing for the NPT Review Conference in 2015 and when Parliament votes on the ‘Main Gate’ decision on Trident replacement in 2016. But there have been some interesting stories about Trident in the press of late. Here are just a few:

 1. Strikes at Faslane

In March, hundreds of workers at the Faslane naval base staged theirfirst walkout in 42 years, following negotiations over pay. Faslane is home to the UK’s Vanguard-class nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed submarines. The Scotsman reported that employees responsible for fitting out boats and loading weapons were involved in the action. The Unite union said that further stoppages were planned, as well as a work to rule and ban on overtime.

2. Top Tory says No James Arbuthnot, veteran chairman of the Defence Select Committee, has publicly questioned the logic of replacing Trident. In a recent interview with the Guardian he stated, “Nuclear deterrence does not provide the certainty that it seemed to in the past. It’s not an insurance policy, it is a potential booby trap.”

Despite voting for replacement in 2007, Arbuthnot referred to Trident at the time as ‘of doubtful usefulness’.

3. Resignations at AWE Burghfield

In January, junior defence minister Anna Soubry confirmed that 44 Ministry of Defence Police officers based at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Burghfield were subject to a major misconduct investigation. AWE Burghfield hosts facilities in which the UK’s nuclear weapons are built and maintained. Seven officers resigned during the course of the investigation, with some media reporting that a number had missed patrols due to being ‘asleep’.

4. UK’s youth disapprove

A recent ComRes survey suggests that younger people are opposed to like-for-like Trident replacement. Of the respondents, only 19 per cent of those aged 18-35 supported renewing Trident at its current size and capacity (this compared to 33 per cent of over 35s). The poll was commissioned by WMD Awareness, who launched this campaign last week to get the UK’s youth debating nuclear weapons.

5. Radioactive leaks in Caithness

In March, Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond demanded an apology for failing to be informed for over two years about problems with a submarine test reactor. This was in response to defence secretary Philip Hammond’s confirmation that “low levels of radioactivity were detected in a prototype core” at the Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment at Dounreay, Caithness, in 2012. These kinds of spats suggest nuclear defence will continue to be an issue in the Scottish independence campaign.

The above stories touch on some major problems with Trident: it’s unpopular, politically contentious, and the system relies on shaky security arrangements. Anyone for abandoning it?

April 16, 2014 Posted by | UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The danger of a nuclear Saudi Arabia

The risks of a nuclear Saudi Arabia April 7, 2014 by Nick Butler”……….The issue is set out in an excellent new paper for the Belfer Center at Harvard by Olli Heinonen and Simon Henderson. The Saudis’ explanation of their newfound interest in nuclear technology is that they want to use it to produce electric power and to converse oil supplies which can be exported. There is a core of truth in this of course – Saudi Arabia’s domestic oil consumption is rising inexorably and is now more than 3m barrels a day. But, of course, this is exactly the argument used by Iran for its own nuclear research.

Heinonen and Henderson believe the Saudis are preparing the way and giving themselves the option of being able to move beyond civil nuclear power to the point where they could within a matter of months produce some form of weapon. The country undoubtedly has the money to buy whatever is needed and they have close and dangerous allies within Pakistan, a country which is already a nuclear state. Scrutiny by the International Atomic Energy Agency is minimal (bizarrely the organisation spends more money monitoring Jordan) and the Saudis could go a long way down the path to nuclear capability without it becoming obvious until very late in the day.

The prospect of nuclear weapons in the hands of the fragile government of Saudi Arabia is bad enough. The country is fundamentally unstable – held together only by force and by the flow of oil money to an ever growing number of citizens who high expectations and low productivity. But equally concerning is that any further conflict in the region – even at a level below the nuclear threshold – could shake the global energy economy to its foundations……..”

April 16, 2014 Posted by | Saudi Arabia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA bumping up its weapons exports to Asian region

Buy-US-nukesWorld Cuts Back Military Spending, But Not Asia, Inter Press Service Analysis by John Feffer WASHINGTON, Apr 14 2014 (IPS) - For the second year in a row, the world is spending a little less on the military. Asia, however, has failed to get the memo. The region is spending more at a time when many others are spending less.

 Last year, Asia saw a 3.6 percent increase in military spending, according to figures just released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The region — which includes East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and Oceania — posted topping off a 62 percent increase over the last decade. In 2012, for the first time Asia outpaced Europe in its military spending. That year, the world’s top five importers of armaments all came from Asia: India, China, Pakistan, South Korea, and (incredibly) the city-state of Singapore.

China is responsible for the lion’s share of the increases in East Asia, having increased its spending by 170 percent over the last decade. It has also announced a 12.2 percent increase for 2014.

