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Robert Bailey
Robert Bailey

Cold War Submarines: The Design And Constructio... NEW!



The stand-off between two putative nuclear states, North Korea and Iran, and the rest of the world continues unresolved. At the same time, the US and British governments are considering options to renew their own nuclear capabilities. On 2 March 2007, the US government's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) chose one of two competing designs for the first new nuclear warhead in the US arsenal in over 20 years, known as the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW). On 14 March, the British parliament voted to replace its fleet of nuclear armed submarines (see Commentary, page 288). But the question remains, almost two decades after the end of the cold war, what is the role of nuclear weapons, and what should the contribution of physicists be to the debate?




Cold War Submarines: The Design and Constructio...



No one anticipated how abruptly the cold war would end, nor how soon thereafter a moratorium against nuclear testing would be ratified by all of the original nuclear powers, when the weapons in the current stockpile were built. The last new weapon was deployed in the late 1980s and the last US test was carried out in 1992. As with all things, nuclear weapons age. It was recently concluded by researchers at the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories that the plutonium pit at the heart of most devices should remain operable for at least 85 years, and a study conducted by the JASON group that advises the US government on scientific matters (including stockpile stewardship) suggested that this figure could be extended beyond a century. However, the non-nuclear components that compress this pit to critical mass will need to be replaced much sooner. And without live tests following the replacement of these components, it has been argued that we cannot be certain that the weapons will continue to work as designed. 041b061a72


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