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[P]
US Defense Dept. Wants To Use Mini-Nukes

By UncleMikey in News
Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 12:39:06 AM EST
Tags: News (all tags)
News

The Associated Press is reporting that that the Bush Defense Department in October released a report to Congress detailing its various options for handling deeply buried 'bunkers' of stockpiled chemical- and biological-weapons. Among the options listed was to use a low-yield (less than 5 kiloton) nuclear device -- preferably of a new design (although that would technically require congressional authorization) as a bunker-buster.

Yahoo!'s copy of the story, dated 18 December.


Since 1994, the law has prevented the government from developing entirely new nuclear warheads. But such restrictions have not applied to modifying existing designs, apparently, or to simply looking into the idea.

The article does not suggest that the report was seeking congressional approval for anything; rather, it was just the DoD keeping Congress in the loop as to what it was already doing. The theory apparently is that, while conventional weapons can, with modern tricks, get at almost all underground facilities, the truly deeply buried ones would require something with a bit more brisance.

I'm bringing this in as purely a news piece, so I will save my opinions for the comments :-)

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US Defense Dept. Wants To Use Mini-Nukes | 36 comments (33 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
what kind of bunkers? (3.00 / 2) (#2)
by Arkady on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 01:04:29 PM EST

So what's a "WMD bunker"?

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


WMD (3.00 / 2) (#4)
by UncleMikey on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 01:10:16 PM EST

WMD == Weapons of Mass Destruction.

[ Parent ]
Well... (4.00 / 1) (#3)
by Electric Angst on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 01:08:16 PM EST

It's edgy around the law (how do you seperate re-designs and new development in an already well-worn field?) It sounds really bad. (Fallout, innocent dying, nuclear proliferation, etc.) Right now, though, I don't know what to say. If they're just developing (redesigning) these weapons, than would they even be avalible in time for use in Afghanistan? There isn't enough info to really be able to speculate about second-hand effects. Also, since this doesn't need congressional approval, and is being done at the will of the executive, than right now all that I can think to do is keep my eyes and ears open, until enough info comes down the pipeline to make an informed opinion.
--
"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster." - Nietzsche
The
...lleW (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by UncleMikey on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 01:14:19 PM EST

until enough info comes down the pipeline to make an informed opinion.

As much as I'm interested in people's opinions, I posted this as much as a heads-up as anything else, specifically so that people would be keeping their eyes and ears open :-)

As to where it's intended to be used, I doubt Afghanistan was ever intended. Iraq, on the other hand...


--
[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]
[ Parent ]
This is a nonstory (4.83 / 6) (#6)
by Osiris on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 01:20:46 PM EST

The DoD and other executive departments have huge staffs with the sole purpose of offering options. Some general said "how the hell are we going to destroy these stockpiles of chemical weapons if we find them?" Immediately several dozen staffers were put on the problem, and probably came up with every option from loading them onto a shuttle and launching them towards the sun, to building special disposal plants, to nuking them. It's their job. It doesn't mean it's going to happen, or even that anyone wants it to happen, it just means the DoD staff people are competant.

Hell, they even bothered to note that any nuke we have in stock today is too powerful for this use, so if we go with this option, we should probably use a scaled down version.

The likelyhood of the US nuking Afghani bunkers is much lower than that of India and Pakistan going to war in the next month, so why not focus on something worth worrying about?



Re: Mini-Nukes (3.40 / 5) (#7)
by wji on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 01:22:06 PM EST

Bunkers have entrances.

There is no need for nuclear weapons to destroy bunkers. I don't know what kind of power/budget grab this is, but it's shameful. Besides, low-yield nukes tend to have the most pronounced radiation effects. Radiation is bad.

More weapons that we don't need against threats that don't exist...

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.

Bunkers (4.00 / 2) (#11)
by Bad Harmony on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 03:37:59 PM EST

It isn't that simple. You can have an underground complex of bunkers with many levels and entrances. The entrances may not be anywhere near the bunkers. The tunnels may have been designed to disrupt the propogation of blast waves. If your goal is to destroy the contents of a bunker, an earth penetrating bomb may be the only practical approach.

I can see where a nuclear device might be the way to go. What if the bunker contains a large stockpile of nerve gas or biological agents? A conventional bomb may just break the storage containers and disperse the hazardous material over a large area. A nuclear device could destroy the hazardous material in place. This is assuming that leaving the material in place is not an acceptable option.

