I knew it was possible in theory, but had no idea of the sheer scale of the “Megatons to Megawatts” program.
* Nuclear energy, far from undermining anti-proliferation efforts, can supplement them. Shortly after the cold war ended, the U.S. started buying warheads from Russia and converting the weapons-grade uranium into fuel suitable for commercial reactors. This so-called Megatons to Megawatts Program has eliminated 15,000 Russian warheads in the past 18 years. Ten percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. in the past decade stems from Russian warheads. The program will soon start consuming Russian plutonium as well as uranium. “It’s an amazing example of beating swords into plowshares,” Adams said.
* Nuclear waste can be viewed as a feature, not a bug, of nuclear energy. First of all, spent fuel rods from a typical plant cannot easily be converted into weapons-grade explosives. “The mixture of isotopes is just way too complicated to be able to effectively do that,” Adams said. But spent reactor fuel, which still contains more than 90 percent of its potential energy, can be reprocessed to make it reusable as fuel. “There is an enormous amount of energy in the 60,000 or so tons of used nuclear material in the U.S.,” Adams said. The 900,000 tons of uranium waste generated by the U.S. nuclear weapons program represents an even larger potential source of energy, “more than all our oil, coal and natural gas combined,” Adams said.