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Recent Reports and Publications
on Eliminate Nuclear Weapons

Natural Resources Defense Council;

Exposing the U.S. Nuclear War Plan.

06/2001--More than a decade after the end of the Cold War, both the United States and Russia maintain vast nuclear arsenals. The United States still has 550 ICBMs -- long-range missiles that can reach Moscow in a half an hour -- stored in silos throughout the West. A single U.S. nuclear submarine carries up to 192 warheads and could kill or maim about a third of Russia's population, some 50 million people. The United States has 18 of these submarines. All told, the explosive power of America's nuclear warheads is 100,000 times greater than the single Hiroshima bomb. And our nuclear war plan keeps many of these weapons on hair-trigger alert.

Since the Eisenhower administration, the SIOP war plan has dictated how U.S. nuclear forces would be used in a war. With broad guidance from the president, the secretary of defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the staff of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) works out the inscrutably complex details of the plan. It is STRATCOM that designs and maintains the list of targets for nuclear attacks.

The targets war planners identify include Russian nuclear bases and other military targets, urban industrial targets, and leadership headquarters. Using sophisticated computer programs, planners calculate how hard each target will be to destroy and how many nuclear weapons should be assigned to it. They take a large number of variables into account -- the explosive power of different weapons, how resistant the target is to attack, the impact point, the proximity of civilians to the target, the choreography of many different types of weapons arriving at different times, and fallout patterns, among others. In Eisenhower's day the plan described simple one-blow massive attacks -- with projected fatalities approaching half a billion -- but over the years the plan has evolved into a more complex array of "attack options," including many smaller plans based on the controversial notion that it may be possible to fight a limited nuclear war.

Related Links

  • Go to the report online
  • Press release online
  • NRDC Nuclear Weapons and Waste Program

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