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Nuclear Weapons Flaw Whistleblower or LN Chump?

Guest Tom Scully

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Guest Tom Scully

Police seize guns after Los Alamos standoff

Ex-LANL physicist being held for psychiatric evaluation

Geoff Grammer | The New Mexican

Posted: Friday, January 14, 2011 - 1/

High-powered weapons and ammunition were among the items seized from the home of a former Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist who has become increasingly paranoid and outspoken against the lab and the government.

Los Alamos police trying to serve a warrant arrested Richard Lee Morse, 75, outside his 1350 Bathtub Row home at 11:45 a.m. Thursday when "he just came out to throw some trash away" after nearly 19 hours, according to Los Alamos Capt. Randy Foster.

A search warrant executed Thursday on Morse's home netted the discovery of three guns — a .30-06 rifle, a .22-caliber rifle and a 9 mm Beretta pistol — and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, including 661 rounds for the powerful .30-06 rifle alone. As a condition of his release from jail for a pending criminal case, Morse was not allowed to own a gun.

"It's very concerning that somebody in that mental state would have these types of weapons — certainly the .30-06 is a formidable weapon and the 9 mm is a rapid-fire weapon that can be very dangerous," Sgt. DeWayne Williams told the Los Alamos Monitor on Friday...

...Morse in the past had high levels of government clearance as a weapons physicist who, among other projects, worked on development of the $128 million W76 submarine nuclear missile warhead in the 1970s.

Morse left the lab in 1976, and in recent years spoke out publicly after saying his internal protests were ignored about a design flaw with the warhead that would leave the United States at risk.

"We're vulnerable as hell," Morse said in a 2004 Associated Press article.

He also alleged that competition between LANL and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California led to weapons designers in Los Alamos cutting corners.

He argued the casing of the warhead was too thin.

More recently, Morse had become increasingly paranoid, telling The New Mexican that federal agents had him under surveillance and that security officers were holding his wife...

,,,The Monitor interviewed Morse in the Los Alamos County jail Thursday and reported the man seemed confused about the standoff.

...Santa Fe attorney Aaron Boland, representing Morse for his pending criminal case before Pfeffer, did not return a call from The New Mexican on Friday afternoon, but acknowledge to the Monitor that his client was dealing with mental issues...

"I'm a small cog that has known great men," he said. "Never mind me — you've got to get rid of this NNSA bunch otherwise this place is going to wash down the Rio (Grande)."

He added to the Monitor, "This is happening to me because I blew the whistle on the W-76."

Los Alamos police say they do not intend to charge Morse with any new charges stemming from this week's standoff, but will keep him incarcerated until his psychiatric evaluation.

Is it odd that this LN's own attorney is publicly discrediting him? Was Morse crazy to design this trash in the

first place, or when he blew the whistle, or now, or always? Are old Soviet nukes more or less flawed than ours might be? Let's ask the "experts"!


...W76 Development ScheduleMay 1973 Development engineering begun at LANL

November 1975 Production engineering begun

June 1978 First production units completed

November 1978 Quantity production begun

July 1987 Production completed

2000 Planning begun for the W76-1/Mk-4A life extension modification.

9/2007 Delivery of first W76-1 planned.


Initial manufacture June 1978

Initial deployment 1978

About 3400 W76 warheads have been manufactured.

Currently in service: 3030 warheads

The first W76 warheads are approaching the end of their originally planned 30 year service life in 2008. This led to the initiation of the W76-1/Mk-4A life extension program in 2000 to refurbish the warheads for decades of further service. The first W76-1 is planned for delivery in September 2007 with completion in 2017.

Under the START II treaty 1280 W76 warheads were to be kept in service. With SORT (the "Moscow Treaty") the expected number of SLBM warheads is expected to be between 1000 and 1200, with 400 of these being the W88. The remaining 600-800 would be W76-1s.

A New York Times article by William Broad ("A Fierce Debate on Atom Bombs From Cold War") published 3 April 2005, reported the existence of a debate about the reliability of the W76:

Several factors lie behind the current worries and repair plans. The W-76 is one of the arsenal's oldest warheads. As warheads age, the risk of internal rusting, material degradation, corrosion, decay and the embrittling of critical parts increases.

The overhaul to forestall such decay is scheduled to go from 2007 to 2017. In all, it is expected to cost more than $2 billion, say experts who have analyzed federal budget figures.

Questions also surround the weapon's basic design. Four knowledgeable critics, three former scientists and one current one at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, which designed the W-76, have recently argued that the weapon is highly unreliable and, if not a complete dud, likely to explode with a force so reduced as to compromise its effectiveness.

"This is the one we worry about the most," said Everet H. Beckner, who oversees the arsenal as director of defense programs at the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The chief concern regarding the warhead's design is the extremely light radiation case employed:

Leaders at Los Alamos wanted the case to be as lightweight as possible, so they envisioned it as extraordinarily thin - in places not much thicker than a beer can (albeit with plastic backing for added strength).

Its physical integrity was vital. The case had to hang together for microseconds as the exploding atom bomb generated temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun, forcing it to emit radiation that kindled the thermonuclear fire. If the case deformed significantly or shattered prematurely, the weapon would fail, its thermonuclear fuel unlit.

Although the very small performance margin implicit in this design caused concern when it was first developed the current controversy stems from a reivew of the warhead conducted in 1995-1996. Richard L. Morse, a physicist at Los Alamos until 1976 returned in 1996 to participate in the review.

Morse, who directed advanced concepts for bomb design as well as a separate group devoted to laser fusion, initiated simulation studies of the W76 and found that the margins were so thin that tiny irregularities in manufacture could lead to turbulence that would disrupt the case causing the weapon to fail.

Although this issue was dropped at the time, Morse reintroduced it in 2003 during work on the W76-1 life extension modification. Although the subject of a heated March 2004 secret meeting at Los Alamos, no work on this issue is known to have been initiated.

...and the concern of the Los Alamos cops and the reporter who wrote the article was,

..."It's very concerning that somebody in that mental state would have these types of weapons — certainly the .30-06 is a formidable weapon and the 9 mm is a rapid-fire weapon that can be very dangerous," Sgt. DeWayne Williams told the Los Alamos Monitor on Friday...

...and not that Morse seems to have been the primary driver of a delay in a life extension program for 3,000 nuclear war heads at the least, or that he might be right that these are 3,000 thin walled time bombs, or maybe he was unstable when he was designing these monstrous weapons, in the first place.

Ahh, the irony, and the joke may just be on us.

Edited by Tom Scully
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