December 12, 2015

Scale of the threat to US supercarriers from China's submarines

The Chinese Navy consists of approximately 26 destroyers (21 of which are considered modern), 52 frigates (35 modern), 20 new corvettes, 85 modern missile armed patrol craft, 56 amphibious ships, 42 mine warfare ships (30 modern), more than 50 major auxiliary ships, and more than 400 minor auxiliary ships and service/support craft. During 2013, more than 60 total naval ships and craft
were laid down, launched, or commissioned. US Naval Intelligence expects a similar number by the end of 2015. In 2013 and 2014,

China’s attack submarine fleet consists mainly of diesel-electric boats (SSKs) ­– there are 57 of them, as well as five nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs). Of these, the more modern ones include two Shang SSNs, 12 Kilo SSKs, and 12 Yuan SSKs.

SSK was the United States Navy hull classification symbol for a diesel-electric submarine specialized for anti-submarine duties. SS indicated that the vessel was a submarine, and the K suffix that it was a hunter-killer.

The tyranny of geography [a large ocean] and China's operational and technological deficiencies, would make it difficult for China to find and track U.S. carriers in the event of a conflict in the western Pacific. However, new ocean-surveillance satellites could potentially alleviate the shortcoming. And if the Chinese submarine does get to shoot at the U.S. flattop, doing so with torpedoes rather than anti-ship missiles might offer a better chance of mission success.

Japan will build India's first high-speed rail link

India selected Japan to help build its first high-speed rail link in a coup for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a defeat for China, which also had bid for the signature project.

The US$15 billion deal clinches three years of negotiations and reflects the deepening relationship between India and Japan stemming from the personal relationship between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr Abe. Shared investment objectives and a mutual apprehension about China's expansionism are pushing the two nations closer together.

The proposed 505-kilometer railway will link India's financial capital of Mumbai with Ahmedabad, a major economic and industrial hub in Modi's home state of Gujarat. Japan is offering about $12 billion of the 980 billion-rupee ($14.6 billion) cost, Mr Modi said. The 50-year loan will carry an interest rate of 0.1 percent and a 10-year grace period, according to a copy of the agreement.

The deal comes after Japan lost out to China on a $5 billion rail deal in Indonesia in October. Along with the rail agreement, Mr Modi and Mr Abe signed accords on nuclear energy cooperation and defense equipment and technology transfers.

Despite losing the contract, China still dominates trade with both nations. Japan's trade with India is about 5 percent of its commerce with China, and less than a quarter of India- China trade.

India running out of groundwater in some areas as India sucks half of the volume of Lake Erie every year

For many Indian farmers, finding sources of water underground is becoming exceedingly difficult. They’ve been drilling wells deep beneath the tilled soil into the volcanic rock – 700 feet, 800 feet, even 900 feet down. The few who strike water usually plant sugarcane, a thirsty crop that fetches fixed prices subsidized by the government. Lately, though, many farmers drill wells and find nothing at all.

“There’s no water, so there’s no harvest, so there’s no income,” said Adinath Suryawanshi, a farmer whose family has gone into debt drilling wells that turned out to be dry. “I think there’s really no way out. All I can do is cope. And I think that’s the fate of every farmer.”

Falling water tables and crushing burdens of debt have contributed to a growing sense of desperation in the western state of Maharashtra, where farmers have been committing suicide in large numbers. Some families have turned to chopping down trees on their land to sell off the wood. Many young people have given up farming and moved away to cities to look for work.

In large portions of India, from the plains that spread out below the Himalayas to the country’s southern plateau, water is being quickly drained from the ground and aquifers are rapidly declining. In some areas, government data show groundwater levels have dropped by an average of more than 30 feet since 2005.

It’s a growing crisis that threatens the future of irrigated agriculture in some of India’s prime farming areas, and it’s also putting at risk the main drinking water sources used by hundreds of millions of people.

India relies heavily on groundwater, with an estimated 25 million to 35 million wells in operation, many of them on small farms. Wells have enabled increasing water use in places where rivers and canals are too far away or are already tapped out or polluted.

