View Full Version : From Swords to Plowshares - Nuclear DIsarmament
1st Apr 02, 1:46 PM
The nuclear disarmament program is plodding along at a good rate, but still, humanity has power enough to wipe out all civilization in one fell swoop. A single cataclysmic event could trigger a chain of events leading to nuclear war. Furthermore the cost of maintaining nuclear weapons takes a great piece out of the national financial pie. How should humans go about disbanding their nuclear stockpile? My answer to that question is that humanity as a whole needs a certain motivation, some sort of unified goal to distract them from nuclear weaponry. I don't know what, but humanity needs something to unite it, a common goal. What do you think?
1st Apr 02, 2:21 PM
I believe that someone's trigger finger will slip... note the fact that nuclear war is ridiculously talked about, but never really happens. I believe that it will though... unfortunately, sooner or later. Besides, why would the US take apart it's best defense? I think that the only reason they would do such a thing is if they have something better under covers... :trix:
...if I know them as well as I think I do...
1st Apr 02, 2:26 PM
The only such thing that comes to mind is something that would more devastating and easier to use but less catacylsmic than nukes, like a fleet of giant orbital microwave guns. Such a weapon could, at any time, fry cities, armies, military bases and even ships and aircraft without the long term damage to civilization and the ecosystem associated with nukes.
But I dont even know if that would work, really. We have nukes because we can't trust the other guy not to have them, and if all competitors couldn't switch to orbital death rays or something they'd keep their nukes.
On the other hand, orbital death rays might be the ultimate missile defense-- knock anything flat out if it looks like a hostile projectile (aimed either at terrestrial targets or the platform itself.)
This speculation is purely absent of any knowledge about the feasibility of orbital death rays, just so you know. :)
Otherwise, we're stuck with nukes, IMO.
(Edit: required viewing for this thread, "Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," and "Failsafe." Importantly, in that order.)
If we were to completely stop Nuclear weapons production today, all over the world, it would be the year 252002 AD. (or BCE) before they went away, you could pull them out of their missiles and bury them underground but they would still be there and they would still be able to cause massive amounts of damage.
As for the nuclear disarmament program 'plodding along at a good rate' I'm affraid your wrong, in a recent article I read (it was linked off this board, can't remember the name though) Mr. Bush said he would like to dust off ye ol' Cold War Nuclear Deturence Machine in light of the terrorist attacks that occoured last year to make sure they could fight back if they need to (who knows, maybe they'll re-commission the Peacekeeper, that would solve the problem quickly enough). Personally, I'd prefer they used a lot of nukes if they ever had the need to fire, I wouldn't want to wait around for the fallout to hunt me down, I'd like to die ASAP if a nuclear war does happen in my life time.
And Squid, you have an interesting idea, although using microwave tasmitters to kill people from space may not be possible, flooding an area with microwave interfearance would work to disable communications in the area (sorta like trying to use a cell phone or radar around high tension power lines), your not one of those scientest that fears that one of his discoveries or ideas may be used agianst humanity some day, are you?
1st Apr 02, 5:34 PM
Flooding the area with low level microwave radiation will not kill people, however it will most likely sterilize most of the plants and animals there.
1st Apr 02, 5:59 PM
Microwaves don't cause sterility; they cause water to heat up. Hypothetical microwave weapons derive most of their destructive power from the fact that at the right freqency they cause water molecules to spin-- this heats up the water. If the strength of your beam is high enough, biological targets (people) heat up quickly enough to recieve severe burns, or severe tissue damage caused by steam escaping from within the body. Metal also absorbs microwaves very readily, getting heated up quickly enough to break and or melt.
Nova, nuclear weapons have a limited shelf life. While they will remain radioactive for millenia, enough decay occurs in the fissile material after a several decades that the purity is too low to sustain the chain reaction necessary to create a nuclear explosion.
Also, "CE" is equivalent to "AD", "BCE" is equivalent to "BC." "Common Era" and "Before Common Era" respectively.
I'm a scientist that thinks that people are going to be bastards no matter what tools are at their disposal. I don't participate in weapon research, but I'm not inherently opposed to it. Laser-guided weaponry actually improved the situation for the enemy in any conflict-- nobody wants collateral damage. But we still use huge racks of dumb bombs when we don't know quite where the target is-- as evidenced by those long chains of explosions you see in vids from Afghanistan. Sometimes better weapon systems mean everyone goes home a little happier.
1st Apr 02, 6:18 PM
Hmmm, from what I read it takes high energy microwaves to heat up the testes sufficiently to damage sperm and cause sterility.
One minor problem with the Microwave idea isn't that it won't work (we already established the fact that it would) but getting it to work would be very tricky, how do you think people will react to the government saying that they wasted all their tax dollars to build a space station that allows them to boil people to death? I can't imagen it being too positive.