54º40' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

Re: Bunkers (none / 0) (#27)
by janon on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 09:53:29 AM EST

> What if the bunker contains a large stockpile of
> nerve gas or biological agents? A conventional
> bomb may just break the storage containers and
> disperse the hazardous material over a large area

As opposed to contaminating said large area with radioactivity?

[ Parent ]
The simple answers (2.00 / 1) (#18)
by datarat on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 07:18:08 PM EST

The simple answers are often the most costly.

Suppose you manage to get a SEAL team in one of these bunkers, and in the process they release the deadly biological agent that was being stored there?

Are you going to be the person who tells them they can't come out?
-datarat "An optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds. A pessimist is afraid it's true"
[ Parent ]
Hmm... (5.00 / 7) (#8)
by trhurler on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 01:28:40 PM EST

We need to find more information before forming opinions. First off, it is unclear just what they plan to do. Are they talking about a surface detonation designed to use shockwaves to collapse bunkers, or do they want to use a ground penetrating warhead? If the latter, how much penetration? Are we talking about typical weapons, or the newest generation of relatively "clean" ones? Has cleanup been considered? There are a lot of possibilities here. Let me outline the two "extreme" scenarios; the truth probably lies in between.

First, the bad one. The weapon is a conventional 5kt groundburst with some fancy smartbomb guidance to maximize shock wave ground effects. Widespread fallout, nearly impossible to clean up, lots of dead and injured, many sick for life, area a total loss for quite some time, bunker collapsed but weapons therein probably intact or leaking into the ground. This seems really unlikely, because it doesn't actually meet the stated goal - destroying weapons of mass destruction and doesn't fit the DoD's talk of a "new" warhead. However, it would be easy to do.

Second, the almost unreasonably optimistic one. The weapon is a new design, which gives off minimal radiation upon explosion, using almost all of its fissionable material for the fission detonation process and cleaning up much of the rest in secondary reactions. The warhead is ground penetrating and adjustable depth, precision guided, adjustable yield for the circumstances, and there is a carefully planned cleanup regimen that might allow rehabitation of the area within a couple of years. This achieves the goal(you can set the yield and penetration so that you WILL vaporize the WMD, preventing environmental problems of that sort, and you don't impose too nasty a fate on the surroundings, since underground explosions don't create atmospheric fallout and so on,) but would be amazingly hard to do, even with a significant R&D effort. It would, to say the least, involve some new technology.

As should be evident, we don't know enough to have well founded opinions on this one just yet.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Goals (none / 0) (#35)
by ksandstr on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 01:30:17 PM EST

This achieves the goal(you can set the yield and penetration so that you WILL vaporize the WMD, preventing environmental problems of that sort, and you don't impose too nasty a fate on the surroundings, since underground explosions don't create atmospheric fallout and so on,) but would be amazingly hard to do, even with a significant R&D effort.
Which is probably why this wouldn't be the case. The US has repeatedly expressed that it doesn't really give a rat's arse about what happens to non-US citizens (paying lip service to the human rights treaty they haven't even signed doesn't count); why would they care about what happens to the area where said non-US citizens (who might even be approving of the Enemy) live?

There's always the "OK, we need something to keep the public interest for the next couple of weeks, and a 'small ultratactical nuke' brouhaha will do nicely" consideration though. Personally I don't see even the US lobbing nukes, however small, at anyone. Not publically, anyway.



Fin.
[ Parent ]
"wants to use" is misleading (4.16 / 6) (#10)
by Delirium on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 03:05:27 PM EST

The Defense Dept. wants to design mini-nukes that can penetrate underground facilities. This is of course with an eye towards their utility, or the design would just be a waste of money, but the way you phrase it makes it sound like they have these mini-nukes and are debating whether to drop one next week or not. It'll be years before one is even ready, and then there will be another debate over whether to actually use it or not. Likely it won't be used unless there are very extraordinary circumstances, as the U.S. would lose all the support of its European allies if it were to use a nuclear weapon of any kind.

Not misleading at all (none / 0) (#29)
by FreeBarking on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 11:02:51 AM EST

If the DOD is saying in public that they want to design something, you can bet there are plenty of folks there who at least want to be able to use it...

If the military has some mini-nukes in their stockpile, the temptation is only going to be increased to "go nuclear" in a messy war that's not going our way.

