In the December 2013 issue of Physics Today David Kramer tells us—in an article titled A nuclear bomb worth more than its weight in gold?—that “some critics of the B-61 life extension program question whether the program is necessary.” And, “Representative John Garamendi (D-CA) questioned why the B-83, a newer bomb that officials acknowledge won’t need a life extension for at least 10 years, shouldn’t replace the B-61”. Strangely enough the article omits the principal reason why the administration may think the B-61 is worth more than its weight in gold.

The article appears in Physics & Society 6 Feb 2014.  The link is:


The MS with better quality figures and equations is available here: P&S-EPW-nid


Spring Has Sprung, but the Middle East Remains a Muddle

USA Today Magazine (January 2013)


The Arab Spring was a dramatic result of a policy failure on the part of Arab countries. For many decades they have used the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to divert the attention of their own citizens, the so-called “Arab street”, from their own economic and domestic failure to deliver a decent life to their people.


Deployed Nuclear Weapons and Force Structure-II

Recently, Sir Menzies Campbell wrote in the Financial Times that British nuclear doctrine should be redrawn in ways that might no longer require the Trident submarines that are currently the basis of Britain’s nuclear deterrent.  It was maintained that doing so would require abolishing the so called “Moscow criterion” that presumably drove force level requirements.

This “Nuclear Question” was the subject of the lead editorial of the Financial Times on May 19th.  In response, I submitted the following letter that was published in the 22 May 2012 edition:

Weakening Britain’s nuclear deterrent could come at a cost

Your 19 May editorial Nuclear Question lays the appropriate ground rules for the debate on the future of Britain’s deterrent: ‘First, Britain must not scrap its nuclear arsenal’, and most importantly, it ‘should only do so in multilateral negotiation with other powers. Second, it must stick to a sea-launched deterrent’  But the issue of the ‘Moscow criterion’ is a bit of a red herring.

During the cold war, Soviet ‘sophisticated air defenses’ had no capability against warheads delivered by ballistic missile and were not a factor in U.S. targeting. I doubt that this has changed.  The defense-offense balance would, however, dramatically shift if Britain eliminated its ballistic missile deterrent and relied instead on cruise missiles carried on conventional attack submarines to replace the Trident system.  A deterrent based on cruise missiles could well require higher force levels to compensate for their vulnerability.  Using cruise missiles, because of their range limitations, could also require the attack submarines carrying them to operate in areas where they would be more vulnerable. And last, but not least–and this alone should rule out their use–there is the confusion that would be introduced by any cruise missile launch: is the missile carrying a nuclear or conventional warhead? Bad idea.

While four Trident submarines would still be required for operational reasons (yes, one should always be at sea), the real issue is how many missiles must each submarine carry and how many warheads need be on each missile.  In the end, maintaining the Trident missile system may well be Britain’s most cost effective deterrent for the future.”

BORN SECRET: The H-Bomb, the Progressive Case and National Security

By A. DeVolpi, G.E. Marsh, T.A. Postol, and G.S. Stanford.

Born Secret looks at the widely publicized Progressive magazine case and the U.S. government’s then unprecedented attempt to prevent publication of an H-bomb design culled by a journalist from unclassified materials. The book, originally published by Pergamon Press in 1981, has long been out of print and the authors have decided to make it available to the general public and those having an interest in the Atomic Energy Act and the First Amendment. After the court proceedings ended, the authors also donated a copy of the complete unclassified in camera file to the University of Chicago Libraries.

The file is a PDF of approximately 300MB. To download, click here.


The following 6.5 MB file has been reformatted and corrected. Born Secret-Reformated with corrections-updates

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.”

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