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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Weapons and war

hiroshimaNow I  am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” - J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientist and “father of the bomb”

On the morning of 6 August 1945, the first atomic bomb, code-named “Little Boy” was dropped by the United States on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later the United States dropped a plutonium bomb code-named “Fat Man” on the city of Nagasaki. 140,000 people (almost all civilians) died in Hiroshima either immediately or within a few days. Deaths in Nagasaki were about 74,000. The survivors lived on, some with horrifying burns scars, some to die of radiation-induced illnesses

Following the war, many scientists involved in the atomic bomb project, turned to the “atoms for peace” program – nuclear power. They did this partly out of guilt, partly to continue to be employed. (Where would a nuclear physicist get a job, otherwise? Well, some were happy to continue with nuclear weapons development)

Nuclear weapons are an inevitable by-product of the nuclear power industry

nuke-cycle-weaponsInformation below – from Nuclear Energy Information Service, Illinois’ Nuclear Power Watchdog for 25 Years http://www.neis.org

“There is no technical demarcation between the military and civilian reactor and there never was one. What has persisted over the decades is just the misconception that such a linkage does not exist.” From the Los Alamos National Laboratory dated August, 1981

In order to get plutonium for weapons, one needs a reactor, whether it is a “research” reactor……. or a commercial reactor

FISSIONABLE MATERIALS: It is the same nuclear fuel cycle with its mining of uranium, milling, enrichment and fuel fabrication stages which readies the uranium ore for use in reactors, whether these reactors are used to create plutonium for bombs or generate electricity. In the end, both reactors produce the plutonium. The only difference between them is the concentration of the various isotopes used in the fuel. Each year a typical 1000 mega-watt (MW) commercial power reactor will produce 300 to 500 pounds of plutonium — enough to build between 25 – 40 Nagasaki-sized atomic bombs.

….…..It takes about 15 pounds of plutonium-239 or uranium-235 to fashion a crude nuclear device. The technology to enrich the isotopes is available for about one million dollars….

….even the most technically advanced nations cannot keep track of their materials and technology. In an inventory taken between October, 1980, and March, 1981, the U.S. government could not account for about 55 pounds of plutonium and 159 pounds of uranium from its weapons facilities. The explanation given for this Missing material was “accounting error” and that the materials were “stuck in the piping.”

Nuclear weapons today   (source:  http://www.icanw.org/ataglance  )Today nine countries have nuclear weapons, and five more have US nuclear weapons on their soil….Nuclear weapons stockpiles have gone from some 70,000 warheads at the height of the Cold War to 23,300. All that is stopping us from eliminating the rest is lack of political will.

There are approximately 23,300 nuclear weapons in the world today, posing a direct and constant threat to global security and human survival. Thousands are kept on hair-trigger alert — ready to be launched within minutes. They divert funds from health care, education and other services. The United States alone spends enough on its nuclear weapons — more than $US40 billion a year — to end world poverty by 2030.

Countries with nuclear weapons  (source:  http://www.icanw.org/ataglance  )

United States   9400 nuclear weapons  The United States is the only country to have used nuclear weapons in war. Several thousand of its 9400 nuclear weapons are kept on hair-trigger alert — ready to be launched within minutes.

