Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Nuclear Power, Energy Justice, and Ending Poverty

Nuclear energy advocates including both Political Liberals and Conservatives appear to agree on certain long term goals.  These goals involve the development and spread of low cost, safe and highly scalable nuclear power that can replace carbon emitting electrical generation facilities in developed nations, and provide low cost energy to the poor of less developed nations as well as preventing energy poverty in Industrialized and post industrialized countries.

David Jonrs (aka NNadir) is a pro-nuclear blogger, much admired by nuclear advocates  who blogs somewhat obscurly on Daily Kos.  Last year he wrote a post on Uranium sustainability that appeared on Barry Brook's blog, BraveNewClimate.  The post made clear that Jones (aka NNadir) holds the values that are common to nuclear advocates that I pointed too above.  In his 2014 post, Jones argued for the sustainability of Uranium as a source of the energy basis for a just human society.

Unfortunately for humanity, Lovins’ “Road Less Traveled” is now the “Road Most Traveled” even though, as the graphic at the opening of this piece shows, neither conservation or so called “renewable energy” has not, cannot, and will not accommodate the energy traffic required for a decent lifestyle for the overwhelming majority of human beings. Lovins’ road represents the daydream of the unconscionable and indifferent elite with scant attention paid to the relatively impoverished and absolutely impoverished bulk of humanity. There was a reason that reliance on diffuse forms of energy, so called “renewable energy,” for all of humanity’s needs was abandoned around the beginning of the 19th century and all the reactionary rhetoric in the world cannot change that fact. That reason, even more so than today, was that the overwhelming majority of human beings lived short miserable lives of dire poverty. Nuclear energy, and only nuclear energy, has the energy to mass density to be sustainable indefinitely at levels of energy production that involve a balance of human decency coupled to environmental justice. Fermi – who despite his vast intellect is said to have been no elitist – understood, way back in the 1940’s, that we would require depleted uranium to be made into energy, and well more than half a century later, as we are in crisis whether we see it or not, it is very clear that he was, in recognizing this, handing us a key by which we might save what can still be yet saved at this point. - David Jones David

Jones has more recently begun to write a series of post on the real climate change hoax. A hoax that will robe mankind of trillions of dollars and leave the wolds sever billion person cohert of poor, destitute, while not resolving the CO2 emission Climaate change conumdrum that will rob every one of trillions of Dollars and leave the energy no better off. No Republicans,that grand fraud is not Anthropogenic Climate Change of which we have increasing evidence, every time a Western Forrest burns. That hoax is the Renewables energy hoax. A hoax which Jones has begun in BraveNewClimate.

Jones' (NNadir) series "Sustaining the Wind" argues that wind power is no scalable enough to meet human energy needs, and nor sustainable. This is the case because wind turbines rely on the use of exotic materials, which have limited global supply. These problems such as peek Indium a highly useful material for which deman sill shortly outrun an ever diminishing supply. Jones also points out that despite an over trillion dollar investment in so called renewables, our carbon dioxide emissions are rising, not falling. Our present course is driving the earth, like the SS Titanic toward disaster at full steam ahead.

Hillary Clinton who has recently embraced the renewables hoax is a world class idoit. So for that matter is Senator Sanders. But lest you think the Republicans are better, where do you find a Republican candidate who even is willing to admit that anthropogenic Global Warming is not a hoax, that we face real and serious problems and against them we are spending huge sums of money on useless tools. Republicans prove that they can easily match Clinton for idiocy by their failure to denoince the windmill hoax, and their unwillingness to acknowledge that nuclear power means empowering market economies in the face of climate change.
We need nothing less than a massive and quick buildout of nuclear power to solve our energy issues. Of the nuclear options Molten Salt Reactors makes the best use of abundant resources, and molten salt thorium and uranium breeder reactors make the best use of common sustainable resources.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The MSR Potential

I wrote "Scaling the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor: The Big Lots Reactor and the Aim High Reactor" in early 2009.  It was a case study in which I attempted to sumerize much of what I had learned about the potential of the Liquid Floride Thorium Reactor  (LFTR) during the two previous years.  One of the comments on the original March 2009post by 
Bill Hannahan pointed me into what has become my short term direction

"The most important thing I learned form the LeBlanc lecture is the fact that we can build a once through MSR that produces high temperature high pressure steam using ¼ of the uranium requirement of conventional reactors.

