Why US Lab Is Designing A Bomb No One Asked for Plan Could Threaten Nuclear Nonproliferation

By Jonathan Landay, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 24, 1997 | Go to article overview

Why US Lab Is Designing A Bomb No One Asked for Plan Could Threaten Nuclear Nonproliferation


Jonathan Landay, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


No one in the government asked for it and the Air Force says it does not need it.

Yet the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico, one of America's nuclear-weapons research facilities, is working on an atomic bomb that would have capabilities beyond those in the current United States arsenal.

The bomb, carrying an "old" nuclear explosive device and a new guidance system, would soar on wings like a glider after its release from a radar-dodging B-2 bomber. It would drill deep into earth or concrete, its explosion crushing "hardened" bunkers hundreds of feet below ground while causing little surface damage. The project symbolizes US determination to maintain the most- advanced arsenal possible absent global disarmament and amid rising concerns over a growth of deeply buried command-and-control and armsmaking complexes in Russia, Iran, Libya, Iraq, and North Korea. But it also comes as President Clinton is using American power and prestige to support global efforts to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and reduce the number of nuclear warheads. Caught between these contradictory goals, the project, known as the Bomb Impact Optimization System (BIOS), embodies a fierce debate over the direction of post-cold-war US nuclear-arms policy. At issue is whether BIOS would breach a pledge not to design or build new warheads. If other countries perceive such a breach, they could be less willing to adhere to US-backed arms-control initiatives, some experts warn. "It is not in the best interest of the US if the rest of the world thinks it is still business as usual, as this will undermine support for nonproliferation," warns Jeremiah Sullivan, a University of Illinois physicist and member of the JASONS, independent experts who advise the government on nuclear-arms policy. "We don't need better nuclear weapons." BIOS raises other questions, including the accountability of the scientists, military officers, bureaucrats, and defense contractors who make up the nuclear-weapons complex. The complex is in the throes of a post-cold-war overhaul, and some experts have doubts about its willingness to stop after 50-plus years producing nuclear weapons. The way BIOS has been funded may fuel those concerns. While Sandia has spent $16 million since October 1995 on BIOS, the project has no separate listing in the budget of the Department of Energy (DOE), which runs the nuclear laboratories. Instead, the name of the account from which the funds have been drawn has been different for each of the past three fiscal years. The DOE is unable to say how much money it expects to spend on BIOS in the coming fiscal year. The nuclear-weapons complex has had a "history of fiscal inattention" and absence of sufficient executive-branch and congressional oversight, says Stephen Schwartz of the Brookings Institution in Washington. He recently completed the most comprehensive study ever of the costs of the US nuclear program. BIOS is still in the concept stage, although scientists have used a new computer-driven process to produce a prototype nose cone. That and other aspects of the program were briefly detailed by C. Paul Robinson, the head of Sandia, in a statement to a House subcommittee April 10. "Sandia is investigating the feasibility of modifying a B61 payload," Dr. Robinson said. "This effort includes analysis, design, model fabrication and testing, and ground and flight testing of a functional prototype." A safer version BIOS would be a follow-up to the B61-11, a conventionally dropped bunker-buster that replaced the B53 in February. The B53 is a 9,000-pound behemoth that produces a blast equivalent to 9 million tons of TNT, according to Pentagon sources. The government decided the stockpile of these bombs had become unsafe after some 30 years in the armory. By contrast, the B61-11 weighs 750 pounds. It is the atomic payload of an existing bomb "repackaged" inside a needle-nosed body made from depleted uranium, which is extremely hard and more dense than lead. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Why US Lab Is Designing A Bomb No One Asked for Plan Could Threaten Nuclear Nonproliferation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.