In modern times the use of nuclear weapons against the enemies of the United States (US) is an expensive proposition, both politically and socially. The weapons in the US nuclear stockpile have only been utilized twice in the history of war. Nuclear weapons indiscriminately terminate any living organism within the blast radius and leave radioactive contamination in the air, soil and water of the targeted area. Descendants of survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki still suffer from health problems that can be linked to the use of nuclear weapons. .
The technology currently available to the US allows its scientists and military strategists to produce a safer more effective alternative to nuclear weapons. Kinetic weapons, deployed from Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM), are the best replacement for the aging nuclear arsenal.
The US maintains a considerable store of nuclear weapons, which includes approximately 10,600 warheads, 7,650 of those are classified as deployable. Approximately 1,600 are used in conjunction with ICBMs and 2,880 are utilized on SLBMs. (NRDC July/August 2003) This means that 58% of the deployable arsenal is assigned for use on ICBM/SLBM. That is a considerable amount of nuclear material that could be replaced with non-nuclear elements. The old warheads could then be dismantled and rendered safe to the environment.
During the research and development phase of kinetic energy weapons, developers decided to use either tungsten or depleted uranium. The US produces roughly 3,000 to 5,000 metric tons of tungsten annually. (USGS, 1998) Depleted uranium is marginally more dense, cheaper to process and more pyrophoric (spontaneously combustible) than tungsten, but has been deemed a health hazard since the Persian Gulf War. .
Kinetic weapons can achieve almost all the desired effects of nuclear weapons without the draw backs.