New Thermonuclear Warheads

Bitter has the skinny on something that will make the hippies go mad:

The Energy Department will announce today a contract to develop the nation’s first new hydrogen bomb in two decades, involving a collaboration between three national weapons laboratories, The Times has learned.

The interesting thing about this new warhead is that it will be the first time any nation has deployed a nuclear weapon into the field that has never been tested anywhere except inside a supercomputer.  I work in the field of high performance computing, and we run a rather large one here at my place of business, doing molecular simulations.  Los Alamos, Livermore, and Sandia have supercomputer setups that make mine look like a toy.  Anyone familiar with what goes on inside a thermonuclear warhead understands what an impressive feat it is to be able to model things things thoroughly enough to have faith enough to stick it on the end of a missile and bet the country’s nuclear detterence on it.

These warheads will not be adding to our arsenal, that will still continue to shrink.  But a lot has changed technologically since we last put a new device into the field.  These new devices will replace old ones, that are wearing out, and getting more and more difficult and expensive to keep in operational order.  New technology should make these new warheads cheaper to maintain and more reliable.

2 Responses to “New Thermonuclear Warheads”

  1. Alcibiades says:

    I suppose it’s always hard to justify strategic deterrence weapons, given if that they were ever used, we’d probably all die anway. It worked during the Cold War, but doesn’t seem as necessary during this “relative” peacetime.

    Tactical nuclear warheads, on the other hand, could be quite useful. If we used them as cluster bombs, I wonder if they could also serve as strategic deterrence… But it probably wouldn’t be as efficient as stronger bombs.

  2. Nomen Nescio says:

    i could be wrong, of course, but somehow it wouldn’t surprise me if this new design was built specifically for a low maintenance requirement, ease of maintenance, and wide parts compatibility with… uh… whatever else might possibly use parts that also go into h-bombs. i suppose if it’s done right, building and fielding these might actually save the country money in the long run, even. (ISTR hearing a rumour that keeping up the current nuclear deterrence costs the pentagon some ungodly chunk of change per annum. if we’re not gonna give the nukes up — and even *i* think that’d be stupid — then making ’em cheaper to keep seems a good move.)