Russia  13,000 nuclear weapons  Russia has the largest nuclear arsenal of any country in the world, consisting of some 13,000 warheads. Many are on hair-trigger alert, while about 5000 are awaiting dismantlement.
United Kingdom  160 nuclear weapons  The United Kingdom’s 160 or so nuclear weapons are all submarine-based. At any given time, one such submarine is on patrol. The service life for these vessels will soon end, presenting an ideal opportunity for the UK to show leadership and disarm
France  300 nuclear weapons  Most of France’s 300 nuclear weapons are submarine-based. The government has threatened to use them against states found to be supporting terrorism against France.
China   186 nuclear weapons   China has an arsenal of roughly 186 nuclear weapons and has said it would use them only in response to a nuclear attack.
Israel  80 nuclear weapons  Israel will officially neither confirm nor deny that it has nuclear weapons, and little is publicly known about the size and composition of its arsenal. It’s the only nuclear-armed country in the Middle East.
India  60-70 nuclear weapons  India has roughly 60 to 70 nuclear weapons and has said it would use them in retaliation for an attack involving any kind of weapons of mass destruction.
Pakistan  60 nuclear weapons  Pakistan, which borders India, has a stockpile thought to consist of about 60 nuclear warheads. It has said it would be willing to use nuclear weapons in response to an attack involving conventional weapons.
North Korea  10 nuclear weapons The newest member of the nuclear club, North Korea has no more than 10 “small” nuclear warheads.

Note: all of the figures are estimates only. They are taken from the SIPRI Yearbook 2009.

NUCLEAR POWER AND PEACE – AN IMPOSSIBLE COMBINATION

Peace is more than just the absence of war.  Wikipedia describes   Peace as “a quality describing a society or a relationship that is operating harmoniously.” and goes on to mention “safety”,  “fairness”, “calm”.

These qualities can exist in a society where there are still disagreements, and conflicts. The key is in the methods of resolving conflicts. Conflict resolution involves processes of good, open communication,  negotiation, mediation and diplomacy, requiring time, patience, and skill.

The processes of conflict resolution, the harmonious functioning of society just cannot work in an atmosphere of threat, suspicion, secrecy and ever-present danger.

Yet the presence of any part of the nuclear fuel cycle produces exactly that kind of atmosphere of fear, threat, suspicion, secrecy and ever-present danger.

And that’s even before we get to the question of nuclear weapons – with their ever-present risk of suddenly being used. On a political hair-trigger at all times, nuclear missiles could be launched not only by some aggressive attack, – but also by a misunderstanding,  by human error, by a mentally ill operative, or by some other unforeseen accident.

Meanwhile, despite all the promises of “clean”, “cheap”, “safe” “low carbon”, and “peaceful” nuclear power, we all know that you just can’t have nuclear bombs without nuclear power plants.  That is what nuclear plants were originally designed for, and that is why fear-driven (and greed-driven)  countries want them now.

NUCLEAR POWER AND PEACE –  AN OXYMORON 

From time to time international conventions and conferences are held,  aimed at reducing the spread of nuclear weapons.
Unfortunately the nuclear lobby is well and truly on this bandwagon. The “peace” message will be joined with the message to increase “civil” nuclear energy, and the George W. Bush initiated plan of “cradle to grave” nuclear fuel cycle of leasing uranium.

Voice of America , 29 March 2010 “…….Addressing the plenary session of the International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy in Paris, France, March 8th, Deputy Secretary Poneman noted that the administration of President Barack Obama is committed to building a generation of safe, clean, nuclear power plants in the United States.
Our efforts to reinvigorate the U.S. domestic nuclear industry go hand-in-hand with our efforts in the international arena,” ….

The United States is taking steps to build an international framework for civil nuclear cooperation to ensure that countries have access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes while minimizing the risks of proliferation. At a meeting in Beijing in October 2009 of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, which included 25 partners and 31 observer nations, the Partnership’s Executive Committee agreed to “explore ways to enhance the international framework for civil nuclear cooperation,” noting that “cradle-to-grave nuclear fuel management could be one important element of this framework.”
Access To Civil Nuclear Energy | Home | Editorial

2 Comments »

  1. The fuel cycle drawing is missing an arrow from Reprocessing to enrichment.

    Comment by Bill Scout | February 3, 2011 | Reply

  2. […] plants are money pits anyway, but no one ever told you this, because they are actually used to make bombs. Millions of gallons of fresh water from the Great Lakes are wasted each day cooling their […]

    Pingback by Summer of Dissent: 10 ways to Solve all of Michigans Problems - Climate Viewer News | June 2, 2014 | Reply


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