Global Thermonuclear War (taken from War Games) is an unwinnable game. It consists of the United States launching a large number of fusion warheads at the Russians and then the Russians launch large numbers of fusion warheads at the United States.

Everyone then dies.

A fun game you can play with your entire class. The teacher picks a number, and writes it down on a piece of paper. Everybody else then picks their own numbers (one each) and write it on a piece of paper, with their name attached. The ballots are then compared. The person with the biggest number wins, unless the total of all the numbers is bigger than the number the teacher picked, in which case everybody loses. Best played iteratively, like the prisoner's dilemma, with the teacher varying the range of numbers from 2 to 613 to c.

"And the prince smote the cities of his enemies with the new fire, and for three days and
nights did his great catapults and metal birds rain wrath upon them."
- A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter Miller

We are doomed. Our societies and civilization, possibly all mankind, will end in fire. Since the Trinity test, the human race has had the power of quick self-termination, and as things are now it’s only a matter of time.

Full-scale global thermonuclear war is unfashionable now that the Cold War is over and the Sword of Damocles hidden, and in vogue are concerns of limited nukings and regional devastation. But the weapons are still there, over 22000 of them – far more than enough – and the genie is out the bottle as the knowledge and potential of nuke-making spreads ever further. The bullet was dodged by losing the circumstances for committing apocalypse, not the means.

There will be new threats; how could there not? The stage of world politics turned upside down several times in the last hundred years alone. What can happen in the next fifty? Hundred? Two hundred? New nuclear standoffs, new World Wars, possibly far more brutal ones. In the Cold War the USA and the USSR, used the wonderfully named MAD doctrine for decades,would’ve killed millions out of hatred, and made it out in significant part due to luck, but as powers go, were still comparatively sane.

That’s why the Nazi atrocities are so fervently remembered in some parts of the world: not to suffer from the sins of the fathers, but because monsters are neither unique nor inhuman.

The playfield is shifting, but the threat of nuclear holocaust is a constant. This has been likened to playing Russian roulette over and over again: Sooner and later the chamber will have a bullet, and then will follow the mightiest of funeral pyres. The Flame Deluge. Doomsday.

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.Mahatma Gandhi

If we’re to lengthen the stay of execution, or even gain a reprieve, we must grow. Otherwise, even if the bomb was somehow tamed and neutralized, in would step the now less immediate dangers of the bug and the vapor, and that’s just in the foreseeable future. Compassion and humanity have become not just very good ideas, but vital, for in a world with such destructive power striking out in fear and hatred and greed is an unaffordable menace.

It boils down to the realization that we are all human beings and acting like it, the rejection of the concept as Them as foreign and inferior, which so often also comes to mean inhuman and worth killing for who they are. We are they and they are us. Love your enemy.

To survive, we’ve conquered beasts and predators, countless diseases, all but the most catastrophic weather conditions, the secrets of one advance after another... now, we have to conquer our own selves. As the risk is unprecedented, so are the tools. The flow of information has turned into a torrent, and the Internet allows people to mingle like never before. The task is herculean and many decry it as impossible – but then again, to someone just a few generations back we’d appear to be surrounded by impossibilities. The alternative is destroying ourselves to protect ourselves from ourselves.

Maybe having our backs against the wall will be reason enough to build the world we should’ve built a long time ago.

Maybe there’s a chance.

Start today.

While it is true that modern multi-stage nuclear weapons utilize tritium as a D-T fusion fuel, it is only half true that we are limited to one half-life cycle and untrue that you can only 'make' tritium in Fast Breeder Reactors.

The United States has a large stock of decommissioned nuclear weapons. These have been removed from service both due to age and to the requirements of past arms control accords. The tritium (it is a gas, being an isotope of hydrogen, at room and operating temperature) from these weapons has been reclaimed. Although the amount of usable tritium in the resultant store does drop by arund 5.5% per year, that still leaves a sizable amount which can be used for the remaining weapons in commission, enough to take us through probably at least another few years of weapons maintenance.

Finally, the U.S. Department of Energy, in association with the Tennessee Valley Authority, the operators of the Watts Bar reactor near Spring City, Tennessee, has designed, tested and implemented a new method of tritium production. Normal operation of the Watts Bar reactor, which is a commercial Pressurized Light Water Reactor, involves the placement of 'burnable absorber rods' inside the reactor vessel. These rods, containing boron carbide, serve to absorb some of the neutron flux from the normal reactor operation before it reaches the shielding of the containment vessel, and to regulate the 'rate' of the nuclear reaction inside. Special versions of these rods, called 'burnable absorber rods', are laced with lithium-6 aluminate. When this material is struck by neutrons, it produces tritium. Zirconium placed inside the rods along with the lithium aluminate captures the resulting tritium in a chemical reaction and sequesters it. When the rods are removed during the course of the normal 18-month fueling cycle of the reactor, the tritium-producing burnable absorber rods (TPBARs, in govspeak) are removed and sent to a DOE faciilty, where the zirconium is processed to recover the bonded tritium. In 2003, both the Watts Bar and Sequoyah reactors were certified and began planning to include TPBARs in their next cycle.

Dates and facility names from:

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