The revolutionary increase in the lethality of US nuclear forces

By | March 2, 2017

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has published a revelatory new article that describes how the United States nuclear forces modernization program has been mischaracterized to the general public as a reasonable effort to update the safety of US nuclear warheads. The authors, Hans M. Kristensen, Matthew G. McKinzie, and Theodore A. Postol, write that the reality of the US modernization program is instead an implementation of revolutionary new technologies that have serious implications for strategic stability and international perceptions of US nuclear intentions.

As the article states: “This increase in capability is astonishing—increasing the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three—and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.”

The development of this alarming new technology will cast a grim shadow over US-Russia relations, already under strain from growing Russian investments in its nuclear arsenal, and increases the chances of nuclear war with either Russia or China. Read the article at

About the authors:

Hans M. Kristensen is the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists and the co-author of the Nuclear Notebook in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Matthew G. McKinzie is the director of the Nuclear Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD in experimental nuclear physics from the University of Pennsylvania and has conducted research at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Theodore A. Postol is a physicist and professor of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT. His expertise is in ballistic missile defense technologies and ballistic missiles more generally. He is a former analyst at the Office of Technology Assessment and science and policy adviser to the chief of naval operations.

Additional Reading:

Russian nuclear forces, 2017

Coming to grips with emerging technological threats

About the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists engages science leaders, policy makers, and the interested public on topics of nuclear weapons and disarmament, the changing energy landscape, climate change, and emerging technologies. We do this through our award-winning journal, iconic Doomsday Clock, public access website, and regular set of convenings. With smart, vigorous prose, multimedia presentations, and information graphics, the Bulletin puts issues and events into context and provides fact-based debates and assessments. For more than 70 years, the Bulletin has bridged the technology divide between scientific research, foreign policy, and public engagement.

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