New Nuclear Weapons & Bunker Busters
The Administration is also asking for funds for development of an earth-penetrating nuclear warhead, often called a 'bunker-buster.' These are not just variants of the precision-guided conventional bombs that worked so well on Baghdad buildings and Afghan caves. The earth-penetrator program is modifying an existing high yield nuclear weapon so it can penetrate a few meters into rock.
But nuclear weapons are not good at busting bunkers or destroying chemical and biological weapons stored underground, as advocates claim. And they create severe fallout above ground. In any event the primary limitation on destroying underground bunkers is intelligence, not munitions.
Are there valid missions for nuclear bunker busters?
In this excerpt from his new report Nuclear Missions after the Cold War, Ivan Oelrich weighs claims that underground biological, chemical and nuclear weapons caches require nuclear bunker busters to destroy them.
Michael A. Levi Fire in the Hole: Nuclear and non nuclear options for counter-proliferation. Carnegie Endowment Working Paper No. 31 November 2002.
Charles D. Ferguson "Mini-Nuclear Weapons and the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review," Monterey Institute of International Studies, CNS, April 2002.
Robert W. Nelson "Low-Yield Earth-Penetrating Nuclear Weapons", FAS Public Interest Report Jan/Feb 2001, Vol. 54, No. 1. A Princeton physicist lays out why "any nuclear weapon capable of destroying a buried target that is otherwise immune to conventional attack will necessarily produce enormous numbers of civilian casualties" in this frequently cited analysis.
Read rationales for new nuclear weapons by Sandia Director C. Paul Robinson and NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks.
Bunker Buster Animation
New Nuclear Weapons
One of the key debates relating to nuclear weapons policy in the United States is whether the U.S. will pursue new nuclear weapons designs that might have enhanced capabilities. In particular debate is currently centered around an earth-penetrating nuclear weapon and a low-yield nuclear weapon.
Earth Penetrating Warheads Against Deep Targets
The Administration is asking for funds for research on high-yield robust nuclear earth penetrators (RNEP). This FAS report shows that there is no sensible tactical requirement for these weapons, countermeasures are obvious and easy, and they would create large swaths of deadly fallout.
Nuclear Bunker Busters Are Dangerous, Ineffective, and Unneeded (10/26/05)
Administration withdraws request for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) or "nuclear bunker buster," at the request of the Administration.
Senate Debates Nuclear Bunker Buster, Part II
Overview of present Senate deliberations on spending for the Nuclear Bunker Buster.