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Fri May 11, 2018, 08:33 PM

US plans to split work for producing nuclear weapons' cores

Source: Associated Press


By: The Associated Press   2 hours ago

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The federal agency that oversees the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile recommended Thursday that the production of the plutonium cores that trigger nuclear warheads be split between South Carolina and New Mexico.

Officials said the plan will boost the resiliency and flexibility of weapons manufacturing by not relying on a single site.

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s recommendation comes as the United States looks to ramp up production of the plutonium cores to 80 per year by 2030, citing the “evolving and uncertain geopolitical landscape,” according to a joint statement from U.S. Energy Department and Department of Defense officials.

“We share a deep commitment to recapitalizing the capabilities the United States’ needs to deter its adversaries and assure our allies and partners,” the statement said.

Read more: https://www.defensenews.com/space/2018/05/11/us-plans-to-split-work-for-producing-nuclear-weapons-cores/

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Arrow 12 replies Author Time Post
Reply US plans to split work for producing nuclear weapons' cores (Original post)
Judi Lynn May 2018 OP
pangaia May 2018 #1
rzemanfl May 2018 #2
KY_EnviroGuy May 2018 #3
DetroitLegalBeagle May 2018 #5
KY_EnviroGuy May 2018 #6
Crash2Parties May 2018 #9
karynnj May 2018 #4
Anon-C May 2018 #7
keithbvadu2 May 2018 #8
NNadir May 2018 #10
John ONeill May 2018 #11
NNadir May 2018 #12

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri May 11, 2018, 08:36 PM

1. What in the world does this sentence mean anyway???

"“We share a deep commitment to recapitalizing the capabilities the United States’ needs to deter its adversaries and assure our allies and partners,”


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Response to pangaia (Reply #1)

Fri May 11, 2018, 08:43 PM

2. Like we will have any allies and partners left after Catastrophuck.

That said, the rest means "we are assholes who have no idea what the f**k we are doing but think nukes are cool."

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Response to pangaia (Reply #1)

Fri May 11, 2018, 08:53 PM

3. I believe that refers to...

an ongoing program to modernize and refurbish our nuclear arsenal. Don't have the history at hand, but I think the financing was boosted during both W's and Obama's administrations. i recall reading that a lot of the technology is very old and way out of date.

Some good info here:
Nuclear weapons of the United States
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_of_the_United_States#United_States_strategic_nuclear_weapons_arsenal

(snip)
The Obama Administration, in its release of the 2012 defense budget, included planned to modernize, as well as maintain, the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal.


Perhaps one of our nuclear experts can chime in here with additional reference.

.....

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Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Reply #3)

Fri May 11, 2018, 09:21 PM

5. Not an expert

But yes, much of our nuclear weapon infrastructure is old. Very old. Our newest ICBM design is nearing 50 years of service. The launch facilities still run off 8inch floppy disks and 1970s era computers. I think our newest warhead design dates to the mid to late 70s. Not counting our cruise missiles, even our sub launched Tridents are nearing 30years old.

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Response to DetroitLegalBeagle (Reply #5)

Fri May 11, 2018, 09:32 PM

6. Yes, you've shook my memory - that's some of what I had read.

And, the personnel training had gone lax. Perhaps a result of our becoming complacent with the dream of a nuclear-free world....

I just hope those 80 cores per year are for refurbishing existing warheads and not for new ones.

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Response to pangaia (Reply #1)

Sat May 12, 2018, 02:23 AM

9. We're gonna make money building and maybe selling nuclear um...things we can't talk about.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri May 11, 2018, 09:21 PM

4. Reading between the lines, this is a gift to republican SC

and a loss for NM, with 2 Democratic Senators. It would seem if all the cores could be made at Los Alamos throughout the cold war, how are things less stable now.

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Response to karynnj (Reply #4)

Fri May 11, 2018, 09:42 PM

7. From a purely military standpoint, has to happen.

Surprised it hadn't occurred during the whole of the Cold War TBH.

From purely sane standpoint, we have UNFETTERED NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION at the moment.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri May 11, 2018, 10:25 PM

8. When Donald subcontracts it out to Putin...?

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sat May 12, 2018, 10:38 AM

10. My hope is that in a future time, this plutonium will have real value. Bomb cores based...

Last edited Sat May 12, 2018, 03:29 PM - Edit history (1)

...on weapons grade plutonium have problematic stability, because while they have very low levels of Pu-240 compared to reactor grade plutonium, they do have some of this isotope, and it both releases neutrons through a high spontaneous fission rate and a higher alpha rate. Although Pu-239 has a long half-life, it also exhibits alpha decay.