But China is not the only driver of regional military spending. South Asia – specifically the confrontation between India and Pakistan – is responsible for a large chunk of the military spending in the region. Rival territorial claims over tiny islands  – and the vast resources that lie beneath and around them — in both Northeast and Southeast Asia are pushing the claimants to boost their maritime capabilities.

Even Japan, which has traditionally kept its military spending to under one percent of GDP, is getting into the act. Tokyo has promised of a 2.8 percent increase in 2014-15.

The United States, a Pacific power whose military spending is not included in the Asia figures, has also played an important role in driving up the expenditures in the region. The Barack Obama administration’s “Pacific pivot” is designed to reboot the U.S. security presence in this strategically critical part of the world………

The modest reduction in Pentagon spending will not necessarily lead to a corresponding decline in exports. In fact, the opposite is likely to be true, as was the case during the last Pentagon slowdown in the 1990s. The Obama administration has pushed through a streamlining of the licensing process in order to facilitate an increase in military exports – in part to compensate U.S. arms manufacturers for a decline in orders from the Pentagon…..

Asia and Oceania represent the primary target for U.S. military exports, absorbing nearly half of all shipments. Of that number, East Asia represents approximately one-quarter (South Asia accounts for nearly half).

The biggest-ticket item is the F-35 fighter jet, which Washington has already sold to Japan, South Korea, and Australia. Long-range missile defence systems have been sold to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Overall between 2009 and 2013, Australia and South Korea have been the top U.S. clients. With its projected increase in military spending, Japan will also likely rise much higher on the list.

The more advanced weaponry U.S. allies purchase, the more they are locked into future acquisitions. The United States emphasises “interoperability” among its allies. Not only are purchasers dependent on the United States for spare parts and upgrades, but they must consider the overall system of command and control (which is now C5I — Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Combat systems and Intelligence).

Although a French fighter jet or a Russian naval vessel might be a cheaper option in a competitive bid, the purchasing country must also consider how the item integrates with the rest of its hardware and software……

The continued increase in military spending by countries in East Asia and the massive influx of arms into the region are both symptoms and drivers of conflict. Until and unless the region restrains its appetite for military upgrades, the risk of clashes and even all-out war will remain high.

In such an increasingly volatile environment, regional security agreements – on North Korea’s nuclear programme, the several territorial disputes, or new technological threats like cyberwarfare – will be even more difficult to achieve.

Most importantly, because of these budget priorities, the region will have fewer resources and less political will to address other pressing threats, such as climate change, which cannot be defeated with fighter jets or the latest generation of battle ship.

April 15, 2014 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

India will keep is ‘no first use’ nuclear weapons policy

flag-indiaNo-first-use nuclear policy to stay: Rajnath Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times  13 Apil 14, The BJP will leave unchanged India’s stand not to be the first side to use nuclear weapons in a conflict, the party said Sunday, ending speculation about one of the defining principles of New Delhi’s foreign policy. The no-first-use policy for nuclear weapons was a well thought out stand of the NDA government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee. We don’t intend to reverse it,” BJP chief Rajnath Singh told HT.

Party leaders say the policy has not only boosted India’s standing in the international community but also gives a certain amount of leverage in foreign-policy matters.

 Central to New Delhi’s nuclear doctrine — drawn up by the Vajpayee government after a series of nuclear tests in 1998 and followed by the successive UPA governments — is that India will not be the first to use nuclear weapons nor will it use them against a non-nuclear country……

April 15, 2014 Posted by | India, weapons and war | Leave a comment

David Cameron acknowledges damage to nuclear test veterans and their offspring

      David Cameron gives nuclear test veterans glimmer of hope after our 12-year campaign for justice


        Apr 12, 2014 Prime Minister has promised to investigate setting up a £25 million health fund for descendants of those exposed to genetic suffering genetic defects

David Cameron has at last given hope to families of nuclear test veterans after a 12-year Sunday Mirror campaign for justice.

The Prime Minister has promised to investigate setting up a £25million health fund for descendants suffering genetic defects passed down by ­servicemen exposed to 1950s blasts.

He will also look at offering personal thanks to the veterans and recognising their sacrifice with a medal.

Campaigners say the breakthrough at a half-hour meeting is the closest they have been to formal recognition of the suffering caused by the South Pacific explosions.

It came days after the Sunday Mirror called for the PM to recognise the plight ofchildren like 15-month-old Ella Denson, who was born with a deformity linked to her great-grandad Eric Denson’s exposure to radiation on Christmas Island in 1958.

The meeting between Mr Cameron and Tory MP John Baron last Wednesday was the first time the veterans have had their case put forward to any prime minister.

