Monday, October 16, 2006

Nuclear world

Well, we guessed this already.

"Up to 30 new countries could have the capability to build a nuclear weapon, on top of the nine current nuclear powers, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency has warned. We need to develop a new system of international approach (or we will not) end up with nine (nuclear-)weapon states only, but with another 20 or 30 states which have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons in a short time," IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said in Vienna.

Commentary

If widespread nuclear proliferation is inevitable there ought to be a system, such as that suggested at Winds of Change of registering the fissile signatures of each country in a secure database to prevent their transfer to terrorists by assigning the responsibility of any attack using those materials to the originating country. Furthermore, if many small countries have the bomb, there is no sense in Japan, the European countries, Canada or Australia forswearing possession. In related news, John Negroponte has confirmed that the recent North Korean test did indeed involve a trial of a nuclear weapon. (Nothing follows)

13 Comments:

Blogger Peter Grynch said...

"We don't need more nuclear weapons, we need to make better use of the ones we have!
--philosopher Homer Simpson

10/16/2006 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger Woman Catholic said...

If widespread nuclear proliferation is inevitable there ought to be a system, such as that suggested at Winds of Change of registering the fissile signatures of each country in a secure database to prevent their transfer to terrorists by assigning the responsibility of any attack using those materials to the originating country.

And if any nation refuses to offer signatures for registration, then the system still works by allowing innocent nations to clear themselves from guilt and get off the retaliation list.

10/16/2006 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger Staring In Disbelief said...

The secure database idea is all well and good, except that the very nations it is meant to stop (i.e. the ones likely to give weapons to terrorist groups) are the least likely to abide by the system. It's like handgun registration: the only people that will do it are the law-abiding citizens.

The criminals have other plans.

10/16/2006 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger Staring In Disbelief said...

As long as the signature system does not allow "off the books" fissile material development. If you can develop the weapon, you probably have the expertise to game the system and look like a "registered" party with one fissile material capability and perhaps (expenses being no object) have a second "covert" production capability.

Actually, I think the threat is likely to come down to this: If you are crazy enough to give a nuke to a terrorist group (and risk the chance that it was in fact traceable back to you, with all the attendant risks) you're probably crazy enough to brazenly use them yourselves and blare that fact to the world (Hitler-style).

10/16/2006 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...

How the hell we ended up with an IAEA director named Mohamed...sort of tells it all, doesn't it?

To suggest these international types have, or should have any authority is a mistake of greatest magnitude.

How I pine for the days when a sovereign power could act unilaterally to jerk a knot in the chain of those who pose such threats.

10/16/2006 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

While waiting for the international community to create the signature system, we should:

1. Build numbers 19 through 24 of these; and

2. Replace the field of stars on the Stars and Stripes with the image of the "Don't Tread on Me" flag...for the time being.

10/16/2006 04:15:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Wretchard - (precautions)such as that suggested at Winds of Change of registering the fissile signatures of each country in a secure database to prevent their transfer to terrorists by assigning the responsibility of any attack using those materials to the originating country.

Regrettably, elemental uniqueness of fissile material to a particular country is Tom Clancy fantasy.

A 30-lb chunk of refined copper is just that. No national origin is discernable.

It could be copper from Chile, Peru, Canada, USA, Russia, S. Africa or a blend thereof.

Same with lead, HEU. And plutonium can be purified and blended from a few reactors, reprocessing it to 88-92% by content PU-239.

Analysis of explosive residue can give clues to bomb design...but China gave Pakistan its implosion Gen 1 design back in the 80s, and that is what AQ Khan and likely ISI proliferated to Iran, Libya, and N Korea. Israel got designs of nukes from US and French scientists loyal to Israel. Israel proliferated to S Africa, which in turn gave nuvlear secrets up for money to KSA, Libya.

And the simplest nuke, a gun-type 10-20Kt HEU device is such a common, simple design that ANYONE could make it.

I don't have much confidence in HUMINT either. Besides the famous Iraq WMD foul-up, we missed the earlier Iraqi program and the frightening Soviet VEKTOR program completely.

Even when there were forensic material left to analyze, like with the Cole and embassy bombings - our "heroes" wouldn't cerify who did it. With a nuke, nothing is left from the million degree plasma but evidence of blast strength and isotopic signature that probably will give you what design, some component materials perhaps, and type of fissile critical mass was used.

I believe we would get to the bottom of it if we had only 3-4 countries to focus on, and might know if we got full access granted to 3 but #4 refuses to cooperate. But with another 30 sporting nukes? No way.

The IAEA is crucial in this in tracking fissile production. It would be best if only a few countries could enrich, all fuel by NPT signatories was burned greater than 6,000 effective full power operating hours (which adds too much PU-241 to the PU-239 to be suitable as bomb material --and we block a nuclear arms race by making the ME and Korean Penninsula nuclear free with guarantees of sovereignity of borders.

This is a job the US cannot do by itself. It must have allies.

And we cannot pretend that other nations will not seek it unless they have some guarantees against invasion and regime change. Nor can we pretend that 60-year old technology is not "too difficult to duplicate", and access to 90% of the science as open source publication is either unknow or cannot be read by aspiring nations.

