Originally posted by ConsciousTruth
Well at the risk of sounding ignorant I am going to say no freaking way. This is a lame video game conception with no credentials on the HD website
To me it seems unreal that this much display or stupidity with such a deadly weapon is used/tested this much.
Why would they test something this much?
No, it's quite real.
The issue with testing is pretty complex.
First point is that a lot of people have a sort of weird scaling problem with visualizing the size/power of a nuke compared to the Earth and the
biosphere. Generally the direction it goes (due mostly to media) is that somehow a nuke will crack the crust, destroy the planet or whatnot. To scale,
a nuke is squat compared to a planet. Hell, you can't even do real damage to the crust, and compared to the planet the crust is less than the skin on
an apple. So popping a lot of nukes off isn't going to rupture the planet or throw it out of orbit or whatever.
Another facet of that is that things don't stay hideously radioactive forever as you are generally given to believe - you can stroll around ground
zero at Trinity twice a year (you should go - it's worth doing). And the Japanese live in Hiroshima and Nagasaki - the residual radiation from the
bombs is undetectable from background. Actually, that was true within about 5 years post-drop.
Something else is that there is no such thing as no radiation. If nuclear weapons and reactors had never been invented by man, you'd still get a
minimum dose per year, some more, some less, depending on altitude and locale. You can't eat a banana without eating radioisotopes. You're designed
to deal with some level of radiation. In fact, if you are challenged with a dose of low level radiation, your body will react by activating a lot of
DNA repair enzymes and your immune system will go on the hunt for cancer. If you look at statistics from, say, the Taiwanese building fiasco, the
inhabitants of the building had something like a 96% less incidence of cancer than the population, but there are a lot of confounders in the data that
prevent you from really getting a lot of good info from it.
Then, of course, you've got the weapon design facet of it. The design of a nuke is pretty damned complex. It evolved a lot between Nagasaki and the
late '60s. The simulation tools are only so good - you can know that you have a pretty decent chance to get a yield, but you're not really sure. The
only way to know if a design will work is to test the thing, more than once.
On top of which, besides just having basic strategic nukes, you likely want a collection of variants you can use as tactical weapons. The more oddball
the design, the more you're going to have to test it since your simulation tools, shaky as they are, are going to be more likely to diverge from
correct solutions the more wonky your design goals are.
Thus if you want, say, a sub kT weapon that you can wag around in an ALICE, you'll likely want to test it. Same for a torp warhead - they can only be
so big and the aspect ratio is bad since a torpedo is long and thin, so that's a testing. Same for a howitzer shell design, same for enhanced
radiation weapons, same for nuclear shaped charges, same for those odd-arse Navy designs with oblate primaries, on and on. Any big deviation from the
few designs you have good data on, and you are in uncharted territory. Now multiply that by France, Great Britain, the USSR, the US, India etc and
you've got a lot of shots. Actually, I'm really surprised there were as few as there were.
There were also a lot of changing requirements in the early days for just your basic strategic weapons. The first half-dozen designs were pretty
basic. They didn't give a rat's arse for efficiency, maintainability, nor for safety, nor security. They just wanted to churn out warheads for
numbers. After that phase was over, there was a lot of 'wow, this sucks to maintain and it takes a lot of material that's just contaminating the
downwind area something awful', and so you got designs with better explosives, better initiators, and boost systems. You have to test all that crap -
it was a BIG divergence from the original weapon. Then they had a hard requirement for weapons that were resistant to fratricide, and that got rid of
a number of simpler designs. Then you had a hard requirement for weapons with inherently secure designs, that was mostly a change in arming and firing
so it probably wasn't tested.
Sandia is designing a new set of weapons that are 'no maintenance' that are a very large design change, basically the whole thing is new, so there
is a real need to test somehow, our simulators are better but still imperfect, thus do you have NIF and ORION trying to garner data on the secondary
side. Sandia and LANL do dummy load tests on the primary side, they're pretty accurate. Basically, you build a device primary with depleted uranium
and shoot it in a special test fixture that can do high speed x-ray imaging - it takes tens of thousands of "pictures" during the few milliseconds
of the shot, and the depleted uranium acts enough like the 'real thing' that you can get a really good idea of how it's working in terms of
compression and those pesky Munroe jet failures. But the thing still needs testing as a unit when they get done, and badly.
So, yes, there is a need for a lot of testing.
[edit on 11-7-2010 by Bedlam]