Mr Baron, patron of the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association, told the PM descendants had 10 times the normal rate of birth defects, their wives had elevated rates of ­miscarriage, and no other veterans’ group had suffered harm which spread down the generations.

A New Zealand study found veterans’ genes had three times the damage of Chernobyl survivors. The tests have never been repeated here.

Scientists say effects could last for 20 generations.

As Mr Cameron listened, Ella, of Morden, South London, was recovering from her latest hospital admission to deal with her severe defect. She was born with two tubes to a kidney instead of one and needs daily antibiotics to stop infection before having surgery at three.

At the weekend she was rushed to hospital for the third time in her short life. Her brother Jamie and mum Kimberley have teeth deformities.

Ella’s great-gran Shirley Denson, 79, had four daughters with bomb veteran husband Eric and has seen more than a third of his descendants suffer.

She said: “I pray the Prime Minister does the right thing, for the sake of my Ella and all the thousands like her.”

Eric was one of 22,000 men ordered to witness the ­detonation of nuclear bombs between 1952 and 1967.

He later suffered ­crippling ­headaches and killed himself in 1976. Fewer than 3,000 veterans survive.

France, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, China and even the Isle of Man ­recognise and compensate test veterans. The MoD has always insisted no harm befell the men.

Mr Baron said: “The meeting with Mr Cameron was constructive. He is going to get back to me.”

April 15, 2014 Posted by | children, health, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Israel’s 300 nuclear warhead arsenal

flag-IsraelIsrael possesses at least 300 nuclear warheads: Carter, Tehran Times,13 April 14, Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says that Israel has at least 300 nuclear warheads which is far more dangerous than estimates that are being hypothetically made about Iran’s potential access to nuclear weapons. 

 “Well, you know, if they [Iran] got one nuclear weapon, Israel has, what, 300 or more, nobody knows exactly how many,” Carter told MSNBC in an interview earlier this week.
The veteran U.S. politician said that the United States should not launch an attack on Iran over its disputed nuclear program even in the event the country succeeded in building a nuclear bomb.
 Carter also commented on former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s suggestion that Israel could attack Iran unilaterally and said, “I never have felt that Israel had a capability militarily to go 1,200 miles or more and bomb Iran effectively and then return back to Israel.”
 “The only country on earth that has that capability would be the United States, and I don’t believe it’s appropriate for the United States to bomb Iran over this issue,” he added……..

April 15, 2014 Posted by | Israel, weapons and war | Leave a comment

How many people would die instantly if an H-bomb hit a city?

 1-megaton H-bomb would kill 370,000 instantly: Japanese research  An estimated 370,000 people would die instantly if a one-megaton hydrogen bomb were dropped on a city with one million residents, according to a report compiled by a Japanese research group.

The report was distributed Saturday at a meeting in Hiroshima of foreign ministers from 12 non-nuclear weapons states belonging to the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative.

The NPDI consists of Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

A one-megaton hydrogen bomb is about 50 times as powerful as the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.

Some 66,000 people would be killed instantly in a city with one million residents if hit by a 16-kiloton atomic bomb, the same scale as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, the report said.

The group of researchers, including Masao Tomonaga, president of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Genbaku Hospital, compiled the report aimed at looking into the inhuman nature of nuclear weapons, at the request of the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

As the blast from a one-megaton hydrogen bomb radiates for 18 kilometers, another 460,000 people would be injured in addition to the 370,000 killed, and 36,000 people within 3 kilometers of the center of the explosion would be affected by radiation, the report said.

“We found such a bomb would inflict heavy damage on even a modern-day city,” Tomonaga said. “The Foreign Ministry will be using our report as a scientific basis to show the inhuman nature” of nuclear weapons.

April 15, 2014 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Dwindling group of Hiroshima survivors bear witness to the nuclear horror

Hiroshima survivors offer peace and hope for nuclear disarmament April 13, 2014 SMH, Daniel Flitton The two young brothers looked into the bright blue sky and waved happily at the shiny plane flying far above.

Their sister, Emiko Okada, eight years old at the time, remembers an intense flash of light and her mother suddenly rushing into the yard to the children, bleeding from where shards of glass had lodged in her head.

Next came the fire – and people running, hair standing on end, white bones exposed, skin and flesh burning. People were vomiting, not just blood but black ooze from their nose and mouth.

Mito Kosei, in his mother’s womb at the time of the atomic attack, guides tourists around the memorial peace park in Hiroshima.

This was the day the A-bomb fell on Hiroshima.

Ms Okada is one of a dwindling group of survivors from that morning in 1945, determined never to let the terrible human cost of nuclear war be forgotten, even after they are gone.