The chemical reprocessing system design is the most problematic and time consuming aspect of developing a liquid fueled breeder reactor. Eliminating that system leaves a very simple reactor design that could be developed and tested in the minimal time span.

Given the abundant supply of affordable uranium from sea water these simple MSR’s could meet the worlds need quickly and for as long as necessary to allow R&D of a full blown breeder reactor.

I would also suggest combining the MSR concept with the floating plant concept so that we can provide high paying jobs selling these plants all over the world." - Bill Hannahan

Bill's suggestion which he borrowed from David LeBlanc points to the current stage of of Molten Salt Reactor development, which now sees as many as half a dozen organizations endevoring to build Uranium and or Plutonium fueled Molten Salt Reactors.  Much of what I said about the LFTR is also true of the UMSR and PMSR.  I want to update the "Scaling" essay to reflect the movement toward building Uranium and/or Plutonium fueled Molten Salt Reactors.


I believe that we have reached the point in our understanding of the potential of Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs) including the thorium/Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor paradigm, to talk about our grand plan before the end of this century. I believe that we can show that the use of MSRs in the near turm, and thorium fuel cycle LFTRs represents, if not the silver bullet, then at least the Uranium/Thorium bullets of future energy. The most important questions which we need to answer about MSRs including thorium cycle/LFTR technology are:
1. Can they be built at a reasonable cost?
2. Is is scalable enough to meet our energy needs?
3. Can we complete world wide deployment of carbon technology replacing LFTR by what is often seen as the cut off date of 2050?
The answers to these three questions are related. Indeed, MSR costs are a part of the scalability question.

Perhaps my only original idea about MSR concept was more a marketing suggestion, which combined David LeBlanc's suggestion that capital costs for MSRs could be lowered by using lower cost materials that would tolerate somewhat lower reactor performance. David LeBlanc's suggestions indicated that low cost LFTRs could be built from commonly available low cost materials. I saw that this would solve a major problem in all current plans to produce post carbon electricity, that is the absence of a low cost load following and peak reserve electrical production technology to replace natural gas. Indeed the Greenpeace "energy [r]evolution" plan is not a true post carbon energy plan because it calls for an increase in the capacity of natural gas powered generating facilities over the next 20 years in order to supply load following and peak energy capacity to the grid as a compensation for the increased penetration by wind powered generators.

I named the lower cost MSR, the Big Lots Reactor after the store chain from which surprising bargains sometimes emerge. Unlike Big Lots which finds bargains among over stocked and close out items, our reactor bargain will come from intelligent approaches to reactor manufacture and site construction, more efficient use of labor and careful attention to containing financing costs.

When I read David LeBlanc's observations, I was aware that operating MSRs on a partial power or a part time basis decreases neutron damage to core material. At the same time load following power and peak load power is purchased by utilities at a premium price. It appeared to me that there was a potential for synergy here.

The MSR has significant potential as both a load follower and a peak reserve power source. The trick would be to lower its price enough for MSR load following/peak reserve to be economically viable. That is where David LeBlanc's suggestions come in. By lowering capital costs the cost of the reactor manufacture can be recovered while running it with a less than base load capacity factor.

Thus the Big Lots reactor can be run on a 16/7 or 16/5 schedule. It can be run on less full power for most of the day. A Big Lots Reactor can rapidly increase power if a major online generating unit suddenly goes down, or if the electrical utilities experience a surge in consumer electrical demand. It could even cope with the fluctuating electrical output of windmills.