As wells have proliferated over the past half century, the country has become the world’s largest and fastest growing user of groundwater. Scientists estimate that about 250 cubic kilometers of water is sucked from India’s aquifers each year – more than half the volume of Lake Erie, and more than the combined annual groundwater usage of the United States and China.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, and NASA have found that more than half of the world’s largest 37 aquifers are declining.

The U.N. also estimates that the world will face a 40 percent shortfall in the global water supply by 2030 unless dramatic steps are taken to improve the management of water. Within a decade, 1.8 billion people are projected to be coping with severe water scarcity and two-thirds of the global population could be living with stressed water supplies.

Adinath Suryawanshi stands by his open well, which once provided water for his family on their 7.5-acre farm in Maharashtra state, India. The well, which was blasted open with dynamite years ago, has gone dry. The family has tried drilling deeper borehole wells, but they haven't found water to pump. They are now in debt and struggling to make a living while relying on the rains to water their crops.
(Photo: Steve Elfers, USA TODAY)

Study aquifers by continent based on the WHYMAP delineations of the world's Large Aquifer Systems. The number represents the aquifer identification number for each aquifer system. The world's largest lakes and reservoirs are based on the Global Lake and Wetland Database Level-1 lakes and reservoirs [Lehner and Döll,

December 11, 2015

Bandage Signals Infection by Turning Fluorescent

Researchers have developed a new kind of wound dressing that could serve as an early-detection system for infections.

Bacterial infection is a fairly common and potentially dangerous complication of wound healing, but a new “intelligent” dressing that turns fluorescent green to signal the onset of an infection could provide physicians a valuable early-detection system.

Researchers in the United Kingdom recently unveiled a prototype of the color-changing bandage, which contains a gel-like material infused with tiny capsules that release nontoxic fluorescent dye in response to contact with populations of bacteria that commonly cause wound infections.

A new “smart bandage” could serve as an early detection system for wound infections.

Applied Materials and Interfaces - Prototype Development of the Intelligent Hydrogel Wound Dressing and Its Efficacy in the Detection of Model Pathogenic Wound Biofilms

Billionaire Says Tech Will Kill White-Collar Jobs so he gathers rich and powerful at Palm Beach resort to talk about it

Touch-screen ordering at fast food restaurants, robots welding car parts at Tesla factories, apps like Uber taking a bite out of the taxi and limo industry: They’re all good for innovation but perhaps not so great for the workers whose jobs are on the line, according to real estate billionaire Jeff Greene.

“What globalization did to blue collar jobs and the working class economy over the past 30 or 40 years, big data, artificial intelligence and robotics will do to the white collar economy — and at a much, much faster pace,” says Greene.

It’s a problem that will only exacerbate the growing gap between the rich and the poor, he claims, because we’ve left ourselves unprepared for the inevitable automation of many jobs traditionally done by humans.

Jetsons had Rosie the house keeping robot and George had a job pushing one button

Rosie could push the button too or a virtual Rosie would mean not having the button.
Jobs need to be value adding and involve more complexity, judgement and human interaction.

Billionaire Gathers the rich, powerful and influential to talk about it at Palm Beach Resort

“I realized that that is the greatest threat we have in our country today,” says Greene. “So I thought, ‘Let’s convene some of the greatest minds from academia, government, business and the nonprofit sector to come together to talk realistically about what’s happening.’”

What he devised is a two-day conference spanning Monday and Tuesday dubbed “Closing the Gap: Solutions for An Inclusive Economy,” hosted by Greene at Palm Beach’s Tideline Ocean Resort and Spa. Speakers include former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, author Thomas Friedman, former Apple and Pepsi CEO John Sculley, lawyer and TV personality Star Jones and boxing legend Mike Tyson.

Russia lost a submarine tracking satellite when it failed to separate from its upper stage

Russia has lost a submarine tracking satellite.

Within 24 hours after the launch of the Kanopus-ST satellite, Russian media reported that one of the spaceceraft had failed to separate from the upper stage. The first report about the problem was issued by RIA Novosti at 13:18 Moscow Time on December 6.

On December 7, the official TASS news agency quoted an unnamed source at the Russian Air and Space Forces, VKS, as saying that the inter-agency commission at the Plesetsk launch site had declared the Kanopus-ST satellite a loss. Ground control attempted to establish contact with the spacecraft in an effort to issue backup commands for its separation from the upper stage but without success, the VKS source said. According to preliminary information, one of four locks attaching the satellite to the stage failed to open during the separation process, TASS reported. Like the rest of the satellite, pyrotechnic locks were assembled at PO Polyot company in the city of Omsk.

