So what are we gonna do with all these old ass nukes?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by NickZac, Dec 30, 2012.

  1. macrumors 68000

    NickZac

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2010
    #1
    We have a problem with our nukes. They are old as crap. They need overhaul. And they need an overhaul and modernization that is going to be a few-hundred billion dollars at least. For example, our Minuteman III ICBMs are almost half-a-century old. They are intended to be used through at least 2030. Many of the nuclear warheads in the arsenal date back to the 1960s and 1970s. In addition to concerns over effectiveness, concerns over safety have been raised.

    This has people questioning what to do; some question it on ethical bases, some on economic ones, and some on practical ones. As we have seen, the functional need for nukes are less today than ever before as conventional bombs have gotten more advanced. Starting around the time of the second Iraq War, smart bombs got very smart. During WWII, you dropped a ton of bombs within a determined area and hoped a few hit the intended target. Today, a B2 Spirit can literally drop a guided bomb from over 10 miles high in the sky on dark and overcast day, and hit its target within about 10 feet. Therefore, you don't need to destroy a huge area to ensure you get your target. And so you don't need a nuke or the collateral damage to get the same thing done. In some instances, a nuke could not even do this. The accuracy of the Minuteman III ICBMs blow...you'd need a big warhead with a wide proximity of destruction to compensate for the lesser accuracy. All of the most powerful US nukes are long out of service. Most of the nukes we have now are significantly lower (and variable) 'yield'. As guided bomb accuracy increases, the need for powerful weapons will decrease. The next generation of bombs will take this a step further and be able to find a target in a single area within one floor on a multi-story building.

    At the same time, many argue that nukes are deterrents. Nuclear submarines are always at sea and always capable of firing an ICMB in literally seconds. That gives someone a good reason not to attack. And the Cold War period of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) clearly worked...you had two countries with enough bombs to blow up the world and the two closest planets, yet these bombs were never used because each side knew that the other would make it rain, plutonium style.

    Sooner or later, the same nukes can't keep being refurbished and so either new ones will have to be designed or old ones destroyed without replacements. So where do we go from here?


    ---


    A good article on the topic can be found here: http://articles.washingtonpost.com/...-stockpile-nuclear-weapons-nuclear-facilities

    Quite a few exist.
     
  2. macrumors 68030

    bradl

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2008
    #2
    Haven't looked at the linked article, but your summary presents itself with a very valid and concerning question. Not only should the question of what to do with the old nukes be asked, but again, the question of what to do with the waste of such nukes and other forms of nuclear output needs to be addressed.

    Living in Las Vegas, I've seen firsthand both sides of the debate. We locals there didnot want Yucca Mountain. We made that very clear to Washington. But while that answered the question of where we do not want to have it, that didn't answer the question of what to do with it. Clearly, burying it doesn't solve the problem, since most of it has a half-life of a couple hundred thousand years. No, we won't be around that long, but talk about kicking the proverbial can down the road!

    So back to the question.. What are we going to do with the old nukes and the waste? The pacifist/scientist in me thinks that we should get rid of them by shooting them into space and on a one-way trip to a black hole, but getting them up there presents a danger in itself.

    MAD was a great strategy for the past 50 years, but now with the most radical countries coming into the knowledge of the technology itself that may not work now. Luckily we are further advanced than that, so we will always have that slight edge, but the old and outdated ones that run the risk of leaking definitely need to be destroyed. And if we can take the waste out as well, all the better.

    BL.
     
  3. macrumors G3

    Huntn

    Joined:
    May 5, 2008
    Location:
    The Misty Mountains
    #3
    I've not read the article. Can this weapon grade material be recycled?
     
  4. macrumors 68030

    benthewraith

    Joined:
    May 27, 2006
    Location:
    Miami, FL
    #4
    I believe it can be recycled and used for other purposes. The matter of waste o the other hand...
     
  5. macrumors G4

    Mord

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Location:
    Old York
    #5
    Fast Breeder reactors and the thorium fuel cycle.

    Problem solved.
     
  6. macrumors 68030

    benthewraith

    Joined:
    May 27, 2006
    Location:
    Miami, FL
    #6
    The U.S. would have had at least one breeder reactor in operation if it hadn't been for a certain former President of the United States. We should definitely revisit the issue.
     
  7. thread starter macrumors 68000

    NickZac

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2010
    #7
    Correct me if I am wrong but breeder reactors are fourth gen reactors capable of recycling their own generated waste, correct?
     
  8. macrumors 68020

    Peterkro

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Location:
    Communard de Londres
    #8
    How about trying meaningful discussions with Russia (and others) about disarmament at least partially.Might make the threats against Iran and North Korea not sound quite as hollow.
     
  9. thread starter macrumors 68000

    NickZac

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2010
    #9
    Yucca Mountain is very much linked to this situation IMO as it shows citizens largely don't like having radioactive things near them (and I don't blame them). And indeed there are crap tons of nuclear waste with an uncertain future (we probably should have figured that out before going further...). I agree the idea of shooting it into space sounds good (partially because there seems to be no other options), but I assume the heavy weight and cost of doing this would outweigh it in all practical senses, and as you noted there are major safety issues with this (i.e.: a rocket with crap tons of waste explodes upon takeoff).

    The value of MAD does seem to be dated. At the same time, it makes sense to have some good-conditioned nuclear capability. But as war has gotten more technical, the 'flatten it all' seems poorly suited and nukes really exist for wide-scale destruction. Urban warfare against terrorists could rule our even strategic conventional strikes, let alone a nuclear one. Arguably, most armed conflit does not need this capability given what we can now do with guided munitions.