Neutrons released can cause small (subcritical) fission events as well.

I've seen TEMs of old plutonium, and they exhibit pitting both from radiation damage and inclusions of helium and a few fission products.

This was a rationale for continued nuclear weapons testing at the Nevada test site, where weapons were tested underground. The weapons scientists were interested in stability of cores that had been stored for a long time. Happily, such testing finally stopped, way too late, but it stopped, although it's possible the orange clown or someone equally as criminal and venal and foolish could always restart it, much as Trump's pal Kim Jung-Un has tested them.

In nuclear weapons, plutonium is always present in the form of a gallium alloy designed to stabilize the delta phase, a phase covering a relatively small region of the phase diagram.



The alpha, beta, gamma and epsilon phases of plutonium are not suitable for the very precise compression (by shock wave) required to detonate a nuclear explosion.

In order to achieve nuclear disarmament, we must degrade the plutonium in these weapons in order to render it into a form that will generate too much heat to be utilized in weapons, what I call the "Kessler solution." (Kessler et al. Nuclear Engineering and Design 238 (2008) 3429–3444).

In more than 30 years of study of environmental issues, I have convinced myself that the only form of environmentally sustainable source of energy for humanity is the uranium/plutonium cycle. I know of course, that this is not immediately popular, but we live in exceedingly stupid times where fear and ignorance are celebrated rather than suppressed.)

Bomb cores are metallic.

All of my reactor thinking in the last 5 years or so has involved reviving the LAMPRE concept in light of huge advances in materials science in the last 50 years since the LAMPRE was foolishly de-funded and forgotten. Although this reactor, which operated about two years with a very small core (see below) that produced about 1 MW of power relied on an iron/plutonium eutectic and a ternary cobalt cerium plutonium eutectic was investigated but never brought to criticality, I am intrigued by the neptunium plutonium eutectic shown in the phase diagram above. Bomb grade plutonium liquefied via its eutectic with neptunium would be rapidly rendered permanently unusable for weapons via the formation of 238Pu which result in the generation of too much heat (and radiation) to allow for the assembly of weapons.

My guess is that a complication for this approach might be the gallium in the cores, although I have been unable to locate a published ternary gallium neptunium plutonium phase diagram as yet.

Just this week though, going through some actinide phase diagrams as I sometimes do when I have time, I finally came upon a fine idea of extracting gallium from bomb cores without oxidizing them to an inorganic compound, that is removing the gallium (which is a critical metal in any case with lots of non-nuclear applications) directly in the liquid phase. This would involve metallic extractions in the liquid phase with a fission product that would be readily available in a more sensible world than the one in which we actually live, one in which the inexhaustible supply of uranium placed into the plutonium cycle were providing almost all of our energy.

Tip of the hat to my friend Mark at Atomic Skies, a nuclear historian, from whose site, linked above, comes this picture of the LAMPRE core:

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-8p_bURtFHwE/UUiLDUnhs_I/AAAAAAAAAKI/uzsWeKeYbps/s400/LAMPRE+Reactor+Vessel.png

(You need to click on the link to see it.)

Have a nice weekend.






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Response to NNadir (Reply #10)

Wed May 16, 2018, 03:04 AM

11. LAMPRE

That molten plutonium sounds a bit aggressive. As a chemist, what do you think of the Moltex proposal, for plutonium chloride salt in steel tubes similar to a sodium cooled fast reactor, with some sacrificial zirconium in the tube for redox control, and venting of fission gases ? http://www.moltexenergy.com/learnmore/An_Introduction_Moltex_Energy_Technology_Portfolio.pdf
It's not a breeder, but it might be easier to get started in the meantime.

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Response to John ONeill (Reply #11)

Wed May 16, 2018, 04:34 PM

12. My interest in the Lampre concept is driven by...

...mostly by fast, cheap and irreversible nuclear weapons disarmament. It's increasingly clear that we cannot afford to have arsenals of the type the US possesses fall into the hands of emotionally, intellectuallly and morally impaired individuals such as we are now observing.

The LAMPRE is the perfect swords to plough shares device.

There are many other features of the Lampre concept that strike me as vastly superior to other reactor concepts I've considered. This is particularly the case because of the grades of plutonium we now have that we did not have in 1961, twice through plutonium out of MOX fuel.

I'm in general no longer a salt kind of guy.

This thread is not the real place to discuss this though. I'm very busy the next few days, but propose to discuss this in a new thread along the same lines in either the E&E forum or science forum.

If you are interested in this topic, please look for a thread in one of these places.

Best regards.

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