The separation system between Kanopus-ST and the Volga upper stage had been powered up and activated, however the spacecraft had still failed to separate, possibly, due to a mechanical problem with the lock.

Russia is planning for a seven year oil price war with Saudi Arabia

Russia is battening down the hatches for a Biblical collapse in oil revenues, warning that crude prices could stay as low as $40 a barrel for another seven years.

Maxim Oreshkin, the deputy finance minister, said the country is drawing up plans based on a price band fluctuating between $40 to $60 as far out as 2022, a scenario that would have devastating implications for Opec.

It would also spell disaster for the North Sea producers, Brazil’s off-shore projects, and heavily indebted Western producers. “We will live in a different reality,” he told a breakfast forum hosted by Russian newspaper Vedomosti.

The cold blast from Moscow came as US crude plunged to $35.56, pummelled by continuing fall-out from the acrimonious Organisaton of Petrol Exporting Countries meeting last week. Record short positions by hedge funds have amplified the effect.

Bank of America said there was now the risk of “full-blown price war” within Opec itself as Saudi Arabia and Iran fight out a bitter strategic rivalry through the oil market.

U.S. oil futures for January delivery fell $1.14, or 3.1%, to $35.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Brent, the global benchmark, fell $1.80, or 4.5%, to $37.93 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.

Both lost about 11% for the week, putting them down a third for the year and at their lowest settlement since the financial crisis. U.S. oil last settled this low in February 2009 and Brent in December 2008.

North Korea claims to have a nuclear fusion hydrogen bomb

Kim Jong-un has stated North Korea has powerful hydrogen bombs, the first time it has been suggested North Korea has such a device. First tested in 1952, hydrogen bombs are more dangerous—and complicated—than atomic bombs. Experts are skeptical of the North Korean claim.

According to the North Korean state news agency KNCA, Kim made the comments at the Phyongchon Revolutionary Site, a former munitions factory. Kim stated that North Korea was, "a powerful nuclear weapons state ready to detonate self-reliant A-bomb and H-bomb to reliably defend its sovereignty and the dignity of the nation."

No further details on the North Korean H-bomb were provided. North Korea is known to have a nuclear arsenal, and is believed to have tested nuclear devices three times in the past.

Thermonuclear weapons or H bombs

A thermonuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon that uses the energy from a primary nuclear fission reaction to compress and ignite a secondary nuclear fusion reaction. The result is greatly increased explosive power when compared to single-stage fission weapons. It is colloquially referred to as a hydrogen bomb or H-bomb because it employs hydrogen fusion. The fission stage in such weapons is required to cause the fusion that occurs in thermonuclear weapon.

The concept of the thermonuclear weapon was first developed and used in 1952 and has since been employed by most of the world's nuclear weapons. The modern design of all thermonuclear weapons in the United States is known as the Teller-Ulam configuration for its two chief contributors, Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam, who developed it in 1951.

A simplified summary is:

1. An implosion assembly type of fission bomb is exploded. This is the primary stage. If a small amount of deuterium/tritium gas is placed inside the primary's core, it will be compressed during the explosion and a nuclear fusion reaction will occur; the released neutrons from this fusion reaction will induce further fission in the plutonium-239 or uranium-235 used in the primary stage. The use of fusion fuel to enhance the efficiency of a fission reaction is called boosting. Without boosting, a large portion of the fissile material will remain unreacted; the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs had an efficiency of only 1.4% and 17%, respectively, because they were unboosted.

2. Energy released in the primary stage is transferred to the secondary (or fusion) stage. The exact mechanism whereby this happens is secret. This energy compresses the fusion fuel and sparkplug; the compressed sparkplug becomes critical and undergoes a fission chain reaction, further heating the compressed fusion fuel to a high enough temperature to induce fusion, and also supplying neutrons that react with lithium to create tritium for fusion.