Even once weapons grade Uranium and Plutonium reaches the end of it's useful life, that doesn't make it safe, it will still leak radiation for a very long time. Do you think people put the stuff in barrels that will last a quarter of a million years? Or that the concrete bunkers that house them will stay in one piece that long? Let a barrel leak for a few years and you'll get some interesting life forms appearing in that region (if anything survives), leave a few slugs laying around a city and you'll also get more reports then usual of fever and flu like condtions and it will probabl be a bit too late for the first victoms to recover before the autorities find out it's radiation poisoning and deal with it.
And think of the long run, what government has managed to stay stable for 250,000 years? What if this collapse of civilization some people seem obsessed with occours, will they know that a trefoil is and how to avoid hazardous dump sites? Nuclear material doesn;t need to be stuck inside of a warhead to be dangerous.
And thanks for clearing up the CE and BCE tags, I thought I made a mistake but wasn't sure.
I suppose building enough nuclear power plants to get everyone off of coal is out of the question. :)
1st Apr 02, 7:17 PM
It'd cause no greater outcry than governments telling us theyve invested most of their funds on nuclear armaments for the last 50 years. Which they have, and barely anyone says anything about it.
On the subject of aging warheads, like squid says, after a few decades they turn into so much dangerous waste. Whilst nuclear waste isn't a good thing, it's infinitely better than nuclear warheads on the end of missiles. It's dangerous and hard to deal with, but nobody would ever want it because it's good for nothing. Besides, it isn't that hard to seal it in bunkers or drop it in sea trenches. They could even blast it into space, but nobody dares try that because you could imagine the consequences if the launch went wrong.
Anyway, enjoy living in the modern world.
1st Apr 02, 7:31 PM
Damnit I hate Murphy's Law.... :read:
1st Apr 02, 8:23 PM
Stripe, there are going to be noticeable physiolgical effects (burns), not magical sterility. Sure, if your germline cells get zapped, they're going to be damaged just like everything else in your body. My point is that microwaves cause general tissue damage, unlike high energy (ionizing) radiation which damages DNA and is most commonly associated with sterility.
Nova, like Walker said I said, nukes go bad but are still dirty messes for long afterwards. You're just making this stuff about new life forms up, right?
There are much better methods for dealing with radioactive waste than just dumping it in a barrel and tossing it underground; one such method is suspending pulverized waste in some kind of resin. Alternately, it can be mixed with sand and then fused into slag under a torch. At any rate, no matter how you've encased it, if you dump the waste into a subduction fault, the Earth will kindly do the rest for you. Eventually it's going to go back into the magma.
There's pretty hefty support for NMD of one form or another in the US right now-- extending a missile defense platform to also make offensive strikes seems pretty palatable to the public. But otherwise, yeah, you're not going to get much public support for building something explicitly called an "Orbital Death Ray."
1st Apr 02, 9:32 PM
He's been playing too much Tiberian Sun.
Squid, have you ever seen the vaults they lock nuclear waste in? I bet you've seen those glossy corporate images of them carefully placing them in barrels and moving them under ground. While the movies aren't distorting the image of what they do, they aren't showing the whole truth, once they're sealed under ground, they are forgotten about, if there is a leak, they wouldn't find out about it any time soon, and what happens a few thousand yeas down the line when the organization that put the waste there is no longer around, do you just let it leak and spread through out the area, would we have much of a choice?. As for joking about the new life forms, while I hope so, but your the biologist, aside from setting your mouth on fire, what else does radiation do to living organisms?
The new, better methods of disposing of hazardous waste you talked about are also extreamly expensive and complicated, welcome to the capitalist world, where the only thing that really matters is the bottem line, some people may use those methods, others will still use the old fassioned way of sealing it in a barrel and pretending it no longer exists. As for retuening to the ground, when it first came out, it didn't get mined as a consentrated Uranium rod, they had to pick out all the other ores and dirt and then compact it into a rod.
2nd Apr 02, 3:36 AM
Might sound like sci-fi, but this bacteria's metabolism is driven by pushing electrons onto other compounds (sulfate reduction)
Loves Iron and corrodes metal pipes and storage tanks
But it can bioremediate Uranium VI, pushing electrons onto it and creating Uranium IV.
Small diff you say but, well, U IV is more nuetral, less water soluble and easier to contain. I'm still not sure it can be left under a mountain and forgotten about. Though if it leaks into the Yucca mountain aquifer, it wil be easier to percipitate out of the water....
Most of the work being done on it involves engineering the bacterium to have less of a craving for iron and sulfates and more of an apetite for U VI. here's hoping :up:
2nd Apr 02, 7:41 AM
Rodimus, I hadn't heard of it. Interesting-- thanks.
