Complex Systems

Nuclear Weapon Pits: Burn Them or Bury Them? A Richardsonian Energy Competition Decision Model Download PDF

Alvin M. Saperstein
Department of Physics and
Center for Peace and Conflict Studies,
Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202, USA


Since decision making in the face of emotionally laden problems and incomplete information is very difficult, it is useful to develop and test alternative decision methodologies and/or criteria. One approach is to enlarge the system in which the decision is to be made, for example, go from a national system to an international one, as well as to alter the decision criteria. This paper is a heuristic test of such an approach: the goal is to see how such a method could be developed, not to produce and validate a definitive policy, national or international. The test problem is the disposal of nuclear materials from demobilized nuclear weapons - currently a contentious domestic problem in the United States. In the extension of this paper, the criteria are richardsonian stability and the absence of chaos in a model of the world system including several nuclear nations such as the U. S. A modified Richardson model is created in which two nations compete over finite world energy supplies. Additional civilian energy may also be available from recycling the fissionable nuclear materials from demobilized nuclear weapons. Alternatively, these surplus fissionable materials may be disposed of without civilian use of their nuclear energy. Under fairly general conditions, the demand for Richardson stability in the model and the absence of chaos (or crisis instability) implies that reuse of the nuclear weapon materials for civil energy purposes is more conducive to international stability than is disposal without reuse. Obviously, other decision paradigms, such as economics, also have to be applied before rational choices can actually be made.