3. The fusion fuel of the secondary stage may be surrounded by depleted uranium or natural uranium, whose U-238 is not fissile and cannot sustain a chain reaction, but which is fissionable when bombarded by the high-energy neutrons released by fusion in the secondary stage. This process provides considerable energy yield (as much as half of the total yield in large devices), but is not considered a tertiary "stage". Tertiary stages are further fusion stages (see below), which have been only rarely used, and then only in the most powerful bombs ever made.

Thermonuclear weapons may or may not use a boosted primary stage, use different types of fusion fuel, and may surround the fusion fuel with beryllium (or another neutron reflecting material) instead of depleted uranium to prevent early premature fission from occurring before the secondary is optimally compressed.

Compression of the secondary

The basic idea of the Teller–Ulam configuration is that each "stage" would undergo fission or fusion (or both) and release energy, much of which would be transferred to another stage to trigger it. How exactly the energy is "transported" from the primary to the secondary has been the subject of some disagreement in the open press, but is thought to be transmitted through the X-rays which are emitted from the fissioning primary. This energy is then used to compress the secondary. The crucial detail of how the X-rays create the pressure is the main remaining disputed point in the unclassified press. There are three proposed theories:

  1. Radiation pressure exerted by the X-rays. This was the first idea put forth by Howard Morland in the article in The Progressive.
  2. X-rays creating a plasma in the radiation case's filler (a polystyrene or "FOGBANK" plastic foam). This was a second idea put forward by Chuck Hansen and later by Howard Morland.
  3. Tamper/Pusher ablation. This is the concept best supported by physical analysis

The basics of the Teller–Ulam design for a thermonuclear weapon. Radiation from a primary fission bomb compresses a secondary section containing both fission and fusion fuel. The compressed secondary is heated from within by a second fission explosion.

What If We Get Direct Matter To Energy 1: The Helium Bomb

A guest article by Joseph Friedlander

What if thermonuclear power in a controlled manner is so hard to do that it is actually easier to directly annihilate matter and use that instead?

In a sense it is, because if you have antimatter or a black hole freely and conveniently available in small metered sizes, you could construct power stations "today"( IE after about 6-12 years of massive engineering effort)  to use them cheaply. Alas, those wonders are not so available and so we can't. (To be technical, each of those could also trigger fusion, so their lack will also pain the fusion people, not just the cool future tech people)

The classical antimatter for easy handling has been anti-iron. (in science fiction. In real life we're happy to get anti-Hydrogen 1)
If we could snap-convert iron 56 suspended in a good (VERY good and very cold ) vacuum to anti iron 56 oh, man. Levitated anti iron dust would make many  science fiction dreams and nightmares possible.  If we could meter a tiny flow of hydrogen 1 magically to antihydrogen 1 we basically would have an antimatter reactor right now (not to mention a gamma ray  blowtorch).  But we don't.

A sample paper by Professor A.A. Bolonkin on how if you have a micro black hole you can produce amazing amounts of energy

A number of people have had the conviction (Robert A. Heinlein among them) that there has got to be something better than fission, with its' unstoppable radiation headaches,  and fusion, with its' ignition, sustained controllable burn and neutron problem. He said that when we truly understood the nucleus we would have atomic power in convenient packages.

What if we get the ability to directly convert matter to energy, in first an uncontrolled, and then a controlled manner?  The world changes, but how useful that change is depends on the practicality of the hardware we would use to do it.
 So lets see how the world would change IF the hardware were practical.
The following is rank speculation, not to be confused with real physics, unless working hardware is forthcoming. Kindly think of it as an exercise in fantasy physics, clearly labelled.

  Let us suppose that there is a hidden pothole in the laws of physics with a thin cover over it so no one has discovered it yet: What do I mean by that?

Imagine a world where U-235 and Pu-239 were known but not recognized for what they are: Fissionable isotopes which can sustain a chain reaction. This of course was once the case.  Imagine how hard it would be to develop nuclear power in such a world.

 Now imagine it was  discovered belatedly and a vast range of military and engineering and political consequences happened, because a hidden corner of the then known laws of physics had concealed a hidden tech treasure waiting to be found.

So here comes the fantasy part:  That under certain conditions it is possible (though difficult) to trigger a transition in matter that I have labelled 'snap-conversion'.

