Why You Can’t Build a Bomb From Spent Fuel

February 20th, 2010
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To build a nuclear weapon you need weapons grade fissile material. This could be plutonium or uranium. (It could theoretically also be something like neptunium or americium, but nobody has ever bothered with that, as it would be far more difficult.) In the case of uranium, it must be highly enriched uranium and in the case of plutonium, it must be “weapons grade” plutonium.

The process of extracting plutonium from spent fuel for reprocessing, use in fast reactors or MOX fuel usage is similar to that used to extract plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. For this reason, many nuclear energy opponents will scream “AH HA!” and say that a nuclear power reactor is clearly a “proliferation hazard” regardless of what type it is. Furthermore, they’ll tell you that reprocessing is the ultimate danger and that if we dare recycling fuel, then others will recycle their fuel too (many already do, by the way) and if they do that then certainly they’ll be building weapons.

Of course, there are plenty of countries that reprocess fuel to one degree or another and don’t have nuclear weapons. Germany, South Korea, Japan, Belgium and Italy either reprocess fuel or have done so in the past but never had a nuclear weapon. Countries like Russia, France and the UK reprocess civilian reactor fuel but have never used this fuel to build a nuclear weapon.

There’s a good reason for this. As it turns out, the spent fuel from a modern power reactor, such as a BWR or PWR reactor is completely unusable for a nuclear weapon.

Here is why:

You’ve probably heard of the two earliest combat-ready nuclear bombs, developed by the Manhattan Project: Little Boy and Fat Man. Little Boy was the codename for the uranium bomb which used a “gun triggered” design, firing a subcritical uranium slug into a subcritical uranium target to produce a supercritical mass. Fat Man was the code name for a plutonium-based bomb that used a spherical core with a semantically explosives to compress the plutonium, resulting in an “implosion” that would bring the core to critical mass.

Well, here is “Thin man” the third bomb design that was developed during the Manhattan project: the one which never made it past the early test phase.

To be more accurate, those are not nuclear bombs, but rather just the empty casings. No “thin man” type bomb was ever built, because a combination of laboratory experiments and calculations proved that the design would either not work at all, or work so poorly that it wouldn’t produce an explosion any larger than a nominal size conventional munition. The problem is plutonium, or rather, an isotope of plutonium, plutonium-240.

Plutonium is produced by neutron bombarding uranium-238 in a reactor. When uranium-238 absorbs a neutron, it becomes uranium-239. Uranium-239 has a half-life of only 34 minutes and decays to neptunium-239, which has a half-life of 2.3 days and decays to plutonium-239. Therefore, when uranium-238 is irradiated with neutrons, a few days later, some of that uranium will have become plutonium-239, which can be separated chemically. Plutonium-239 is fissile and it’s exactly what you want if you’re looking to build a nuclear weapon.

However, there’s a problem that comes with the irradiation process: During the irradiation period, some of that plutonium-239 will also absorb a neutron. If that happens, it will usually fission, but up to a third of the time it won’t – instead it will become Pu-240. Likewise, some of that neptunium-239 will absorb a neutron before it gets a chance to decay to plutonium-239, thus resulting in neptunium-240, which quickly decays to plutonium-240. Because of these reactions, any reactor-generated plutonium will have some plutonium-240 in it.

Plutonium-240 is what you do not want when you’re building a nuclear weapon. For one thing, it’s not fissile and for another, it’s highly radioactive (four times more so than Pu-239), but what really makes Pu-240 so problematic for weapons use is that it has a high rate of decay by spontaneous fission, which produces neutrons. The rate of spontaneous fission of Pu-240 is so high that even with a tiny bit in a sample of plutonium, it will have significant effects on critical mass. If plutonium were used in a gun-triggered weapon, the spontaneous fission rate would mean that the bomb would begin to fission before the two portions came fully together. This is per-initiation, and it results in the weapon blowing itself apart before it actually gets a chance to achieve a full blown nuclear reaction. It’s commonly known as a fizzle.

To avoid this, a much more efficient design would be needed, one which could slam the fuel together very quickly and start the reaction before per-initiation could destroy the weapon in a very small explosion. This is why the implosion triggered system was designed. It proved to be capable producing a reaction from plutonium. Although the designers were not as confident about the design, leading to the need for a test before deployment – something which was not done with the gun-triggered uranium bomb.

Yet even using the implosion design, the presence of Pu-240 was still a problem. Having some Pu-240 present in the plutonium turned out to be inevitable, but it was still necessary to keep it to a minimum. If the level of Pu-240 were too high, even the implosion design would fail.

In order to do this, a special plutonium breeding cycle needed to be developed. The key to producing plutonium that is high in Pu-239 and low in Pu-240 is to make sure that it only spends a short period of time being irradiated. Uranium targets, in the form of small “slugs” would be irradiated in a reactor for a period of only one to two months. This would allow a small amount of neptunium and thus plutonium to build up, but only a small number of the atoms would absorb a second neutron. The slug would then be processed to remove the plutonium and the uranium would then be irradiated again, once again for a couple of months.

In practice, this meant that the target had to be completely dissolved and reprocessed, since that’s the only way to extract the plutonium. The uranium that was left could be reused, but it had to be completely re-fabricated into a new target. It also required a “cool down” period to assure the neptunium had all decayed. This period of time also eliminated most of the short-lived fission byproducts, which made the material difficult to handle and complicated the separation process. Typically, the cool down period would last several weeks. Each target would only produce a tiny amount of plutonium, so the process had to be repeated thousands of times to accumulate significant amounts of plutonium.

If the targets had been left in the reactor longer, then they’d produce more plutonium, but more of the plutonium would be Pu-240, the type which needs to be avoided. All and all, the process of producing weapons grade plutonium yields only about half a pound of plutonium for every ton of uranium irradiated and processed.

To accomplish this, the United States built a truly massive complex at Hanford Washington. It took three reactors working full time from 1944 on to produce enough plutonium for the weapons used in 1945. A total of nine plutonium production reactors were built at Hanford and produced plutonium for US nuclear weapons until 1987. Hanford was joined by the Savannah River Site in 1953. Six reactors would be built at the Savannah River site for plutonium production. All of the plutonium in US nuclear weapons came from the reactors at Hanford and Savannah River. Not one ounce of weapons plutonium ever came from a commercial nuclear power plant.

Grades of plutonium:

In current terminology, “weapons grade” plutonium is considered to have roughly 93% Pu-2239 or more, while “fuel grade” or “mid grade” plutonium has at least 81% and “reactor grade” contains less than 81% Pu-239. Weapons grade plutonium is considered to be the type well suited for use in nuclear weapons, but this does not mean that lower grades can’t theoretically be used, at least to a point.

As the concentration of Pu-240 increases, the difficulties it presents become greater and greater, causing the weapon to become less reliable, yield is reduced and a failure becomes more and more likely. Advanced weapons designs employ features like neutron reflectors, super high velocity, highly precise implosion lenses and multi-point detonation mechanisms, boosted cores and pulse neutron generators. These technologies, possessed by only a handful of countries could theoretically be used to create a more efficient weapon that could potentially utilize lower grade plutonium – but only to a point. A highly advanced, super-efficient weapon could make use of plutonium with a content of 91% Pu-239 or possibly even 88%. However, much beyond this would be difficult to impossible for even the most advanced weapons.

