In an effort to better engage readers, I oversee the development and design of information graphics for Ploughshares Fund's blog.
July 9, 2013
Jeffery Lewis wrote an excellent piece illustrating how deep defense cuts could have little effect on the United States ability to field an inordinate amount of nuclear weapons. In order to make the article more accessible, this post used graphics and a short narrative to capture some of the key points of Lewis' piece.
Vulnerable at 2,672 Nuclear Warhead? posted on December 5, 2011
In a recent article, Jeffrey Lewis of Arms Control Wonk outlined what could happen to U.S. nuclear forces under a sequestration budget. He illustrates that even with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s so-called “doomsday” cuts to nuclear weapons related activities, the U.S. could still field enough warheads to greatly surpass the limits put in place by New START.
What could that “doomsday” look like if the U.S. maximized its nuclear forces? (View at full size)
Lewis is careful to note that these cuts are what could happen and not necessarily what will happen. Likewise, he posits a nuclear force that we could have under the deepest cuts. It is striking that the U.S. could make significant cuts to the strategic weapons budget and still potentially field a nuclear force slightly over ten times the size of China’s. It does force one to ask, “why not scale back outdated weapons for some much needed economic security?”
12/06/11 UPDATE: A reader correctly noted that sequestration cuts in total dollars did not match Jeffery Lewis' article. I have updated the number on the graphic and in the posting to correct for the error. Thank you for reading both this posting and Jeff's excellent piece.
12/06/11 UPDATE: To avoid any confusion, we have removed the total dollar figure from the post.
Sources: Jeffrey Lewis and Hans Kristensen
Research: Mary Kraszynski
Creative/Art Direction: Peter Fedewa
To support Ploughsharse Fund's nuclear budget campaign, I produced a simple pie chart graphic to illustrate one simple fact that will resonate with donors and constituents. The post garnered significant readership and distribution - including a retweet by Scientific American. The original blog is as follows:
Is the U.S. Ready for a Nuclear Incident? Posted on August 30, 2011
Whether it came from accident or malice, the likely consequences of any nuclear attack are difficult to fully comprehend. Billions – maybe trillions – of dollars in damage would result, perhaps tens of thousands of lives would be lost with even more injured or sick, not to mention supply lines cut off and massive panic across the nation.
In a nation that spends billions of dollars on insurance each year for natural catastrophes from fires and earthquakes to flooding, one would assume that preparing for a man-made disaster of nuclear proportions would be high up on our list of budget priorities. Sadly, this is not the case.
Despite the overall decrease in deployed warheads, the departments of defense and energy continue to increase their nuclear weapons budgets. There is one area of the nuclear budget pie that is noticeably underrepresented: Nuclear Incident Management – or, more simply, nuclear disaster preparedness for a nuclear or radiological attack.
Instead, the U.S. nuclear budget is dominated by funding for the upkeep of our existing nuclear weapons complex and missile defense. Seventy-three percent of nuclear weapons-related appropriations over the next ten years are slated for these two purposes. The assumption is that the deterrent provided by these two systems is enough to keep us safe from any attack by nuclear weapons.As 9/11 showed, that’s just not true. Terrorists are not deterred by large nuclear stockpiles and mutually assured destruction doesn’t apply to non-state actors.
With only roughly $700 million devoted to the response and planning for such an event it is clear that these funding priorities need adjustment in order to address the threats of the day. Gone are the days when a nuclear exchange with Russia would make a “disaster response” laughable. Now, the real threats of a single “small” nuclear device or a dirty bomb delivered by terrorists – who do not fear retaliation from our nuclear forces – demand appropriate consideration.
This blog post is design to inform the public about the average life-cycle of a U.S. nuclear weapon. The goal of the infographic is to educate and inform while shedding some light on the costs and dangers of keep nuclear weapons. The original blog post is as follows:
A Warhead’s Life Posted on Aug. 5 2011 12:29 pm by Peter Fedewa
The U.S. currently possesses nearly half of the world’s nuclear warheads. Each warhead type has its own story and takes its own path through the system. All of these warheads are born in the Department of Energy (DoE) and then reside with the Department of Defense (DoD). Many warheads eventually return to the DoE for dismantlement but some become “trapped” in the DoD through a seemingly endless cycle of upgrades, redeployments or storage in the stockpile.
Below is an attempt to trace the path a warhead may take as it moves through the phases of its life-cycle (view at full size).
This represents the first public-facing infographic produced for Ploughshares Fund's blog. This graphic was designed to give the read a glimpse of exactly what the U.S. nuclear force looks like in just one state and to give a sense of exactly how much damage just that portion U.S. nuclear weapons are capable of delivering.
Doing the Nuclear Math: North Dakota Posted on Jul. 6 2011 3:10 pm by Peter Fedewa
According to the most reliable estimates the U.S. still has over 8,000 nuclear weapons.
Of that number, a little over 2,000 of those weapons are considered operational. All of these operational weapons are deployed somewhere. One of those places is North Dakota. North Dakota is home to roughly 290 nuclear warheads plus the delivery systems that come with them (i.e. missiles, bombs and jets).
What exactly do 290 nuclear weapons look like and what type of damage could just one state’s worth of these weapons do? Furthermore, how many nuclear weapons are too many?