|The U.S. state terrorists have a pile of Weapons
of Mass Destruction which can wipe out from the face of the Earth anything between 1 to
3.5 billion human beings. Currently, they are discussing how to make their Weapons of Mass
Destruction even more destructive. Read here more about the deadly plans of the
imperialists whose policies are menacing the survival of planet Earth.
From The New York Times
A Fierce Debate on Atom
Bombs From Cold War
Published: April 3, 2005
For over two decades, a compact, powerful warhead called the W-76 has been the
centerpiece of the nation's nuclear arsenal, carried aboard the fleet of nuclear
submarines that prowl the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
But in recent months it has become the subject of a fierce debate among experts inside
and outside the government over its reliability and its place in the nuclear arsenal.
The government is readying a plan to spend more than $2 billion on a routine 10-year
overhaul to extend the life of the aging warheads. At the same time, some weapons
scientists say the warheads have a fundamental design flaw that could cause them to
explode with far less force than intended.
Although the government has denied that assertion, officials have disclosed that
Washington is nevertheless considering replacing the W-76 altogether.
"This is the one we worry about the most," said Everet H. Beckner, who
oversees the arsenal as director of defense programs at the National Nuclear Security
Some arms-control advocates oppose the 10-year overhaul program, saying it could
produce not only refurbishments but also deadly new innovations. They like the replacement
option even less, saying it could prompt the government to conduct underground detonations
that would undo the global ban on nuclear testing and start a new arms race. Moreover,
some argue that nuclear weapons are dinosaurs that have little use in American military
strategy and that it makes no real difference if the W-76 is ineffective.
"That's why people are so passionate about this," said Daryl G. Kimball,
executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington.
The W-76, developed in the early 1970's for destroying large targets like military
bases, now sits packed in clusters of up to eight atop hundreds of missiles in a dozen
nuclear submarines. While the exact figures are secret, federal officials and private
weapons experts agree that it is the nation's leading weapon by virtue of sheer numbers.
The experts say that of 5,000 active warheads in the arsenal, 1,500 are W-76's. Each is
meant to be about seven times as powerful as the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
The W-76's importance is rising as the nation's nuclear force relies more on submarines
and less on bombers and land-based missiles. "It's by far the most numerous"
warhead, said Hans M. Kristensen, a weapons expert at the Natural Resources Defense
Council, a private group in Washington that monitors nuclear trends. "It's the
workhorse in terms of targeting."
Several factors lie behind the current worries and repair plans. The W-76 is one of the
arsenal's oldest warheads. As warheads age, the risk of internal rusting, material
degradation, corrosion, decay and the embrittling of critical parts increases.
The overhaul to forestall such decay is scheduled to go from 2007 to 2017. In all, it
is expected to cost more than $2 billion, say experts who have analyzed federal budget
Questions also surround the weapon's basic design. Four knowledgeable critics, three
former scientists and one current one at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico,
which designed the W-76, have recently argued that the weapon is highly unreliable and, if
not a complete dud, likely to explode with a force so reduced as to compromise its
Federal officials, while denying that, disclosed in interviews that the warhead is
being considered for a new program that intends to replace old warheads with more reliable
ones. Congress and future administrations would have to approve a replacement for the
Officials would give no estimate for that endeavor's cost or length of time. But they
acknowledged that they have carefully weighed the W-76's potential problems and the
alternatives for fixing them.
"I've spent a lot of personal time on this," said Dr. Beckner, of the
National Nuclear Security Administration.
The W-76, and its troubles, were born during the cold war, when American bomb makers
sought to win the arms race with designs that made nuclear arms lightweight, very powerful
and in some cases so small that a dozen or more could fit atop a slender missile.
Where most nuclear powers had to make do with weapons that were ponderous if
dependable, the W-76 epitomized the American edge. It was a hydrogen warhead - known as
thermonuclear because a small atom bomb at its core worked like a match to ignite the
hydrogen fuel. Standing shorter than a man, it had undergone an extraordinary degree of
"It was the tightest design we had," said one top nuclear scientist who did
not want his name used for fear of retaliation for releasing confidential information. .
"They crammed in everything with a shoehorn."
Tensions ran high, especially for senior designers like Charles C. Cremer, the leader
of thermonuclear design at Los Alamos. In 1974, as W-76 plans took shape, Mr. Cremer
Richard L. Morse, a physicist at the weapons laboratory who directed advanced concepts
for bomb design as well as a separate group devoted to laser fusion, said in an interview
that much tension centered on the weapon's so-called radiation case. In usual fashion, it
was to be made of uranium, which is nearly twice as heavy as lead.
Leaders at Los Alamos wanted the case to be as lightweight as possible, so they
envisioned it as extraordinarily thin - in places not much thicker than a beer can (albeit
with plastic backing for added strength).
Its physical integrity was vital. The case had to hang together for microseconds as the
exploding atom bomb generated temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun, forcing it
to emit radiation that kindled the thermonuclear fire. If the case deformed significantly
or shattered prematurely, the weapon would fail, its thermonuclear fuel unlit.
From 1978 to 1987, about 3,400 W-76's rolled off the production line, said Mr.
Kristensen, of the defense council. The design was considered so good that Britain made a
variant of the W-76 for its submarines.
Even with their seeming success, arms designers continued to do underground tests to
determine how cases would behave in the first milliseconds after the atomic blast. But in
1992, after the cold war, the United States joined a global moratorium on nuclear tests.
It was no longer possible to detonate weapons to check their reliability.
In secret, experts and officials say, debate on the W-76 began almost immediately after
the test ban; suggestions included an alternative design that would thicken the radiation
case and give the new warhead a much longer life. By 1995, the work had become formalized
in a joint effort between the Navy and the nation's nuclear weapons complex.
As the test ban persisted, American nuclear officials singled out the W-76 as the first
warhead to undergo precautionary scrutiny. The program employed teams from Los Alamos and
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, its archrival. Usually, the meetings were cordial.
But a vocal dissenter emerged. It was Dr. Morse, who had left Los Alamos in 1976 for
the University of Arizona but returned in 1996 and aided the W-76 assessment.
Dr. Morse specialized in scientific explanations for the complex flows that curl
through the extraordinarily hot gases known as plasmas, which lie at the heart of an
exploding nuclear weapon. His main goal was to help scientists develop a giant laser that,
in lieu of an atomic match, would fire on a tiny radiation case surrounding an even tinier
pellet of hydrogen fuel, releasing a burst of nuclear energy. Heat from such miniature
hydrogen bombs was envisioned as one day being used to make electricity.
But Dr. Morse found that nature had erected tricky barriers to that goal. In
particular, he documented how a form of turbulence known as Rayleigh-Taylor instability
(named after the physicists Lord Rayleigh and Geoffrey Taylor) could perturb the expanding
plasma of the very hot radiation case, forming waves, ripples and whorls that blocked
ignition of the thermonuclear fuel. He also found that extremely small variations in the
case were responsible for the onset of turbulence, making it hard to eliminate.
In 1996, Dr. Morse brought similar analyses to bear on the W-76's thin case, arguing
that it would probably fail. He said that for decades, officials had swept the issue under
the rug and that Mr. Cremer, the designer, had struggled with the problem.
In an interview, Dr. Morse said he was soon "disinvited" from the evaluation
and left Los Alamos for Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. But he added that
concerns about the W-76 only grew.
Dr. Beckner disagreed. He said the joint review found that the W-76 "looks like a
pretty good weapon."
Even so, the government began preparing for an extensive refurbishment of the warhead
in a bid to extend its life by 30 years. The planning started around 2000 and foresaw the
installation of new fuses, electronics, batteries, cables, valves and the conventional
high explosives that light the atomic match. It also sought to increase the warhead's
accuracy and flexibility in targeting.
In 2003, amid preparations for the refurbishment, Dr. Morse once again sought to stir
debate. He says he felt compelled to do so because of the W-76's rising importance to the
nation's nuclear forces.
At a secret meeting in March 2004 at Los Alamos, Dr. Morse led four critics who laid
out their concerns to lab and federal officials, including Dr. Beckner. Dr. Morse
characterized the discussion as acrimonious.
"It was a verbal mud-wrestling match," he recalled. The lab and federal
officials "would not be candid with us. We told them things they didn't know. It was
very, very disappointing."
In contrast, Dr. Beckner said the meeting and subsequent analyses left him with
"high confidence that this nuclear weapon is a good design, was built properly and
will function if required."
In early July, news reports in New Mexico began to describe the dispute, and the
director of Los Alamos days later scheduled a secret lab symposium to review the
"technical challenges" to understanding how radiation cases act in the first
microseconds of a nuclear blast, according to a synopsis of the planned meeting.
As the number of news reports grew, officials denied that there was any problem with
the W-76. They cited a history of detonations of the weapon at the Nevada Test Site.
In late November, the dependability issue emerged nationally as Congress approved a
small budget item that began a new weapons design effort known as the Reliable Replacement
Warhead program. Its goal is to have weapons scientists design a new generation of nuclear
arms that are more reliable and more durable, reversing the cold war trend of making
small, lightweight, powerful weapons. If possible, the effort is to proceed without
Dr. Beckner, of the nuclear administration, said the W-76 is a candidate for redesign.
The current work to extend the warhead's life, he said, could expand to include more
fundamental design changes. "That is not the plan at present, but that could
happen," he said, adding that he could not discuss the issue of thickening the
Thomas B. Cochran, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said a
thicker, heavier case for the W-76 might force compensating cuts in the weight of the
weapon's hydrogen capsule. And that, he added, would reduce the weapon's overall force.
Dr. Morse applauded the new federal interest. "What's out there in those
boats," he said, "is at best unreliable and probably much worse."
Sandra Blakeslee and Kenneth Chang contributed reporting for this article.