Notes on Trident Nuclear Weapons Safety
Working Paper

Published By


January 1995

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This report summarizes analytical work completed on the Trident SLBM nuclear weapons safety issue. First, we evaluated the increase in low levels of risk of death from cancer from potential plutonium dispersal accidents at the Trident base at Kings Bay, Georgia. Specifically, we estimated the number of latent cancer fatalities resulting from a hypothetical worst-case accident involving a 10-kilogram release of weapons-grade plutonium aerosol at Kings Bay with the wind direction toward downtown Jacksonville, located 55 kilometers away. The estimated number of long-term cancer deaths ranges from 5 to 3300 and depends on a number of factors and assumptions including deposition velocity, wind speed and direction, the nature of the plume, and mixing layer height.

Second, we applied a simple, "back ofthe envelope" risk-analytic approach to the Trident safety problem to try to shed some light on the key question: How much should be spent on safety modifications for Trident? Depending on a variety of assumptions and value judgments, our analysis suggests that if one believes that the probability of a serious accident over the 30-year Trident program lifetime is of order 0.01 to 0.10, then an expenditure of $1-5 billion to increase safety is not unwarranted given reasonable estimates of the consequences of such an accident.

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