Saturday, April 08, 2006

Well, we shouldn't be surprised at what Seymour Hersh is telling us in a new, horrifying New Yorker article: that the Bush administration is considering the use of nuclear weapons -- nuclear bunker-busters -- in attacks on Iran. After all, in early 2003 we heard about the possible use of bunker-busting nukes in Iraq:

As the Pentagon continues a highly visible buildup of troops and weapons in the Persian Gulf, it is also quietly preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons in a war against Iraq, according to a report by a defense analyst.

Although they consider such a strike unlikely, military planners have been actively studying lists of potential targets and considering options, including the possible use of so-called bunker-buster nuclear weapons against deeply buried military targets, says analyst William M. Arkin, who writes a regular column on defense matters for The Times....

Hersh says:

One of the military's initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites.

Now, this isn't a big mushroom-cloud-producing nuke we're talking about. This is a nuke that's supposed to go below surfaces and not release radioactive fallout into the atmosphere. But if one scientist quoted in this Popular Mechanics article from 2002 is right, that's far from a guarantee:

Rob Nelson, a physicist with the Princeton University Program on Science and Global Security, and an expert on nuclear weapons design, ... argues that the ... deep penetrator ... would, in fact, release rather than contain radioactive fallout. While it is true that most material would remain within the blast area, a radioactive cloud seeping from the crater would release a plume of gases that would irradiate anyone in its path.

He has calculated that a weapon with a yield of about 0.1 kiloton--about one two-hundredth the energy of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima--would have to penetrate to a depth of 230 ft. to fully contain the explosion...

And how deep does the B61-11 penetrate?

The only ground penetrator in the current nuclear arsenal is the 1200-pound B61-11 gravity bomb.... It can penetrate about 20 ft. into a dry lakebed.


This article is going to have a huge impact. Read it. There's a lot more in it than I've told you about, and it's all pretty shocking.

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