Tag Archives: nukes

The War Book: details of post-apocalyptic UK

bunker_officeWriting of post-WWIII alternate histories, the UK government have declassified the War Book – detailed plans of how Britain would cope in the aftermath of a nuclear attack:

Although some of the plans have been revealed before – including earlier this year the scripts that would have been broadcast by the BBC in the event of a nuclear war, instructing the public not to panic – governments of the period left nothing to chance, including the censoring of private mail.

The country would have been divided into 12 regions, each governed by cabinet ministers with wide powers, aided by senior military officers, chief constables and judges and based in bunkers. Other senior figures would have retreated to a central government shelter under the Cotswolds.

As was pointed out in this article on Soviet invasions of the rest of the world far from the state collapsing in the event of a nuclear attack, the people would presumably become more dependent on whatever state remains. The War Book emphasises this point.

[from the Guardian][image from EverJean on flickr]

Seven great games to play with civilian nukes

old Russian nuclear bombHey, guess what – nuclear bombs can be used for more than just annihilating entire cities!Wired has an article rounding up a selection of seven proposed civilian deployments of nuclear weapons, most of which (unsurprisingly) leverage their ability to make a very big hole in something. [image by mikelopoulos]

But how’s this for a counterintuitive idea – why not use nuclear weapons to dispose of nuclear waste!

This scheme was originally proposed at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. A hole is bored beneath the waste processing plant, and a nuclear bomb is set off in the hole. Then the radioactive waste is poured into the subterranean cavity so formed, over a 25-year filling period. The wastes heat up through their own activity, boil dry, and eventually melt themselves and some surrounding rock into a glassy ball. The cost is quite uncertain but was judged to be extremely attractive.

If you’re anything at all like me (i.e. not a nuclear scientist), you’re probably thinking that’s a batshit stupid idea. But apparently not:

“For excavation, we put a lot of time and effort and money into developing nuclear explosives which had minimal fissionable material so that you could carry out a 100-kiloton cratering explosion and release the radioactivity equivalent to a 20-ton explosive of fissionable material,” Nordyke said.

But despite the technical success of the Plowshare program, Nordyke doesn’t see nuclear weapons being used for excavation or mining anytime soon because it doesn’t seem politically feasible.

“I think its time came and went,” he said. “I think reconciling it with the enhanced environmental concerns today and the inherent association with weapons is difficult.”

My reaction proves his point, I suppose. Nukes are a Pandora’s Box technology, in that we can’t just pretend we don’t know they exist (which is one of George Dvorsky’s points regarding the risks of nuclear disarmament), but because we’ve been predominantly shown nuclear blasts doing things which are deeply nasty and lethal we have this knee-jerk reaction to the idea of them being used for a more creative purpose.

Then again, there’s a trust issue as well – a government-commissioned experimental mega-engineering project involving not just nuclear waste but nuclear weapons? Even if you could show me the calculations and experimental data that proved it could be done, I’m not sure I’d feel at all confident in the ability of a government – or a corporation, for that matter – not to screw up by cutting corners somewhere.