No nation has exploded (I won't say "used" -- you can "use" a gun without firing it) a nuclear weapon in war since 1945. This is a good thing. If the US were to use a mini-nuke to destroy chemical or biological weapons in, say, Iraq, would the headlines around the world say "US saves world from threat of Iraqi chem/bio warfare" or would they say "US nukes Iraq; Russia, China go on high nuclear alert"? Or maybe Pakistan would take the opportunity to follow America's lead and nuke some Indian nuclear weapons development facility...

I'm not suggesting that any of these are likely options, but having tiny nuclear weapons would increase the chance of using them, and using any nuclear weapons would increase the chance that others would do likewise...

[ Parent ]

I think it *is* misleading. (none / 0) (#36)
by NovaHeat on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 06:51:14 PM EST

I think it's misleading to say that the DoD wants to use these nuclear weapons. The way I interpreted it was that they were simply including these weapons in a list of possible strategies for attacking such underground bases. They also said that this is probably the best way to get at them. That's all. They could also say the best way to bring a nation to its knees is to simultaneously nuke every major city in the country, but that doesn't mean that they have any intention to do so. The Department of Defense is a military organization, and as such, it's primary focus is on strategic matters, such as ways of attacking a target.

-----

Rose clouds of flies.
[ Parent ]

much more informative link (4.66 / 6) (#12)
by Estanislao Martínez on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 03:58:40 PM EST

Page on Low-Yield Earth-Penetrating Nuclear Weapons by the Federation of American Scientists.

--em

the same thing again (1.83 / 12) (#13)
by losang on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 05:40:33 PM EST

As is immediately clear this is another attempt to extend US force to the farthest reaches of the planet with the end goal protection of national interestest , a selectively applied term whose interpretation is well known. The primary instrument of this will be control of space and this has been well recognized as an important component of US national security in the comming decades.

These campaings have little if nothing to do with their intended purpose. On the surface they may seem to but the underlying intention is never stated directly. To determine this dedicated, searching and investigation must be done into the deeply rooted policies they are entrenched in.

The attack on 9-11 was the best thing that ever happened to the elites. They were basically handed on a platter exclusive rights to push forward a plan of global domination with little resistance internally.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! (4.60 / 5) (#15)
by khym on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 06:23:33 PM EST

As is immediately clear this is another attempt to extend US force to the farthest reaches of the planet with the end goal protection of national interestest
Huh, what? "Mini-nukes to blow up underground bunkers" is obviously "U.S. plan for global domination"? If they really wanted to blow up underground bunkers, they'd obviously never use mini-nukes, so it must be for some other purpose?
The primary instrument of this will be control of space
Gah? What the heck does this have to do with mini-nukes?
These campaings have little if nothing to do with their intended purpose. On the surface they may seem to but the underlying intention is never stated directly.
So, if they had really wanted to use mini-nukes on underground bunkers, they would have said something else entirely, and it would take a bunch of analysis so we could say "Aha! What they said is a bunch of lies, their real intent is to blow up underground bunkers!"?
They were basically handed on a platter exclusive rights to push forward a plan of global domination with little resistance internally.
Naturally, the U.S. government would never involve themselves in any sort of military action that didn't further their plans for global domination; clearly, if attacking Afghanistan didn't further these plans, they would have sat on their hands and done absolutely nothing.

--
Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
[ Parent ]
comment (1.40 / 5) (#17)
by losang on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 07:17:10 PM EST

In order to justify breaking or comming close to breaking treaties the US needs some reason. So they start using terms like rogue states and create enemies.

At first glance mini-nukes and hegemony seem far apart but looking at it from the perspective of repetitive pattern it becomes clearer.

Look like most people at this site, you are more interested in proving people wrong then understanding what is written. No more, no less.

[ Parent ]

Understanding? (4.50 / 4) (#19)
by khym on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 08:14:45 PM EST

