Nuclear Policy

Deployed Nuclear Weapons and Force Structure

If the number of nuclear weapons is to be further reduced in the future, it is important that they be deployed in a survivable mode if their reduction is not to lead to an increased probability of use. Reducing nuclear force levels can lead to instability in a time of crisis.

The following letter was published in the June 5/June 6 2010 UK edition of the Financial Times:

UK must keep to sea-based deterrent

The possibility was recently reported by James Blitz (‘Nuclear warhead total revealed’, May 27) – with regard to the Strategic Defence and Security Review – that according to ‘Whitehall insiders’ the SDSR ‘will contain an examination of whether Britain should move to a land or air-launched deterrent’. Such a move should be rejected.

The reason is simple: a British air or land-based deterrent is not survivable. This means there is an enormous incentive to move to a launch-on-warning policy. Nuclear forces must be survivable if the probability of nuclear use is not to be increased with decreasing arsenals. For countries without strategic depth like Britain and France this means a sea-based deterrent. That is why France has already eliminated its land-based nuclear component.

If Britain is to maintain a survivable deterrent it will have to anti-up the cost for new Tridents as the existing force ages. A minimum of three is needed to maintain one in its operational area – ie, one on alert, one in transit (where it could be vulnerable), and one in dry dock.

If we are to move to a world where the number of nuclear weapons is much reduced, careful attention must be paid to force-structure.”

Recycling Nuclear Waste

American Physical Society Special Session on Nuclear Reprocessing, Nuclear Proliferation, and Terrorism (15 April 2007)
Coauthors: William H. Hannum and George S. Stanford

In the public mind, the foremost reservation about nuclear power is, “What can we do with the waste?” Fortunately there is an answer: We can use the worrisome, very long-lived components as fuel in the right kind of reactors, and then the rest becomes manageable. Will this lead to proliferation of nuclear weapons or to an increase in the threat of nuclear terrorism? Not necessarily. Prudent recycle of nuclear waste will actually reduce these threats while also reducing the time that nuclear waste must be sequestered to a few hundred years instead of thousands.


Forum on Physics and Society of the American Physical Society

Articles appearing in Physics & Society

Bombs, Reprocessing, and Reactor-Grade Plutonium (April 2006)
Coauthor: George S. Stanford (PDF)

Nuclear Power and Proliferation (January 2006)
Coauthor: George S. Stanford (PDF)

Purex and Pyro are not the Same (July 2004)
Coauthors: William H. Hannum and George S. Stanford (PDF)

Gaps in the APS Position on Nuclear Energy (April 2002)
Coauthor: George S. Stanford (PDF)

Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste

Scientific American (December 2005)
Coauthors: William H. Hannum and George S. Stanford

Reprinted in Oil and the Future of Energy by The Editors of Scientific American Magazine (The Lyons Press, 2007), p. 98.
Fast-neutron reactors could extract much more energy from recycled nuclear fuel, minimize the risks of weapons proliferation and markedly reduce the time nuclear waste must be isolated. (PDF)

The Phantom Defense: America’s Pursuit of the Star Wars Illusion

Praeger Press 2001

A Project of the Center for International Policy

Coauthors: Craig Eisendrath and Melvin A. Goodman

Like President Reagan with his “Star Wars” program, President Bush has again made national missile defense (NMD) a national priority at a cost which may exceed $150 billion in the next ten years. Defense experts Eisendrath, Goodman, and Marsh contend that recent tests give little confidence that any of the systems under consideration—land-based, boost-phase, or laser-driven—have any chance of effective deployment within decades. The interests of the military-industrial complex and the unilateralist views of the Bush administration are driving NMD, not a desire to promote national security.

Rather than increase U.S. security, the plans of the current administration, if implemented, will erode it. NMD will heighten the threat from China and Russia, alienate key allies, and provoke a new arms race and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, all in response to a greatly exaggerated threat from so-called “rogue states,” such as North Korea and Iran. Thoughtful diplomacy, not a misguided foreign policy based on a hopeless dream of a “Fortress America,” is the real answer to meeting America’s security goals. Designed to stimulate interest and debate among the public and policy-makers, the Phantom Defense provides solid facts and combines scientific, geopolitical, historical, and strategic analysis to critique the delusion of national missile defense, while suggesting a more effective alternative.

(Phantom Defense at Amazon)

Erratum: p. 86, 2nd full paragraph: The first sentence should read: “Even with nuclear-tipped interceptors it was clear, as early as the 1960s, that, in the words of John S. Foster, Jr. of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the system would . . . limited time available for intercept.”

Nuclear Testing and the 1992 Moratorium

Distributed by the Strategy and Policy Division (N51) of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

This report continues to have relevance in today’s world. Among other issues, it discusses the “robustness” of existing nuclear weapons. There is also an appendix on the seismic verification of underground nuclear explosions.


Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) Correspondence: Nature 462, 158 (12 November 2009).

(Nature 12Nov09-Warheads)

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