Two Birds With One Stone: Nuclear Weapons into Nuclear Energy

We live in terrifying times. We are accelerating headlong into climate change. We are bristling with nuclear weapons. Why not knock out these two terrors with one policy?

chat Posted Aug 20, 2015 by Rezwan | Category : Energy Supply Nuclear Strategies Security
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City & Country Killers: Nuclear Weapons

Today, about 16,000 nuclear warheads hang over our heads, targeted on our most populated urban centers. They are standing by, ready to annihilate.  Most of these weapons are in the hands of Russia and the USA. The danger of these weapons isn’t just from enemy action. John Oliver shines a light on terrifying near misses with our own weapons in the USA:

Key takeaways from this video.

1.  At minute 11, Colin Powell says nuclear weapons are “useless”. That’s right. We’re spending hundreds of billions just to maintain a useless nuclear weapon stockpile. They don’t deter war (witness our prolonged conventional wars in progress). The only thing they deter is their own use.

2.  At 13:30 the real problem emerges. We don’t care enough about this problem to change things. Where are the citizens marching for disarmament?

Perhaps they are busy marching about a much bigger problem, climate change.

Planet Killer: Climate Change

Nuclear weapons fester with menace, but they are effectively dormant.

In contrast, climate change is very much awake, alive and unfolding all around us. It is a creeping global scale explosion enveloping the entire planet in suffocating heat.

Today we face an overwhelming threat to everything we hold dear. Can we curb our carbon emissions in time to stop climate change? Not at the rate we are going. Our fossil fuel economy spews greenhouse gases at an ever increasing rate while most of us go about in a state of dazed denial.

Would it help drive action if we could see climate change as nuclear war? David Holmes does just that:

The planet is building up heat at the equivalent of four Hiroshima bombs worth of energy every second.

Four Hiroshima Bombs per second is 126 million bombs per year of excess heat, thanks to greenhouse gases.

Switching from Fossil Fuels to a Zero Carbon World

We all know what we have to do. We have to quit fossil fuels and get to a net zero carbon economy. How are we supposed to pull this off?

New Jersey enacted the Global Warming Response Act which sets the goal of being 80% emissions free by 2050. The more ambitious Solutions Project has a plan to get the USA to 100% renewable by 2050. These inspiring goals raise several questions:

Is 2050 soon enough?  No. In “The Awful Truth About Climate Change no one wants to admit”, David Roberts invites us to contemplate the range of climate modeling scenarios and lets it sink in that politicians are basing our action on the most optimistic of these scenarios. As any safety engineer knows, you don’t design for the best case, you design for the worst case.

Is a 100% renewable solution achievable?  One hundred percent? No. Neither is it all that desirable, especially when you start scaling up. Do you really want to have wind turbines across a quarter of your state, solar PV parks covering 10% of your state, and 70 wind turbines per mile up and down the ENTIRE east coast? Not to mention the additional land set aside for storage solutions and a super smart grid watching your every move? 

Is a 100% renewable solution the only option? No. You can add nuclear power in the mix. It will dramatically reduce the overall cost and use a thousandth of the land area. Nuclear energy is a carbon free energy source which is surprisingly safe. Many people have a strong negative opinion of nuclear power which is based on misinformation. Get informed about nuclear energy!  The more you learn about it, the more you come to appreciate it. 

“Optimal Energy Mix” Conversation

The question we need to ask is - what is the optimal mix of renewables and nuclear for our State?  Indeed, if Renewables and Nuclear teamed up, we’d have a much better shot at putting climate change to bed.

The more difficult question is, can we get supporters of the two energy groups to talk?

This isn’t a rhetorical question. This is a: “go out and do this in the field” question.  If you want to see the conversation move forward, host Renewable + Nuclear Living Room Conversations.  As many as it takes.

Your climate hangs in the balance.

Nuclear Energy, Good. Weapons, Bad.

Once you get comfortable with the idea of nuclear energy and unbundle it from weapons, the poetic possibilities emerge. Imagine exonerating nuclear energy, eliminating nuclear weapons and taking a bite out of climate change at the same time.

Imagine people marching to demand that nuclear weapons be dismantled and turned into nuclear fuel. Burn the stockpile!

Weapons to Fuel is not a new idea. It has been done successfully before - at no cost to taxpayers.

Megatons to Megawatts

The Megatons to Megawatts™ Program launched in 1993.

[It] was a unique, commercially financed government-industry partnership in which bomb-grade uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear warheads was recycled into low enriched uranium (LEU) used to produce fuel for American nuclear power plants.

As of December 2013, the program has been completed: 500 metric tons of bomb-grade HEU have been recycled into more than 14,000 metric tons of LEU, equivalent to 20,000 nuclear warheads eliminated...

Virtually the entire U.S. nuclear reactor fleet participated in this program by using fuel fabricated with LEU from the Megatons to Megawatts program.

In years past, up to 10 percent of the electricity produced in the United States was generated by fuel fabricated using LEU from the Megatons to Megawatts program.

Think about it.  Nuclear warheads aimed at American cities were dismantled and their power used to light up those same cities.

And the program ate up a lot of bombs!  As you can see from chart #40 of The Washington Post’s “40 charts that explain the world.” global nuclear stockpiles are lower than they’ve been since 1960. The 1993-2013 Megatons to Megawatts program had a huge impact, but we’ve still got a lot of megatons left.  Let’s keep burning them up. All the way to zero megatons, and net zero carbon.

Get out there and march. Megatons to Megawatts to end climate change.


Look at the Evidence

Get informed about nuclear energy!  The more you learn about it, the more you come to appreciate it.

Campaign to turn Nuclear Weapons into Nuclear Energy

March for:
Megatons to Megawatts!
Zero nuclear weapons!
Net Zero Carbon Economy!

Call your Representative

Call your Congressman. Tell them you want the US to convert its weapons into nuclear power via a domestic Megatons to Megawatts program. Call your Senators, too.

Remember, contacting your representatives is a numbers game. The more calls, letters, visits they receive on an issue, they more they pay attention. They literally tally communication from citizens to get a sense of how serious it is. This is representative democracy in action.

Join a Nuclear Disarmament Group

Here are some Nuclear Disarmament groups to choose from. Some of these groups may be anti-nuclear in general. It is of vital importance to the climate to have a Renewable + Nuclear Living Room Conversation with all. #ReNuLRC And then get to work beating the megatons into megawatts!

Notes & Related:

Worried about dirty bombs?

Some people are afraid of nuclear energy because more nuclear power plants means more nuclear fuel unaccounted for, which could be used for nefarious purposes. The question is: Can spent fuel be used to make a weapon?

What type of weapon? And what’s the worst that could happen?

What could a terrorist do if they got their hands on spent fuel? At best they could make a “dirty bomb.” What’s the difference between a nuclear bomb and a dirty bomb? Mental Floss explains:

“In short, nuclear weapons are extremely difficult to make—and we hope they always will be. A dirty nuclear bomb, on the other hand, could be made by a reasonably smart 14-year-old with access to hospital equipment. Dirty bombs combine conventional explosives (say, dynamite) with radioactive materials (say, cesium, which is used in radiation treatment for cancer patients). Almost all scientists believe that even in the case of a well-designed dirty bomb, the explosive would cause much more damage than the radiation. The fact is there just aren’t any acquirable materials radioactive enough to cause much fallout. And while it could be very expensive and inconvenient to clean up an urban area after a dirty bomb attack—that’s about it. The difference between the two is that conventional nuclear weapons are infinitely more worrisome.”

And we’ve got 16,000 of those hanging over our heads.

So - back to action! Let’s dismantle the conventional weapons, and burn them up as fuel.  Megatons to Megawatts to Zero Weapons and Zero Carbon!

If a Nuclear Bomb Exploded in Downtown Washington, What Should You Do?

Still worried about a terrorist making a real nuclear bomb to blow up downtown? In the event of the detonation of the mythical “suitcase nuke,” Marc Ambinder of The Week reports on our government’s recommendations for how to survive a nuclear blast in your city.

“The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory released a report in 2011 that spells all this out. It hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves.

It’s called the “National Capital Region Key Response Planning Factors for the Aftermath of Nuclear Terrorism” and it makes for fascinating reading.

Did you know, for example, that:

1. The WORST thing for someone to try to do, in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion that they survive, is to get in a car and drive away.

2. Unless you’re within about a third to a half a mile radius of ground zero and the shelter options are poor, the BEST thing for someone to do is to find a stable location inside a well-built apartment or office building — the majority of which will remain standing outside that half mile radius — and stay there for 24 hours.”

And more! Check it out!

The 100% Renewables Approach: What will it take?
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