21st Century Wire
August 19, 2011
TOO LATE FOR NON-PROLIFERATION
The venerable and creaking NPT Treaty, first signed by only 3 States in March 1970 (US, USSR, UK), which now has 189 member state signatories, but even more than in 1970 the treaty- on its face, has no meaning.
Only explosive nuclear weapons, that is conventional nuclear weapons, are covered and theoretically limited by the treaty.
The treaty makes no mention of Depleted Uranium (DU) weapons, or the vast Dirty Bomb targets of civil nuclear power reactors. This in no way prevents these “Doomsday Machines” being the most daunting nuclear weapons we face, taking account of their annual nuclear waste production, their in-reactor nuclear materials, their fuel rod stores and reprocessing centres, uranium mining wastes, reactor assemblies and nuclear fuels used on the world’s 1100 submarines and surface ships powered by the atom, and the ever-growing numbers and amounts of lost or stolen nuclear equipment and materials.
Taking only the world’s presently operating 430-odd civil power reactors (about 441 before Japan’s Fukushima disaster), their annual production of nuclear wastes is around 30 000 tons per year, to be sure much of it defined as low-level, relatively low risk in radiological terms and relatively low risk in chemical toxicity terms. Although exact data is secret, Depleted Uranium weapons production is a major value-adding spinoff from civil power reactor wastes, producing weapons with proven and high carcinogenic effects, and chemical toxicity effects on both humans and animals, but as already mentioned these weapons are not covered by the NPT Treaty.
DU – YOU ARE DEAD
Annual production of Depleted Uranium weapons, mainly anti-tank ordinance but including others, is as noted secret, but estimates suggest the main producers – the USA, Russia, France, China, the UK (ironically, the five declared nuclear weapons states as defined by the NPT), Germany, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea and an increasing number of other countries – manufacture about 4000 tons of DU ordnance per year. Stocks are high and rising, due to low and limited use, although the two Gulf wars against Iraq (1991 and from 2003) and the war against Afghanistan (since 2001) have used an estimated 3000 to 3500 tons of DU weapons to date. Small and limited amounts of DU weapons utilisation are reported in the NATO war against the Gaddafi regime of Libya. Cancer deaths due to these radioactive and chemically toxic weapons, especially in Iraq, are estimated to be as high as 10 000 to date, and deaths will certainly continue for decades ahead.
Make no mistake: DU is a killer.
DU weapon stocks in the USA alone are estimated to be more than 25 000 tons, and world stocks are likely well above 70 000 tons.
The so-called attractiveness of DU weapons is directly linked to their origin – wastes from so-called civil nuclear power, used to make weapons of war. The basic material, uranium alloys with various levels of radioactivity and chemical toxicity is above all cheap. Secondly, it has major technical characteristics making it almost ideal for producing anti-tank and anti-building weapons. Uranium metal is heavy and dense. It is easily machined. Being radioactive, it is easy to trace and track, for example during weapons testing and through the industrial production process. But perhaps its main trump card is its incendiary nature – that is very easily catching fire and liberating large amounts of heat, triggering secondary fires, for example in tank and armed vehicle fuel reservoirs, and wall claddings and flooring of targeted buildings.
This incendiary, heat-liberating characteristic explains the acronym for the biggest single type of DU ordnance: anti-tank shells and missiles. These are called HEAT ordnance, for High Energy Anti Tank.
The usual type of shell or missile is called “discarding sabot”, designating a machined uranium sheath or nose cone on the shell, behind which a titanium or iridium high-strength metal dart is positioned, with the explosive “military payload”, for example pentrite or TNT, placed further behind. When the shell hits the armour of the targeted tank, the uranium alloy cone or sheath explodes, liberating fine dust particles which instantly ignite. The heat liberated massively weakens the armor, through which the dart penetrates, breaching the tank hull, enabling the conventional explosive ‘stage’ of the shell to enter and explode. Typical times needed for this sequence are around 400 milliseconds (0.4 seconds).
To be sure, all kinds of other dust particles can also be incendiary – for example rice or wheat dust, able to totally explode and destroy 65 000-ton cargo ships in worst-case explosions, phosphates as used in home-made bombs, and aluminium, magnesium or iron dust and filings as used in fireworks and in weapons, but uranium is extremely incendiary. Also to be sure, generous amounts of the uranium dust do not catch fire, are transported by wind, fall to earth with rain, and enter the food chain and water table – causing decades-long cancer epidemics in most affected areas. Our democracy-loving, human rights-defending political deciders with clean finger nails and a clean conscience, who order the use of these filthy weapons would apparently be unconcerned about that.
The image of the mushroom cloud has become part of our cultural lexicon.
CIVIL POWER REACTOR DIRTY BOMBS
As we know from the Fukushima disaster, and the Chernobyl disaster any industry standard 900 MW light water or other type of reactor using uranium fuel contains a “radiological inventory” roughly equal to 150 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs. Each reactor.
Fuel rod stores, and dumps, can radically increase this equivalence, when spent fuel rods are stored, or buried on-site, usually only a few metres under the soil. Depending on the age and type of the reactor, its operational history, and other parameters like spent fuel rod inventories on-site, one single industry standard civil power reactor can be considered equivalent to as much as 250 or 350 Hiroshima-sized bombs in its capacity to kill by radiation poisoning, and totally sterilize hundreds of square kilometres of land – becoming a Total Exclusion Zone for decades ahead.
Using HEAT ordnance, or in fact any kind of conventional military ordnance, or unconventional ordnance such as drone airplanes with stand-off missiles, or simply a 50-kilogram explosive charge, no conventional civil power reactor’s core shielding will resist. Attack also targeting the reactor’s cooling systems, and its IT and control centre, will assure almost 98% “target acquisition” as the military jargon puts it, in restricted-audience advertising and promotion of HEAT ordnance. The myth of nuclear deterrence, and the fatuous irrelevance of the NPT Treaty is shown by this. All component parts of the civil nuclear power system are equally vulnerable to conventional military attack, especially spent fuel production and reprocessing, even using 1914-1918 war ordnance, Somali “technicals” or home-made drone bombs. No country with conventional civil nuclear power has any meaningful national security
Of one thing we can be sure: no leading politician in any country using civil nuclear power will admit this basic truth. This curious primitive-minded and schizophrenic separation of civil nuclear power, from military nuclear weapons, is all the more hypocritical and evil when it concerns Western leaders almost proudly using DU weapons against Afghans, Iraqis, or Libyans. This is an open and permanent challenge to attacked people and nations to hit back using “asymmetric” and devastating weapons already positioned in the Oppressor’s country: their civil nuclear Dirty Bombs.
When we wake up to a successful asymmetric nuclear weapons attack – to be sure described as an industrial accident, and then later on as a terrorist attack – it will be much too late to whine “but we didn’t know”.
Both Chernobyl and Fukushima have provided all we need to know about the weapons potential of so-called civil nuclear power. Thousands of victims of DU-caused cancers in Iraq and Afghanistan can explain to the educated middle class voters of the countries producing and using DU weapons that these are genuine nuclear weapons – which kill by cancer.
Understandably, one single case of using this asymmetric nuclear weapon in the Aggressor countries will be worth millions of words and online rantings, and those who voted for producing and using these weapons – either knowingly or not – will have paid the price of their destructive democratic decision.
So when will the discussion begin? It should begin now, before it’s too late.
RED MORE NUCLEAR NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Nuclear Files