Archives For Nuclear weapons safety

Titan launch (Image source: USAF)

The human face of nuclear weapons safety

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As my parents in law live in Chelyabinsk I have to admit a personal interest in the recent Russian meteor impact. Continue Reading…

Just finished giving my post on Lessons from Nuclear Weapons Safety a rewrite.

The original post is, as the title implies, about what we can learn from the principled base approach to safety adopted by the US DOE nuclear weapons safety community. Hopefully the rewrite will make it a little clearer, I can be opaque as a writer sometimes. 🙂

P.S. I probably should look at integrating the 3I principles introduced into this post on the philosophy of safety critical systems.

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One of the canonical design principles of the nuclear weapons safety community is to base the behaviour of safety devices upon fundamental physical principles. For example a nuclear weapon firing circuit might include capacitors in the firing circuit that, in the event of a fire, will always fail to open circuit thereby safing the weapon. The safety of the weapon in this instance is assured by devices whose performance is based on well understood and predictable material properties.
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At the height of the cold war with bombers carrying nuclear weapons on airborne alert and the strategic forces of both sides on a knife edge the possibility that a nuclear weapon could go off purely by accident and trigger nuclear war was a disquieting one.

Both sides realised that the risk of inadvertently starting World War III had to be minimised, and on the American side after several near misses in the 40s and 50s engineers at Los Alamos and Sandia labs started to work seriously on how to prevent nuclear weapons from going off by accident.

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