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Print 43 comment(s) - last by Snuffalufagus.. on Jun 15 at 3:40 AM

The race is on!

The arms race during the Cold War featured the US and Soviet Union competing against one another to have a greater military force.  It looks like another arms race, except on a much more relaxing level, is on again.  The Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are competing to see which lab will be able to construct the first new nuclear bomb made in the United States in two decades.  In 2005, the "reliable replacement warhead" program was started to try and replace aging, unreliable bombs.  The new nuclear bomb has been under development for around a year in both labs. 

The designs from both labs must have the same explosive power as existing warheads in the US arsenal.  One of the goals of the contest is to have a new weapon that will not be as likely to accidentally detonate and one that will be much more secure than the weapons the US currently possesses.  Each laboratory's plans will be presented to the Nuclear Weapons Council with the council choosing a winner before 2007.

Interestingly enough, LANL also recently put out an announcement that the national laboratory is accepting proposals for the fastest supercomputer in the world, capable of operating at one petaflop -- significantly more than even the fastest supercomputers are capable of today.


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RE: Humbug
By masher2 (blog) on 6/14/2006 11:00:59 AM , Rating: 2
> "None of the currently US deployed nuclear weapons are in any shape or form likely to just detonate. The "fuse" on these weapons have been continously improved"

The risk isn't due to a fuse malfunction, its innate to the the so-called "physics package" of the device. When exposed to an external neutron flux, or a high-compression event (external explosion) there is a very slight but still nonzero chance.

Miminizing this risk further is a design goal of the new warhead...but there are other, more important goals. Maximizing safety during the manufacturing and assembly process, greater device longevity, less need for maintenance, testing, and verification, etc, etc. Essentially, the goal is a unit with very long 'shelf life', meaning we can meet detterent goals with a smaller, more reliable (and thus safer) nuclear arsenal.




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