my apologies if this has already been posted.
this article is of immense topical importance and appears in today's print edition of the Tribune.
i am unable to post a link. computer savvy rakshaks or mods may please post the headline and attach/ edit the rest as i am not aware of the protocols/ copyright issues involved.
A Tribune Special
To test or not to test
K. Santhanam and Ashok Parthasarathi join the scientists’ debate
WE respond to R. Ramachandran’s article, “Why There is No Case for Further Nuclear Tests” (The Hindu, September 25, 2009). His main points are: “technical information published by the Department of Atomic Energy does not show Pokhran-II (P-2) was unsuccessful”; (b) an assertion: there are compelling arguments against need for resuming (thermonuclear (H-bomb) device testing). Even if it was so i.e. even if the thermonuclear test was a failure (c) “the DAE employed different techniques to estimate test yields (i.e. power outputs); (d) yield values from other five tests “are stated to be”! (by BARC) consistent with its original estimate of 60 kilotonnes (a bomb’s output equal to 60,000 tonnes of TNT) for the two main tests on May 11, 1998, i.e. a 45-kt (thermonuclear or TN) device and a 15 kt A-bomb exploded simultaneously. Of these, post-shot Radio-Chemical Method (RCM) (of device yield measurement) considered most accurate; (e) both A-bomb “trigger” and main H-bomb produce a type of nuclear particles called Neutrons.
However, H-bomb devices, produce more Neutrons than A-bombs. This leads to considerably larger amounts of two artificially created radio-isotopes — Manganese 54 and Sodium 22 — being produced by the TN device than the A-bomb. This higher ratio of Manganese 54: Sodium22 in the H-bomb explosion does provide an “idea” of the A–vs – H-bomb/device yields (no numbers at all; only “an idea” of relative yield magnitudes); and this is supposed to be nuclear “physics”!).
The writer’s justification: “The absolute values and scale of this higher ratio, (in TN device case) withheld for “obvious” sensitivity reasons, but qualitative difference in levels is evident”. The writer’s source: a BARC Newsletter article (July 1999). It is not a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
(f) His last technical “scoring-point” is a “desperate explanation” of why and how, while the “pure” A-bomb of the BARC-claimed yield of only 15 kt – when its collaborator in P-2 – DRDO, and our top scientific institutions, as also numerous top nuclear weapons laboratories worldwide, have rated it at much higher 20-25 kt, produced a crater 25 meters in diameter — which the BARC dishonestly-claimed yield of only 15 kt could never have produced — the BARC–claimed -to-be-“successful” -H-bomb-of-45 kt, – thrice as powerful – even at BARC de-rated 15 kt yield pure ‘A’ bomb – produced no crater at all when a genuine 45 kt TN device, even common sense tell us, should have produced a gigantic crater. He says “at some low enough TN device emplacements, i.e. deep enough shafts, there would (only be) upheaval within the shaft) but no material... There would be no crater”!
Here is our response. As regards Mr Ramachandran’s regurgitation of the BARC argument that it used different techniques in yield estimation, he was not personally involved in the tests. Mr Santhanam was one of the four key scientists directing P-2 from day 1. So, he can only say “45 kt fusion device and 15 kt fission bomb “are stated to be” (by BARC) “consistent with original estimates”. On what basis can he say this when those estimates are highly classified?
As for post-shot RCM being “most accurate” (for nuclear explosions yield (power) estimation), former BARC Director’s Radiochemistry Division (RCD) told us: “I measured yield of (P-I) (1974) using Mass Spectrometry (MS) method. A microgram of plutonium was separated from sample taken near core of device, and its isotopic composition — which does not change with various transformations caused by nuclear tests — measured.
The MS technique considered internationally the most accurate and reliable method for yield estimation even more accurate than RCM (which the writer tomtoms about, without knowing about nuclear weapon yield measurement). The MSM is far less sensitive to major weakness of the RCM. That’s why Dr Ramanna, former BARC Director, former AEC Chairman, and Mission Director P-1, insisted on the MS method for (P-1) yield estimation in 1974. If the MS method was used in (P-2) also, why exclude it in the BARC’s briefing to Mr Ramachandran?
Using S.B. Manohar’s article (BARC Newsletter, July 9, 1999) on RCM to determine TN device yield lacks credibility as it is an inhouse publication.