The Big Lots Reactor thus would be the ideal candidate to provide carbon free backup power for wind generation.  Graphite wares out quickly under neutron bombardment.  Thus after 7 years of l power operation, the graphite core needs to be replaced. Both David lAblanc's terrestrial energy's IMSR and Thorcon's MSR project, depend on lowcost core replacements.  Since the Big Lot reactor cores are built from cheap material it.  Part time and low power MSRs

The original Aim High plan calls for MSR production from high performance and expensive materials. The Aim High Reactor would be designed to operate at maximum temperature compatible with current materials technology. The Aim High Reactor would be designed for base load power and/or the production of process heat. As a base load reactor the AIM High Reactor would be expected to produce maximum power on a 24/7 basis. It is very conceivable that a Generation II Aim High Reactors might be built. The first generation Aim High Reactor, to go into production about 2020, would be built using expensive Hastelloy-N in the core structure and Molten Salt piping. The Aim High I could operate at a temperature of up to 700 degrees C. A further Aim High Reactor, the Aim High II, might then be developed to provide Industrial process heat up to 1000 degrees C. The Aim High II would be built of more exotic materials like carbon-carbon composites, and would be able to produce power with a high level of thermal efficiency.

The Big Lot Reactor can be built in the same factory as the Aim High Reactor, and the two reactors might share many of the same parts. Parts like pumps, heat exchanges turbines, fuel processing units, helium handling equipment, and core graphite can be used in common. Core structural matter for the Big Lots Reactor would be stainless steel as would be the reactors external pipes. The Big Lots core design should use a moderated two fluid approach, and might use NaF-ZrF4-UF4 salt rather than LiF-BeF2-UF4.

The Big Lots would be expected to operate no more than 2/3rds of the time and to operate at capacity factor of .60 or less. Since the lower capacity factor means less exposure to radiation over a given period of time, the stainless steel parts can be expected to be reasonably robust in the face of anticipated radiation levels. The Big Lots Reactor could be deliberately oversized in order to promote reserve peak capacity. Thus the Big Lots might be expected to operate at 25% of full capacity for part of the day, while more capacity could be brought on line quickly in the face of rising demand. Unlike the Light Water Reactor adding substantial increasing design capacity would not add proportionately to overall reactor costs.

Production of the Big Lots Reactor would be highly scalable because it is factory built. The production process can use labor savings machines at every stage of the production process. Given a large enough production volume, parts manufacture can be partially or even completely automated. Robots can replace workers in some assembly operation. It is anticipated that the factory produced Big Lots will be shipped to the reactor site for final setup in modular units. Labor savings equipment can be used in site preparation, component assembly and in finishing off the site.

The Big Lots factory would be large, but not larger than a modern aircraft assembly factory. Component modules need not be produced in the same factory. The modules would be major reactor components. The assembly of the modular components should be relatively simple and quick, with most of the assembly being performed in factory settings.

The goal of the Big Lot/Aim High Program should be the production and distribution of enough MSRs that by 2050 to assure that world wide carbon production could be lowered by 80% from 2009 levels by 2050. This will be made possible by massive production and deployment of Big Lot Reactors after 2020.

The role of the Big Lots reactor would be to assure that material shortages would not prevent the the construction of the required number of reactors. By using a common material like stainless steel, sufficient building materials should be available to insure the required number of reactors can be built. Production facilities can be designed with the capacity to handle a large number of reactors. In the United States, Europe, Japan and South Korea, highly mechanized and automated assembly/construction methods would be used to limit labor input. However in India and China less mechanized site preparation and final assembly approaches might be used.

Site design should be standardized to the extent possible. To the extent possible old power plant sites should be recycled as Big Lots sites, with structures and equipment reused to the extent possible.

The Big Lots Reactor should be designed with cooling options. It could be air cooled or water cooled depending on the availability of water.

Start up options for all MSRs would include recycling plutonium from nuclear waste or nuclear weapons, using U-235 from nuclear weapons, or by breeding U-233 from Th-232 in LFTRs and other Molten Salt Reactors. Indian technology would also create the potential to breed U-233 from Th-232 in LMFBRs. U-235 can be enriched to HEU levels using laser technology and then used for LFTR start up.

