Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century: Prospects and Policy by Richard L. Garwin Senior Fellow for Science and Technology Council on Foreign Relations, New York and IBM Fellow Emeritus IBM Research Division P.O. Box 218 Yorktown Heights, NY 10598 Tel: (914) 945-2555 fax: (914) 945-4419 Email: RLG2 at watson.ibm.com Presentation at the Henry Kendall Memorial Symposium Cambridge, MA October 23, 1999 Y298NW21 102599NW21 Draft 1 10/25/99 NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND NUCLEAR WEAPON STATES As the 20th Century comes to a close, the United States and Russia maintain enormous forces of nuclear weaponry-- some 12,000 nuclear warheads in the US and perhaps 18,000 in Russia. Each side deploys some 6,000 strategic nuclear warheads, typically of 500 kilotons explosive yield-- 500,000 tons of TNT or other high explosive. This is to be compared with the 15 or 20 kiloton yield of the only two nuclear weapons exploded in warfare-- those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945. A mere 20 of these warheads targeted on cities or on military targets in cities, would kill 25 million Americans or Russians. Each of these typical warheads has a destructive area about 9 times that of the first nuclear weapons. In 1952 the US tested its first large-scale hydrogen bomb prototype-- deriving its energy in large part from thermonuclear fusion of deuterium (heavy hydrogen), rather than from the neutron-induced splitting of uranium-235 or plutonium. This 10 megaton monster had an explosive yield some 600 times that of the first fission bombs. By 1957, with many additional nuclear explosion tests, the US had developed a more usable thermonuclear weapon that weighed some 400 pounds, with a diameter of 12 inches and a yield of 70 kilotons. Compare this with the first atomic bombs of some 9,000 pound weight. By 1962 or so, US weapons had reached maturity, although years of further effort allowed them to be packaged like the W-88 warhead in a narrow conical reentry vehicle that could descend through the atmosphere with sufficient accuracy for the thermonuclear explosion to crush Soviet missile silos. The US in 1967 had a peak stockpile of some 33,000 nuclear warheads, and Russia in 1982 had some 45,000. Roughly speaking, Britain, France, and China each have some 300 nuclear weapons; China has only about 20 warheads that can be mounted on long-range rockets to reach the US. Note that 33,000 is one hundred times the number of warheads held by any of these lesser of the five official nuclear weapon states. The Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1970(1) distinguishes the 5 NWS from the rest-- those having tested NW by 1967. So Israel, believed to have more than 100 thermonuclear warheads-- never tested-- and India and Pakistan-- having conducted on the order of 5 nuclear explosions each in 1998 have nuclear weapons but are not entitled to the non-weapon benefits of the NPT. The non-NWS under the NPT bind themselves not to acquire NW, and the NWS are obligated not to transfer NW to the non-NWS or to help them acquire NW. In 1995 the members of the NPT extended the treaty indefinitely, with the agreement of the 5 NWS to negotiate and adopt a comprehensive ban on nuclear explosive tests (a CTBT) which was signed in 1996 and presented for ratification to the Senate in 1997. During the administration of John F. Kennedy in 1962, it was predicted that 20 or more states would have nuclear weapons within a decade or so; I believe that it is the banning of tests in the atmosphere (LTBT) of 1963 and the NPT that have kept the number of such states small, together with the shelter of NATO and the US-Japan alliance. W.K.H. Panofsky, who is here today, as a member of PSAC worked energetically on the technical aspects of the CTBT, and I was involved as well. The six kilograms of plutonium required for the Nagasaki weapon could be used to trigger a thermonuclear weapon of any yield; hydrogen bombs are a great extender of the stockpile of fissionable material. During the 1950s, nuclear weapons were widely deployed for use on the battlefield, to destroy enemy troop concentrations, aircraft in the air, and for antisubmarine warfare. It was the day of "more bang of a buck". Long- range, "strategic" NW were to be delivered by heavy bomber aircraft, with air-to-air refueling-- mastered by the US. Land-based ICBMs (soon to be sheltered in reinforced concrete silos) and SLBMs were to augment the bomber force. As testing validated the smaller TN warheads and RVs, the large rockets were fitted with dispensing "buses" that allowed as many as 14 RVs to be deployed on a single missile as "MIRVs"-- eventually increasing the number of silos that could be destroyed by a missile, and increasing greatly the difficulty that would be faced by a system for destroying the nuclear warheads in flight-- a BMD. The bus also much improved the accuracy of the weapon. With the advent of accurate MIRVs, there was the specter of destruction of an entire ICBM force by a fraction of a comparable ICBM force on the other side-- a first disarming strike that would preclude retaliation. This prospect led to the permanent deployment of SLBMs at sea, on submarines difficult to locate. It also led to a capability to LOW, and to the necessity of warning systems, to deter attack on the ICBM force by the clear capability to destroy population centers in the attacking country. The US-SU ABMT of 1972 and the accompanying SALT Interim Offensive Agreement limiting number of missile launchers (but not warheads, because of MIRV) helped to cap and stabilize this race, but it was not until the INF agreement eliminating a whole class of US and SU land-based cruise missile and ballistic missile launchers worldwide (but not their warheads) that major reductions in nuclear confrontation occurred. Strategic forces were further limited in START-I, to launchers capable of carrying some 6,000 warheads in US and in SU; and in START-II (still not ratified by Russia) limiting deployments to 3,000 to 3,500. With the collapse of the SU, Russia did a magnificent job of repatriating all of the TNW and ultimately strategic WH from other countries, including Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, so that by 1996 there were no nuclear WH in those successor states. Presidents Bush and Gorbachev reduced the nuclear threat by informal agreement to eliminate many of the tactical nuclear weapons, such as those on surface ships, and START-III might limit deployed strategic warheads to 1500 on each side. Domestic politics in Russia and in the US, together with Russian resentment of NATO expansion, have delayed the ratification of START-II by Russia, and the Congress has forbidden the negotiation of START-III until START-II is ratified. In 1994, the Nuclear Posture Review of the US DOD emphasized the retention of 10,000 or so SNW as a hedge against failure of the START process, and those SNW in excess of START-X levels are now apparently prized as a reserve force, or a means of substituting WH in case of problems that may arise with individual WH or a class of WH as time goes on. This legitimizes the retention by Russia of any number of NW, at a time when Russia no longer has the means or the focus to protect them properly against theft or diversion. Russia is the only nation with nuclear forces capable of destroying the US as a society, and it is irrational to prize the possession of US forces of negligible marginal utility above the reduction of Russian capability. A seemingly plausible argument to maintain a "hedge" or a "reserve" conceals an inability to move to improve US security. The Clinton Administration that was unable to move in the NPR did, however, gradually implement a Cooperative Threat Reduction Program initiated by Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar that has been spending some $400 M per year to secure nuclear materials in Russia and the former SU, while reductions of NW are stalled by the economic and political disarray in Russia, by the lack of leadership in the US, and the inability of the Congressional leadership to recognize the magnitude of the nuclear threat to the US and to support the process of reducing it. PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS The general advance and spread of technology permits the accomplishment of new tasks and makes that of old ones easier-- even trivial. A roomful of IBM punched card machines calculating at 10 operations per second sufficed to "design" the first fission bombs, while a single PC costing $4,000 now provides a billion operations per second-- more computing power than was used to design any of the modern thermonuclear weapons. The NPT embodies the judgment of the 5 NWS and the vast majority of others that their security is improved by preventing the spread of NW. Not only states but also non-state groups could acquire NW if they desired-- by theft or by building them. They do not, primarily because they don't want them, or because they are unable to obtain the fissionable material-- HEU or plutonium-- or to produce it themselves. HEU and plutonium have been produced specifically for the weapons programs in the NWS, and HEU in South Africa to build 6 modern Hiroshima-type weapons that were dismantled when South Africa in the early 1990s decided to join the NPT. About 100 tons of plutonium has been separated in the civil nuclear power programs of France, Japan, and some other states. It would take less than 10 kg of this so-called "civil plutonium" to make a nuclear weapon, without significantly more difficulty than would be involved in the use of military plutonium. Some 10,000 NW could thus be produced, and each of these could be a thermonuclear weapon. At the same time, at least 100 tons of military plutonium and 1000 tons of HEU are surplus to the weapons programs of the US and RU. Over 20 years, Russia is selling 500 tons of HEU (enough for some 20,000 weapons) to the US for about $12 B. This material will be used in the civil nuclear power program-- fueling 100 power reactors for some 5 years. The U.S. could buy the excess weapon plutonium; in fact it could buy all the excess weapons, with the commitment to demilitarize them transparently and to transfer the fissile material to the civil economy (even with Russia retaining ownership of this material). For that matter, Bill Gates could buy up all the weapons and expand his place in history. India's decision to test its NW in 1998 and to incorporate NW into its military forces has led to its consideration of a full triad of NF-- bombers, land-based missiles, and submarine-based NW, with a corresponding system of command and control. This in a theater of repeated armed conflict between India and Pakistan. These NW do not