William Hamilton: Nuclear weapons, the reality
Grand County, CO Colorado
Russia’s Vladimir Putin just announced that he plans to spend over $700 billion to upgrade Russia’s nuclear weapons.
President Obama just announced his plan to cut America’s nuclear weapons by 80 percent. Something seems wrong with this picture. But to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt, maybe he just wants to get rid of the nuclear weapons that might have become unreliable. But how do we know which weapons are reliable and which weapons are unreliable?
Geo-political and domestic-political realities aside, our top nuclear scientists keep telling Congress we have a valid need to test selected weapons in our nuclear stockpile on a periodic basis. Computer simulations are nice; however, they can never take the place of pulling a suspect weapon from our war reserves, setting it off in an underground test site, and evaluating what went right and what went wrong.
Many years ago, this writer had the privilege of being a member of a nuclear weapons technical proficiency inspection team. After watching dozens of nuclear weapons being taken apart piece-by-piece and then reassembled, I came away with the certain knowledge that all of our nuclear weapons are unreliable – unreliable on the side of being more likely to fail rather than explode when needed.
Relax. They are designed that way. A high number of complex events must occur in a precise series within nano-seconds of each other to the point that the odds are more against a nuclear explosion than for it. Therefore, the reason we need to test weapons from our nuclear stockpile is to get some idea as to how many of them are going to work and how many of them are not.
The major media would have you believe that nuclear weapons are like toasters or electric drills set on a shelf and that they just lie there over the years, unchanged. They are not. At its core, each nuclear weapon has a plutonium trigger that is highly radioactive. Day and night, the core emits radiation. This radiation constantly eats at its surroundings. It has a half-life lasting longer in the future than we have history stretching back into the past. Like different forms of cancer, some of the highly radioactive cores eat at their surroundings at a higher rate than others.
Over time, this radioactivity can corrode the high explosives surrounding the core and it can even have a deleterious effect on the barometers and the complex circuitry which play a key role in the sequencing of the events that must be in perfect synchronization for the weapon to function and to deliver the expected yield.
The only true way to know what is happening within a certain class or group of weapons of a certain date of manufacture is to put some of them underground and try to set them off.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff should know this full well. So, it should be of concern to all Americans to see the JCS in the White House sitting up like trained lap dogs as President Obama uses them as props while he cuts our nuclear weapons by 80 percent.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
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