Stuff I wrote elsewhere: my latest nuclear weapon automotive metaphor

The use of automobile metaphors in descriptions of nuclear weapon technology is somewhere between comedy and cliche.

Here’s my latest entry (sub/ad req):

You could think of the B61 as the Volkswagen bug of the U.S. nuclear arsenal — reliable, adaptable and very, very old.

I also said some other, more substantive things:

The risk, according to the report from the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee, is that the labs and NNSA are going too far in their effort to bring the aging B61s into the 21st century. In an effort to improve the bombs’ safety and security, the weaponeers may actually be jeopardizing its long-term reliability, the Senate report suggests.

“NNSA plans to incorporate untried technologies and design features to improve the safety and security of the nuclear stockpile,” the report says. “The committee supports enhanced surety of weapon systems to avoid accidents and unauthorized use, but it should not come at the expense of long-term weapon reliability. New safety and security features should be incorporated in weapon systems when feasible, but the primary goal … should be to increase confidence in warhead performance without underground nuclear testing.”


One Comment

  1. I understand much of the politics of nuclear weapons, but come on, no testing ever?

    I think that the automobile analogy is not to an old Volkswagen. Old Volkswagens are still being driven around and parts are still available.

    A closer analogy might be to an Hispano Suiza, which was made in the late 1930’s, for which original parts are no longer available, which has not been started since 1992, and which has been modified extensively and not tested. Would you buy such a car? Would you bet your life on such a car?

    A more obscure auto for an analogy is a Talbot Lago, which was last made, in very small numbers in the mid 1930s. This analogy would work except that people are still driving Talbot Lagos on the road. I saw one in Los Angeles in June. Going even further back we get to Stanley Steamers, last made in about 1912. Even those are still being driven around.

    Maybe the auto analogy does not work.

    A better analogy might be to a Northstar computer, minus the power cord, which has been out of production for a long time, and has been modified for decades but never turned on. I would be unlikely to rely on such a computer for much of anything.

    Just a thought from the ‘Semi-apt Analogy Department.’

Comments are closed.