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19 September 2005

Neutrality with a kilo-Attitude: the A-Bombs Switzerland never quite built

Delivery System

Fooey. Agence Vleeptron-Presse's Man On The Ground in Helvetia must be on holiday again, we can't reach him by e-mail or cell phone. So we'll have to filch the History of the Swiss Nuclear Weapons Program by ourselves.

But if he ever answers his phone, maybe he can cast a little light and mention a few details about this stuff.

Very curious. And there's a Moral: Switzerland saved itself a Huge Bundle of francs by NOT ever building nuclear weapons! For those who like that "What if ...?" stuff -- how economically prosperous would Switzerland be today if it had spent fS 2,100,000,000 on A-bombs they'd almost certainly never have used? The USA is rich and prosperous, but we still don't have INFINITE amounts of money. And the amount of dollars we've flushed down the Black Hole of nuclear weapons and delivery systems -- well, our grassroots anti-nuke folks are always bumper-stickering about how many schools we could have built for the cost of just one B1 Bomber.

And though the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are almost conventional and almost don't involve radioactive weapons, President George W. Bush just announced he was going to

1. rebuild the Gulf Coast after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina

2. keep fighting the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

3. AND not raise taxes.

Maybe money DOES grow on trees in the USA! Maybe the streets really ARE paved with Gold! Where the heck are these streets and orchards?

Earlier PatsPub and Bob Commented a little back and forth about why the USA has been acting so Politically Strangely since 9/11/01.

Vleeptron said: FEAR!!!!

Apparently when the US-USSR Cold War was at its H-Bomb ICBM Hottest, Neutral Switzerland was not entirely immune from FEAR!!!! and from acting a little politically goofy, too. Sometimes even in Switzerland, the Sky Is Falling, Hannibal's At The Gates, and The Martians Have Invaded!


and Vleeptron throws in Sweden for free! (And notes, sadly, that its famous referendum to stop building and using nuclear power plants by 2010 apparently doesn't really mean what the Swedish people thought it would mean.)


In 1995 previously secret studies into nuclear weapons and plans for deployment came to light. A scientific group, the SKA (Study Commission for Nuclear Energy), had been formed in 1946 with the objective of studying the civil use of atomic energy and by secret order to also study the scientific and technical bases for building nuclear weapons. The activity of this group was rather low and only slow progress was made. The intensifying Cold War and the arms race of the mid-fifties provided new impetus however.

A secret commission, "Study Commission for the Possible Acquisition of Own Nuclear Arms", was instituted by Head of General Staff, Louis de Montmollin with a meeting on 29 March 1957. The recommendations of the commission were ultimately favorable, and on 23 December 1958 the Federal Council of Ministers instructed the Federal Military Department (EMD) to investigate the effects, the acquisition, the purchase and the manufacture of nuclear arms. Efforts remained focused on study and planning rather than implementation however.

By 1963 planning had proceeded to the point that detailed technical proposals, specific arsenals, and cost estimates were made. Dr. Paul Schmid prepared a 58-page thick report laying the theoretical foundations for Swiss nuclear armaments on 15 November 1963. On 28 November 1963, the Lower Chief of General Staff: Planning, calculated costs of 720 million Swiss francs over 35 years, initially including 20 million francs for pure research. Should the decision be for plutonium instead of super-enriched uranium, then the estimate would be 2,100 million francs over 27 years.

[VLEEPTRON TECHNICAL NOTE: Apparently plutonium bombs are more expensive, but quicker to build, than bombs of enriched uranium.]

On 4 May 1964 the military joint staff issued a recommendation to have about 100 bombs (60-100 kt), 50 artillery shells (5 kt) and 100 rockets (100 kt) within the next 15 years, at costs of about 750 million Swiss francs. There were plans for 7 underground nuclear tests in 'uninhabited regions' of Switzerland ("an area with a radius of 2-3 km that can be sealed off completely").

[VLEEPTRON ADMISSION OF GEOGRAPHICAL IGNORANCE: Where in Switzerland can you detonate an Atomic Bomb so it doesn't bother anybody and nobody even knows you detonated an A-Bomb?]

Financial problems with the defense budget in 1964 prevented the substantial sums required from being allocated. Continuing financial short-falls prevented the proposed effort from getting off the ground. Then, on 27 November 1969, Switzerland signed the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Arms (NTP). The official (but unimplemented) policy of acquiring nuclear weapons was replaced by one of simply studying acquisition to provide a policy option should the NTP collapse.

The Working Committee for Nuclear Issues (AAA) was created, but met only 27 times between 1969 and 1988. As the thaw and rapprochement between the United States and Soviet Union proceeded in the late eighties the activity of the AAA seemed less and less relevant. Finally, it remained for the AAA to apply for its own dissolution, which was decided unanimously with one abstention. Accordingly, on 1 November 1988, Minister of State, Arnold Koller, drew the final stroke through the issue of Swiss nuclear armaments.

The first Swiss nuclear reactor (a heavy water test reactor) was built in 1960. Switzerland has five power reactors with a combined capacity of 3049 MW [megaWatts] (electrical), providing 40% of the nation's power.


In 1989 Sweden operated 12 power reactors producing 10130 MW electrical (45% of its total electricity), by 1994 this had risen to 51%. A previous referendum that voted to eliminate nuclear power by 2010 seems to have become moot in the face of economic reality.


Blogger pat's pub said...

man, the ed is getting a bit impatient,
eh ? Don't give The Man On The Ground a hard time for not being in time.
I was just doing research on the story just now. Quite interesting stuff. Apparently the famous Prof Paul Scherrer (who later founded the Paul Scherrer Institute)wasinvolved in this project as well...stay tuned as we bring you the news you can use..


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