Is there a dark side to all of the context-free media excitement over new, cutting-edge tech? Sure, it’s not always singing and dancing – sometimes news about the latest tech developments inspire critical thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of a new piece of technology beyond the fact that it’s simply the latest and the greatest.
But some tech developments are difficult to laud for their very own sake without coming off as the product of a sociopath. In these cases, the mainstream media generally ignore the story or perversely emphasize their excessive cost, as if no other conceivable objection to stockpiling weapons that could destroy the world exists.
A recent investigation from The Center for Investigative Reporting is just one of those stories. For their report, Len Ackland and Burt Hubbard delved into the current state of the US nuclear weapons industry, and some of their findings are disturbing.
Business is booming: nuclear weapons on the rise
Any corporate news consumer in the US of late could be forgiven for thinking that the US is leading a noble effort to reduce the risk of catastrophic nuclear war. But as the report makes clear, a nuclear weapons industry that enjoys a “symbiotic relationship with Congress” has been hard at work developing a more sophisticated nuclear weapon called the B61-12:
Later, when nuclear explosives are added at the federal Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas, the bomb will have a maximum explosive force equivalent to 50,000 tons of TNT – more than three times more powerful than the U.S. atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, 70 years ago this August that killed more than 130,000 people.
Ackland and Hubbard spoke with nuclear weapons expert Hans Kristensen at the Federation of American Scientists, who said that the bomb violates a 2010 pledge by the Obama administration not to develop nuclear weapons with new military capabilities.
Kristensen also said that since the guided (and thus more accurate) B61-12’s force can be reduced electronically, there is an increased risk that a future president could consider it “safe” enough for a future conflict.
While the report is less focused on the technical aspects of the weapon and more on the complex web of interests that facilitated the project as a whole, it is thorough, engaging, and well-worth a read. Check out the full report here.