An argument in favor of plutonium use in the united states

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An argument in favor of plutonium use in the united states

I was among those working hard on how to do that: The good will has turned sour. Russia has changed its mind twice, once having to do with liability as nuclear safeguards collaboration was affected by shifts within the Russian government, and the other being a move from light-water MOX fuel to fuel for experimental fast reactors.

The agreement was modified in to accommodate those changes. The United States is now in the process of changing its preferred option from MOX fuel to, um, something else, not quite defined. The program in the United States has been a poster case for narrow interests competing with each other with little consideration of the larger picture.

For nonproliferation interests and better relations with Russia, the best course of action would have been a direct route to plutonium disposal by the Spent Fuel Standard, which means that the plutonium would be as unusable as if it were contained in highly radioactive spent nuclear reactor fuel.

To reach that standard, the plutonium might be fabricated into reactor fuel and used to produce power, with the spent fuel stored at the end of that process; or mixing the plutonium with fission products from a reactor and glassifying the mixture, to be disposed of in deep boreholes.

Russia has long wanted to use its plutonium for electrical power production, so their choice was easy. However, along the way, their plan switched from light-water reactors to fast reactors, which can be used as breeders, which can produce a lot more plutonium.

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That was the subject of the modification to the agreement. A plant was built in South Carolina to fabricate that fuel. That plant is now behind schedule and over budget. The reasons for the cost and schedule overruns are not clear. My suspicion is that they derive from low-balling initial contract bids and mismanagement by the Department of Energy, along with uncertainties introduced by stop-and-go funding by Congress.

In terms of the agreement with Russia, the stop and go and change undermine trust. He may or may not be sincere, but he has a point. The senators from South Carolina, where the plant is being built, have referred to his remarks as part of their argument for continuing to fund the plant.

A large part of senatorial interest is maintaining jobs in their state. Organizations opposing nuclear energy have been seeking to stop the MOX plant, and they use the budget overruns to argue against it.

However, some of those organizations also promote nonproliferation goals.

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Glassification has been going badly at the Hanford Site, so a new alternative must be found. The Red Team Report A Red Team was convened to consider the options and found the preferred option to be conversion of pits to oxide, after which The plutonium oxide would be diluted with an adulterant mixture that serves to reduce the attractiveness level of the plutonium oxide by yielding a mixture that: It is not clear what the adulterants would be.

A chemically inert material could easily be separated from the plutonium. WIPP has been closed since a radiological accident in February It is expected to open later this year. WIPP was never intended for storage of this type of material, and its permits would have to be revised.

Questions of capacity and requirements for criticality control have been raised. Taking this option will result in more delay.

It is one thing to work out this solution conceptually, as the Red Team report does, and another to work up the procedures and the safety calculations required to do the work and justify the permit changes.

Accurate Statements

Edwin Lyman and Frank von Hippel propose diluting the pit plutonium with reactor-grade plutonium from Britain or Japan. Changing the isotopic composition of plutonium from nearly pure plutonium to a composition including several of the other plutonium isotopes makes it less favorable for use in a bombbut that use remains possible, with larger masses of plutonium and skillful design.

Both Russia and the United States are capable of designing such weapons, but they also have sufficient stocks of weapons-grade plutonium that altering the isotopic composition takes the plutonium out of probable use in nuclear weapons.

The altered plutonium will merely be undesirable. The Red Team report contains conclusions with little information on how they were reached.

It is difficult to compare the MOX option, components of which are being implemented, with the preferred dilution and disposal option more hypothetical. Indeed, the report identifies areas where facilities will likely have to be upgraded for that option. There are many steps where problems could occur.

As long as Congress cannot pass a budget, a situation likely to persist, any option will have cost and schedule problems. With tensions high between the two countries, this is not a good time for renegotiation. Much effort and not nearly enough thought by all the parties involved has taken us to this point.

The agreement now may be doing more harm in creating friction between the United States and Russia than good in removing the plutonium from potential use.Article: Plutonium as an Energy Source Over the past few years, the dismantlement of excess nuclear warheads has left the United States and Russia with large .

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President Truman and the United States government made a fair decision by dropping the atomic bomb on the Japanese citizens in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during The bomb allowed the United States to appear more powerful and led to them influencing the rest of the world.

Nuclear reprocessing technology was developed to chemically separate and recover fissionable plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. In the United States, commercial power reactors the plutonium extracted typically contains too much Pu to be considered "weapons-grade" plutonium, ideal for use in a nuclear weapon.

An argument in favor of plutonium use in the united states

The United States also has a relatively small stock of commercial plutonium from its West Valley reprocessing plant in New York, which was shut down in 3. No country besides the U.S. has released historical military plutonium production data.

Plutonium as an Energy Source (Issue #1) - Institute for Energy and Environmental Research