 Why that name?  Because a wavefront of change something akin to but different from a population inversion shoots through the mass to be converted (the 'reactant') in a snap-- faster than annihilation and other dire consequences of the transition can follow. It snaps from one condition to the other almost as if it was always that way. It starts as matter, snaps to antimatter and from that point forward it annihilates the ordinary non reactant matter of its's container.

 In this article we consider what would happen in an uncontrolled runaway reaction-- a bomb-- which is probably far  the easier to trigger.  I do not speak of a reaction without limit that can consume any matter at all (and potentially consume the planet) but rather a runaway reaction in a specialized and limited pool of reactant matter.

 In a future article, if I ever get to it, we consider what I might call a DARE reactor-- Direct Annihilation Reactor (Electrical) which has the much more complicated job of directly inducing current flow from an annihilation reactor rather like certain Boron 11- Hydrogen 1 reactor designs.

  Sample quote:
 The standard reactor design discused used p+11B (hydrogen and Boron-11) as fuel, since it fuses without releasing any of its energy as radiation or neutrons. All the energy of the reaction is contained in the kinetic energy of released charged particals. If the fusion reaction is surrounded with voltage gradiants or other systems to convert the kinetic energy of high speed charged particals directly to electricity. Virtually all their energy (about 98%) directly to electricity. Making a ridiculously compact and simple electrical generator.

(Friedlander again here. An intermediate approach for such a snap-conversion reactor would use heat to boil water or super-critical CO2, a process which has great precedent but less great economics for truly cheap power since there is massive power loss (often 2/3 ) to waste heat and then you have to amortize the entire thermal conversion suite of installations and machines. So the power ends up up to 5-10 times more expensive than directly.)  But in general a bomb burns a lot of fuel at once and quickly, while a reactor tries to meter out the power at a constant rate.

The ability to directly convert matter to energy, in an uncontrolled manner amounts to an explosive device or a bomb. This may have military uses but need not be designed in the expensive mil-spec way for routine commercial use.
  • There is an outer assembly that has the usual deploy characteristics of any powerful, expensive -- safety interlocks, shock  thermal control (this can be quite elaborate for deep underground placement), EMP, pressure, electrical and other isolation zones, (including crush zones) multiple fuses, ring sail parachute if a air-deliverable munition, and so on. Stuff you want near but not part of the actual bomb just its' support infrastructure. 
  • There is an inner assembly that accepts the initiation signal from the outside assembly. This too has an outer part (which may include an outer sacrificial dewar for topping up the inner dewar, and other field maintainable parts.)  and an inner part, by analogy to present devices, the 'physics package'. This is the part only maintainable in major facilities, depot level or better because of precise configuration requirements which if not fulfilled will result in a non functional device.
  • When detonation requirements are initiated and satisfied, here is the hypothetical sequence of events in an uncontrolled reaction:  
  • The reactant is a (reasonably)  pure isotope, because I happen to believe we live in a safetied universe. If runaway matter annihilation reactions were easy to trigger AND common we simply would not be here. Therefore any undiscovered reaction must be complex to trigger and uncommon, although hopefully working on common feedstock isotopes.
  •  Imagine if any idiot could buy at a hardware store a device with a nail in the back of it you could hammer into any pile of ordinary matter and which would detonate in a radius of 5 meters that matter at the rate of 1 atom in 1 million-- in other words about the power of ordinary TNT from any given pile of ordinary matter-- gravel, sand, hay, a building with someone you hated in it, you name it.  The 5 m radius is just to put a limit on it-- if a runaway uncontrolled detonation could eat a continent, that's all she wrote.  But even the radius I gave basically lets any idiot with a dollar and a hammer do this.
Each "Sailor Hat" test consisted of a dome-stacked  20 x 40 feet 500-ton (450 t) charge of TNT high explosive detonated on the shore of Kahoʻolawe close to the ships under test.  Note the man on the right side of the pile for scale. Note the ship on the left. This is the yield of a W-54. now imagine it in the pocket of an excitable boy who whips it out like a switchblade when he's ticked off.

I doubt very much that civilization would survive if such a capability was  universally available to crazy individuals. (Counter evidence for my own thesis:  From say 1900-1930 you could buy X ray tubes and dynamite, acid and poison, openly at your friendly corner hardware store the only deterrent being the common sense of clerks and civilization in the USA survived quite handily.).

