War planners not only are rethinking the unthinkable — how and when to use nuclear weapons — they’re discussing it. Out loud. Over drinks and cheese balls…
William M. Adler begins his frightening commentary with the opening night reception of Strategic Space 2003, a three-day national security conference held in Omaha, Nebraska this past September.
Three months after the 9/11 attacks (although clearly in preparation much earlier), the Bush administration delivered its “Nuclear Posture Review” to Congress. The Pentagon-authored text is couched in recommendations, but its tone and direction are unmistakable. It buries alive all those quaint Cold War holdovers — diplomacy, arms-control treaties, test bans — in some figurative fallout shelter, never to be heard from again. In their stead, war planners bellow and yearn for a doctrine that strikes first and evades questions later. “The need is clear,” the posture review states, “for a revitalized nuclear weapons complex that will be able … if directed, to design, develop, manufacture, and certify new warheads in response to new national requirements
“The world of nuclear weapons policy is kind of Alice in Wonderland,” says Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch of New Mexico. “In many ways, the lower the yield of the weapon, the more dangerous the weapon, because it is more likely to be used.” That’s where mininukes come in. A one-kiloton mininuke (a kiloton equals 1,000 tons of TNT) may sound cuddly — and it is relatively low-yield: about one-13th the force of the Hiroshima bomb. But a one-kiloton warhead would generate a crater roughly the size of the Ground Zero site where the World Trade Center used to stand, and would spew a million cubic feet of radioactive fallout, estimates Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the nonprofit Arms Control Association
In one respect, however, the posture review is unambiguous: It considers the new generation of nukes potential weapons of first resort. Not only does that lower the threshold for using them, it blurs the line between nuclear and conventional weapons. And it vaporizes the international principle, based on nearly 60 years of diplomacy, law, practicality, and morality, that nuclear weapons are exponentially more lethal… … read more
Of further interest, in Mr. Adler’s article one of the main sites named for a new nuclear factory is Pantex, near Amarillo, Texas. This particular facility has been in the news recently because of safety concerns. read: Contractor faulted after workers tape together warhead explosives