MSR Costs
I have recently pointed out reports that Indian LMFBRs costs will run at an estimated $1.4 billion per GW, while Chinese LWR costs run between $1.6 and $1.75 billion per GW. In neither case does the cost of reactor R&D play a major role in reactor costs. In both cases it would appear that financing costs are a lower percentage of total reactor costs than they would be in the United States or Europe. The rest of the cost savings would appear to come from the cost of labor. In the case of the Chinese reactor we know that the total hours of labor are similar to those required to build reactors in Europe and North America. We can suspect that the Indian LMFBR requires significantly fewer hours of labor than Chinese LWRs require.

The cost of electricity is a fundamental measure of the competitiveness of a society. The low labor and financing costs of Asian reactors would seem to give China and India significant competitive advantages during the second half of the 21st century unless energy related financial and labor costs can be better controlled. By shifting reactor manufacturing methods and settings, and by taking innovative approaches to reactor siting and facilities construction labor costs can be lowered. Controlling labor costs, the time required to build reactors will make significant contribution to closing the the gap in the cost of financing rectors. Thus it seems possible that LFTRs can be be built at a cost that would be comparable to the Asian cost range of $1.4 to $1.75 billion per GW. More research is needed, and beyond research a nearly fanatic commitment to keep LFTR manufacturing costs under control. Nothing less than the fate of a civilization rests on this.

Is There Enough Nuclear Fuel?
Thorium is estimated to be three times as abundant as uranium in the the Earths crust. Millions of tons of thorium are present in mine tailings scattered around the world. The LFTR is several hundred times more efficient at extracting energy from thorium as the current generation of Light Water Reactors are in extracting energy from uranium. If we extracted no thorium from the earth and only recovered the thorium found in mine tailings and other surface sources enough thorium could be recovered to provide energy to all human societies at a level that is equivalent to those enjoyed in Western Europe for thousands of years. Recoverable thorium resources are large enough to sustain human society for millions of years.

Can we start all of the MSRs?
This brief study is based on the assumption that the major obstacle to replacing carbon based energy technology with post carbon based energy technology would be factors like materials availability, and labor and financing related costs. I have argued that by focusing on LFTR technology and what might be described as a full court press approach to LFTR cost savings, that it would be possible to manufacture and deploy world wide, enough power generating reactors to replace current carbon based energy sources with low CO2 emitting energy sources. I have elsewhere argued that it would be possible to start these reactors with plutonium from spent reactor fuel, plutonium-239 and uranium-235 form nuclear weapons, U-235 produced by laser enrichment, and by U-233 bred in Molten Salt Reactors including LFTRs. It would also be possible to breed U-233 in Indian LMFBRs.

Is MSR technology scalable enough to reach our 2050 energy goals?
In 2009 I wrore: "The Aim High plan, the plan to substitute thorium/LFTR energy sources for carbon based energy sources by 2050 is feasible. Thorium/LFTR technology is scalable. Indeed, the Aim High Plan is the only feasible option that would allow Europe, North America, Japan, South Korea China and India to adopt their energy requirements to the necessity of finding post carbon energy sources. Plans to use renewable energy and conventional nuclear power simply will inevitably fall short."

But there is sufficiently abundant Uranium, to provide massive amounts of energy in reactors that are not configured for breeding.  Thus even without the thorium breeding LFTR  MSR technology can provide major services in providing the earth with carbon free energy.
Thus in the short run at least, everything that is true of LFTRs scalability would appear to betrue of MSRs as well, and with far future near term development problems.

What are the obstructs to the realization of the Aim High Plan?
The answer is simple, knowledge of the potential ofMSR and  thorium/LFTR technology, and commitment to its development and use. The road is open, we have only to see it, and choose to follow it.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Thorcon's executive summery reveals a vision of future MSR technology

The link leads to a Thorcon Executive Summery, an initial and evolving document, that suggests that Thorcon is moving toward a preconceptual phase of its power producing MSR development. Thorcon is very ambitious, and its plans would seemingly bypass the United States Nuclear Regulatory Comission. This is possible if Thorcon intends to build its MSRs outside the United States. There are hints that the manufacturing facility might be located in a South Korean, Ship Yard. My vision prevents me from reading this document, and unfortunately Chrom's speech feacher does not work with pdf documents. My comments are gleaned from what my poor vision can make out about the text.

I have spotted a few things about this text.  First the 4 module design appears to draw on ideas developed by Ed Bettis during the 1960's.  Secondly, the plan takes into account the graphite problem which concerned the ORNL design team during the 1960's.  This also appeaqrs to be the case in David LeBlanc's design for the 
IMSR, which forsees a core life of only 7 years.  I believe that the solution to the graphite problem is the introduction of graphite pebbles into the core fluid.  The pebbles can serve as the core moderat, and then floated out of the core when exposure to neutron bombardement ends theit useful life.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Robert Hargraves - Thorium Energy Cheaper than Coal @ ThEC12

Robert Hargraves on thorium Energy Cheaper than coal. Uranium energy is also cheaper than coal, and it we can build UMSRs more quickly than LFTRs, at even lower costs, We can have very large numbers of MSRs within 10 years, of the start of a well funded MSR development and manufacturing process.

Robert Brice Demonstrates our Failure ti Stop the Coal Disaster

Robert Brice demonstrates demonstrated in a recent essay on the future of coal that  the failure of the Greens, to rid the world of the scourge of coal, and its CO2 byproduct. Brice argues that the human desire for energy and the wealth that it can create will drive people to use more and more coal. Thus we are doomed, and as Brice demonstrates Renewables are not the Answer. Is there no path away from the coal dilemma?
Robert Hargraves has argued that LFTRs can be built and operated more cheaply than coal. Uranium fueled Melen Salt Cooled, solid fueled and simple Molten Salt Reactors, can be built and operated at a similar price to LFTRs, also at a price that is lower than coal. MSRs have huge advantages over coal asside from their lower cost. Coal fired power plants have far more indirect costs than MSRs and reactors such as MS-PBReactors. Not only do they cost less to buyild than coal fired power plants, they can be3 built rapidly in factories, and can be transported by rail and by barge. Thet are extremely safe, and they will be highly reliable.

Robert Bryce, Energy Policy and the Environment Report 14, October 2014

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Storm van Leeuwan still causing a Storm of Green Errors.

He's back. After several years of invisability, Green advocate Dr. Becky Martin is using arguments based on the infamouse Storm-Smith paper on the CO2 emissions of nuclear power. Since Philip Smith, Storm van Leeuwan's colaborator, is no longer with us, it is up to Jan William Storm van Leeuwan to hold down the fort. Dr. Becky martin recently relided on sources that utalized Storm-Smith to argue that nuclear is not a low carbon energy sources. Wrong, Dr. Martin. 

I think this is a good example of how LCA and EROEI analysis are methods too arbitrary to be really useful in institutional decision making. The results depend in great part on the political credo of the people making the...

Monday, June 8, 2015

Two more Unanswered Energy Collective Comments from 2011 by Jochem Gruber.

This comment was a response to another post on Jacobson.  They are both intelligent and serious, and I think it will be still helpful to give them attention.

Jochen Gruber says:

When nuclear fuel enrichment and reprocessing is combined with commercial nuclear power generation there is a problem with possible uranium/plutonium clandestine diversion by the state or a subnational group: Henry D. Sokolski (ed.) Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom, Strategic Studies Institute - United States Army War College, February 27, 2008

CB:Reasonable premise.


