Liberation Day minus 7758 (log#4)

Aaron Tovish
5 min readMay 7, 2024

While I am waiting for the Xi/Bi letter to go out, let me take this occasion to go into greater depth on the logistical challenge the Liberation Day presents. If you have in mind, as the final step in nuclear disarmament, each possessor state, dismantling its final Bomb, think again. The image this conjures up in my mind is an airplane finally touching down after a long descent glide to the airstrip. Scrap that image.

Try this one instead: a helicopter approaches the airfield at altitude, hovers and lands straight down. While this could be the last several meters, it is more likely to be tens or even hundred of meters. That is, the final act of disablement (not dismantlement) is likely to involve hundreds, if not thousands, of Bombs.

How can thousands of Bombs be disabled essentially simultaneously?

The rough and ready answer is: with the participation of thousands of well trained hands.

The detailed logistics will need to be worked out as we countdown (good that we start with a big number!). But several broad categories requiring attention can be discerned immediately.

(1) Security measures to thwart any attempt to fake the disablement procedures.

(2) Well trained and practiced disablers so that the procedure is successful.

(3) Advanced deployments to ensure all personnel are on site well before the appointed Moment.

(4) Rigorously tested communication links to ensure all sites are in mutual video/audio contact.

(5) Onsite security to ensure no disturbances while disablement is underway.

(6) Back-up, cut-and-dirty disablement measures (such as crushing the Bomb) to be doubly sure that any initial failure is dealt with immediately.

Before going into more detail on each of these points, there is also one very important prerequisite: accounting. All the parties (including non-possessors) have to be convinced that ALL existing Bombs are on the “chopping block”. This is no small task. As Liberation Day rolls around, we will be dealing with a century of Bomb making. Unravelling the history of production, recycling, and dismantlement of the Bombs will be a time consuming process. Deliberations on how to go about credibly accounting for every Bomb, past and present, should begin yesterday (i.e. without delay).

One helpful measure would be for all Bomb making to stop as well as all special fissionable material production, fondly referred to as a fizzban. This measure has been considered a priority item in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) .. for decades. For a long time the US blocked it, now Pakistan is the blocker (all 65 CD members have a veto over its “work program”). Pakistan wants the ban to include the elimination of stockpiles. (Presumably, it believes India has a larger one.)

A possible compromise, would be an end to production together with sequestration (and accounting!) of the stockpiles, for later down-blending to non-weapon-grade material. This would set the stage for attention to be directed toward the Special Materials currently within Bombs.

The down-blending would best be largely completed prior to Liberation Day. The material that comes out of the disabled Bombs when they are dismantled, will also need to be down-blended and it would be good if the “deck was clear” to expedite action.

So, back to concern (1). One does not want a disablement team to be able to conspire to fake disablement. This would be best assured by training disablers separately and then joining them up in teams randomly on the Day. (Double-blind, the works.) The disablers would not even need to know which site they were being shipped to until getting on the plane there.

The disablers should work in a common language and any recourse to another language would be strictly prohibited. Everyone on the team should be as fully in the know as everyone else.

Concern (2). A veritable army of disablers needs to be trained from as many nationalities as possible. The basic qualification would be a degree in engineering. Different Bombs would require different procedures. Each disabler needs to be trained to handle a few Bomb types. (Note that knowledge on how to disable a Bomb is NOT equivalent to knowledge on how to build one.)

Participating nations should adopt laws that ensure that the regular careers of the disablers are not jeopardized by participation in training and the days around the Day itself. The disablers will be heroes upon returning home, and should be feted in the Liberation Celebration.

Concern (3). Several major airlines need to be recruited to ferry the disablers and security personnel to all the nearest airports to the disablement sites (and home again a few days late). Ideally, they would agree to do this on a not-for-profit basis. As the number of travellers could easily exceed ten thousand, this may require new systems to ensure “just-on-time delivery”.

The local arrangements will need to ensure the comfort of the disablers and security personnel as they have demanding work ahead of them. Local hosts should be trained in advance and certified as prepared.

Concern (4). The Moment is literally the same few seconds worldwide. The disablement procedure will pause just prior to the key disablement step. When everyone has signaled that they a ready to proceed, there will be a “final countdown” to the disablement action. Within tens of seconds it should be established how many of the disablement were carried out successfully. The few failures would be immediately subject to the back-up option (probably crushing the Bomb).

Obviously, the communication links have to be robust and redundant. Several telecommunication companies need to be recruited to this task on a not-for-profit basis.

Concern (5). Not everyone in the world will be “on board” for Liberation Day. Dissenters (and terrorists) must be kept away from the disablement sites. Local security and international dedicated security will need to scout out the situation at each site and plan and train accordingly.

After disablement, the ex-Bombs will need to be taken to dismantlement facilities for the extraction of the special fissionable materials. As these materials can still be used for “dirty bombs” it is important that security be maintained throughout.

Clearly, this will not be an inexpensive undertaking. I venture to say it will be in the range of a billion dollars. This is still a bargain compared to the cost of maintaining the arsenals for further decades and peanuts compared to the damage of even a limited nuclear war.

The immediate task is the recruitment of some systems engineers and logistics specialists to scope out the scale of the operation. Or operations; that is, being ready for a hundreds-of-Bombs scenario or a thousands-of-Bombs scenario. Former Bomb designers need to figure out how to train people to disable without exposing top secret design information. There are many people working for the International Atomic Energy Agency who would be highly qualified to tackle these tasks.

Ted Taylor, God rest his soul, designed artillery-shell Bombs in the 1950s and 60s. He proposed an ingenuous means of disabling fission-fusion bombs. The plutonium pit is hollow to accommodate the fusion gas. A shape-memory wire, could be threaded down the tiny pipe used for injecting the gas. Once inside, an electric current would convert its straight shape back into its original spring shape. This would make it impossible to remove through the pipe, and would disrupt any implosion of the plutonium (which must be ultra precise). Any attempt to denotate it would fail to cause either a fission or fusion reaction, resulting “only” a dirty bomb.

While governments, especially, the possessor states should foot the bill for the Disablement Moment, we cannot wait for them to pony up. This is where the Liberation Celebration enters the picture. More on that in the next log.

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