Now let that hypothetical hardware store detonator ignite a runaway reaction a million times more powerful-- runaway disassociation and annihilation of matter to the limits of the fuel supply-- the Earth and its' atmosphere-- I doubt a civilization on Pluto would survive. The Sun itself only annihilates 4 billion kg of matter a second, and the Earth is 6 trillion trillion kg or so.  So 1500 trillion times the Sun's output if it happens in 1 second. Man, that smarts!

So in this simulation the chain reaction of matter to antimatter is not runaway into ALL matter and hard to trigger. Here are the postulated conditions and limits on it for purposes of this article::
  1. It begins in the module I call the Zero Module, By unspecified means, but probably involving a phase transition from one quantum regime to another, by a structure not utterly dissimilar to a quantum dot, the snap-conversion zone is initiated. Snap-conversion spreads rapidly via an expansion cone to enter the reactant chamber.
  2. The expansion cone also conditions the reaction and the transition to the reactant zone.
  3.  The reactant chamber, a glorified shock proofed dewar, holds the reactant, isotopically pure He4 in the superfluid state with a classified seeding material within the boundaries of the dewar to treat the radiation in a pre- positioned array as the reaction starts to spread. The seeding material is deployed on the surface of structures that also act as anti-slosh baffles do in a liquid fuel rocket tank. This also helps the handling characteristics of the device during routine deployment.
  4. The reaction spreads throughout the reactant chamber, from the expansion cone to the limits of the reactant in the dewar. Note that the snap-conversion reaction would (in this theoretical construct) only operate when in the ground state and in the case of superfluid helium  only 8% or so is in the ground state at any one time. As it says in:
The superfluid state of 4He below 2.17 K is not a good example, because the interaction between the atoms is too strong. Only 8% of atoms are in the ground state near absolute zero, rather than the 100% of a true condensate.

(Why the ground state as a requirement for the hypothetical snap-conversion reaction? It would probably take a book to explain the imagined backstory behind that and I am pretty sure I am not the guy to write that book. Just take it as a arbitrary premise to lend an interesting limit to the capabilities of the device.) BBC on superfluid helium

If the reaction proceeds efficiently the reaction is fuel limited--.remember that only ground state atoms are converted and thus annihilated so after the explosion theoretically the other 92% could someday be recaptured and burned as well. 

Over time, 25 pct of the solar system by weight  (the helium-4 mass presently in the system--which will greatly increase toward the end of the Sun's useful life)-- all that can be burned for fuel,  trillions of years of fuel as opposed to the mere billions of years of deuterium fuel present in the solar system. So this capability can threaten our species but also greatly extend its lifetime.

 If  snap-conversion is too slow, the reactant loses ground state and the reaction dies out. 
The reactant disperses and the reaction can't reach the limits of the dewar... this is the annihilation equivalent of a fizzle yield. If superfluid quenching occurs it may stop the device working. There are lots of failure modes.

Because of the 8% ground state limit the reaction is not as overwhelmingly powerful as the antimatter 100% + 100% annihilated math would suggest.  (The common thought on antimatter in science fiction weapons has been, 21 megatons energy per kg of antimatter PLUS 21 megatons energy per kg of matter eaten up by the antimatter, thus 42 mt and no neutrino losses. Divide by 3 for neutrino losses and you get 14 megatons real yield, like the Castle Bravo explosion of 1954.
Even a full dewar (topped off right before detonation) only contains 1 kilogram of helium per 8 liters

 ( The density of liquid helium-4 at its boiling point and a pressure of one atmosphere (101.3 kilopascals) is about 0.125 grams per cm3, or about 1/8th the density of liquid water. and then  a further factor of 12 or so more to account that only 8% of THAT would be in the ground state.
the superfluid state of 4He below 2.17 K is not a good example, because the interaction between the atoms is too strong. Only 8% of atoms are in the ground state near absolute zero, rather than the 100% of a true condensate.