Chapter 1: Henry D. Sokolski "Assessing the IAEA's Abiity to Verify the NPT"
A Report of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center on the International Atomic Energy Agency's Nuclear Safeguards System

Currently, the IAEA is unable to provide timely warning of diversions from nuclear fuel- making plants (enrichment, reprocessing, and fuel processing plants utilizing nuclear materials directly useable to make bombs). For some of these plants, the agency loses track of many nuclear weapons-worth of material every year. Meanwhile, the IAEA is unable to prevent the overnight conversion of centrifuge enrichment and plutonium reprocessing plants into nuclear bomb-material factories. As the number of these facilities increases, the ability of the agency to fulfill its material accountancy mission dangerously erodes. The IAEA has yet to concede these points by admitting that although it can monitor these dangerous nuclear activities, it cannot actually do so in a manner that can assure timely detection of a possible military diversion - the key to an inspection procedure being a safeguard against military diversions.
Chapter 5: Edwin S. Lyman "Can Nuclear Fuel Production in Iran and Elsewhere be Safeguarded Against Diversion?"

CB: Here we have a spacific case, that of Iran, in which inadiquate safeguards are in place.  Without knowing the exact system of safeguard that might be in place, how is it possible to determine
whether or not those systems would be sucessful.?  Perhaps we have a satisfactory account of a plausible  safeguard system somewhere else, but as it stands, we have inadiquate information to determine the validity of the argument.

"[Significant Quantity]
[Dr. Marvin] Miller [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in "Are IAEA Safeguards on Bulk-Handling Facilities Effective?", Nuclear Control
Institute, Washington, DC, USA, 1990]observed that for large bulk handling facilities, such as the 800 metric ton heavy metal (MTHM)/year Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (RRP) now undergoing startup testing in Japan, it was not possible with the technologies and practices available at the time to detect the diversion of 8 kilograms of plutonium (1 significant quantity, SQ) - about 0.1 percent of the annual plutonium throughput - with a high degree of confidence. This is because the errors in material accountancy measurements at reprocessing plants were typically on the order of 1 percent -that is, a factor of 10 greater than an SQ. If after taking a physical inventory, the value of plutonium measured was less than expected (on the basis of operator records) by an amount on the order of 1 SQ, it would be difficult to state with high confidence that this shortfall, known as "material unaccounted for" or MUF, was due to an actual diversion and not merely measurement error."

CBHere we have a statement that presupposes a facility designed to extract Reactor Grade Plutonium from Spent Nuclear Fuel.  I will shortly point out the problems associated with using Reactor Grade Plutonium in Nuclear weapons.

[Accountancy Verification Goal - Expected Accountancy Capability (E)]

"In the past, the IAEA acknowledged that the 1 SQ detection goal could not be met in practice, and instead adopted a relaxed standard known as the "accountancy verification goal" (AVG), which was "based on a realistic assessment of what then-current measurement techniques applied to a given facility could actually detect." The AVG was based on a quantity defined as the "expected accountancy capability," E, which is defined as the "minimum loss of nuclear material which can be expected to be detected by material accountancy," and is given by the formula

E = 3.29 sigma A,

in which sigma is the relative uncertainty in measurements of the plant's inputs and outputs, and A is the facility's plutonium throughput in between periodic physical inventories.

This formula is derived from a requirement that the alarm threshold for diversion be set at a confidence level of 95 percent and a false alarm rate of 5 percent. Miller estimated that for the RRP, based on an input uncertainty of ±1 percent (which was the IAEA's value at the time for the international standard for the expected measurement uncertainty at reprocessing plants), the value of E would be 246 kilograms of plutonium, or more than 30 SQs, if physical inventories were carried out on an annual basis, as was (and is) standard practice. This means that a diversion of plutonium would have to exceed this value before one could conclude with 95 percent certainty that a diversion had occurred, and that the measured shortfall was not due to measurement error."

CB:  Here we have a statement of the the potential for diversion of Reactor Grade Plutonium.  My plan for my rresponse to Jochen Gruber 's comment is t0o lay out his view on RGP before I respond to it.

In a second Energy Collective comment to the same paper Gurber offered these responses:

"Thank you for this very resourceful paper! Although I tend to think along the lines of Jaconson, your arguments appear very convincing to me (my training is in nuclear physicis).

