Sunday, April 03, 2005

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb

Nope, I'm not talking about the U2 album, but an interesting article in the New York Times regarding our aging nuclear weapon stockpile. The argument isn't really about dismantling, but about what to do with the W-76 warhead carried on our fleet of nuclear submarines. An upcoming program aims to extend the life of the warheads, but some weapons scientists say there's a design flaw that would keep the warhead from exploding with its intended force.

Three options present themselves, then: overhaul the existing warheads, replace them altogether, or do nothing at all. What makes this debate so fascinating, of course, isn't this particular weapon so much as the window it opens onto the nuclear debate. If you believe that a nuclear deterrent is absolutely essential to our security, you're likely to favor the replacement option. If you believe nuclear weapons are a moral outrage or an anachronistic relic, you're likely to vote for doing nothing. That's leaves the middle option as the safest, but most likely ineffective, route.

There's an intriguing back story here that the article only deals with on the surface, involving high tension, the suicide of a top designer, and the pressures of the Cold War. Highly recommended, but leaves me hungry for more; maybe Richard Rhodes should make his nuclear duo a trio...

No comments: