Bush team seeks nuclear "bunker busters" as threat of
decapitation of undeterred foreign state leaders

Dear colleagues,

This article is probably relevant for anyone dealing with disarmament and military issues, and probably for anyone who would want to survive a possible second term with Bush Jr. and his gang in power.

The latest incredibility is Bush's openly declared agenda of murder of foreign state leaders--despite Congress having banned this. The calculation is that foreign leaders targeted by Bush will be deterred by a nuclear bunker-buster specifically designed to kill them. This seems to be a further radicalization of previous positions.

These guys are mad. Bush's US is a threat to world peace. Look at the possible targets allegedly mentioned in the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review. In the case of smaller powers once a nuclear weapon has been used, the attacked state may retaliate with any weapons of mass destruction it possesses. In the case of attacking Russia it would mean nuclear winter and the end of

How much more is needed for the common folks in the US to react and to say NO!

Chris Scherrer



Nuclear "bunker busters" sought:
Move signals big shit in U.S. weapon strategy

By Dan Stober, (San Jose, Calif.) Mercury News, A
pril 23, 2003

Demonstrating a significant shift in America's nuclear strategy, the Bush administration intends to produce--not just research--a thermonuclear bunker-busting bomb to destroy hardened, deeply buried targets, the Pentagon has acknowledged for the first time.

The weapon--known as the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator--would be a full-power hydrogen bomb that would throw up enormous clouds of radioactive dust while wreaking large-scale damage and death if used in an urban area. It would be thousands of times more powerful than the conventional "bunker busters" dropped on Baghdad in an attempt to kill former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Federal officials signed documents in Washington this week to launch a preliminary design contest between Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Because of the lead time needed for congressional funding, officials at the National Nuclear Security Administration say, they might seek additional money for the next phase of development even before the preliminary work is completed in 2005 or 2006.

Arms-control advocates are disturbed by earth-penetrating nuclear weapons, saying they are unneeded and will only encourage other countries, such as North Korea or Iran, to build their own nuclear weapons as fast as possible. They say such weapons are unnecessary because buried bunkers can be destroyed with conventional bombs or by sending in troops to attack entrances, air shafts and communications cables.

Clear objective

But Fred Celec, the deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for nuclear matters, made clear that the administration wants the weapon and is moving forward.

If a hydrogen bomb can be successfully designed to survive a crash through hard rock or concrete and still explode, "It will ultimately get fielded," Celec said in an interview with the Mercury News. The United States has worked on nuclear earth penetrators for decades, and scientists involved in the project say they expect to succeed.

The project is integral to the administration's push to move away from Cold War "city scraping" ballistic missile warheads to battlefield "tactical" weapons.

"This administration is very serious about rethinking the entire thing," said a physicist at a U.S. nuclear weapons lab. "I think everyone around here is really encouraged to look at what the actual role is for nuclear weapons."

According to a variety of participants, impetus for a renewed interest in battlefield nuclear weapons comes primarily from civilian Pentagon officials such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his second-in-command, Paul Wolfowitz, rather than uniformed generals and admirals.

"I've talked to the military extensively, and I don't know anybody in the military who thinks they need a nuclear weapon to accomplish this," said U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a Walnut Creek Democrat whose district includes Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

"If you can find somebody in a uniform in the Defense Department who can talk about a new need'' for nuclear bunker busters "without laughing, I'll buy him a cup of coffee," said Robert Peurifoy, a retired vice president of Sandia National Laboratory. The New Mexico lab fashions the outer casings and other non-nuclear aspects of nuclear weapons and will play a role in the project.

Celec, the Pentagon official, disagreed. Nuclear bunker busters "are being pushed by the Pentagon, and that is both military and civilian," he said.

Possible targets

Celec wouldn't discuss targets for the weapon, but seven countries--China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria reportedly were listed as possible targets of U.S weapons in the classified Nuclear Posture Review, a 2001 Pentagon document describing Bush administration policy.

The design contest between Livermore and Los Alamos is expected to last two to three years and cost about $15 million per year. The winning lab will then shift to an engineering phase, a move that would require congressional approval and funding.

The U.S. arsenal already contains a nuclear bunker-buster--known as the B61-11--but it was built to penetrate only soil. "It will not survive rock," Celec said.

A nuclear penetrator is built in the shape of a thin cylinder with a pointed nose. Dropped from an airplane, its weight and speed allow it to smash through the surface of the ground or puncture rock or concrete. It buries itself 20 to 30 feet deep before exploding, Celec said. The power of the explosion "couples" with the earth to send shock waves down toward buried targets.

The shock waves from a penetrator loaded with conventional high explosives "would probably struggle to destroy a target 100 feet deep," Celec said. But a nuclear weapon could reach much deeper.

Both sides of the bunker-buster debate agree that intelligence--knowing where the bunkers are--is vital, as has been demonstrated by the difficulty encountered by the CIA and military in finding Saddam.

Deep targets with imprecise coordinates would require a larger nuclear explosion, Celec said. "You're going to have to match the target with the weapon with the intelligence you've got on it."

Some skeptical military officers say they do not want to send their soldiers into a radioactive environment that may also contain biological or chemical agents scattered by the bomb. Moreover, once a nuclear weapon has been used, the enemy may retaliate with any weapons of mass destruction it still possesses, said a Marine colonel who asked not to be identified.

"It's out there, and it's too late to take it back," he said.

Changing needs

In several policy documents, the Pentagon has called for a "responsive" nuclear force to meet changing situations. Foreign leaders who are not deterred by the current U.S. nuclear weapons--because they do not believe President Bush will use them--might be deterred by a nuclear bunker-buster specifically designed to put them personally at risk in their underground quarters.

"The other guy has to think you're capable of using it," Celec said.

The earth-penetrator program is also motivated by a policy of providing the scientists at nuclear labs with challenging problems that lead to a finished product. A decade after the end of U.S. nuclear testing, there is fear in some quarters that scientists may become bored and find jobs elsewhere.

Peurifoy, the retired Sandia official, opposes the drive for more nuclear weapons. "It's outlandish. It's stupid," he said from his home in Texas. "It is an effort to maintain a payroll" at the weapons labs.

The laboratories in Livermore and Los Alamos each have an existing hydrogen bomb they are proposing to modify to become the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator. Livermore will work with a bomb known as the B83. Los Alamos will modify the B61, the bomb that now serves as the U.S. nuclear bunker buster.


Contact Dan Stober at dstober@mercurynews.com or (650) 688-7536.

(c) 2003 Mercury News and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.



Home     Disclaimer/Fair Use