Some technical points:

(1) CANDU reactors have a modular structure such that you can exchange fuel rods without shutting down the entire reactor. This makes it much more easy to breed weapon's grade plutonium with CANDU reactors than with Light Water Reactors, because to breed weapons grade plutonium you need to keep the irradiation time of the fuel small. This means you need to exchange the fuel elements more frequently than when you merely want to generate electricity."

CB: There are problems which would make the CANDU path to nuclear weapons inpractical for every one but Canada and India.  First The fuel for CANDU reactors  The fuel comes in the form of ceramic and Zirconium fuel bundles.  If a fuel bundlr is puled out of a CANDU reactor, and replaced.  The process of extracting Reactor Grade Plutonium requires destroying the irradiated fuel bundle in order to recover the plutonium.

Several bundles would have to be replaced in order to acquire enough WGP to creat a nuclear weapon.  Since each fuel bundle has to be purchased from the reactor manufacturer, the would be proliferator would have to account for the missing fuel bundles.  India already has nuclear weapons, while who is worried about Canada becoming a hostile nuclear power?  Thus the CANDU argument may be the product of a lively imagination, it does not identify a serious proliferation risk.

(2) "Reactor Plutonium has been used for low yield (below 20 kt) nuclear explosions"

CB: This argument is dependent on classifying plutonium with 80% to 90% Pu-239 content.  The Pu-239 content found in spent nuclera fuel is closer to 50% with Pu-240.  I will shortly discuss the problems of militarizing RGP.  The claim that RGP devices has been tested rests on an equivocation.  At the time of the tests, the term RGP encompased Plutonium of from 80% to 90% Pu-239 composition. Although both tests produced significan explosions, neither appears to have been an unqualified success.

(3) Low Enriched Uranium as fed into Light Water Reactors can be used to shorten the path to weapons grade uranium (Victor Gilinsky, Marvin Miller, Harmon Hubbard, A Fresh Examination of the Proliferation Dangers of Light Water Reactors, October 22, 2004, The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, Washington, DC, USA)

CB: This is of course understood.  If a nation possess Uranium isotope seperation technology, it can be used to enrich uranium to weapons grade.  The case of Iran, Pakistan and North Korea demonstrates that uranium seperation technology can be obtained by criminal means. This is true whether or not civilian power reactors are built in the United States, or Western Europe.

(4) Iran claims to use its enrichment plant for a civilian nuclear (energy) program. If there weren't nuclear power plants, enrichment would clearly be identifiable as having a military application.

Of course, but this argument does not show that the building of reactors in the United States will lead to the aquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran

(4) Off Topic:
For countries with covert or declared enrichment plants, timely detection of weapons grade uranium made from low enriched uranium as used in Light Water Reactors is not possible (page 30, Fig. 4 of Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom, Henry Sokolski (ed.), The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, 2008)

CB: This is true, but countries that produce illicit nuclear weapons, may have a heavy price extracted from them, witness the sanctions imposed on Iran and North Korea.

I will now finally respond to the Reactor Grade Plutonium argument.  Nuclear weapons experts such as Alexander Di Volpi have oiinted out major flaws in argument that nuclear weapons can be manufactured using RGP:

Radioactive Pu-238 produces significant heat as it decays.  The heat from U-238 is  damaging to the chemical explosives used to trigger plutonium weapons.  Eventually the usefulness of the RGP weapon is compromised.  Secondly, U-240 which may be as much as 25 of the plutonium found in RGP, fissions spontaniously.  This does mischafe in two ways.  First it causes neutron radiation, a highly undesirable state of affairs, if the weapon comes into close contact with people.  In addition the neutron radiation can over time damage the electronics used to trigger the initial chemical explosion.  Finally, the neutron release from Pu-240 will lead to a premature triggering of a GP device.   his premature triggering causes an explosive punch that maybe no more than 1% of a standard Plutonium weapon.  But why use a nuclear weapon, with all its complications, if its punch is not that much greater than a truck full of high explosives?


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