This kind of technology would not be available to a country just starting a weapons program anyway. The designs used by the United States and Russia are the result of hundreds of tests and decades of intense research. They also require exotic materials like tritium. However, no country with the technology to make such weapons would ever bother using the lower quality plutonium – doing so would reduce the weapons yield and make fabrication more difficult. Both the US and Russia already have a surplus of old weapons grade plutonium. Regardless of whether you could use sub-weapons grade plutonium in an effective weapon, it still would never work with reactor grade plutonium.

The reason for this is simple: commercial power plants don’t produce the kind of high grade, low Pu-240 material that is required for weapons. The most common type of nuclear reactor used around the world for power generation is the pressurized water reactor. In addition to this, there are many boiling water reactors in use. There are also some heavy water reactors and a few gas cooled reactors in use. With a couple of exceptions (more on that later) these reactors are NOT designed to produce weapons grade material.

Power reactors are designed to burn their fuel until there isn’t much left in it to burn, or at least, until the fuel no longer efficiently sustains critical mass in the core. Utility companies would rather be cranking out gigawatts than shuffling around fuel rods, and for this reason, most PWR’s and BWR’s are only refueled every year or two. Typically only a portion of the fuel is replaced and each fuel rod is used for more than one refueling interval. Most fuel rods spend at least three years in a reactor before being replaced and some spend even longer.

Some reactor designs allow for online refueling. These reactors are often refueled every few months, with only one or two fuel assemblies changed each time and fuel rods spending two or more years in the reactor, depending on burnup and enrichment. The CANDU reactor is refueled in this manner, but its spent fuel still spends far more time being irradiated than a weapons plutonium target ever would.

Because of this the plutonium found in spent fuel from power reactors has a very high concentration of Pu-240, making it unsuitable for use in nuclear weapons. The high levels of Pu-240 are not as important when the plutonium is to be reused in reactor fuel. Fast reactors will burn Pu-240 without issue and in thermal reactors, while plutonium-240 usually requires two neutrons to fission, more than Pu-239, this does not preclude its use. The pre-initiation issues of a weapon do not exist in reactors.

The plutonium produced by power reactors has yet another issue: it contains the isotope plutonium-241, an isotope which is only present in negligible quantities in weapons grade plutonium. Pu-241 decays into Am-241 with a half-life of only fourteen years. Since most reactor spent fuel sits for years in storage, by the time it is processed, a significant quantity has decayed to Am-241. The combination of Pu-241 and Am-241 makes the material highly radioactive, causing potential problems with material irradiation, the self-irradiation of a weapons core can cause embrittlement and heating of the plutonium pit and potentially compromise the weapons integrity.

In higher burnup reactors significant quantities of Pu-242 also begin ton build up. Plutonium-238, a source of intense heat also can be found in the spent fuel of high burnup reactors and can present problems for weapons us even when present at quantities of less than 1%. In a pressurized water reactor’s spent fuel, only about 53% of the plutonium present is plutonium-239, the type needed for a weapon! Creating a weapon out of plutonium with such extremely low levels of the critical isotope is absolutely impossible.

In face, 93% pu-239 is considered the low end of what is generally acceptable for weapons use and would work rather poorly in most weapons designs. Countries like the US, Russia, France and other advanced nuclear weapons states usually use even purer plutonium with concentrations of unwanted isotopes as low as 3% or less.

The possibility of using power reactors to produce weapons grade plutonium:

Simply reprocessing the fuel from a power reactor would yield plutonium that is utterly useless for weapons use, but could the reactor’s fuel cycle be modified to produce higher grade plutonium? Perhaps, but it wouldn’t be easy. PWR and BWR reactors are complex to refuel and normally are only refueled on relatively rare occasions, every year or so at the most. Refueling requires shutting down the reactor, allowing it to cool and depressurize, opening the lid of the reactor, replacing the fuel and finally replacing the lid. It takes more than a week to do this, during which time the reactor is shut down.

Producing weapons grade plutonium would mean irradiation cycles as short as a month. This would mean the reactor would be shut down almost as much as it was running, dramatically compromising its power producing capabilities. The cumbersome procedure would be made even worse because of the fact that the fuel assemblies use long, cladding rods, not the easily processed slugs that weapons reactors use. A power reactor of this type might be able to handle a fuel system more favorable to such frequent reprocessing and re-fabrication, but only with very extensive modification.

CANDU reactors can be refueled online, but the spent fuel they produce is very low in plutonium. A CANDU reactor could theoretically be used to produce weapons grade plutonium, but again, it would require extensive modification of the fuel cycle. Fuel would have to be ejected more frequently and doing so would reduce the power output of the reactor. Additionally, since the breed ratio of a CANDU under normal operation would not produce enough plutonium to make it a viable weapons reactor, there would need to be some modification of the fuel, likely using some level of enrichment combined with natural or depleted uranium target rods. It could be done, but like the PWR, it wouldn’t be especially easy and it would be pretty obvious to the world what you were doing.

There are two types of power reactors which are designed in a manner that allows them to produce weapons grade plutonium. The RBMK and Magnox reactors were both conceived as dual-purpose reactors and as such have the features necessary to produce weapons grade plutonium. The spent fuel from both of these reactors is useless for weapons production when they are run in a manner that maximizes their efficiency as power reactors, but the fuel cycle can be modified in order to produce nuclear weapons. However, both of these reactors are considered obsolete designs. The last Magnox reactor was built in 1971 and will be decommissioned this year. Most of the RBMK’s built have been decommissioned, but a handful are still in operation in Russia – a country which has no reason to produce more plutonium for weapons, given the enormous unused stockpile they already have.

A country wishing to produce plutonium-based nuclear weapons would be better off building a dedicated reactor or reactors for plutonium breeding. That is what every nuclear armed nation has done. The difficulties in making a power reactor produce weapons grade material are likely to be greater than simply building a purpose-built reactor, and in both cases the intentions would be fairly obvious. The fuel that comes out of a power reactor is useless for weapons production and therefore could never be spirited away to reprocessing to yield weapons grade material.

The great deception:

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter ended the reprocessing of nuclear fuel in the United States, thus making the US the only major nuclear nation with no reprocessing of spent fuel at all. In doing so, he created the nuclear “waste” problem, which prior to the end of reprocessing had been non-existent. At the time, he ordered some very selective information declassified to support this decision.

As anyone who understands nuclear weapons design would immediately realize that reprocessing of spent fuel absolutely does not yield weapons grade material, Carter asserted that, in fact, weapons grade material was not required to build a nuclear weapon. To support this claim he announced that the US had conducted a test in 1962 of a device containing “Reactor Grade Plutonium.” The problem was that Carter lied, if only by omission.

As is mentioned above, there’s not a single hard line at the 7% concentration. Plutonium containing 8% or 9% Pu-240 could certainly be used in a reasonably sophisticated weapon, although with reduced yield. When the 1962 test was conducted, there were only two terms for plutonium grades: “weapons grade” and “reactor grade.” In the contemporary terminology, “reactor grade” plutonium was anything with less than 93% plutonium-239, so a sample with 92.5% would qualify as reactor grade.

Additional information on the test was released in 1997. The biggest revelation was the source of the plutonium: it was not American but was imported from the UK. If the US wanted to test how lower grade plutonium would preform in a weapon, why not just use plutonium recovered from one of the power reactors in the US? After all, by 1962, the US had a number of PWR’s, including Shippingport, Yankee Rowe, Vallecitos Nuclear Center as well as a number of prototype naval reactors in operation at the Idaho National Laboratory.