Nova, have you ever seen the vaults? Do you know "the whole truth?" I suppose you're an insider who knows all about the dirty dealings of the industry? :rolleyes:
some people may use those methods, others will still use the old fassioned way of sealing it in a barrel and pretending it no longer exists.
We have regulatory commissions for that. If they don't follow regulations, then they don't get any fuel to begin with. Not to mention a hefty fine which shuts them down.
As for organizations, there will always be organizations. Nobody is ever going to forget about Yucca mountain (or any dump site)-- we have activists to remind us. Even if the United States government isn't around in 1000 years, another one will be, and it will know about Yucca mountain. Nobody is going to just "forget" about Yucca mountain. Someone will have to make a conscious decision to stop monitoring it.
As for retuening to the ground, when it first came out, it didn't get mined as a consentrated Uranium rod, they had to pick out all the other ores and dirt and then compact it into a rod.
Is this in reference to my suggestion to dump at a subduction fault?
Regarding what effects this kind of radiation has on life: the most significant damage occurs to the DNA. Giving someone an acute dose of ioninzing radiation will cause tissue damage in the form of burns, but more significantly severely damage their DNA, past the point where cancer is even a concern. Cells are just going to die because they now completely lack the ability to produce essential machinery. Below that threshold, there's cancer.
Back to the germline (again) mutations caused by ionizing radiation aren't inherently different than mutations caused by any other source, so the difference between drinking a thimbleful of ethidium bromide or a pint of water contaminated by nuclear waste doesn't much matter to your germline. Mutations will occur randomly as they always do, but with higher frequency. The majority of them will cause disease or developmental disorder in the offspring, or outright inviability. And don't get started on evolution, either, because it isn't as simple as making a bunch of mutations and seeing what you get.
Here's somewhere to wander around: http://www.ic-chernobyl.kiev.ua/e.htm
Nova, have you ever seen the vaults? Do you know "the whole truth?" I suppose you're an insider who knows all about the dirty dealings of the industry? ... We have regulatory commissions for that. If they don't follow regulations, then they don't get any fuel to begin with. Not to mention a hefty fine which shuts them down. Squid, there are many things in this world I don't want to know, one of which is what a 40 year old lead barrel that has rusted apart looks like. But all sarcasm aside, no, I have never seen one of the dumps in person, and I'm sure the people who run them take great care in running them. I'm sure the people in the Soviet Union felt the same way, but after their collapse there were several years where the stockpiles were left unguarded and uncared for, they left quite a mess. And as your link to the Chernobyl accident shows, it doesn't have to be waste to cause a problem (you can use Three Mile Island if you want an example closer to home). I'm not saying that every dump site is a mess, but there are probably some areas where things aren't in ideal conditions.
As for organizations, there will always be organizations. Nobody is ever going to forget about Yucca mountain (or any dump site)-- we have activists to remind us. Even if the United States government isn't around in 1000 years, another one will be, and it will know about Yucca mountain. Nobody is going to just "forget" about Yucca mountain. Someone will have to make a conscious decision to stop monitoring it. That's very true, radiation poisoning and contanimated water tables aren't something you can just push out of your mind, but look at the example I gave you with the Soviets, there is a new government there to take care of things, but there was a time when no one was looking over it. And I'm sure your aware of this, but Yucca mountian isn't the only place on the world they dump hazardous waste.
And yes, the second thing you quoted was in response to burying in subduction faults, I don't think I've ever heard something like that suggested before.
2nd Apr 02, 4:41 PM
I like the sound of the subduction fault idea. I often think that would bee a good way to get rid of pretty much anything we don't want - garbage, scrap, sewage, whatever. Ultimately it came from down there, nothing could really go wrong putting it back, could it?
And lead barrels don't corrode. That's why they're made from lead. They're also imdeping to radioactive particles, so it's a win-win. Someone correct me if they do degrade, I'm only applying basic metallurgy here. Lead does not corrode, but I don't know if it tarnishes or verdigris'.
Nova, what dump sites are you talking about that were not maintained after the collapse of the Soviet Union? Well, all of them. But something of more concern was the warheads, after the KGB and GRU fell apart there was no one left to look after them, pay enough and you've got yourself a mighty fine Soviet build nuclear warhead (which will not be disposed of properly) and there were plenty of out of work scientests willing to help out for cash.
Effectively the barrels get pulled down into the magma, and since Nova missed it on the first pass, I'll go ahead and say that once radioactive waste gets there, contamination is a moot point. There is a difference between them being there and getting them there. You would first have to find a fault line that is far enough away from other people (which shouldn't be too hard) you then need to drill down into the fault and leave the barrels there (under heavy guard) and wait for a shift in the plates (hopefully the barrels aren't crushed before they are pulled under). That is what I was wondering, how do they get to the magma?
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