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Will Lockett

Will Lockett

2 days ago

Russia's nukes may be useless

Russia's nuclear threat may be nullified by physics.

Putin seems nostalgic and wants to relive the Cold War. He's started a deadly war to reclaim the old Soviet state of Ukraine and is threatening the West with nuclear war. NATO can't risk starting a global nuclear war that could wipe out humanity to support Ukraine's independence as much as they want to. Fortunately, nuclear physics may have rendered Putin's nuclear weapons useless. However? How will Ukraine and NATO react?

To understand why Russia's nuclear weapons may be ineffective, we must first know what kind they are.

Russia has the world's largest nuclear arsenal, with 4,447 strategic and 1,912 tactical weapons (all of which are ready to be rolled out quickly). The difference between these two weapons is small, but it affects their use and logistics. Strategic nuclear weapons are ICBMs designed to destroy a city across the globe. Russia's ICBMs have many designs and a yield of 300–800 kilotonnes. 300 kilotonnes can destroy Washington. Tactical nuclear weapons are smaller and can be fired from artillery guns or small truck-mounted missile launchers, giving them a 1,500 km range. Instead of destroying a distant city, they are designed to eliminate specific positions, bases, or military infrastructure. They produce 1–50 kilotonnes.

These two nuclear weapons use different nuclear reactions. Pure fission bombs are compact enough to fit in a shell or small missile. All early nuclear weapons used this design for their fission bombs. This technology is inefficient for bombs over 50 kilotonnes. Larger bombs are thermonuclear. Thermonuclear weapons use a small fission bomb to compress and heat a hydrogen capsule, which undergoes fusion and releases far more energy than ignition fission reactions, allowing for effective giant bombs. 

Here's Russia's issue.

A thermonuclear bomb needs deuterium (hydrogen with one neutron) and tritium (hydrogen with two neutrons). Because these two isotopes fuse at lower energies than others, the bomb works. One problem. Tritium is highly radioactive, with a half-life of only 12.5 years, and must be artificially made.

Tritium is made by irradiating lithium in nuclear reactors and extracting the gas. Tritium is one of the most expensive materials ever made, at $30,000 per gram.

Why does this affect Putin's nukes?

Thermonuclear weapons need tritium. Tritium decays quickly, so they must be regularly refilled at great cost, which Russia may struggle to do.

Russia has a smaller economy than New York, yet they are running an invasion, fending off international sanctions, and refining tritium for 4,447 thermonuclear weapons.

The Russian military is underfunded. Because the state can't afford it, Russian troops must buy their own body armor. Arguably, Putin cares more about the Ukraine conflict than maintaining his nuclear deterrent. Putin will likely lose power if he loses the Ukraine war.

It's possible that Putin halted tritium production and refueling to save money for Ukraine. His threats of nuclear attacks and escalating nuclear war may be a bluff.

This doesn't help Ukraine, sadly. Russia's tactical nuclear weapons don't need expensive refueling and will help with the invasion. So Ukraine still risks a nuclear attack. The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima was 15 kilotonnes, and Russia's tactical Iskander-K nuclear missile has a 50-kiloton yield. Even "little" bombs are deadly.

We can't guarantee it's happening in Russia. Putin may prioritize tritium. He knows the power of nuclear deterrence. Russia may have enough tritium for this conflict. Stockpiling a material with a short shelf life is unlikely, though.

This means that Russia's most powerful weapons may be nearly useless, but they may still be deadly. If true, this could allow NATO to offer full support to Ukraine and push the Russian tyrant back where he belongs. If Putin withholds funds from his crumbling military to maintain his nuclear deterrent, he may be willing to sink the ship with him. Let's hope the former.

MartinEdic

MartinEdic

27 days ago

Russia Through the Windows: It's Very Bad

And why we must keep arming Ukraine

Photo by Alexander Smagin on Unsplash

Russian expatriates write about horrific news from home.

Read this from Nadin Brzezinski. She's not a native English speaker, so there are grammar errors, but her tale smells true.

Terrible truth.

There's much more that reveals Russia's grim reality.

Non-leadership. Millions of missing supplies are presumably sold for profit, leaving untrained troops without food or gear. Missile attacks pause because they run out. Fake schemes to hold talks as a way of stalling while they scramble for solutions.

Street men were mobilized. Millions will be ground up to please a crazed despot. Fear, wrath, and hunger pull apart civilization.

It's the most dystopian story, but Ukraine is worse. Destruction of a society, country, and civilization. Only the invaders' corruption and incompetence save the Ukrainians.

Rochester, NY. My suburb had many Soviet-era Ukrainian refugees. Their kids were my classmates. Fifty years later, many are still my friends. I loved their food and culture. My town has 20,000 Ukrainians.

Grieving but determined. They don't quit. They won't quit. Russians are eternal enemies.

It's the Russian people's willingness to tolerate corruption, abuse, and stupidity by their leaders. They are paying. 65000 dead. Ruined economy. No freedom to speak. Americans do not appreciate that freedom as we should.

It lets me write/publish.

Russian friends are shocked. Many are here because their parents escaped Russian anti-semitism and authoritarian oppression. A Russian cultural legacy says a strongman's methods are admirable.

A legacy of a slavery history disguised as serfdom. Peasants and Princes.

Read Tolstoy. Then Anna Karenina. The main characters are princes and counts, whose leaders are incompetent idiots with wealth and power.

Peasants who die in their wars due to incompetence are nameless ciphers.

Sound familiar?

Erik Engheim

Erik Engheim

7 months ago

You Misunderstand the Russian Nuclear Threat

Many believe Putin is simply sabre rattling and intimidating us. They see no threat of nuclear war. We can send NATO troops into Ukraine without risking a nuclear war.

I keep reading that Putin is just using nuclear blackmail and that a strong leader will call the bluff. That, in my opinion, misunderstands the danger of sending NATO into Ukraine.
It assumes that once NATO moves in, Putin can either push the red nuclear button or not.
Sure, Putin won't go nuclear if NATO invades Ukraine. So we're safe? Can't we just move NATO?

No, because history has taught us that wars often escalate far beyond our initial expectations. One domino falls, knocking down another. That's why having clear boundaries is vital. Crossing a seemingly harmless line can set off a chain of events that are unstoppab

Bloomberg

Bloomberg

8 months ago

Expulsion of ten million Ukrainians

According to recent data from two UN agencies, ten million Ukrainians have been displaced.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates nearly 6.5 million Ukrainians have relocated. Most have fled the war zones around Kyiv and eastern Ukraine, including Dnipro, Zhaporizhzhia, and Kharkiv. Most IDPs have fled to western and central Ukraine.

Since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, 3.6 million people have crossed the border to seek refuge in neighboring countries, according to the latest UN data. While most refugees have fled to Poland and Romania, many have entered Russia.

Internally displaced figures are IOM estimates as of March 19, based on 2,000 telephone interviews with Ukrainians aged 18 and older conducte

Claire Berehova

Claire Berehova

8 months ago

There’s no manual for that

Kyiv oblast in springtime. Photo by author.

We’ve been receiving since the war began text messages from the State Emergency Service of Ukraine every few days. They’ve contained information on how to comfort a child and what to do in case of a water outage.

But a question that I struggle to suppress irks within me: How would we know if there really was a threat coming our away? So how can I happily disregard an air raid siren and continue singing to my three-month-old son when I feel like a World War II film became reality? There’s no manual for that.

Along with the anxiety, there’s the guilt that always seems to appear alongside dinner we’re fortunate to stil