10/16/2006 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Davis said...

if many small countries have the bomb, there is no sense in Japan, the European countries, Canada or Australia forswearing possession

Sure there is. They're a waste of money. Against whom will we use nulcear weapons that they would not? Against whom would we not use nuclear weapons that they would? We should extend NATO type coverage to Japan and Australia and possibly withdraw it from some of the Europeans. We should then tell the states that are rogues that we will consider the detonation of any bomb whose origin we do not know for a fact to be bombs they either caused to explode or gave to terrorists and that we will respond with a direct nuclear strike that ends all life in their country.

10/16/2006 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Woman Catholic said...

It's like handgun registration: the only people that will do it are the law-abiding citizens.

It's more like this: Everyone fires a round from their handgun, digs it out of the target and turns it in to the forensics guys. Then the next time they find a stiff, they take the bullet and cross off all the negative matches from their list. Then they go out and shoot all the other handgun owners with no further ado. Miraculously, this procedure never needs to be repeated again.

10/16/2006 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger 2164th said...

C-4 has the physics and chemistry on his side of the argument. The politics are more obvious. The US can devide the world of potential nuclear adversaries into three categories.

1. The usual suspects: Iran and Korea are at the head of the class. To them, the US can give the advice that they should pray and use all possible measures to ensure that no nuclear weapon will ever be used on a US target. they will draw the correct conclusions.

2. Trust but verify: For some reason Pakistan comes to mind. Simple message, err on the side of extreme caution. Take nothing for granted. Be extremely vigilant. Submit to a program of total accountability. Those in category 2 can be shifted to category 1 with little or no notice.

3.Russia and China: Stretegic Defense Initiative. Be so advised.

10/16/2006 06:51:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Teresita - The analogy of "bullet registration" to nukes is flawed. The bullet is left sometimes, where it can be located after a shooting, though many bullets are never found - passing through a victim, wall and lost in the landscape.
The nuke completely disintegrates the bomb components and turns them into high energy plasma. No circuit board fragments, unique handmade screws, no Pakistani VIN number on a casing fragment.

Nothing.

After the plasma front begins to cool, atoms from the fissioning mass and bomb components begin to combine with vaporized matter from the surroundings where the bomb is detonated. For military dets, you want an airburst to maximize blast - the real killer, not radiation, fallout as many laymen believe.

Minute specks of intensely radioactive fission fragments mixed in with all the condensing vaporized material on a millions to one ratio.. You CAN get some radiosotopic data from that product that will tell fissile material used, type of bomb design, how efficient it was. But unlikely what nation or group it came from.

PS - the whole ballistic fingerprinting idea came from liberal lawyers that lacked any knowledge on how guns worked and most of the "bullet fingerprinting" operations have shut down after failing to catch a single criminal. Most bullets are lost or too smashed or abraded to use. And.... Anyone who wanted to defeat the system just takes the firearm, after clueless lawyers have the gun entered in a "gun ballistics registry", and runs emery cloth or polishing fine grit sandpaper in to smooth flaws that caused previous grooves. Then put a round file down the barrel and create new markings. A 5-minute process. A dumb idea. As dumb as the "microengraving each bullet&casing built" with a unique ID was. You want to waste someone, all you have to do to defeat that is melt off the engraving or use your own cast bullets from a 9.99 mold, and be sure to pick up your brass.

10/16/2006 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger summignumi said...

Wretchard, It would be wonderful world if it could be accomplished but as stated earlier the system could (and would) be gamed by the usual deviant countries and they would simple show the proxies “how to” just like they are doing now, then what happens if after a retaliatory attack it is found to have been the wrong registered party that now radiates a hot spot? Do they get a free shot, Besides the US where the deranged left might actually go for it out of guilt, nobody else would allow it. I have always been for the give the N-Technology to our friends because when the rubber hits the road no current or future US prez will nuke any body short of it being a full scale WW. If a rad bomb goes off then you have almost as good a chance of hitting the responsible folks as you do with the Registered Database, besides what good does a Database do a small country like Japan against a country like China or Russia? Sure it might make the Japanese look the victim to the rest of the world but really, does anybody think that Japan would shoot a missile at China without a further escalation by China.

10/17/2006 01:10:00 AM  
Blogger Bigger Diggler said...

The central question in this debate has been ignored: Can Islamic crazies, with or without the bomb, be deterred?

Depending which way you answer that question also pretty much determines how you view OIF.

For a party to be "deterrable," they must be rational. The debut of the widespread employment of suicide bombers indicates that our foes are neither rational or deterrable.

Case in point: the Palestinians. Are they rational? Do they have an ends/means nexus to their behavior? What do they "want" anyway? Clearly, they do not "want" their own state, as that has been handed to them on a silver platter at least twice. They do not want a "two state" solution because they has been the international consensus for more than 50 years. They have rejected that every time it has been offered.

THey seem to care nothing about the inevitable civilian casualties created when Israel retaliates, regardless of whether Hamas or Fatah is in power, or any other forseeable Palestinian faction. They in fact seem to celebrate their own civilian casualties and venerate them as "Martyrs."

Could the 9-11 hijackers, or their sponsors, have been deterred?

Those who argue for deterrence are arguing it as applied to an entire culture and religion best described as a "death cult." Arguments analogizing this state of affairs to the former Soviet Union are unpersuasive at best, facetious at worst.

What makes an entire culture virtually undeterrable? Again, those who favor OIF believe it is political hopelessness.

10/17/2006 01:47:00 PM  

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