Nanotechnology will make it possible to develop new kinds of weapons of mass destruction.
Nanotechnology has the potential to create entirely new weapons. Fourth-generation nuclear weapons are new types of nuclear explosives that would use inertial confinement fusion (ICF) facilities.
The defining technical characteristic of fourth-generation nuclear weapons is the triggering - by some advanced technology such as a superlaser - of a relatively small thermonuclear explosion in which a deuterium-tritium mixture is burnt in a device whose weight and size are not much larger than a few kilograms. Since the yield of these warheads could go from a fraction of a ton to many tens of tons of high-explosive equivalent, their delivery by precision-guided munitions or other means will dramatically increase the fire-power of those who possess them - without crossing the threshold of using kiloton-to-megaton nuclear weapons, and therefore without breaking the taboo against the first-use of WMD. Moreover, since these new weapons will use no (or very little) fissionable materials, they are expected to produce virtually no radioactive fallout.
The problem this poses is that as nanotech manufacturing equipment becomes available for purchase many more groups and countries will be able to make weapons that are currently beyond their technical ability to build. The ability to build nuclear weapons with little or no fissionable materials will remove another obstacle. Countries that are now struggling to buy and build uranium and plutonium enrichment facilities (e.g. Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and perhaps Libya) will suddenly find that the size of that problem will shrink by orders of magnitude.
The threats posed by the spread of WMD into the hands of more governments and to terrorist organizations will grow enormously as technology advances throughout the 21st century.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2003 January 21 08:55 AM Dangers Nanotech|