In order to justify breaking or comming close to breaking treaties the US needs some reason. So they start using terms like rogue states and create enemies.
So wanting to destroy underground bunkers can't possibly be the reason for skirting the edges of a treaty? This might be obvious to you, but not to me, or to many other readers of Kuro5hin. If you want the people you're having discussions with to be knowledgeable enough that it's obvious to them as well, then Kuro5hin isn't the place for you. If you want to continue with discussions on Kuro5hin, you should stop assuming that such things are obvious to everyone, and provide some information or links to demonstrate your points.
At first glance mini-nukes and hegemony seem far apart but looking at it from the perspective of repetitive pattern it becomes clearer.
Quite frankly, I am aware of no such pattern, and I'm willing to bet that many, if not most, of the other users here aren't aware of it either. What may be obvious to you isn't obvious to everyone else.
Look like most people at this site, you are more interested in proving people wrong then understanding what is written. No more, no less.
From an editorial comment of losang's:
I will be quite honest that if I don't argree with you that I will tell you that you are wrong. There is nothing wrong with this.
If saying that you think someone is wrong is OK, then why not also backing up that statement with an argument? Also, I don't know what you mean by "understanding what is written". Apparently I don't have enough of the necessary background information to understand what you're trying to say. When given a statement like:
As is immediately clear this is another attempt to extend US force to the farthest reaches of the planet with the end goal protection of national interestest
would an attempt by me to understand be me going out and reading a ton of books on U.S. foreign policy and military actions so that I can glean enough information to say, "Ah, he was right"?

--
Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
[ Parent ]
sorry, (none / 0) (#28)
by garlic on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 09:57:38 AM EST

trolls don't provide links.

HUSI challenge: post 4 troll diaries on husi without being outed as a Kuron, or having the diaries deleted or moved by admins.
[ Parent ]

Translation? (none / 0) (#24)
by chrome koran on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 02:15:45 AM EST

"Look like most people at this site, you are more interested in proving people wrong then understanding what is written."

If you want people to understand your comments, try making them intelligible. How the hell am I supposed to understand the following:

At first glance mini-nukes and hegemony seem far apart but looking at it from the perspective of repetitive pattern it becomes clearer.
What repetitive pattern? The repititive pattern of "breaking treaties"? The repititive pattern of using the term "rogue states"? Or the pattern of hare-brained solutions to problems?

Your posts tend to be littered with ambiguous phrases like this where it seems that you expect us all to be intimately familiar with some basic tenet of your personal ideology. Guess what? The meaning of this is not inherently obvious to most of us. If you believe that is because we are all morons, then why are you here?

Here's a tip: Come down off the mountain and talk with the members of the discussion group instead of down to them like you are some modern day Lenin/Guevara figure from whom all intelligent discourse flows...

[ Parent ]

At last, a point of agreement :-) (none / 0) (#34)
by UncleMikey on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 12:55:40 PM EST

The attack on 9-11 was the best thing that ever happened to the elites.

Losang, we've finally found something we can agree upon without too much reservation. There are two sets of people who had been largely marginalised in recent years who now feel vindicated: 1] 'alarmists' who said this kind of thing could happen all along and 2] government types who think that we've gotten too lax in the name of civil rights.

Myself, I'm part of crowd 1, and definitely not part of crowd 2. I always thought that the US was a little too sure of its invunerability; but I also think there are ways to tighten up security without trampling everything that moves the wrong way.

I don't entirely agree that this was a particular gift to the 'global domination' set, altho' I do agree that such a group exists. Nobody who pays attention can deny that there are still considerable obstacles to true global domination -- China being the most noticable, but there are plenty of others. 9/11 didn't eliminate any of these obstacles.
--
[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]
[ Parent ]

WWCD? (2.00 / 1) (#14)
by decaf_dude on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 05:43:57 PM EST

What Would China Do?

I doubt Jiang Zemin (sp?) would appreciate GWB nukin' his backyard, even with pocket-sized nukes...

--
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=89158&cid=7713039


sort of a backhanded comment (2.00 / 1) (#20)
by verbatim on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 09:25:23 PM EST

I dont like the nature of this thought. On one hand, it would be great to get rid of all this biological crap and nuclear waste that has been crapping up drinking water and sitting around for no reason what so ever. It would be a big load off my shoulders to know that we got rid of this stuff once and for all, so that later generations dont have to deal with the crap we forget we left in the ground. But on the other hand, we *are*detonating a nuclear device. The last time the United States did that was the Nagasaki plutonium bomb. It makes me uneasy to know that the gov't says they are reducing our stock pile to turn around and try and make little ones to clear crap. And besides, we dont even know the full long term effects of radiation. In the end, I say go for it. The last thing we need is stuff that will cause people problems in teh future just because we forgot we had it there. And since Sept 11, I'm kinda paranoid as to whose hands all of our resources are falling into.

I agree, but small nitpick. (3.00 / 1) (#21)
by valeko on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 10:35:46 PM EST

But on the other hand, we *are*detonating a nuclear device. The last time the United States did that was the Nagasaki plutonium bom

*cough**COUGH*Bikini*cough*wheeze*Atoll*cough*cough*...

