A number of clever scientists have argued that our entire nuclear arsenal stops working if we don't feed it a steady supply of tritium. Starve your warheads of tritium, they become inert... because the designs we rely on require a tritium supercharger in order to detonate. Therefore, if you want a true, staggered disarmament, proscribe tritium enrichment and manufacture.

The "nuclear breakdown" discussed is similar in many ways. "Mutually Assured Destruction" went out of style ca. 1991 'cuz most of the USSR's nukes were in Ukraine (which has since disarmed). So what we're left with is "deterrence", which is exactly what the dudes in tubes are saying - "no matter how hairy shit gets out there, the United States reserves the right to revert your nation-state to radioactive glass." However, we're not going to do that, everybody knows it, but saying "yeah, we aren't really going crater North Korea no matter how bad it gets so we prolly oughtta clear out these silos" is a politically tricky thing to say.

So you starve the beast.

There really aren't any plausible SAC scenarios involving nukes that don't involve the Soviet Union, but Perimeter is still running, so we kinda gotta keep our "deterrence" up. At the same time we know damn well the Soviets aren't exactly investing in nuclear upkeep either so we're effectively letting our powder get mutually wet.

"It's a good thing" as Martha Stewart says. Here's a parable.

That "Peacekeeper" they talk about?

    in the late 1950s. Scientists in New Mexico and California were still perfecting the first rocket-launched, nuclear-tipped weapon of mass destruction (later models were named "Peacekeeper")

That's Reagan's fabled MX Missile. Last of the Great White Nukes. Here's one of my all time favorite shots of horror, ten dummy MIRVs streaming down in timelapse to obliterate Kwajalein Atoll.

This was the cornerstone of Reagan's deterrent policy. Under development since Nixon, giant boondoggle, billions spent, scandals, hearings, you name it. We built 50. They lasted a scant 9 years. We now call it a Minotaur IV, and it's a launch vehicle used for commercial satellites and stuff. They're still impressive as hell to watch.

But the nuclear arsenal? Yeah, it's still Minuteman IIIs, rockin' W88s, tech perfected in '77. The computers still take 8" disks and run CPM. The state-of-the-art stuff was left to wither on the vine, but the old blunderbuss is still up on the mantle to scare the neighbor kids.

We will reach a point where our nukes don't work anymore. And when we reach that point, we will discover that we don't really care.

posted by insomniasexx: 1308 days ago