The reason is simple: researchers were aware that the plutonium produced by these kind of reactors was so low in Pu-239 that it just plain would not work in a weapon. The test was likely intended to assess the effect of using lower grade plutonium in a weapon and confirm theoretical calculations, but to do this they needed plutonium that was lower than weapons grade, but not by too much, or the test would fail completely.

The DOE has never released the details of exactly what the composition of the plutonium was, nor have they released information about what the weapons yield was or whether the weapon incorporated advanced design features. The fact that it came from a Magnox reactor, however, is very telling.

Note in the graph seen above that of all the power reactor designs, the Magnox produces the least Pu-240 in its spent fuel and thus the most Pu-239. This is not by accident, as the Magnox reactor was originally designed as a weapons material reactor. Magnox reactors that continued to run in recent years produced plutonium with about 18% Pu-240, but this is only because they were operated at a high burnup level to produce power efficiently. When Magox reactors first came online, they were run at a much shorter fueling interval, more similar to the reactors at Savannah River and Hanford. Their primary purpose was to produce weapons grade plutonium. Electricity was also generated from the reactor’s heat, but this was seen as a byproduct, not the primary function of the reactor.

The first Magnox reactors became operational in 1956 at Calder Hall at the Stellafield nuclear site. The facility operated in a low-burnup mode intended for weapons production until 1964. After 1964 the reactors continued to produce weapons grade plutonium intermittently until 1995. The Chapelcross nuclear power station opened in 1959 and was considered the “sister plant” to the Calder Hall reactors. Chapelcross was also intended primarily to produce nuclear weapons material. In its early years, it ran on natural uranium at a low burnup that produced weapons grade plutonium. Berkely station opened in July of 1962. Berkeley was the first nuclear power plant in the UK that was owned by a civilian agency, the “Central Electricity Generating Board.”

Thus, there were only three nuclear reactors in the UK that potentially could have provided plutonium in 1962. Calder Hall can be ruled out because it was known to be operating at full capacity in weapons production mode at the time. Thus, the material it produced would be considered “weapons grade.” Reports indicate that in its early years, Berkeley was also used for producing weapons grade material. To this day the British government remains secretive about its historical plutonium breeding capabilities, and the level to which Berkely was used to produce nuclear weapons material is not entirely clear.

Had the material come from Chapplecross, it would have represented an abnormally long period of irradiation, since Chapplecross was primarily producing weapons material. Had it come from Berkeley, it would also have had to be low burnup, if only because of timing. Considering that it takes a good two to three months to cool, reprocess and fabricate fresh uranium rods into a weapons pit, that would have left only about three months for irradiation at Berkeley, even if the test took place in late December of 1962. Since the plant came online in July, there wouldn’t be enough time to heavily irradiate fuel rods. Also, at the time Magnox reactors ran exclusively on very low enrichment or unenriched fuel, limiting burnup, and because burnup directly effects fuel element integrity, early experiments with Magox reactors at higher burnup progressed conservatively, with usage extended in small intervals.

Therefore, the source of the plutonium can be determined to be either the very first round of spent fuel discharged from Berkeley, after having been irradiated for only a period of about three months max or possibly was from an extended irradiation period at Chapplecross. The fuel was not comparable to modern spent fuel, because, at the time, no British reactor was capable of producing such material. The fuel would have been lower than the US standard for weapons grade material – but only slightly.

The nature of the test can be inferred by a combination of its timing and the vague statement released in 1997: “This test was conducted to obtain nuclear design information concerning the feasibility of using reactor-grade plutonium as the nuclear explosive material. “

The test was probably done to establish a lower threshold for what would constitute acceptable plutonium for use in a weapon. This had already been established by calculations and sub-critical experiments, but this test would confirm how lower quality plutonium worked in a weapon. For example: Would the fuel cycle of the new Berkley nuclear plant produce material with weapons potential? Theory predicts that the use of plutonium of a quality slightly lower than the weapons grade standard would still produce a reasonable tactical yield in an advanced weapon design, but would diminish the total yield significantly. This is probably what happened in 1962.

One must remember that the material was only slightly lower grade than weapons grade plutonium – this is beyond question because of the source of the material being the low-burnup Magox reactors. Had it been from a modern power reactor or the power reactors that were being built outside the UK, it simply would not have worked at all.

And finally, on a “fizzle bomb”:

Some have said that this would be a deadly weapon as a “super dirty bomb” – the reality is that it would be a very big, bulky weapon that wouldn’t be much more powerful than its own weight in dynamite. It might spread around some plutonium, but the radio-toxicity of plutonium is not all that high and the spread of such material would be fairly local. Given that it’s primarily an alpha emitter, it would have to be inhaled or ingested to cause harm. If one went off, a couple blocks would need to be shut down while some guys in Tyvex suits washed everything down. We’ve actually experienced some weapons accidents that spread plutonium in a local area before. They weren’t the end of the world.

As a strategic weapon, it’s useless, as a tactical weapon, it’s pointless and as a weapon of terror, it’s only as terrifying as you let it be.

THEREFORE: NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS, SPENT FUEL FROM NUCLEAR POWER REACTORS AND ITS REPROCESSING IS ABSOLUTELY NOT A PROLIFERATION HAZARD. IT DOES NOT BECOME ONE IF THEY SAY IT IS ENOUGH TIMES. IT’S NOT. NOT PROCESSING NUCLEAR FUEL ON THE GROUNDS THAT IT PROMOTES NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROLIFERATION IS JUST PLAIN WRONG AND ALSO AN IDIOTIC ARGUMENT.

Understand?


This entry was posted on Saturday, February 20th, 2010 at 6:58 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Enviornment, Good Science, History, Nuclear, Obfuscation, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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253 Responses to “Why You Can’t Build a Bomb From Spent Fuel”

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  1. 201
    decora Says:

    “the radio-toxicity of plutonium is not all that high and the spread of such material would be fairly local. “

    this is why ‘debunker scientists’ websites fail. this question is incredibly important, but in this article is has been glossed over as if it were unimportant.

    then the author proceeds to scream at everyone with ALL CAPS about how stupid they are.

    ‘proof by intimidation’, as an old professor used to say.

    please remind me which part of the scientific method involves screaming at people.


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  2. 202
    drbuzz0 Says:

            decora said:

    “the radio-toxicity of plutonium is not all that high and the spread of such material would be fairly local. “

    this is why ‘debunker scientists’ websites fail. this question is incredibly important, but in this article is has been glossed over as if it were unimportant.

    then the author proceeds to scream at everyone with ALL CAPS about how stupid they are.

    ‘proof by intimidation’, as an old professor used to say.

    please remind me which part of the scientific method involves screaming at people.

    I don’t need to tell people how stupid you are, you did a better job at it than I ever could.

    Yes, it’s a little bit simplified, because that’s the nature of addressing the general public on an internet site. If you want they details please feel free to look them up for yourself.

    I’ll provide some:

    Plutonium is an alpha emitter. It’s only dangerous when it is internal (within the body) as would be the case if ingested or inhaled.

    It has a reasonably low activity. The half-life of Pu-239 (the most common form in reactor generated plutonium) is 24,000 years. That’s fairly long. Therefore the specific activity isn’t very high. Pu-240, the second most common is about 6,500 years – also fairly long.

    This is quite long and thus the radio-toxicity is relatively low as compared with much shorter lived isotopes.