”Frightening is not the world I can use, it was something much worse,” she said via a translator, still upset by the memory.

Emiko Okada who as an eight-year-old survived the atomic attack on Hiroshima.

Stories from the survivors, known in Japan as hibakusha, were told to foreign ministers of a 12-nation group, including Australia, gathered in Hiroshima at the weekend to kickstart global talks on nuclear disarmament.

Survivors’ stories are being preserved in an online archive by the Tokyo Metropolitan University………

April 15, 2014 Posted by | Japan, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The historic peace ship, the Golden Rule, will sail again

the Golden Rule will sail again, restored to its role as America’s most important peace ship
The Remarkable Voyages of the Golden Rule, America’s Peace Ship CounterPunch, by LAWRENCE WITTNER, 9 April 14
“……….The remarkable story of the Golden Rule began with Albert Bigelow, a retired text-historyWorld War II U.S. naval commander.  Appalled by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, he became a Quaker and, in 1955, working with the American Friends Service Committee, sought to deliver a petition against nuclear testing to the White House.  Rebuffed by government officials, Bigelow and other pacifists organized a small group, Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons, to employ nonviolent resistance in the struggle against the Bomb.  After the U.S. government announced plans to set off nuclear bomb blasts near Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands―an island chain governed by the United States as a “trust territory” for the native people―Bigelow and other pacifists decided to sail a 30-foot protest vessel, the Golden Rule, into the nuclear testing zone.  Explaining their decision, Bigelow declared:  “All nuclear explosions are monstrous, evil, unworthy of human beings.”

Continue reading

April 10, 2014 Posted by | history, opposition to nuclear, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

If India’s govt changes its “no first use” nuclear weapons policy, – it’s a mockery of disarmament policy

ballot-boxSmFormer Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is widely expected to win the elections advocates changing India’s policy of “no first use” of nuclear weapons

flag-indiaCan a nuclear-weapons state champion disarmament? Japan Times BY RAMESH THAKUR 9 April 14 Forty-four years after the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) came into force, the world still finds itself perilously close to the edge of the nuclear cliff. The cliff is perhaps not quite as steep as it was in the 1980s, when there were more than 70,000 nuclear weapons compared to today’s 17,000, but going over it would be fatal for planet Earth.

Authoritative road maps exist to walk us back to the relative safety of a denuclearized world, but a perverse mixture of hubris and arrogance on the part of the nine nuclear-armed states (China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) exposes us to the risk of sleepwalking into a nuclear disaster.

For nuclear peace to hold, deterrence and fail-safe mechanisms must work every single time. For nuclear Armageddon to break out, deterrence or fail-safe mechanisms need to break down only once. This is not a comforting equation.

Deterrence stability depends on rational decision-makers being always in office on all sides: a dubious and not very reassuring precondition. It depends equally critically on there being no rogue launch, human error or system malfunction: an impossibly high bar.

According to one U.S. study reported by Eric Schlosser last year, more than 1,200 nuclear weapons were involved in significant incidents from 1950-68 because of security breaches, lost weapons, failed safety mechanism or accidents resulting from weapons being dropped or crushed in lifts………

an increasing number of voices are demanding that the sole function of nuclear weapons, as long as they exist, should be to deter a nuclear attack, all the nuclear armed states should join together to establish a global no-first-use norm.

It is simplistic to dismiss “no first use” as merely declaratory, easily ignored in wartime. A universal no-first-use policy by all nine nuclear-armed states would have considerable practical import with flow-on requirements for nuclear force posture and deployment — for example, de-alerting (taking warheads off hair-trigger alert), de-mating (separating warheads from delivery systems) and de-targeting. This strengthened norm of nonuse would then lay the groundwork for further gradual reductions in the number of nuclear warheads held by the various nuclear armed states and their eventual elimination through a nuclear weapons convention.

Ramesh Thakur is director of the Center for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, Australian National University, and coeditor of the recently published four-volume reference set “Nuclear Politics” (2014).

April 10, 2014 Posted by | India, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Obama’s efforts to get rid of some of USA’s costly nuclear missiles

Obama puppetUS will cut deployed nuclear missile force by 50 News Sentinel, By Robert Burns of The Associated Press  Tuesday, April 8, 2014  WASHINGTON — The U.S. will keep its current force of 450 land-based nuclear missiles but remove 50 from their launch silos as part of a plan to bring the U.S. into compliance with a 2011 U.S.-Russia arms control treaty, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

The resulting launch-ready total of 400 Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles would be the lowest deployed ICBM total since the early 1960s.

