The Nuclear Test Ban Folly
Were it not for all the media hype applied to this silly subject for the last few weeks, I wouldn’t bother to address it. Because, even if the U.S. Senate had ratified the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, it was unenforceable. Sovereign nations, even relatively small powers such as Pakistan, India and North Korea, always act in their own best interests. If it is in their best interest to test and develop nuclear weapons, either openly or covertly, they will do so.
Geo-political realities aside, our top nuclear scientists told Congress that we have a valid need to test selected weapons in our nuclear stockpile on a periodic basis. Computer simulations are nice; however, they can never take the place of pulling a suspect weapon from our war reserves, setting it off in an underground test site and evaluating what went right and what went wrong.
Many years ago, I had the privilege of being a member of a nuclear weapons technical proficiency inspection team. After watching dozens of nuclear weapons being taken apart piece-by-piece and then reassembled, I came away with the certain knowledge that all of our nuclear weapons are unreliable – unreliable on the side of being more likely to fail rather than explode when needed.
Relax. They are designed that way. While yours truly is no rocket or nuclear scientist, even I could figure out that so many complex events must occur in a precise series within nano-seconds of each other that the odds are more against a nuclear explosion than for it.Therefore, the reason we need to test weapons from our nuclear stockpile is to get some idea as to how many of them are going to work and how many of them are not.
The major media would have you believe that nuclear weapons are like toasters or electric drills set on a shelf and that they just lie there over the years, unchanged. They are not. At its core, each nuclear weapon has a plutonium trigger that is highly radioactive. Day and night, the core emits radiation. This radiation constantly eats at its surroundings. It has a half-life lasting longer in the future than we have history stretching back into the past. Like different forms of cancer, some of the highly radioactive cores eat at their surroundings at a higher rate then others.
Overtime, this radioactivity can corrode the high explosives surrounding the core and it can even have a deleterious effect on the barometers and the complex circuitry that play a key role in the sequencing of the events that must be in perfect synchronization for the weapon to function and to deliver the expected yield.
The only true way to know what is happening within a certain class or group of weapons of a certain date of manufacture is to put one or more of them underground and try to set them off.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff know this full well. So, it pains me to see them in the White House sitting up like trained lap dogs as Bill Clinton uses them as props while he berates the Senate for refusing to engage in his nuclear test-ban folly.
Bill Clinton let the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty lie on the shelf for two years and made no attempt to get it ratified. Faced with a dismal legacy, Clinton, at the last minute, is trying to carve out a legacy as the Prince of Nuclear Peace.
A noble notion; however, it rings false coming from a man who, as soon as the Monica Lewinsky impeachment hearings got underway, launched more bomber attacks on innocent civilians than any world leader since Adolph Hitler.
The U.S. Senate deserves credit for having the political courage to defeat this meaningless treaty. But to hear the Clinton News Network (CNN) tell it, Bill Clinton has been wronged by a war-mongering Senate. Nothing could be farther from reality.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist, once served on a nuclear weapons technical proficiency inspection team.