    Take for example Po-210, the stuff that Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with – plutonium is literally tens of thousands of times less radio-toxic because it is also an alpha emitter but Po-210 has a halflife of only 138 days.

    Short and medium fission byproducts also have much higher radio-toxicity.

    Additionally, the biological uptake of plutonium is not especially high.

    If you really want, you can look up the relative toxicity in various tables. It’s out there.

    Good enough for you?


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  3. 203
    Zaphod Says:

    Thank you.
    Finally a website that refute all the false rumors about the nuclear industry. Linking to a lot of friends.


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  4. 204
    zaphod Says:

    Forgot to submit to the followup e-mails


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  5. 205
    Leslie Corrice Says:

    A very good explanation of why reactor-grade Plutonium is virtually worthless for bombs. Please visit my more brief, but parallel explanation in the “Nuclear Waste : Is it?” page of my website.

    BTW, I have added this pge of your site as a link. I hope you find my site worthy of reciprocation.


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  6. 206
    Reese Says:

    This time I’m saving a copy of this on my local drive. In case you quit, or are too busy as a rep. Somewhere in those comments above, I believe Rod Adams added this essay to his essential links. I went there after reading for the first time the seminal article on the dangers of plutonium recycling (November 1974 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists). Shock and horror, your article had disappeared into the ether.


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  7. 207
    Matthew Says:

            Reese said:

    This time I’m saving a copy of this on my local drive. In case you quit, or are too busy as a rep. Somewhere in those comments above, I believe Rod Adams added this essay to his essential links. I went there after reading for the first time the seminal article on the dangers of plutonium recycling (November 1974 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists). Shock and horror, your article had disappeared into the ether.

    Agreed. I wonder if there would be a way to get a local archive of your articles (I reference them quite a bit). I’ve subscribed by RSS now, so that I get the new ones on my comp, only “Evacuation Policy Versus Radiation Level Measurements In Japan” and later.


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  8. 208
    Anon Says:

            Matthew said:

    Agreed. I wonder if there would be a way to get a local archive of your articles (I reference them quite a bit). I’ve subscribed by RSS now, so that I get the new ones on my comp, only “Evacuation Policy Versus Radiation Level Measurements In Japan” and later.

    I take it you’ve never heard of [url=http://www.gnu.org/software/wget/]wget[/url] (assuming of course the webmaster here doesn’t have a problem with it)?


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  9. 209
    Matthew Says:

            Anon said:

    I take it you’ve never heard of [url=http://www.gnu.org/software/wget/]wget[/url] (assuming of course the webmaster here doesn’t have a problem with it)?

    Just tried HTTrack Website Copier with no luck


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  10. 210
    Anatomy X5 Review Says:

    Pretty! This was a really wonderful post. Thanks for providing
    this information.


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  11. 211
    Some truth Says:

    The fact that this article references Wikipedia should give the layman an idea as to its accuracy. To say the Wikipedia site is “loaded with errors” is a major understatement. This article states its author’s pet theories as fact.


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  12. 212
    Craig Schumacher Says:

            Some truth said:

    The fact that this article references Wikipedia should give the layman an idea as to its accuracy. To say the Wikipedia site is “loaded with errors” is a major understatement. This article states its author’s pet theories as fact.

    Reductio Ad Wikipedium.


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  13. 213
    DV82XL Says:

            Some truth said:

    This article states its author’s pet theories as fact.

    If you have referenced facts to the contrary, please table them. As well, the article also references GlobalSecurity.org on matters of fact so your claim of errors from referenceing Wikipedia is not correct. But then you weren’t interested in the truth – you were only trying to FUD an article that doesn’t agree with your POV.


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  14. 214
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Some truth said:

    The fact that this article references Wikipedia should give the layman an idea as to its accuracy. To say the Wikipedia site is “loaded with errors” is a major understatement.

    The links to Wikipedia are not intended to be citations as much as references and clarification of terms that are either technical or that are worth looking into.

    I do this on most articles. For example, the word “tritium” is linked to the Wikipedia article. It’s not because any information from Wikipedia is pertinent to it, but because a lay person may not know what tritium is, so it provides a reference. Likewise, BWR and PWR are linked to provide clarification of what they are.

    The Wikipedia articles do provide some basic background information, such as dates when reactors were constructed and that kind of thing.

    Wikipedia is good for this just because it’s a huge and readily available source of information online.

    But the core thesis is supported by a number of sources. These include declassified information from the Manhattan project and from subsequent nuclear tests, press reports and other sources.

    The burn-up rates and characteristic plutonium isotopes comes from information reprinted by the Federation Of American Scientists which came from the International Atomic Energy Agency and from a non-proliferation expert panel. Additional information comes from Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and from the US Department of Energy.

    The information about the weapons design and isotope challenges, including the grades of plutonium tested in early weapons and the construction of the first Hanford reactor and subsequent reactors is publically available Department of Energy information. Nuclear test data is available online from declassified archives.

    Most everything I have here should be verifiable.


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  15. 215
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Just to be clear about one other thing:

    There is some information that is hard to find explicitly and needs to be deduced based on the historical accounts and data.

    In the early days of criticality experiments, it was discovered that plutonium-240 was highly problematic. This is why the “Thin Man” bomb had to be abandoned. It was realized that so problematic was Pu-240 that only short duration irradiation of slugs had to be used. Longer irradiation would be an easier way to make more plutonium, but it was very important to keep Pu-240 concentrations down. They were concerned, even with the levels they had, that it would cause problems.

    We know that plutonium-240 has always been problematic for weapons designers (Pu-238 is a problem too) We know this because even as the weapons improved, the US and Soviet Union both worked to further reduce irradiation times and increase the cycles of reprocessing to produce “super grade” plutonium. It was well understood by the 1950′s that lower grade plutonium had undesirable qualities. This is clear from how production was conducted.

    We can also appreciate how important short intervals are by looking at reactors like the MAGNOX and RBMK, which were built to allow this to happen. We can also tell, by process of elimination that the 1962 test must have been MAGNOX material, and by extension, this would put an upper limit on the amount of Pu-240 in any acknowledged weapon to be detonated.


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  16. 216
    jeppen Says:

    This is a good post. I just want to add a little food for thought: Let’s say we have average 70% Pu-239 in the spent fuel of a power reactor, and the amount of plutonium in total is 1% or 200 kg Pu of a year’s worth of fuel. So 60 kg is Pu-240 and 140 kg is Pu-239 (disregarding higher Pu isotopes for simplicity).

    Now consider that Pu-240 halves in 6500 years and Pu-239 in 24100 year. This means that the total plutonium weight available goes down with time, but the ratio of Pu-239 to all plutonium changes faster:

    After 7,000 years, it is 143 kg @ 80%.
    After 17,500 years, it is 94 kg @ 90%.
    After 22,500 years, it is 79 kg @ 93% (weapons grade)
    After 34,000 years, it is 54 kg @ 97% (good weapons grade)
    After 48,500 years, it is 35 kg @ 99% (very good weapons grade)

    As I understand it, the US has some 70,000 tons of SNF. In 34,000 years from now, unless reprocessed and burned in future reactor fleets, this spent fuel will contain some 189 tons of good weapons grade plutonium, fairly easily chemically separable.

    Banning reprocessing might have prevented some short term proliferation (but not really). However, it has increased the long-term proliferation risk considerably.


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  17. 217
    Anon Says:

    You need to account for isotope 242 as well.