threaten the US directly, but Pakistan has obtained missiles and technology from NK, and the transfer of NW or weapon HEU from Pakistan to NK would reverse the gains that have been made in limiting NK's nuclear weapon program and its missile tests. As is evident in the India-Pakistan confrontation, the acquisition of NW by one nation has a direct impact on its neighbors, and with the spread of long-range missiles an influence on states at a substantial distance. THE COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN TREATY The future of the NPT depends on the CTBT, which the Senate rejected October 13, 1999. The CTBT poses no additional limits on a non-NWS member of the NPT, but the 5 NWS have signed it, as has Israel-- not a member of the NPT. The US has not tested since 1992, and China since 1996. In declining to consent to ratification of the CTBT, Senators argued that Russia and China would conduct clandestine NW explosive tests in violation of the zero-threshold CTBT; that proliferant states would not join the CTBT and could test openly; that the IMS, even supplemented by US intelligence might not detect the smallest tests; and that the US nuclear stockpile could not be maintained safe and reliable without nuclear explosion testing. US military leaders and the heads of the three US nuclear weapon laboratories support the CTBT, supplemented by 6 "safeguards". As argued in my testimony of October 7, those tiny tests that cannot be detected confidently under the CTBT would not militarily disadvantage the US; and a $4.5 billion stockpile stewardship program of surveillance, analysis, and remanufacture will maintain our nuclear weapons in pristine state for many decades. The CTBT cannot enter into force without US ratification; beyond that, it needs the signature of India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Former ambassadors to India and Pakistan, Frank Wisner and Bob Oakley, write that without US ratification, India will test further to develop a true thermonuclear weapon, and Pakistan will match India's tests one for one. The leaders of Britain, France, and Germany have implored the US to ratify the CTBT. Further development of US nuclear weapons does not counter proliferation. The US has by far the greatest and most flexible military capability in the world, and its nuclear weapon technology is the most advanced. More than 1000 US nuclear explosion tests contributed to this technological lead. But effective nuclear weapons of 1957 vintage (or even fission weapons of 1950) are enough to destroy millions of people. This threat cannot be countered by further nuclear weapons development and nuclear tests. It must be constrained by arms control, by deterrence of acquisition or of use of NW, and if necessary by destruction of the nuclear weapons before they can be used, or by defense against their delivery. It is natural to want to rely on US actions to protect US security, but technological realities get in the way. There are many means to deliver nuclear weapons, and long-range missiles are only one. The Rumsfeld Commission, of which I was a member, warned in 1998 that NK, Iran, or Iraq could have ICBMs within 5 years if they mounted a well-financed and urgent program to obtain them, but also noted that it would be far easier for any of them to use short-range cruise missiles or ballistic missiles from a cargo ship to attack US cities. In this era of global trade, it would be even easier to detonate a nuclear weapon in a US harbor or to spread BW from an automobile or light aircraft. THE PROPOSED NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE Congress has long demanded an NMD, and the Clinton Administration has been developing a system based on HTK non-nuclear interceptors, radars, etc. to counter 4 or 5 "or a few tens" of warheads from a "rogue state". It is always stated that the proposed system would have some capability against a small accidental or unauthorized launch of long range missiles from China or Russia. Unfortunately, this system will have zero effectiveness even against a few warheads launched from North Korea. For military effectiveness, a BW payload would be divided into bomblets dispensed on ascent; rather than delivering 100 kg of anthrax to the neighborhood of a city, where a narrow plume of wind-borne microbes would kill everyone in its path, the division of the payload into 100 or more bomblets (each equipped with its thin shield against the entry heat) would greatly increase the fatalities. And a nuclear payload would be protected by a large enclosing balloon; the proposed NMD system, if it works perfectly, would see the balloon and could destroy it, but an interceptor would be unlikely to collide with the warhead somewhere within. Successive balloons shrunk down on the warhead and inflated by the kind of gas generator found in the automobile air bag could handle successive intercept attempts. The 1999 update(2) to the NIE on the missile threat judges that such penetration aids would be available by the time an emerging missile power tested its ICBM. Both of these threats could be countered by a missile defense system that worked in boost phase (BPI for NMD), and it seems feasible to deploy a joint US-Russian system south of Vladivostok or on US military cargo ships in the Japan Basin to counter an eventual NK ICBM threat. But it would be foolish to rely on countering nuclear attack if it were possible to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The 21st Century-- nuclear weapons for all, or nuclear weapon restraint. A sick Russian president, deep suspicion in the Duma, lack of leadership in the US keep us from recognizing and dealing with the threat to US security posed by nuclear weapons and by their proliferation. In an era of domestic political confrontation, there is also no agreement on the path to be taken, but surely we need some vision, or to choose among competing visions. President Clinton has emphasized that the US will continue to abide by its signature on the CTBT, despite the fact that it has not ratified the treaty. 