Nuclear Weapons 338 - North Korea Halts Testing Of Nuclear Warheads After Severe Damage To The Test Site

Mount Mantap - NK.png

Caption: 
Mount Mantap - NK.png

       Much has been made in the media of the announcement that North Korea will halt ICBM and nuclear warhead testing. The U.S. President sees this as a positive step toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The N.K. leader says that they no longer need to test ICBMs or nuclear warheads because they have learned what they needed to to construct their nuclear arsenal. There may be another reason that N.K. is going to stop testing nuclear warheads underground at it test site.

       The last five of N.K. underground nuclear warhead tests were all conducted under Mount Mantap at the Punggye-re nuclear test site in the northwest part of N.K.    N.K. selected Mount Mantap because of its elevation, almost seven thousand feet above sea level, and because they believed that its thick, gentle slopes would be able to withstand the structural damage caused by the underground blasts. There were no visible signs of damage after the first four test detonations.

       The last test conducted was a powerful thermonuclear blast over two thousand feet below ground level. However, the one hundred kiloton bomb detonated on September 3 opened up a cavity that was over six hundred feet in diameter.

       Following the last test, the green vegetation covering the slopes of the mountain turned reddish brown. The test tore a hole in the mountain and created a “chimney” that could permit radioactive fallout from the test zone to escape into the atmosphere above the mountain. As the shock waves traveled though the mountain, a large section of the mountain’s peak collapsed into the cavity formed by the blast and left a crater in the top of the mountain that was visible in satellite photos of the site.

       The U.S. Geological Survey reported that they had detected an earthquake in the area near the mountain of 6.3 on the Richter Scale at a depth of fourteen miles. Chinese scientists said that they detected a second earthquake near the mountain of 4.6 on the Richter Scale eight minutes after the first quake was registered. Tremors from the two quakes were felt in the Chinese city of Changchun which is two hundred and fifty miles from the test site. People in eastern Russia also reported feeling the effects of the tests. There were three small additional quakes in the general area of the test site which reinforce the idea that the mountain has lost geological stability.

      A researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing said that their studies indicated that the N.K. test “site was wrecked beyond repair. “Different teams using different data have come up with similar conclusions,” he said. “The only difference was in some technical details. This is the best guess that can be made by the world outside.”

       Chinese scientists are afraid that escaping fallout from the “chimney” in Mount Mantap could travel over the N.K. border and threaten Chinese territory. The Chinese city of Baishan with over one million inhabitants is less than fifty miles from Mount Mantap.

      A scientist in Beijing said that it was likely that N.K. received a stark warning from the Chinese government to discontinue their tests of nuclear warheads under Mount Mantap. He said, “The test was not only destabilizing the site but increasing the risk of eruption of the Changbai Mountain,” a large, active volcano at China-Korean border.”

Geiger Readings for Apr 25, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 137 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 93 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 93 nanosieverts per hour

Red onion from Central Market = 158 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 77 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 66 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Fusion 44 - Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Developing Focus Fusion Reactor