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  18. 218
    drbuzz0 Says:

    I have heard these arguments before, and they are sometimes extended to the idea that we must burn or denature our spent fuel or make it hard to recover or a future civilization could use it for nuclear weapons.

    Frankly, I find the logic very strange. Who are we to say what should or should not be done by future generations? and are we so brash to think we would matter to them. This is like the romans thinking they had to hide their spears lest we find them.

    Much can happen in 70,000 years. civilization is not even that old. If humanity still exists in any form like it is now, I do not worry about them finding our spent fuel. For one thing, they may well have moved onto antimatter energy and laugh at fission as a weapon. But in any case, any sufficiently advanced society will be able to produce fissile material with no pronlem. Even our primative 20th century society could do it.


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  19. 219
    jeppen Says:

            Anon said:

    You need to account for isotope 242 as well.

    Sure, a little less Pu-239 then, but I guess 242 isn’t a big problem in a weapon?


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  20. 220
    jeppen Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    But in any case, any sufficiently advanced society will be able to produce fissile material with no pronlem.

    I agree it is only a problem in fairly special circumstances, but we do make available large quantities of weapons plutonium during tens of thousands of years for our descendants. It is not unthinkable that it will prove useful to a terrorist group, dictator or such in a semi-advanced and unprepared global society.


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  21. 221
    Anon Says:

            jeppen said:

    Sure, a little less Pu-239 then, but I guess 242 isn’t a big problem in a weapon?

    Not as big a problem as 240 but it won’t fission and there will be quite a bit of it even if you only start with a little.

            jeppen said:

    I agree it is only a problem in fairly special circumstances, but we do make available large quantities of weapons plutonium during tens of thousands of years for our descendants. It is not unthinkable that it will prove useful to a terrorist group, dictator or such in a semi-advanced and unprepared global society.

    We should be putting our effort into making sure we never devolve to that state, not in making sure that if we do they won’t be able to make a nuclear bomb.


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  22. 222
    jeppen Says:

            Anon said:

    Not as big a problem as 240 but it won’t fission and there will be quite a bit of it even if you only start with a little.

    We should be putting our effort into making sure we never devolve to that state, not in making sure that if we do they won’t be able to make a nuclear bomb.

    So, how big of a problem is the 242 diluting the 239?

    Regarding preventing weapons material in the hands of distant future terrorists and dictators, I don’t see it as an either/or situation vs having a good society overall. Especially since it does have some tangible benefits to burn all heavy actinides, such as reduced waste lifetime/volume, less backend research, less waste handling hysteria and less to no mining for uranium.


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  23. 223
    DV82XL Says:

            jeppen said:

    I agree it is only a problem in fairly special circumstances, but we do make available large quantities of weapons plutonium during tens of thousands of years for our descendants. It is not unthinkable that it will prove useful to a terrorist group, dictator or such in a semi-advanced and unprepared global society.

    First it is hubris to the extreme to assume we must make decisions of this sort for our decedents that far in the future, or that they could be held to them. Seven thousand years in the past was the Neolithic Era, considered the last part of the Stone Age, and it is risible to think that we would be held to any decisions about what they might have considered appropriate technology for us today. The belief that somehow we represent the apex of human development, (on which this concern about Pu is based) is as arrogant as it is short-sighted. While it is laudable to consider the type of planet we will leave to those coming after, there are plenty of far more immediate issues that need actioning the impacts of which will effect the next two or three generations.

    Having said that, I do agree that burning nuclear ‘waste’ is by far the better solution than sequestering it for the present benefits alone.


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  24. 224
    jeppen Says:

            DV82XL said:

    First it is hubris to the extreme [...] as arrogant as it is short-sighted.

    If you’re pro-nuclear, like me, I’d suggest you don’t frame your arguments like that. You’ll only make enemies. If you’re an anti, please carry on.

            DV82XL said:

    The belief that somehow we represent the apex of human development,

    For me, the most likely scenario is continued progress beyond my imagination. OTOH, civilizations have risen and fallen before, and this one might as well. I don’t believe we are sure to monotonically progress from here. Thus it would be nice to not leave really nasty stuff lying around.

    This (burning all Pu) is not a big deal for me, and I think we shouldn’t devote enormous resources to it. I tend to think like an economist, and the net present value of destroying Pu to avoid a risk 30,000 years into the future is certainly close to nil. However, I think it is an interesting/entertaining fact, that we get weapons plutonium in the end, and it is something that might work as an argument for certain policy choices. The nuclear game is all about PR now, and we should turn every stone to see what works. This might be counter-productive, sure, but anyway.


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  25. 225
    DV82XL Says:

            jeppen said:

    If you’re pro-nuclear, like me, I’d suggest you don’t frame your arguments like that. You’ll only make enemies. If you’re an anti, please carry on.

    For me, the most likely scenario is continued progress beyond my imagination. OTOH, civilizations have risen and fallen before, and this one might as well. I don’t believe we are sure to monotonically progress from here. Thus it would be nice to not leave really nasty stuff lying around.

    First I am pronuclear, and second the argument is valid. Invoking the spectre of terrorists and dictators seven thousand years into a future that we are not in a position to make even and educated guess as to what social structures might be in place is simply ludicrous any more than Neolithic peoples could imagine the modern culture we live in. Some indication of how much disparity in perception there would be between how we would see the distant future can be gleaned by looking at the cargo cults that arose in the South Pacific after WWII. These arose when cultures with about the same degree of difference we are discussing came in contact and clearly demonstrates just how little we could conceptualize an similarly advanced culture. I strongly suspect that any steps we took now (beyond burning the stuff outright) would be seen by the future the same way we see the bamboo ‘antennas’ the cargo cultists erect to attract riches.

    It is an error to say that civilizations have fallen, cultures have it is true, but civilization once it emerged as a major technological and cultural transition has never faltered completely, and forward progress (at least from a global perspective) has been continuous. While it is impossible to assert that a global collapse that would set us back to a state prior to the Neolithic Revolution from which civilization could not occur, the fate of spent nuclear fuel in the wake of such an event, which would have to be massive, would be of secondary importance. In other words; if one wishes to postulate such a collapse and believes something could be done now to ameliorate the impact, one can think far more important steps to take than worrying about this aspect.

    The fact is this ‘issue’ is nothing but an artificial concern fabricated by antinuclear propagandists and should be treated as such, not given credence by treating it seriously. pandering to nonsense is what got us into this situation and I will be damned if I will let the other side set the agenda by treating ludicrous notions like this with anything except the contempt they deserve.

    Now again this doesn’t take away the fact that there are good technical and economic reasons to develop fast-spectrum reactors, but in my opinion we should not even pay lip-service to idiotic reasons like the one under discussion. They need to be answered with fact and shown to be without logical foundation.


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  26. 226
    jeppen Says:

    Well, DV82XL, you keep being rude and condescending. It’s a free world, and I cannot stop you from being an a-hole. However, I don’t think a-holes will be very effective in swaying people.

    But even if you go nice, I think you’ll find it impossible to make everybody treat the future in a fully rational way. There will always be people who care about things that might not go to the top of the priority list of a Vulcan. People that would like to, as the boyscout motto goes, leave the place in better shape than it was, do the “responsible thing” and so on. We need to find ways to get them to accept nuclear power as such, and leverage whatever influence they have. Again, this might not be it, and you don’t like it, but it’s still a fact that it will become weapons plutonium over time.

    And, I stand by non-linear development as a possibility, and knowledge and technology has for sure got lost before. Also, I don’t know what you got “pre-neolithic from which civilization could not occur” from, as I had made no such requirement. Exactly because we don’t know what comes after us, I’d prefer not leaving weapons plutonium behind in a cave. Again, not that important, but something I would prefer. I think we can put the discussion to rest with that, or you can say that it is idiotic again a few times?


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  27. 227
    Craig Schumacher Says:

    Jeppen is showing some of the qualities of a ‘concern troll’. “I’m with you in general terms, but I have concerns…”

    The best way to leave the world in a better shape than we found it is to ensure that people have the tools and ability to work on the issues facing them. Nuclear power is surely an essential part of the toolkit for this.


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  28. 228
    DV82XL Says:

            jeppen said:

    Well, DV82XL, you keep being rude and condescending.

    Oh dear, he doesn’t know me very well does he?


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  29. 229
    Anon Says:

            Craig Schumacher said:

    Jeppen is showing some of the qualities of a ‘concern troll’. “I’m with you in general terms, but I have concerns…”

    I’m starting to come to the same conclusion.

            Craig Schumacher said:

    The best way to leave the world in a better shape than we found it is to ensure that people have the tools and ability to work on the issues facing them. Nuclear power is surely an essential part of the toolkit for this.

    Hard to agree more.


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  30. 230
    DV82XL Says:

    The funny thing is this bis one of the weakest of the antinuclear fabricated issues. First because it is one with a clear solution, which is to burn the material. Second, in a political culture that one has a hard time getting any traction over the potential impacts, and responsibility for, of anthropogenic global warming, the consequences of which may profoundly affect the next generation, broad concern for what might happen in 7000 years is not going to be that prevalent.


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  31. 231
    jeppen Says:

    “Concern troll”? This is becoming ridiculous. Just google “jeppen nuclear” and read some other comments by me.

    “weakest of the antinuclear fabricated issues.”

    Not fabricated, physics. And a pro-nuclear guy (me) came up with it. I’m sure I’m not the first one, but anyway.

    “First because it is one with a clear solution, which is to burn the material.”

    Which was my suggestion from the first comment (reprocessing).


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  32. 232
    jeppen Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Oh dear, he doesn’t know me very well does he?

    That’s true. From your nick, I’d guess your initials are DV, you’re 31 years old and fat. Correct?


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  33. 233
    DV82XL Says:

            jeppen said:

    Not fabricated, physics. And a pro-nuclear guy (me) came up with it. I’m sure I’m not the first one, but anyway).

    Yes fabricated. It’s been around for at least twenty-five years and turns up regularly. Some of the more inane ‘solutions’ proffered in the past centered around building repositories surrounded by monuments that would be designed to scare off our (assumed) degenerate progeny of the distant future without actually revealing what was there. The degree of silliness of some of the suggestions were breathtaking. Some of the more off the wall ones included the creation of a monastic-like order of quasi-religious caretakers who would dedicate their lives to guarding the material and transmit their cenobitic rule down through the ages through a system of vows, ordination and sacramental liturgy. Militant orders like the Knights Templar would be the model.

    But the real reason the idea was invoked was to serve as a reason why nuclear technology was too dangerous to even consider and yet another reason why it should be abandoned.

            jeppen said:

    That’s true. From your nick, I’d guess your initials are DV, you’re 31 years old and fat. Correct?

    Actually I’m 61 years old, 6ft tall and 180 lbs. You can google DV82XL to see how long I’ve been working on the nuclear file.


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  34. 234
    jeppen Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Yes fabricated.

    Aren’t all scenarios “fabricated”, then? Or what’s the criteria for something being fabricated?

            DV82XL said:

    It’s been around for at least twenty-five years and turns up regularly.

    You mean the idea that it turns to weapons plutonium eventually, or the idea that it is somewhat unhealthy to handle?

            DV82XL said:

    Some of the more inane ‘solutions …’

    Good thing I had a smart solution then. Otherwise your guilt by association might have stuck.

            DV82XL said:

    Actually I’m 61 years old, 6ft tall and 180 lbs. You can google DV82XL to see how long I’ve been working on the nuclear file.

    Hmm, what’s that in sane units? Fairly tall and well below 90 kg? Good for you. Ok, so you’ve been pushing people away for a long time? A pity, but you still have a few years in which you could debate more effectively.


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  35. 235
    DV82XL Says:

            jeppen said:

    Aren’t all scenarios “fabricated”, then? Or what’s the criteria for something being fabricated?

    Fabricated in the sense that it is propaganda rather than a legitimate issue. While the idea may be new to you, as I wrote upthread it has been brought up on several previous occasions by the antinuclear side during debates over waste repositories. Each time it has been countered by pointing out that first, projecting what the state of affairs will be in a future as distant from us as the late Stone Age is in the other direction is preposterous, and second that in any case the material should be burned making the issue moot. In other words, its nothing new which is why we have been somewhat dismissive about it.

            jeppen said:

    You mean the idea that it turns to weapons plutonium eventually, or the idea that it is somewhat unhealthy to handle?

    No, the notion that something must be done with spent nuclear fuel to protect the interests of people living seven millennia from now.

            jeppen said:

    Hmm, what’s that in sane units? Fairly tall and well below 90 kg? Good for you. Ok, so you’ve been pushing people away for a long time? A pity, but you still have a few years in which you could debate more effectively.

    183cm and 82kg (I used U.S. values because this is an American based blog) As to the effectiveness of my debating skills, so far I’m the one presenting fact based arguments here with logical reasons why concerns over the very long term fate of this material is without rational foundations. You on the other hand have done little to defend your position and have lowered yourself to flinging disparaging remarks. If this is what you think effective debating consists of, you have a long way to go.


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  36. 236
    jeppen Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Fabricated in the sense that it is propaganda rather than a legitimate issue.

    Well, but it wasn’t propaganda (and I know since I’m the one who put it forward), so it wasn’t fabricated.

            DV82XL said:

    projecting what the state of affairs will be in a future as distant from us as the late Stone Age is in the other direction is preposterous

    There was no projection, just an observation that there will be weapons plutonium which someone in the future might want to use.

            DV82XL said:

    and second that in any case the material should be burned making the issue moot.

    Yes, which is what I wrote from the very beginning, making (part of) the case for reprocessing. Since reprocessing is discouraged for proliferation reasons, it is nice to be able to turn it around.

            DV82XL said:

    (I used U.S. values because this is an American based blog)

    All the more reason to use sane units. They need it.

            DV82XL said:

    As to the effectiveness of my debating skills, so far I’m the one presenting fact based arguments here

    I started off with some physics and maths, the obvious risk scenario and concluded that we should reprocess. You followed up with a comment containing remarks such as “hubris to the extreme”, “short-sighted” and “arrogant”. In the next comment, you added “ludicrous”, “nonsense”, “ludicrous” again, declared your “contempt” and talked about “idiotic reasons”.

            DV82XL said:

    You on the other hand have done little to defend your position

    Well, you know, I don’t see that much to fight over, or that I need so much defense. We basically agree, I’m just correcting a few nuances in your comments and trying to make you see how your style affects people. The nuances involves the repeated guilt-by-association and “propaganda” remarks, that you seem to think I’m asserting more about the future than the possibility that some of the weapons plutonium will be used as such, and also that you seem to think it is a sure thing that our descendants will be demi-gods.

            DV82XL said:

    lowered yourself to flinging disparaging remarks. If this is what you think effective debating consists of, you have a long way to go.

    Well, whaddya know, a tu qouque. No, I’m not saying I’m effective, I’m saying you’re not as effective as you could be. I allow myself a bit different style with you compared to what I ordinarily use. I know you won’t cry or anything. But when we talk to reasonable people that are undecided or worried, we better be polite and matter-of-fact ourselves. Actually, we should try to be like that even in the face of unreasonable antis.


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  37. 237
    DV82XL Says:

    OK. Apparently you don’t really see what was happening here. You brought forward a well-worn antinuclear trope while claiming to be pronuclear. We have had others on these pages (and in other pronuclear forums) try to play the ‘I support nuclear energy but…’ game in an attempt to raise concerns over waste or some other false issue while trying to appear as a defender of nuclear in an effort to make it look like insiders accept that these are problems as well. Thus the accusations of ‘concern troll’ and why you were not treated very seriously.

    As for the general style of debate here, I suggest you spend some time reading through the whole comment thread right from the top. You will find that debate on this blog is somewhat more hardball than others and most here like it that way.

    On the matter of debating with antis, you will find, as I have (since clearly you haven’t been at this as long as we have) that you are wasting your time. Those holding strident antinuclear are not going to be swayed – they are not interested in reason – they have a religion. Their religion tells them that only renewable energy is “good” and nuclear energy is “bad.” Their definitions of good and bad are articles of that faith and nothing we say is going to sway them.

    Who we can impact are those who haven’t given the matter much thought and only have a default position against nuclear because they haven’t, and this is a very large portion of the population. And they can be reached. They are quite willing to see that worries about what might happen 7-10 thousand years on are not that pressing especially when it is pointed out that we will likely appear to those folks about as sophisticated for them as a Stone Age individual appears to us. In fact I have made this point several time in debate and find that it pretty well shuts now the argument. It is particularly useful in situations where mentioning the fast spectrum reactor solution might raise more proliferation concerns.

    Yes I believe that humankind will continue to develop along the path as it has unbroken for the last 12,000 years. While there have been local pauses and setbacks, globally progress has been steady. We should not ignore the future, but our concerns should be focused on more immediate issues where decisions need to be made now to avoid the problems we are going to face in the next two or three generations and for which we have a far clearer idea of what the impacts might be. This would be far more productive than attempting to solve problems for a time we do not and cannot understand.


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  38. 238
    jeppen Says:

            DV82XL said:

    OK. Apparently you don’t really see what was happening here.

    Of course I do. You drew the wrong conclusions about me and my arguments from insufficient data, and for some reason, you seem very slow to correct your thinking in light of new data.

            DV82XL said:

    You brought forward a well-worn antinuclear trope

    I still think it’s unusual (the transformation to weapons grade plutonium). Feel free to prove otherwise.

            DV82XL said:

    Thus the accusations of ‘concern troll’ and why you were not treated very seriously.

    Well, now you’re explained your mistake, but does it work as a justification? I have pointed out your style to you, I have pointed out that you drew the wrong conclusions. Would you still act the same again, and if so, is it just because you are too bound by prestige to accept being wrong, or because you are having too much fun putting people down?

            DV82XL said:

    since clearly you haven’t been at this as long as we have

    Clearly how? You once again draw too quick conclusions. I’ve been at this since 1993 on the Internet. (I’m a Swede, so most discussions have been in Swedish fora, though.) At least some of you should have entered the game later than that. When I was younger, btw, I was a bit more like you in style. But then I matured a bit.

            DV82XL said:

    You will find that debate on this blog is somewhat more hardball than others and most here like it that way.

    Of course, because those who doesn’t like it are not here for very long. If I really was as new in this as you thought, and pro-nuclear, was it really a great idea to chase me off instead of giving me some support? (Also, though I’m male, you can give a thought to why Wikipedia has an extremely low percentage of female editors.)

    Anyhow, if you all agree you do this for the entertainment value, then that’s ok. As any small insider group, you can develop whatever culture you like and laugh at how the n00bs venturing too close get their asses whupped. If you want to make an impact, though, it might not be that good.

            DV82XL said:

    Those holding strident antinuclear are not going to be swayed – they are not interested in reason – they have a religion.

    Of course. I know everything about the Busbys, Caldicotts and van Leeuwens of the anti-nuclear trade, and their lesser minions. I know everything about the renewables crowd too.

            DV82XL said:

    Their definitions of good and bad are articles of that faith and nothing we say is going to sway them.

    I agree that this is commonly the case. However, why can’t they be swayed? Because their faith, as any faith, is based on social values. They have invested prestige and time in this, and they have friends and organizations behind them that they won’t abandon easily. But considering their motivation is social, you treating them with contempt is strengthening their case for staying in the anti-nuclear group. If there is hope, which I agree there seldom is, it lies in being inclusive.

            DV82XL said:

    Who we can impact are those who haven’t given the matter much thought and only have a default position against nuclear because they haven’t, and this is a very large portion of the population. And they can be reached.

    Sure, but you would push them away in a heartbeat with the style you employ.

            DV82XL said:

    They are quite willing to see that worries about what might happen 7-10 thousand years on are not that pressing

    Have you heard of Briggs-Myers personality tests? What personality types will you easily convince that there’s nothing to worry about? (Just want you to think out of the box – I’m not saying Briggs-Myers is the ****.) Thinkers/feelers? Sensing/intuition? Judging/perceiving? Also, lots of people in the green crowd are, to different degrees, doomers/peakers. Just saying we have a star trek future ahead of us isn’t going to be universally accepted.

    Btw, I’m not saying your argument shouldn’t be used. I have used it, many times, even talking to doomers. Look here for instance:
    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/9419#comment-914786


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  39. 239
    DV82XL Says:

    It it pointless to continue this discussion if it is going to center around issues of style. If you have been around for this long and didn’t realize that the ‘dangerous-for-millennia-we have-to-protect-the-distant-future-from-itself’ argument is a well-worn antinuclear red herring then you haven’t been paying very much attention.

    Yes I attack the most idiotic antinuclear memes directly and with ridicule where it is warranted, and this is one of those cases. I long ago learned that converting or even arguing with doctrinaire Greens is a lost cause – for them the argument is faith-based and not amenable to reason. Nor, (at least on this side of the Water) is the public so enamored with the Green philosophy that any damage will likely be done to the pronuclear position by attacking their fundamental positions vigorously. At any rate the major opposition to nuclear here is more driven by fossil-fuel interests, (mostly natural gas) not misplaced environmentalism as it seems to be in most of Europe.

    In the end though, bad reasoning is bad reasoning, and this is the primary focus of this blog. Invoking concerns over the potential for people thousands and thousands of years into the future making Pu based nuclear weapons from our spent reactor fuel is simply bad reasoning regardless and here it will be treated as such.

    You seem an otherwise reasonable individual and I hope you will consider commenting on this blog, not only in this thread but in others, but unless you have something relevant to post on the subject of making nuclear weapons from spent fuel, the discussion of your opinions of my debating style is closed as far as I am concerned.


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  40. 240
    jeppen Says:

            DV82XL said:

    It it pointless to continue this discussion if it is going to center around issues of style.

    So it seems. Too bad.

            DV82XL said:

    If you have been around for this long and didn’t realize that the ‘dangerous-for-millennia-we have-to-protect-the-distant-future-from-itself’ argument is a well-worn antinuclear red herring then you haven’t been paying very much attention.