1. The greatest threat to US and global security is the enormous Russian nuclear arsenal. Strengthening Russian control, reducing the size of the arsenal, and erecting higher barriers to its leakage are the highest priority. 2. If relations between the US and PRC should deteriorate to downright enmity, as might occur through initiatives on the PRC side or gratuitously by demonizing China, China could evolve to pose a serious threat. This is far better averted than countered. 3. The US must exert every effort to bring India and Pakistan into the CTBT. An urgent and feasible US agenda for reducing the nuclear threat in a multipolar world would include: 1. Recognition that US security is secured more by limiting the threat than by increasing US arms. 2. Proper hearings leading to a better understanding of the CTBT, and its ratification and entry into force. 3. Extending the START regime with Russia to include all nuclear warheads and NW-usable materials, and limiting the total to 2,000 warhead equivalent on each side. The remainder would be quickly demilitarized and committed irreversibly to the civil economy, prior to being dismantled. If Britain, France, and China limit their NW to 300 each, the US and Russia could drop to 1000. US weapons would be largely deployed as single-warhead ICBMs in silos, on SLBMs, and a relatively few on bombers; Russian weapons would likely be deployed largely on ICBMs, either mobile or in silos. 4. Just as US commitment to NATO and to the security of Japan has facilitated Germany and Japan's non-NWS status, so would a commitment of US and other NWS, through the UN or regional agreements, to provide security guarantees of non-NWS states against nuclear attack. Other than arms control treaties, there are less formal actions that can be taken by Presidents in the context of similar or comparable actions on the other side, such as the Bush-Gorbachev reduction of tactical nuclear weaponry. These could reduce the likelihood or the damage of war by accident or misunderstanding. Since the large nuclear forces of the US and Russia exist mostly for some future and unspecified eventuality, removing them from alert could be a useful step. Half of the silo-based ICBMs could be covered with 50 feet of earth, but it is not so simple to verifiably de-alert SLBMs. A joint US-Russian working group should be established evaluate such options, without a commitment to implementing them. We should continue to keep weapons out of space and to ban tests of antisatellite weapons. In 1983 I worked with Henry Kendall and Kurt Gottfried following President Reagan's March 1983 announcement of the Star Wars program-- more formally known as the Strategic Defense Initiative. Following my testimony of September 1982(3) to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I worked with a group organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists to prepare a draft "A treaty limiting anti-satellite weapons" that we presented to the same Committee in May 1983. In this activity, Len Meeker played a key role. Whether these steps of cooperative threat reduction are to be taken by treaty or by less formal initiatives, they are dependent upon the leadership of the President of the United States and in some cases upon a responsible leadership of the Senate. The international mechanisms are sorely inadequate to this agenda. The Conference on Disarmament ("CD") operates by consensus (that is, unanimity), and in fact this can negotiate only a single treaty at a time. It is this all too easy to postpone the most important and urgent steps, while completing the negotiation of a treaty of lesser importance. The CD must be brought into the modern era or bypassed, as was the case with the Convention on Conventional Weapons, negotiated in Vienna rather than at the CD in Geneva. It would be a tragedy if the arms control agenda could be re-energized only following the nuclear destruction of cities in Pakistan and India; it would be too late if the US-Russian nuclear confrontation-- a residue of the Cold War-- were unleashed by accident or inadvertence. ---------------- 1 http://www.acda.gov/treaty/npt1.htm This site contains the text of the Treaty, a narrative description and history, and a list of signatories. 2 "Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States Through 2015," National Intelligence Council (September 1999) available at http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/missile/nie99msl.htm. 3 "The Militarization of Space," by R.L. Garwin, testimony given Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, before the Subcommittee on Arms Control, Oceans, International Operations and Environment, September 20, 1982. pp 56-60.