    My worry is that if we do not do some major overhauls that the nukes will become far more dangerous to ourselves than any enemy...and they may not even function correctly if and when needed.
     
  10. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2011
    #10
    Plenty of countries out there that need nuking.
     
  11. macrumors G4

    Mord

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Location:
    Old York
    #11
    Their own, or waste from other reactors.

    All this nuclear "waste" we've buried is viable fuel, there's just not been the effort to actually design and build these reactors. Presumably because they don't produce weapons grade.
     
  12. macrumors demi-god

    ChristianJapan

    Joined:
    May 10, 2010
    Location:
    日本
    #12
    No one need nuking ... Many want, I know. All should be invited to visit the Peace museum in Hiroshima.

    ----------

    Converting into fuel seems the best way; but please in safe plants; not in known disaster zones.
     
  13. macrumors G3

    Huntn

    Joined:
    May 5, 2008
    Location:
    The Misty Mountains
    #13
    Thanks for the insight.
     
  14. macrumors 68030

    benthewraith

    Joined:
    May 27, 2006
    Location:
    Miami, FL
    #14
    That's ironic considering Jimmy Carter called for an indefinite deferral because of nuclear weapon proliferation.

    Source: Wikipedia. Here's another source backing Wikipedia up.
     
  15. thread starter macrumors 68000

    NickZac

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2010
    #15
    Very interesting. So hypothetically, we could use the material in retired nukes to power our homes, correct?
     
  16. macrumors G4

    Mord

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Location:
    Old York
    #16
    Yup, I think we already do, just with a typical uranium fuel cycle that produces hazardous waste.
     
  17. macrumors 6502a

    northernbaldy

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2010
    Location:
    the north, UK
    #17
    How about converting one of them into a warp capable spacecraft ;)
     
  18. macrumors G3

    Huntn

    Joined:
    May 5, 2008
    Location:
    The Misty Mountains
    #18
    Since we have a contingent in the U.S. who thinks everyone should own a gun, to protect against a tyrannical government, maybe we should distribute a nuke to every town for the same purpose? ;)
     
  19. macrumors G4

    Mord

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Location:
    Old York
    #19
    Depends on the design and fuel cycle chosen really though you're right, part of it was uranium was found to be far more abundant than originally thought so there was less of an imperative to make the most of fuel.
     
  20. macrumors 65816

    wrkactjob

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Location:
    London
    #20
    The idea of throwing a missile at another country is such an outdated piece of technological warfare now. In the 1960's yes, with the advent of Raytheon technologies and their Iron Dome together with their new laser penetration testing these old dinosaurs really will barely get off the ground.
     
  21. thread starter macrumors 68000

    NickZac

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2010
    #21
    Theoretically, the drive today for newer gen reactors will actually be able to process this waste further, correct?

    If so, IMO it would make sense to cannibalize nukes from the 60s and replace them with a more modern arsenal, and arguably, a significant smaller one quantity-wise, with more relevance to today's needs (i.e.: significantly smaller warheads given mass-destruction isn't a component of modern warfare).

    ----------

    It seems outdated. Most of our delivery systems on our ICBMs are not all that accurate as they have not been updated as quickly as need has progressed...arguably because the need for nuclear warheads have fallen with the advent of GPS. As Marky Mark said, our capability is that which "could put a cruise missile up the ass of a camel..."
     
  22. macrumors 68030

    G51989

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Location:
    NYC NY/Pittsburgh PA
    #22
    A convential laser smart bomb can't compare to even a 60s or 70s nuke, let alone the ones from the 80s.

    Most British, French, American, And Russian SSBNs can wipe an area the size of Britian off the map in one stroke. And those are Smaller warheads.

    ----------

    The ICBMs don't really need to be super accurate.....within a couple miles will be just fine, when we are talking 15-20 Megatons.
     
  23. macrumors 6502

    Scrub175

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2012
    Location:
    Jensen Beach FL
    #23
    Not having read the article yet, the main problem isn't the pit of the missile. The problem is the gas needed inside the core to make the boom bigger. It has a half life of a little over 12 years and at present we still don't have a method to produce this necessary gas in the US. The older pits can be blended down with spent commercial fuel and burned in non civilian reactors. The nonproliferation treaties bar any nuke nations from using weapons grade fissile material in civilian plants. In addition two other factors slowing this blend process down is lack of follow through with commitments from other nations and a place to store the remaining nuclear waste. Commercial plants are in need of this storage location along with DOE/DOD sites. We have a backlog of waste and are implementing other measures to recover.
     
  24. thread starter macrumors 68000

    NickZac

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2010
    #24
    That's my point. 12-20 megatons aren't needed these days. If you want to destroy 10 bridges, you can drop 10 JDAMs and take out the bridges with minimal civilian life lost or you can use a multi-megaton warhead to do the same thing, but kill many people, wreck the environment, and cause a serious uproar.
     
  25. macrumors 604

    thejadedmonkey

    Joined:
    May 28, 2005
    Location:
    Pa
    #25
    Ideally (meaning if I were dictator), take the old missiles and turn them into fuel for a power plant. In the mean time, we can build 2 missiles for each nuclear sub, plus a few for the continental US.

    Boom, we reduce our stockpile, power the country, and make the remaining nuclear missiles that much safer in case we need them. Anything deemed too dangerous is pointed towards the sun and launched. Everyone can go home happy.

    Except for all of the problems with this as pointed out above.

    And the fact that I am not dictator. :(
     

Share This Page