       Many companies in the U.S. and abroad are researching and developing small nuclear fusion systems. Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPPFusion or LPPF) located in Middlesex, N.J. is one such company. Their missions statement says “LPPFusion’s mission is to provide environmentally safe, clean, cheap and unlimited energy for everyone through the development of Focus Fusion technology, based on the Dense Plasma Focus device and hydrogen-boron fuel.”
       LPPF began with a small NASA grant to explore fusion propulsion in 1994. In 2001, an LPPF team demonstrated temperatures above one billion degrees Centigrade at Texas A & M University funded by a grant from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In 2003, LPPF incorporated as Lawrenceville Plasma Physics. In 2008, LPPF collected one million two hundred thousand dollars from investors and started on Phase I construction. In 2009, LPPF received a patent for some of their technology and set up shop in a laboratory in Middlesex. For the next ten years, LPPF continued raising funds, publishing papers and constructing their first prototype.
      The LPPF approach to nuclear fusion utilizes something called a “dense plasma focus” (DPF) device. The DPF is constructed from two cylindrical electrodes with one inside the other. The outer electrode measures about seven inches in diameter and about twelve inches long. The electrodes are placed in a vacuum chamber. A low-pressure gas fills the cylindrical space between the electrodes.
      A capacitor bank is used to induce a huge pulse of electricity between the electrodes. A powerful current flows through the gas from the outer to the inner electrode for a few millionths of a second. The gas is heated by the current and an intense magnetic field in generated by the current. The current is influenced by its own magnetic fields and forms a thin sheath of tiny filaments. These filaments are like little tornadoes of ionized gas or plasma.
       The sheath of plasma is directed to one end of the inner electrode. Here, the magnetic fields crush the plasma into a plasmoid which is a tiny dense ball of plasma that is only a few thousands of an inch across. The magnetic fields generated by the original pulse quickly collapse. This induces an electrical field which triggers the flow of a beam of electrons to move in one direction while a beam of charged atoms or ion moves in the other direction. The beam of electrons heats the plasmoid to extremely high temperatures of billions of degrees Centigrade. The plasmoid only exists for a few billionths of a second.
       The collision of the electrons with the plasmoid generates x-rays. If an x-ray source is the goal, the size and shape of the electrodes and the pressure of the gas can be optimized to generate the most x-rays. If x-rays are not desirable, the parameters of the devices can be adjusted to reduce their generation.
        If a fusion reactor for energy generation is the goal, then energy can be transferred from the electron beam to the ions via the magnetic field. Collisions of the ions result in fusion reactions which increase the energy of the plasmoid beyond the energy that was originally applied.  The ion beam is sent into a device called a decelerator that slows down the ions. This generates electricity. Some of the electricity is recirculated to keep the system going and the rest is available as electric power.
        This approach to fusion is fueled with hydrogen and boron both of which are widely available. There are no pollutants or radioactive waste generated by the DPF. There is no buildup of long-term radioactivity in the device. A small number of low-energy neutrons are emitted but this can be dealt with by a few inches of shielding.
        These focus fusion generators will be inexpensive to construct. Because the fusion energy is converted directly to electricity, there is no need for the expensive and complex steam turbine systems that are used by most nuclear power plants today. It is estimated energy generated by focus fusion will cost one tenth of current electricity costs. Focus fusion reactors can also be so small they would fit in to a garage. Such a generator would provide about five megawatts of power which is sufficient to power five thousand homes.

Geiger Readings for Apr 24, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

 

Ambient office  = 86 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 87 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 84 nanosieverts per hour

Organic avocado from Central Market = 119 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 71 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 67 nanosieverts per hour

 

Nuclear Weapons 337 - The U.S. Is Obligated To Dispose Of Thirty Four Metric Tons Of Excess Plutonium - Part 2 of 2 Parts

Part 2 of 2 parts (Please read Part 1 first)

             In a treaty signed in the year 2000, the U.S. agreed to dispose of thirty-four metric tons of plutonium by converting it into fuel called MOX for use in civilian nuclear power reactors in spite of the fact that the U.S had no MOX plants and MOX fuel had never been used in a U.S. reactor. The Russians agreed to dispose of thirty-four metric tons of their plutonium by burning it is a special reactor. The sixty-eight metric tons of plutonium allocated for disposal could make as many seventeen thousand nuclear warheads.

       The agreement commits the U.S. to the conversion of the thirty-four metric tons of plutonium into fuel for nuclear power reactors. Plutonium and uranium would first be incorporated into chemical compounds called oxides which cannot be used to make warheads. The oxides would then be mixed to make what is called MOX which stands for Mixed Oxides. The MOX would then be made into assemblies of nuclear fuel rods. Unfortunately, the U.S. attempts to carry out this process have met serious schedule delays and major cost overruns.

       There is an alternative method for disposing of the thrity-four metric tons of U.S. plutonium. The plutonium could be mixed with an inert material and stored in dry casks. The casks have an estimated lifespan of about fifty years before they would begin to leak. This alternative is only a temporary one and ultimately the plutonium would have to be buried far underground.

        The DoE decided during the Obama Administration that they wanted to shut down the MOX project due to the schedule delays and cost overruns, but Congress did not agree and the project continued. However, the Federal budget adopted in February of this year includes a way to kill the MOX project. If it is found that the storage of diluted plutonium in casks would cost less than half as much as finishing the MOX project, the MOX project will be cancelled. The National Nuclear Security Administration which monitors nuclear sites and materials also favor the use of dry casks to store the plutonium. A NNSA spokesperson said that it would cost billions of dollars less than the MOX project.

       The MOX project is located at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Lindsey Graham is one of the senators from South Carolina. He has rallied enough support from other Senators to prevent the cancellation of the MOX project. He points out that the agreement with the Russians specifies that the MOX process is the preferred method for plutonium disposal.

       Construction began in 2007 on a MOX plant that was supposed to go into service in 2016 at a total cost of about five billion dollars. Now the DoE estimates that the plant cannot not be done before 2048 and that the cost would be seventeen billion dollars.

       Construction of the MOX plant began before even half of the detailed designs had been completed. After construction following the existing designs was finished, the contractors proceed without detailed construction plans. Rooms were constructed for labs and offices in places where they were not needed. Ventilation ducts and electrical wiring were installed in wrong places. There were many misplaced pipes in the plumbing. Ultimately, a lot of the initial work had to be ripped out and replaced.

       The contractor working on the MOX plant is a consortium called CB&I Areva MOX Services. It includes CB&I (formerly Chicago Bridge and Iron), based in the Netherlands, and Areva, a company owned the French government. The consortium says that the facility is seventy percent complete and that they intend to finish it. However, the new chief of the NNSA told a Congressional committee that the work was not even fifty percent complete. The DoE has been criticized by the Government Accountability Office for awarding a cost-plus contract to the consortium which guarantees a profit regardless of how much work is done.

      A DoE panel reported in 2016 that no nuclear power plant in the U.S. is interested in purchasing MOX fuel. In order to burn MOX fuel, a U.S. nuclear power reactor would have to be extensively modified and then relicensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a lengthy process.

MOX plant:

 

 

Geiger Readings for Apr 23, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office  = 47 nanosieverts per hour
 
Ambient outside = 118 nanosieverts per hour
 
Soil exposed to rain water = 124 nanosieverts per hour
 
Avacado from Central Market = 119 nanosieverts per hour
 
Tap water = 111 nanosieverts per hour
 
Filter water = 93 nanosieverts per hour
 

Geiger Readings for Apr 22, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office  = 120 nanosieverts per hour
 
Ambient outside = 92 nanosieverts per hour
 
Soil exposed to rain water = 93 nanosieverts per hour
 
Orange bell pepper from Central Market = 115 nanosieverts per hour
 
Tap water = 137 nanosieverts per hour
 
Filter water = 133 nanosieverts per hour
 

Geiger Readings for Apr 21, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office  = 100 nanosieverts per hour
 
Ambient outside = 142 nanosieverts per hour
 
Soil exposed to rain water = 141 nanosieverts per hour
 
Carrot from Central Market = 123 nanosieverts per hour
 
Tap water = 130 nanosieverts per hour
 
Filter water = 121 nanosieverts per hour
 
Rex sole - Caught in USA = 96 nanosieverts per hour
 

Nuclear Weapons 336 - The U.S. Is Obligated To Dispose Of Thirty Four Metric Tons Of Excess Plutonium - Part 1 of 2 Parts

Part 1 of 2 Parts

       There is a glut of plutonium in the U.S. and Russia as a result of excessive warhead production during the Cold War. The U.S. peaked at thirty-seven thousand warheads in 1967. The Soviet Union peaked at forty-five thousand warheads in the 1970s. These arsenals could have destroyed human civilization many times over.

       One big concern about all the excess plutonium at sites around the U.S. is that such weapons grade radioactive material is an attractive target for terrorists. A nuclear bomb can be made from about twenty-four pounds of plutonium. Plutonium emits alpha particles which can be stopped by a thin layer of glass or leather or even human skin. This makes plutonium an attractive material for terrorists because they can transport it without much danger of exposure to harmful levels of radioactivity. The main danger is that if particles of plutonium are inhaled, they can cause cancers.

       During the Cold War, there was no discussion or thought given to methods for disposing of excess plutonium. It was only after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 that Russia and the U.S. began thinking about plutonium disposal. Currently, the U.S. has no long-term plan about what to do with its share of the plutonium which has a half-life of twenty-four thousand years.

        At the U.S. Department of Energy Pantex facility near Amarillo, Texas, contract workers remove the plutonium cores from nuclear warheads that have been retired. This is a very dangerous job even with all the safety rules that are in place. The DoE has fifty-four metric tons of surplus plutonium at sites around the U.S. At the Pantex plant, there are many more than the twenty thousand cores maximum mandated by regulations and more are added every day.

      Although the work at the Pantex plant gets little publicity, there is increasing pressure to dismantle nuclear warheads, so the U.S. will not exceed the 2010 Treaty limit of one thousand five hundred and fifty warheads. The U.S. wants to decommission and dismantle old nuclear warheads so they can replace them with newer and more deadly weapons. Russia is doing the same with their nuclear arsenal.

       The U.S. has not begun work to get the additional space needed to bury the excess plutonium at least two thousand feet below the ground. This is considered a safe depth for the storage of plutonium. Currently, a great deal of the U.S.’s plutonium is stored in a building above ground at the DoE Savanna River Site in South Carolina. Local critics say that the building was never designed to store plutonium and that there is a significant risk of leakage of nuclear materials and/or serious nuclear accidents.

       The DoE does have a small experimental nuclear weapons materials storage site in New Mexico. The DoE is having discussions with New Mexico officials to expand the site. Local environmental groups are very opposed to this idea.

Please read Part 2

Pantex plant in Texas: