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Editorial: If an asteroid comes, let's use a new nuke ...

A Geminid meteor streaks across the sky against

A Geminid meteor streaks across the sky against a field of star trails in this 1 1/2-minute exposure early December 14, 2006 over the Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Willow Beach, Arizona. The meteor display, known as the Geminid meteor shower because it appears to radiate from near the star Castor in the constellation Gemini, is thought to be the result of debris cast off from an asteroid-like object called 3200 Phaeton. The shower is visible every December. Credit: GETTY IMAGES / Ethan Miller

If an asteroid capable of destroying our planet were hurtling toward us, blowing it up with a nuclear weapon might be the best option. Or at least the best option based on a Bruce Willis movie ("Armageddon"). But why would the United States use an outdated nuclear weapon on such a crucial mission? A recent audit of the National Nuclear Security Administration revealed a policy to not dismantle some old warheads while we study whether they could be used this way.

The asteroid danger is real, but very rare. Huge asteroids hit the planet about once every 100 million years, and some scientists think a 6-mile-wide one may have killed off the dinosaurs. The United States probably wouldn't need many of its 4,800 nuclear warheads to fend off an asteroid. And if the need ever came up, shouldn't we use newer and presumably better ones?

Take the old warheads apart. Our military losing weapons is a disaster that happens a lot more than every 100 million years.