Monday, December 22, 2008

Alexander deVolpi's knols on nuclear non-proliferation

I have added a link on Nuclear Green to Alexander deVolpi's knols on nuclear non-proliferation. Dr DiVolpi's writings are required reading for anyone who who wants to claim expertise on nuclear proliferation. DiVolpi was a peer of the late J. Carson Mark of Los Alamos, and his knols correct the view that Mark thought reactor grade plutonium was a practical weapons materials. DeVolpi also parses statements on reactor grade plutonium from official sources, often cited by anti-nuclear experts. For example DiVolpi points to a statement by David Hafemeister of the United States DoE,
" [Advanced] nuclear-weapon states such as the United States and Russia, using modern designs, could produce weapons from reactor-grade plutonium having reliable explosive yields, weight, and other characteristics generally comparable to those of weapons made from weapon-grade plutonium."
DeVolpi comments,
"I suggest a discriminating reader would see that the quote is limited to “advanced nuclear-weapon states,” confined to “modern designs,” and qualified by terms such as “could produce,” “reliable yields,” and “comparable characteristics.” Since official declarations (hedges) are usually the product of a careful inter-agency vetting. His statement, thus, pretty much excludes reactor-grade plutonium as source material under a number of realistic circumstances: less-advanced nuclear-weapon states, less-sophisticated designs, less-than-assured yields, and other sub-marginal situations. In other words, neither advanced weapon states, nor less-advanced weapon states, nor threshold weapon states are likely to produce weapons from reactor-grade plutonium (for reasons validated by Hafemeister’s carefully chosen omissions)."
Needless to say nuclear critics do not engage in such carful reading of the documents that they draw on to make their case. But then nuclear critics are not interested in questions of truth or accuracy. They simply mine sources for supportive quotes, and hope that no one will note important qualifications. Such selective misreading of texts, such cherry picking turns sources into sock puppets on the hands of nuclear critics like Dr Frank Barnaby, who has become the new anti-nuclear wacko on scitizen.

Banaby, a sometimes associate of the infamous Jan Storm van Leeuwen in the Oxford Research group, appears to belong, like Storm van Leeuwen, to the Club of Rome wing of the anti-nuclear movement. A successful post carbon shift to nuclear power would definately put a crmp into the goal of Club of Rome plans to kill off most of the human race and return the economic basis of society to a medieval like peasant economy. In order to bully us into accepting this extremely unattractive scenario, Barnaby has to threaten us with nuclear proliferation, as if the die off of a few billion human beings would be a preferable consequence, and thetermination of modern society woiuld be a more acceptable outcome.

I previously called Dr, Barniby to task for ignoring DeVolpi's telling views on nuclear proliferation, but he continues to do so, no doubt because DeVolpi makes it quite clear that that reactor grade plutonium is not a practical material for the building of nuclear weapons, and that the danger of nuclear proliferation is not increased by building civilian power reactors that produce reactor grade plutonium as a byproduct. Needless to say, Dr. Barnaby ignored my comments, just as he ignores Alexanger DeVolpi's writings on reactor plutonium. Dr. Barnaby copes with criticism by ignoring it. By doing so he discounts himself as a serious intellectual. A serious intellectual acknowledges his critics, and tries to answer them. If he or she makes mistakes and they are pointed out he or she acknowledges them, at least to self, and learns to not make the same mistakes again. Since Barnaby does not even acknowledge mistakes when they are brought to his attention, his is not a rational voice.  


donb said...

I just wish folks like Dr. Barnaby would use a bit of logic.

Making a nuke bomb is rather tricky business. Why would a rougue country intent on making one start on the even more difficult (if even possible) path of making a nuke bomb using reactor-grade plutonium? At a minimum, it requires a PUREX plant to get the plutonium in the first place. Then it requires the very best minds and equipment to build a possibly useful bomb from the material. These minds and equipment would not be available to a rogue nation.

If one is going to build a PUREX plant, then building a reactor to make weapons grade plutonium goes hand-in-hand.

On the other hand, it might be whole lot easier to build a U235 bomb. The country could claim that the enrichment plant is for civilian power reactor fuel use (can you say "Iran").

DV8 2XL said...

Great find Charles, I know I am going to be going back to those knols over and over.

Charles Barton said...

Actually Kirk Sorensen indirectly brought the DeVolpi Knols to my attention. I already knew something about DeVolpi's views on nuclear proliferation, but the Knols deal with proliferation issues in great detail.

Anonymous said...

What needs to be done in order to send the Club of Romers to the gallows where they belong?


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