    I’ve seen tons of variations, yes, but I’m simply not prepared to dismiss them all like you do. While I fully agree, and often point out, that we have more important concerns, I think it is fairly respectable to not want to leave dangerous stuff lying around. And, of course, it can be useful for me to turn that idea to my advantage.

            DV82XL said:

    I long ago learned that converting or even arguing with doctrinaire Greens is a lost cause – for them the argument is faith-based and not amenable to reason.

    I explained how they tick, and how they can be reached. Some can even be reached by reason, such as Mark Lynas.

            DV82XL said:

    Nor, (at least on this side of the Water) is the public so enamored with the Green philosophy that any damage will likely be done to the pronuclear position by attacking their fundamental positions vigorously.

    If the vigor lies in the facts, and not in the contempt, then perhaps. But I often get the “I hope you don’t get a position of influence in the NRC (or equivalent)”. A fact based approach on public forums such as the CNN articles regarding Fukushima draws a lot of hate. It is typically perceived as criminally irresponsible. I do my best to get people to understand that nuclear power is an industry among others, and that 100% safety is not a reasonable goal. I still tell them the truth, but very seldomly I treat any idea or person with open contempt.

            DV82XL said:

    At any rate the major opposition to nuclear here is more driven by fossil-fuel interests, (mostly natural gas) not misplaced environmentalism as it seems to be in most of Europe.

    The policies of the NRC shows that risk is not treated rationally in the US either, and I guess those policies are based on what the public wants.

            DV82XL said:

    You seem an otherwise reasonable individual and I hope you will consider commenting on this blog, not only in this thread but in others

    I usually don’t comment that much on blogs that I agree with. I tend to seek out opposition. I think you’ve got this blog pretty much covered. Thanks for the discussion.


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  41. 241
    drbuzz0 Says:

    I did not mention plutonium-242 because it is a relatively minor isotope and because plutonium-240 and plutonium-238 are such deal killers. In spent fuel, Pu-242 would be the least of your concerns given the spontaneous fission of Pu-242 and the heat generated from Pu-238, as yet another concern.

    But I suppose if you have several tens of thousands of years to wait around…

    Really though, if we are going to be so concerned about restraining future generations from making a weapon, shouldn’t we be focused on the massive amounts of uranium-235 that are already in the earth’s crust? Or for that matter, U-238, which, thought not fissile, is converted to plutonium without much difficulty by any technical society.


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  42. 242
    DV82XL Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    Really though, if we are going to be so concerned about restraining future generations from making a weapon, shouldn’t we be focused on the massive amounts of uranium-235 that are already in the earth’s crust? Or for that matter, U-238, which, thought not fissile, is converted to plutonium without much difficulty by any technical society.

    Which is precisely why this whole silly meme is nothing but a canard.


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  43. 243
    Shafe Says:

            jeppen said:

    All the more reason to use sane units. They need it.

    Is going around telling other people what they “need” what you consider “being inclusive?”

    We’ll drop our archaic, Old World habit (US Customary Units) if you’ll drop yours (royal family.)


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  44. 244
    jeppen Says:

            Shafe said:

    Is going around telling other people what they “need” what you consider “being inclusive?”

    Perhaps not – depends. I felt it was a relatively minor offense, but I may be wrong.

            Shafe said:

    We’ll drop our archaic, Old World habit (US Customary Units) if you’ll drop yours (royal family.)

    Don’t hold your breath. Oh, wait, you are!

    Our royals might be bad for us, or they are relatively cheap PR. Either way, you should stop doing what’s bad for you.


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  45. 245
    Shafe Says:

            jeppen said:

    Perhaps not – depends. I felt it was a relatively minor offense, but I may be wrong.

    I felt “First it is hubris to the extreme to assume we must make decisions of this sort” was a relatively minor offense, and I took it as no indictment of your interest in a technical oddity, but rather of the implication that we have a moral duty to protect our descendents from their ape-like ancestors. I suppose you must have felt otherwise, as you took it upon yourself to start lecturing about how other people should present their views. You seem more interested in correcting other people’s faults than presenting an inclusive argument, as you claim. I take all this as evidence that your persuasive style is not nearly as effective as you think. Cura te ipsum.


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  46. 246
    jeppen Says:

            Shafe said:

    I suppose you must have felt otherwise, as you took it upon yourself to start lecturing about how other people should present their views.

    The “hubris in extreme” in isolation wouldn’t have triggered me very much, I think. It was the fairly high frequency of similar remarks that did it. Do you feel the “lecturing” was unwarranted?

            Shafe said:

    You seem more interested in correcting other people’s faults than presenting an inclusive argument, as you claim. I take all this as evidence that your persuasive style is not nearly as effective as you think. Cura te ipsum.

    Good observation, even if mixed with another tu quoque. I’m fairly conscious of my faults, and, again, I haven’t claimed being very effective.


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  47. 247
    Shafe Says:

            jeppen said:

    The “hubris in extreme” in isolation wouldn’t have triggered me very much, I think. It was the fairly high frequency of similar remarks that did it. Do you feel the “lecturing” was unwarranted?

    I feel it was irrelevant to the issue you tabled, that of the decay of spent fuel into weapons-grade plutonium.

            jeppen said:

    Good observation, even if mixed with another tu quoque. I’m fairly conscious of my faults, and, again, I haven’t claimed being very effective.

    My observation was not mixed with a tu quoque, it was itself a bald-faced tu quoque and was meant as one. Since you insisted on derailing the issue into an argument about style, it seemed only fair to point out that the pot was calling the kettle black. And since you were no longer pursuing a logical argument, accusing me of a logical fallacy rings a little empty.


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  48. 248
    jeppen Says:

            Shafe said:

    I feel it was irrelevant to the issue you tabled, that of the decay of spent fuel into weapons-grade plutonium.

    You state the obvious instead of answering the question.


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  49. 249
    Shafe Says:

            jeppen said:

    You state the obvious instead of answering the question.

    Seriously? You’re going to be this tiresome?

    Whether something is warranted depends on one’s goals. I think I made it clear that I felt your lecturing re: style was irrelevant to the goal at hand, which I held to be a discussion about isotope fractions in nuclear waste. It should have been easy to infer, then, that I didn’t think your lecturing was warranted.

    However, I will submit that your goal was a lecture, not a discussion, and those to whom you wished to lecture were not cooperating. You might feel that further lecturing was warranted in that case to scold your unreceptive audience. However, those are your feelings, not mine.


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  50. 250
    jeppen Says:

            Shafe said:

    Seriously? You’re going to be this tiresome?

    I was decidedly un-tiresome, as I skipped most of your fallacious reasoning and went straight to the core of the discussion (You won’t agree about the core, but anyway). You’re the tiresome one, btw. We were done, and then you come in an start lecturing me about lecturing him…

            Shafe said:

    I think I made it clear that I felt your lecturing re: style was irrelevant to the goal at hand, which I held to be a discussion about isotope fractions in nuclear waste.

    So, you don’t feel meta-discussions can be warranted? Sounds a bit … inflexible, but ok.

            Shafe said:

    However, I will submit that your goal was a lecture

    Depends a bit on your perspective, I guess. I talked nuclear, took some abuse from dv, and then fairly politely tried to talk him out of doing that. Now you put me in the perpetrator role by talking about me having “lecturing” as a “goal”. I can’t say you’re wrong, but I don’t really like the framing.


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