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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

New nuclear power essentially connected to nuclear weapons – theme for May 2017

The “new nuclear” lobby spruiks Generation IV nuclear reactors as helping prevent nuclear weapons proliferation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are two reasons why the development of Generation IV nuclear reactors promotes nuclear proliferation.

  1. Every new nuclear reactor, of whatever kind, brings the risk of being used for nuclear weapons.
  2. The nuclear weapons industry badly needs a new “nuclear renaissance” for the continuing research, training education of nuclear experts.

This week, I’ll outline that first reason.

All nuclear power concepts, including Gen IVs, connect to  to the proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs)  For example, Integral Fast Reactors (IFRs) would breed their own fuel (plutonium-239) from uranium-238 from depleted uranium. Theoretically, the process would make it very difficult or impossible to use the plutonium directly in nuclear weapons. But a special cycle could be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Thorium fuelled reactors could also be used to irradiate uranium to produce weapon grade plutonium. The Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) or plutonium, used to start the thorium reactor, could be diverted for weapons production.

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)  retain all the risks associated with supplying, maintaining, safeguarding, and dismantling large nuclear reactors, including weapons risks,  – only now those risks would be multiplied and decentralised. Although proponents of small reactors argue that stealing fissile material from the reactors is near impossible (via features such as a sealed core and the ability to bury the core underground), the risk is still higher than that of a large reactor. In addition, the smaller facilities required (e.g. containment structures) mean that attacks intending to destroy plants and spread nuclear waste may be more of a danger.

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April 26, 2017 - Posted by | Christina's themes, weapons and war

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