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January 22, 2012

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 88

1. Deregulate the Atom - Uncovering the Truth about the Threat of Nuclear Proliferation by DV82XL

Robert Gauthier more commonly known as DV82XL shares his thoughts on the misconceptions about proliferation.

It is said with some truth that the military always prepares for the last war, and this was the case with nuclear weapons. The Second World War featured the reduction of cites as a strategic objective, not because this was known to be effective, London didn’t break despite being a regular target, nor did Germany sue for peace after suffering some of the worst bombing in that conflict. The fact is cities were the smallest target that the bombing technology of the day was able to acquire with some regularity. The hope was that by burning the cities, military production would be disrupted however it was not in any significant way. In reality the bombing of populated areas had little effect on the outcome of that war.




This would have been considered in the aftermath except for the atom bombs dropped on Japan. These were seen as game changers and it was widely believed that they had stopped the war. Well yes and no. Yes it gave the civil powers the excuse in Japan to overrule the military’s desire to die fighting to the last man; no because Japan had already lost and would have collapsed within months one way or the other as the USSR had just entered the fray against them. However the bombs were dropped, based on the best available intelligence, and doubtless lives were saved because of this action, however it distorted the world’s view of nuclear weapons since: the belief that wars can be fought and won by destroying the enemy’s cities.

The real military application of nuclear weapons is not breaking up cities, but in destroying armor massed on a border or flotillas on a coastal littoral. This factor was so important that even States like my own, (Canada) which was broadly for nuclear disarmament, deployed nuclear weapons in a tactical role. From 1963 to 1984 US nuclear warheads armed Canadian weapons systems in both Canada and Germany. In fact during the early part of the period, the Canadian military was putting more effort, money and manpower into its nuclear commitment than any other activity. Canada was not the only State to deploy dual-key nuclear weapons, most if not all NATO counties did at one time or another during the cold war.

This is why nuclear weapons in the hands of a minor power is so threatening; it’s not that they would think of launching an attack on a Great Power, but that the Great Power cannot prosecute a conventional attack on them.

A State arming itself with nuclear weapons is not a trivial matter for the country in question. A nuclear weapons program is an unbelievably expensive undertaking (“we were eating grass” as they said in Pakistan) and no nation decides to engage in such a project lightly. So the countries “illegally” producing their own nuclear weapons to date were driven by extreme geopolitical pressure in their perceived need for an N-weapon capability.

Imagine if a region of about 5,000 people, none with more than a 4th grade education and no weapons more advanced than AK-47s and a few rocket-propelled grenades were threatening to take over the US Government and its nuclear weapons and impose their morals and values over the entire US population, would anyone take their threat seriously? They might do a bit of damage on their way to Washington, but would they be able to take control of a single nuclear weapon, let alone the entire arsenal?

Transpose this scenario to Pakistan, and that is exactly what’s happening. The Taliban, who are based in tribal areas in northern Pakistan, have a tight control over their small region. Because the Taliban are based in hard to reach mountains, the Pakistani army can’t fight them easily (the US and Canadian forces in Afghanistan faced a similar problem). Over the last few years, people from this group have occasionally descended from the mountains to commit suicide bombings (or shootings) in nearby cities to show they mean business. However, since they lack modern weapons and logistical support and have no air power, the Taliban are in no way able to come down from these mountains to take on the Pakistani army head-on in pretty much flat terrain. This means they have no hope of taking over the country or its nuclear arsenal.

2. Atomic insights - Rod Adam's talks about his experiences advocating for nuclear energy at recent NRC meetings in South Carolina.

3. Idaho Samizdat - Dan Yurman describes new reactor deals for the new year.

Jordan short lists three firms and selects six potential sites for a $5 billion project

Jordan's plans to develop a nuclear reactor to supply the country with electricity reached several important milestones this week. Government energy officials completed a site selection study. Also, the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) shortlisted three potential bidders for the $5 billion project.

4. Neutron Economy - Vermont Yankee lives to power another day

Entergy recently won its day in court, with a federal judge ruling that the Vermont legislature cannot simply negotiate Darth Vader fashion ("I have altered our arrangement. Pray I do not alter it further...") and simply shut down Vermont Yankee by legislative fiat; likewise, he further affirmed that regulations concerning radiological safety rest solely in the domain of the NRC.

5. ANS Nuclear Cafe: Full agenda for National Nuclear Science Week 2012

National Nuclear Science Week - a week-long celebration to focus local, regional, and national interest on all aspects of nuclear science - has nearly arrived! Next week, January 23-27, events and activities will be held across the United States to recognize the benefits of nuclear science and technology and to introduce the next generation of scientists and engineers to the applications of nuclear technologies to everyday life. A full slate of events and activities at the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

6. Nextbigfuture - Siemens expects Germany's exit from nuclear power to cost the country up to 1.7 trillion euros ($2.15 trillion) by 2030, the head of its energy business said.

"We have calculated that between 1,400 billion and 1,700 billion will have to be invested in the German energy sector over the next 20 years," Siemens board member Michael Suess, in charge of the company's Energy Sector, told Reuters.

7. Nextbigfuture - Dealing with soot is a win for the countries who do it as it saves the lives of their people and lowers health costs. It pays for itself and is not a sacrifice. Carbon dioxide mitigations as they have been presented are calls to lower economic growth. There are ways to address carbon dioxide emissions that do not sacrifice economic growth but those ideas have also not been promoted. The environmental movement has been focused on using carbon dioxide mitigation as a tool to force slower economic growth and to promote technologies that they prefer.

Making small modular factory mass produced breeder reactors and getting a lot of uranium is not a solution that they like. Even though that is a path which could also be implemented over the 30-50 year timeframe of their own plan and set the stage for a world economy that could be 100 times larger while still fixing the climate. There can also be cement that absorbs carbon dioxide instead of releasing it. The pro-growth solutions to climate change have been ignored. They seem to be too technical for some people and some who do understand it have a bias to solar and wind power versus nuclear power and green cement.

The technocrats in China do understand it and are on the path to implementation.

8. Nextbigfuture - Paladin Energy and Uranium One both had record years for uranium production in 2011. Denison and Rio Tinto had problems.

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