Building more atomic bomb triggers is the ‘pits’: Time to Stop Modernizing America’s Nukes and to Start Negotiating Peace

A plutonium explosive ‘pit’ (l) and a ‘pit’ inside most of an assembled bomb core made of shaped explosive charges (r). (US government photos)

 

By Dave Lindorff

The Biden administration, in its proposed military budget, is calling for a restart of something the US arms industry has not produced in any significant quantity since 1992: nuclear “pits” — the spherical plutonium-based core of implosion bombs like that dropped on Nagasaki. 

In his record-breaking $753-billion National Security Budget, $715 billion of which is for the Pentagon, is another $38 billion for the portion of the Energy Department budget that is devoted to nuclear weapons and weapons production.  It’s a figure that is higher than what the proposed 2022 military budget of the outgoing Trump administration would have been and is a record in constant dollars that exceeds any year of the Vietnam or Korean Wars and is only topped by World War II spending, when the US was fully mobilized in a global conflict. 

Bad enough that this obscene amount of spending — greater than what the next 10 nations of the world, many of whom are this country’s NATO allies, are spending on their militaries — is occurring at a time when the US is not actually fighting any wars, and that it includes money for expensive programs that are totally useless like the F-35 nuclear-capable fighter bomber, the world’s most expensive weapons system in history.  But this humongous sum of money also includes almost $1.5 billion for ramping up the production of plutonium “pits.”  

That sum, compared to the total Pentagon budget, might seem insignificant, but that would be a grave misunderstanding. 

The reason for restarting production of plutonium bombs, with plans for making a 30 such bombs a year at Los Alamos and 50  per year at the Savannah River plant in South Carolina, is that, or so the argument goes, the “pits” in the existing US thermonuclear bombs that sit atop the nation’s silo-based Minuteman Missiles, Trident submarine-based missiles, and in bombs and cruise missile warheads fired by ships and strategic bombers, are degraded by years of emitting radioactivity, and might no longer go critical if triggered, meaning America’s hydrogen bombs would be duds. 

It’s true that Plutonium, and particularly Plutonium-239, a fissionable element that does not exist naturally on earth, but is instead produced as a bi-product of uranium power plants,  does break down naturally over time. But with a half-life of 24,000 years, that is unlikely to render the pits duds anytime soon. 

The real reason for the US government proposing a restart of its “pit”-manufacturing facilities is to obtain new “pits” to serve as triggers for new thermonuclear bombs and warheads planned for use by new planes, ships and ballistic missiles, and perhaps as small “useable” tactical bombs with yields as low as 5 kilotons.

This is a bunch of really terrible ideas.

It’s also not the first time that the US government decided to ramp up production of plutonium “pits”…

For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF in ThisCantBeHappening!, the uncompromised, collectively run, six-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative news site, please go to:  https://thiscantbehappening.net/time-to-stop-modernizing-americas-nukes-and-to-start-negotiating-peace/

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