Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Obama's Poor Record on Nuclearity

The Obama Administration has promoted "smaller" tactical nuclear weapons and reactors although both of these technologies pose significant risks, especially radioactive contamination/waste.

How radioactive can we make planet earth before our human-engineered contamination unravels complicated life?
William Broad and David Sanger. As U.S. Modernizes Nuclear Weapons, ‘Smaller’ Leaves Some Uneasy. The New York Times, January 11, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/12/science/as-us-modernizes-nuclear-weapons-smaller-leaves-some-uneasy.html?emc=edit_th_20160112&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=32962000&_r=0

As North Korea dug tunnels at its nuclear test site last fall, watched by American spy satellites, the Obama administration was preparing a test of its own in the Nevada desert....

Mr. Obama has long advocated a “nuclear-free world.” His lieutenants argue that modernizing existing weapons can produce a smaller and more reliable arsenal while making their use less likely because of the threat they can pose. The changes, they say, are improvements rather than wholesale redesigns, fulfilling the president’s pledge to make no new nuclear arms.

But critics, including a number of former Obama administration officials, look at the same set of facts and see a very different future. The explosive innards of the revitalized weapons may not be entirely new, they argue, but the smaller yields and better targeting can make the arms more tempting to use — even to use first, rather than in retaliation.

Gen. James E. Cartwright, a retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was among Mr. Obama’s most influential nuclear strategists, said he backed the upgrades because precise targeting allowed the United States to hold fewer weapons. But “what going smaller does,” he acknowledged, “is to make the weapon more thinkable.”

Henry Fountain, “U.S. Acts to Spur Development of High-Tech Reactors” The New York Times, January 19, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/20/science/advanced-nuclear-reactors-department-of-energy.html?action=click&contentCollection=Science&module=RelatedCoverage&region=EndOfArticle&pgtype=article
A nuclear reactor under construction in 2014 in Georgia. The government is encouraging the development of new reactor designs, and is giving two companies grants of up to $40 million each. Credit John Bazemore/Associated Press

The Obama administration is providing seed money for two advanced nuclear reactor designs, part of its effort to keep nuclear power in the nation’s energy mix over the next several decades.

The Energy Department said it would provide up to $40 million each to two companies, X-energy and Southern Company, over about five years to help develop the alternative reactor designs. As a start, the department, which announced the investments last Friday, is giving each company $6 million this year.
How much contamination is too much contamination for complicated biological life forms such as our own?

Projects Gabriel and Sunshine tried to address these issues in the 1950s. Please see my post here:


As noted by Helen Caldicott, it takes at least 10 generations for the expression of inherited genetic mutations.

The 1956 BEAR report also addressed the issue of heritable mutations produced by ionizing radiation, postulating that potentially catastrophic failures in reproduction could occur suddenly:


We are getting closer and closer to the scenario described in Children of Men.


  1. "As noted by Helen Caldicott, it takes at least 10 generations for the expression of inherited genetic mutations." So we may be almost there. 10 generation would be over two centuries.
    " a smaller and more reliable arsenal while making their use less likely because of the threat they can pose." I thought MAD had already been reached long ago; this is more a sales pitch to please various corporations.

  2. William radiation teratogenicity causes birth defects at birth. Chromosome damage is heritable at any time. Here is a good article by Dr Busby