Also, I was pretty sure the Nagasaki weapon fissioned Uranium...


"Hey, what's sanity got going for it anyways?" -- infinitera, on matters of the heart
[ Parent ]

Nope (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by davidduncanscott on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 11:00:10 PM EST

Lot more recent than that, September 23, 1992, we fired a 20kt underground test in New Mexico, and of course others more recently still (China in '96, France in '95, and India in '98).

[ Parent ]
Results or implementation. (4.00 / 1) (#23)
by your_desired_username on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 11:40:40 PM EST

Should we be trying to reduce the severity of war by limiting (or eliminating) the use of specific types of weapons?

Should we limit the use of weapons based on their likely harm to the enviroment (which, incidentially, includes people) ?

In some respects I'm more in favor of the latter - weapons should be judged by their results, and not by implementation details.

However, I wonder how much it matters. UN law makes many wars illegal already - yet some nations are happy to ignore those laws on a regular basis.
International law is not strong enough to prevent the use of these weapons - only extreme public will can do that. The End Of The World is one of the few terrors that moves public will strongly enough affect the course of government. Nuclear == Armageddon, so the use of nuclear weapons can be effectively limited. If that happens to include a few weapons that fall far below the destructive effects expected from a 'classical' nuke, well, I can't see that as a big problem. At worst it is an annoying side effect.

There are no UNO laws (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by wiesmann on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 06:34:33 AM EST

There are only international treaties which civilised countries usually sign. A country can revoke a treaty simply by sending a letter. The US can legally revoke any treaty (like the ABM treaty), or even the Geneva convention if it wants. Simply this would be considered very bad manners on the diplomatic front, and no civilised country would do such a thing. In theory.

In practice, Bush is trying to abrogating the ABM treaty, and many coutries violate warefare treaties either by "mistake" (bombing hospitals for instance, or sending explosive the same colour than food supplies), or by simply ignoring them (personal land mines for instance).

Here is a list of all warefare related treaties

[ Parent ]
Just a quick clarification (none / 0) (#33)
by UncleMikey on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 12:40:09 PM EST

Georgie Boy isn't trying to abrogate the ABM treaty; he's done it. I was under the impression is that the letter has been sent, or if not, it's only a matter of time and bureaucracy. The ABM treaty is Over(tm), for good or ill.
--
[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]
[ Parent ]
Does this include.... (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by jd on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 09:03:25 AM EST

...using mini-nukes on the DOD "research stockpiles" of dbiological and chemical weapons?

No?

How curious. Wonder why that is.

How would this help? (none / 0) (#30)
by ghjm on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 11:40:49 AM EST

Regardless of whether the bomb is nuclear or conventional, why do we think this would be a good thing to do to a stockpile of biological or chemical weapons? If you nuke a bunker full of VX or smallpox, won't you just get a cloud of vaporized VX or smallpox virus, raining down across continental-sized areas? Can you be sure exactly what will happen to them in the blast? Hasn't anyone in the DOD watched that Dave Barry whale removal video?

-Graham

Vaporized (none / 0) (#31)
by Khedak on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 12:02:10 PM EST

Even viruses can't withstand being vaporized. Their little protein shell surrounding a DNA core will cease to be a threat if the constituent molecules are broken down in the extremely high-energy reaction. This is the entire point of using a high-energy weapon like a nuke as opposed to a conventional one.

[ Parent ]
You're missing the point of using a nuke (none / 0) (#32)
by trhurler on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 12:21:18 PM EST

As em's link from FAS shows pretty convincingly, this is a bad idea(for once, I feel like I ought to thank the guy,) but the problem is not the materials you're attacking. The whole point of using a nuke instead of a large conventional bomb(which can easily reach the 5kt yield they're talking about) is probably the extreme temperature generated. The point is to incinerate the materials in the bunker. It would be a good plan if you could contain the explosion, but sadly it appears that this is not possible. (I say sadly, not because I am a fan of nukes, but because if this was actually a good application of them without horrible side effects, we'd have a reason to employ a bunch of people who might otherwise go off to build nukes for Iraq or similar, develop a bunch of technology that in fact has other applications, and we'd have a convenient and effective way to deal with stockpiles of very nasty substances underground.)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
US Defense Dept. Wants To Use Mini-Nukes | 36 comments (33 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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