What will happen with the decommissioned H-bombs?
Building nuclear weapons is expensive, but dismantling them is even more a luxury
President Joe Biden decided last month to give up the most powerful weapon of the US nuclear arsenal: the B83 hydrogen bomb. What would happen to those nuclear bombs? The most dangerous parts are recycled, which is not without risk.
The B83 is a hydrogen bomb that dates back to 1983, in the middle of the Cold War between the US and the then Soviet Union. US president Ronald Reagan called Russia “an evil empire”. The US made 660 of those deadly atomic bombs, which were 3.6 meters long and had fins. Their explosive power was 80 times greater than that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Among other things, they were intended to destroy command bunkers of Moscow. The US government is keeping secret how many B83s are left.
Contrary to what one might expect, nuclear weapons do not disappear from the face of the Earth, and therefore are not destroyed. They are painstakingly dismantled. The parts, including the deadly plutonium cores, are kept in bunkers and storehouses scattered throughout the United States. They serve as a kind of warehouse of second-hand parts to create new nuclear weapons. Such as the W93, the first new warhead for the US nuclear arsenal since the Cold War.
Estimated cost: $15.5 billion
The storage of explosive weapon parts is a thorn in the side of gun control advocates. Other countries could see it as a sign that the United States wants to continue making new nuclear warheads, which could lead to a new arms race. Moreover, those repositories are not without risk. According to The New York Times, they have “a long history of accidents, security leaks and security flaws that could lead to a nuclear disaster.”
”It’s dangerous, ” Robert Alvarez told the newspaper. He is a nuclear expert, who from 1993 to 1999 during the Clinton administration was policy advisor to the Department of Energy, which manages the country’s nuclear infrastructure. “And it becomes more dangerous, because the stored quantities have increased.”
The concern of Alvarez and other experts revolves mainly around the plutonium nuclei of ancient hydrogen bombs. The U.S. now has at least 20,000 of those cores, which are called kernels, stored in Texas. Plutonium is already deadly to humans in small quantities, which complicates its security. The huge storage facility in Texas is now overcrowded and the kernels of the B83 bombs would then be added there. President Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama made efforts in the past to get rid of the overstock of plutonium, but they ultimately remained dead letter due to the high cost of it, which would run into the billions.