As for the BARC argument, the TN device produced “copious amounts” of Sodium-22 and Manganese-54 isotopes “characteristic of fusion reactions”, in the absence of exact numbers, it is an unsubstantiated assertion. A “fizzled” TN device also produces “copious amounts” of these isotopes.
Moreover, mere presence of isotopes is not a quantitative yield measure. It can at best be a qualitative indicator. This obfuscation becomes worse when the writer said, “…it does provide an idea of the comparative (i.e. H-bomb vis-a-vis A-bomb) yields”! As a scientist, he ought to know that precise quantified statements are core of science and scientific credibility. Using an imprecise phrase like “copious amounts” begs the question.
“The classified exact plutonium mass in the core of the (P-1) device may not have been known to the RC Division of BARC after P-1. However, RC measurements in RCD’s report indicated yield are significantly lower than Ramanna’s and Chidambaram’s claim. So, RCD’s report on yield of (P-1) was frozen by Ramanna and Chidambaram and consigned to the archives”!
The writer then moves to our statement that had TN test really worked, the 120-meter deep shaft at the bottom of which the TN device was emplaced, would have been totally destroyed and its deepest portions even vapourised. There would, in addition, have been enormous surface damage to even massive 2-tonne and 8-meter high tripod “A-frame” astride the shaft’s mouth. This “A-Frame” has a complex set of winches and pullies connected at their bottom to a lift-like “container” to lower and raise personnel, equipment and materials to and from the bottom of the shaft when the TN device is being assembled would have been shattered.
Both were totally intact after the TN device test. Mr Ramachandran has ignored this damning evidence that the TN device failed! He moves to the issue of cratering, using the BARC’s arguments on geological and TN device-related factors preventing crater formation by 45 kt yield TN device. Based on 25 metre diameter crater formed by 20-25 kt “pure” A-bomb (which BARC rates at only 15 kt yield), the DRDO calculated a 60-70 meter diameter crater should have been formed by the latter fully confirmed by the ARC. Thus, one needs a cogent response from Mr Ramachandran why and how such a phenomenon is supposed to have occurred.
The super hi-tech ARC, independent of both BARC and DRDO with a 365 x 24 x 7 operated very large seismic array, 10-15 per cent more sensitive and accurate than DRDO’s, measured all the seismic signals from all P-2 tests. Their calculations, far more sophisticated than BARC’s, indicated a TN device yield at only 20 kt max.
Mr Ramachandran then moves to the article by former DRDO chief and strategic affairs analyst, V.S. Arunachalam and K. Subramanian, respectively (The Hindu, September 21). They say, even a 25 kt A-bomb’s damage on enemy city targets with large populations would be ‘unacceptable’ to any adversary and so such A- bombs would be enough for us to deter even China having 200 deployed H- bombs of 3.3-5 megatons yields each.
Surprisingly, though they argued for decades that H-bombs were central to our Credible Minimum Deterrent (CMD), they suddenly say A-bombs (which cannot yield more than 80 kt max) are enough. Why? Sour grapes following the TN device failure and no weaponisation for the last 11 years! China would be totally undeterred by our piffling A-bomb “arsenal” of yields.
We reiterate our view, fully shared by the overwhelming majority of our nuclear scientists, strategic analysts and, above all, our military, that a sole A-bomb arsenal is grossly inadequate to be a CMD against China; only TN bombs can do so. Otherwise, why did four Prime Ministers (including Mr Vajpayee and his NSA Mr Brajesh Mishra) direct the top of BARC-DRDO leadership — Mr Kalam, Mr Chidambaram, Mr Santhanam and Mr Kakodkar — that one Pokhran-II test at least must be a TN device?
The current “controversy” over the failure of the sole H-bomb test of P-2 is the only case of the long history of DAE, BARC being “highly economic with truth” and using such “economy” to protect themselves from public criticism of major failures in various programmes and projects. The failures have been screened from public gaze on unwarranted and secrecy grounds.
Worse, the DAE has tried to hide facts from successive governments, Parliament and the people, causing damage to our nuclear programme and national security. The Prime Minister and the Union Cabinet must help stop this. The nation waits with bated breath if they can or will.
K. Santhanam is a former Chief Adviser (Technologies), DRDO and Programme Director, Pokhran II; and Ashok Parthasarathi is a former Scientific and Technology Adviser to late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi