What about nuclear bombs and terrorism?

  1. Will more reactors mean more bombs?
    1. IFR’s don’t produce the right isotope of plutonium for bombs.
    2. The biggest CO2 emitters already have nuclear bombs!
    3. In fact, IFR’s and MSR’s eat nuclear warheads as well as nuclear waste!
  2. What about terrorism? What if they flew a plane into a reactor?

1. Will more reactors mean more bombs?


I hate nuclear bombs, and the 1980’s Cold War between the USSR and America added much to my teenage angst. But please note the following points.

A. IFR’s don’t produce the right isotope of plutonium for bombs.

The plutonium bred from IFR’s is mixed in with too much other junk, and requires a lot of reprocessing which would be easily detected by any international monitoring agency that we set up with potential rouge states. (Remember, Saddam never actually had any WMDs!) Basically, there are easier more direct routes to make a bomb if you really wanted to. This video is about Argonne labs and shows how they melt down the nuclear waste, remove the bad stuff (fission products), and grow crystals of all the good stuff on anodes that are then scraped off and put into pellets back into the reactor. In other words, all the actinides are mixed in together. They can burn, but not go boom! They’re good for fuel, but mixed up like that simply don’t have the pure weapons grade plutonium required for making a bomb.

B. The biggest CO2 emitters already have nuclear bombs!

That horse has bolted. Nuclear bombs are a political issue, nuclear power is an environmental issue. There is no use protesting against nuclear power on the basis of nuclear bombs because the right kind of breeder reactors do not produce bomb grade material.

C. In fact, IFR’s and MSR’s eat nuclear warheads as well as nuclear waste!

But this would never happen, right? What nation on earth would sell their old warheads? Wrong! Nuclear warheads are expensive to maintain. The old Soviet Union has sold about 16,000 bombs-equivalent material to America in the Megatons to Megawatts program over about 20 years. Bombs have to be dealt with politically, where nuclear power can be dealt with both politically and technically.

As Scientific American said:

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.

The spread of nuclear power need not lead to nuclear weapons proliferation. Many countries that have nuclear power plants do not possess weapons. And almost every country that has nuclear weapons today acquired them before acquiring nuclear reactors. (Some commenters on Adams’s blog have pointed out that India is an exception to this rule.) More importantly, nuclear power can promote peace by making nations less reliant on outside sources for energy. “You can write the history of world conflicts over the past 100 years as a battle over resources,” Adams said.

2.What about terrorism? What if they flew a plane into a reactor?

ALSO, even if they hit a Molten Salt Reactor with a bunker-buster missile, the radioactive fuel is chemically tied to the liquid salt. A cloud of hot salt would go up, harden as soon as it cools back down to 450 degrees celsius, and fall back to the earth in the area around the reactor. A radioactive cloud of steam would NOT plume out all over the continent! (21 minutes in).