The decisions come after a strong push by members of Congress from the states that host missile bases — North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana — to not eliminate any of the silos from which the missiles would be launched. Fifty silos will be kept in “warm” status — empty of missiles but capable of returning to active use……..

Some question the value of retaining ICBMs, although President Barack Obama has committed to keeping them as part of the nuclear “triad” of forces that can be launched from land, sea and air. In addition to the 450 ICBM silos currently in use, the Air Force has four at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., used only for test launches. They will remain.

The Pentagon said Tuesday it probably will cost about $300 million to implement all the announced changes required to comply with New START by 2018. About two-thirds of the cost will be for altering some of the missile tubes aboard Navy submarines so they can no longer launch ballistic missiles.

The nuclear sub fleet is far more costly to operate than either the land-based missiles or the bombers, but its strategic advantage is the relative invulnerability of the submarines while at sea, and thus their ability to survive a first strike.

The New START treaty also requires both Russia and the U.S. to reduce to 1,550 the number of nuclear warheads associated with the deployed missiles and bombers. The Pentagon has not spelled out how it will do that, but analysts have said they believe the breakdown will be: 1,090 warheads aboard subs, 400 on land-based missiles and the 60 bombers counting as one warhead each.

Obama announced last summer that the U.S. would be ready to reduce its total warheads by another one-third, to about 1,100, in a new round of negotiations with Russia. But there is scant chance of that happening anytime soon, especially with the crisis over Russian intervention in Ukraine.

April 9, 2014 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Obama’s new nuclear weapons strategy

Obama’s new nuclear weapons  The U.S government today released a precise accounting of its strategic nuclear forces, something it is required to do by treaty, and it’s worth a careful read.

The world now knows that, by February of 2018, the U.S. will have approximately 400 intercontinental ballistic missiles, down from 450; 240 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, down about 50; and 60 nuclear-capable heavy bomber fighters (B-2As and B-52Hs), converting 30 B-52s to a non-nuclear role.

Since most of the nuclear payloads contain multiple warheads, the U.S. must also disclose the number of strategic nuclear weapons it will maintain on an alert status. As of 2018, that will be 1,550.

The good news: the number of viable nuclear warheads in the world will go down. President Obama has prioritized nuclear arms reduction, and the Senate in 2010 ratified a treaty with Russia that reduces to 700 the number of nuclear delivery vehicles. (The U.S. can keep an extra 100 platforms in storage.)

The timing is interesting, of course, but the decisions to reduce certain types of weapons is even more interesting. Of the three “guns,” the silo-based ICBMs are the oldest, the least efficient, and operated by missileers who have had well-publicized troubles with cheating and morale. But the cuts to that “leg” of the triad are much smaller, proportionally, than the cuts sustained by the Air Force’s nuclear fighter wings and the Navy’s ballistic missile submarines.

It may well be that the Obama administration decided to boost the confidence of the missileers, but the plan to keep most of the ICBMs might serve another purpose. It will require future administrations to cut the ICBM force more heavily, while giving nuclear planners more time to adapt the new set of platforms to existing targets. The composition of the nuclear force is unclassified; virtually everything else about nuclear war remains a state secret.

For example: cutting the number of strategic warheads will force a big change to the Joint Strategic Capabilities Supplement annex to the current nuclear war plan, OPLAN 8010-12 Strategic Deterrent and Force Employment, as well as to the exercises used to test forces on the plan and the intelligence that guides it. Also, the U.S. maintains a stockpile of battlefield nuclear weapons, which have “yields,” or explosive power equivalent to as little as 300 tons of TNT. Most are kept in storage in bunkers across the world. Their locations, types, and numbers are classified, although the U.S. admits to a force of at least 500 “battlefield” weapons.

The U.S. also keeps a big reserve of nuclear weapons material and equipment — the “nuclear strategic reserve,” which, while disassembled, do not count towards any of the treaty’s red lines. As of 2010, the reserve stock was equivalent to 2,800 weapons. These are intended (in nuclear doctrine) to hedge against strategic surprise, but the number is probably significantly higher than it needs to be, particularly if the classified target countries (China, North Korea, Russia, Iran, Syria) are no longer formally chartered enemies.

Though President Obama has changed the policy undergirding the employment of nuclear weapons, the exact language of the war plan, as well as the thresholds that might trigger the consideration for the use of nuclear weapons, remain classified, even though there is considerable ambiguity built into the precision. It is not known, for example, how flexible the U.S. can be in response to a conventional attack from a non-nuclear country, like Syria. After 9/11, a “WMD hedge” was built into the war plan, too. The U.S. does not rule out using nuclear weapons to respond to a terrorist attack from a non-state actor.

April 9, 2014 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment


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