Tuesday, March 25, 2008

U.S. Shipped Nuclear Fuses to Taiwan

The Pentagon announced today that it had accidentally shipped four electrical fuses for MK-12 nuclear warheads to Taiwan, according to a 26 March 2008 NY Times story.
The U.S. claimed that the shipment should have contained helicopter batteries, and that the fuses have been returned unopened.


Byron said...

Basically sounds like a tempest in a teacup to me.

Tell me, of what use are nuclear weapons fuses without fissile material?

None that I know of.

Now if Iran obtained nuclear weapon fuses that would be a different kettle of fish.

What does a nuclear fuse consist of? If my understanding of the matter is in line with reality, then the plutonium or uranium in a nuclear weapon is induced to go critical by implosion. Implosion,in turn, is induced by the explosion of conventional explosives in an exquisitely timed explosion. Basically a sphere of fissile material is surrounded by a sphere of conventional explosives. The conventional explosives must explode in such a manner that the resulting blast front of the explosion impinges upon the sphere of fissile material equally at all points simultaneously.

This was one of the thorniest problems to solve faced by the Manhattan Project: achieving that level of simultaneity in the explosion of the implosion inducing conventional explosives.

Now if what I've read is true, then the necessary level of simultaneity can today be obtained by using some of the same circuitry contained in modern stereo speakers. So, basically, nuclear weapons fuses can be made by any electronics engineer consulting with a demolitions expert and consist of nothing more than advanced timing circuitry, electric detonators, and plastic explosive.

Byron said...

There are two known ways to obtain fissile material in order to manufacture a nuclear device.

Enriching uranium,which requires thousands of centrifuges to separate U-238 from the non-fissioning U-235 or plutonium-which requires a nuclear reactor to produce.

Both are rather difficult activities to hide from surveillance satellites...even for nation-state actors.

The media attention given to this mainly shows the level of incompetence of the media. They're yahoos who can't even be trusted to ask the questions they were taught to ask in the first lesson given on the first day of Journalism 101.