 So a ratio of 100 liters dewar capacity when topped off can at most annihilate a kilo of mass (and assuming 2/3 neutrino losses, a mere 7 megaton yield, ironically pretty much like the 1953 Jughead D-D cryogenic warhead. (See below).One downside of this is boil off this is a majorly cryogenic device, like it or not and you can have sacrificial tanks of say liquid N on board to precool around the bomb but you are going to lose helium. Stay on airborne alert long enough and the bomb loses all its helium.
On the other hand deliberately venting helium before light-up would give a 'dial a yield' capability to vary the device yield in the field, analogous to tritum injection into an ordinary boosted fission or hydrogen bomb.
 To stay alert, the bomb stays cold. Not like a room temperature lithium (modern hydrogen) bomb, more like the emergency deployed Jughead models of 1953 which are interesting to me because most people think that cryogenic Mike like bombs were never deployed. Wrong, and here's a picture (below)

Mike itself was too heavy to carry in a plane but this air-portable device was not and carried a ~7 megaton punch (probably 3/4 from induced fission but it was a cryogenic DD fusion device, air deployable) although only 5 were built and from the look of it. only the B-36 could carry it. (incidentally  my understanding is that until the mid 50s the AEC retained  physical custody of H-bombs so to actually load one of these was a complicated handoff operation.)

 But using Helium-4 we have very non-dense liquid superfluid helium  handling problems  to consider.  Not just cooldown, not just container purging, not just resupply issues.

  Thus as weapons, they are not a huge improvement in terms of yield. No magic gigaton weapons light compact and dense--No magic1000 x more yield for the same missile warhead fitting (which in any case would give rather less than 100 x the area destroyed). More like a 10x boost in yield. for the same weight (but more volume).  You still need a radiation casing in this simulation but not the heavy metal tamper. Engineering them for an ICBM warhead would be a challenge, especially the helium resupply umbical.

 (Ease of handling on base is definitely a loser, given the cryogenic requirement, far less convenient to handle and basically chained to a major cryo plant on the sub, on the air base or on the missile base.  Also needing cooldown and only a part of the force can be on instant alert at any time and for limited duration.) .

But the relative lack of activation fallout and long lived radiopoisons and boneseeker isotopes like cesium and strontium would make them more usable thus a credible deterrent. In fact the inconvenience of staying on high alert for long would make a first strike credible, like early ICBMs with cryogenic oxidizers. And a first strike with these things would not end up killing massive numbers of civilians by fallout. (Although by blast and heat and fire, you betcha)

 Lacking a fission core (or indeed tritium boost gas) hey would be much harder to detect, thus the upcoming deployment of neutrino detectors might make boomer subs want to be armed with these rather than regular devices (and a DARE reactor rather than a fission reactor).  And Homeland Security would not be happy should these things be proven possible.  How do you detect incomings being smuggled?

If the Helium Bomb were possible is that a lot of the security precautions against nuclear proliferation would go out the window. The key fact of nuclear military life is that the enriched fissionables are:

  • scarce 
  • hard to produce 
  • easy to downgrade (U 238 with U 235 or 233-- or Pu 240 with 239--easily mixed hard to separate) 
  • easily detectable. 
  • the only practical way to set off a fusion explosion.

 not so this hypothetical device. How do you detect a dewar full of helium?
If as likely the dewar wall need be high z (purposes of the reaction propagation, just an assumption) that would be detectable but lead is not uncommon and doesn't react funny in scintillation tests.

On the other hand you couldn't just hide the thing for sabotage purposes and come back years later with a threat to remotely detonate it --you would need to fill it with superfluid helium and prechill it. There is a certain expertise and tradecraft in knowing how to bring a cryogenic vessel down to operating tempature.
 Presumably you could do that remotely if you paid for the engineering but doesn't sound like an amateur group but more like a national level state on which deterrence would work.

 ( This is why a lot of movie plot terrorist events dependent on nuclear systems happen much more rarely in real life than movies. Same thing for vacuum systems, same thing for many other technical fields. A whole bag of tricks, hard for undisciplined politically militant people to master unless they have the inborn talent for it. Geeks weaponize, soldiers pull triggers. There is a reason for that. It works.)

In 1945, the atom bomb with 20 kilotons was the big story. 
In 1955 the hydrogen bomb with easily 20 megatons was the new science fiction dream come true--the power of a great hurricane or volcano, air portable.. (Triggered by atom bomb, then generating deuterium tritium  fusion via lithium breeding then fissioning about a ton of U 238 with the resultant fast neutrons-- for that reason some people wanted to label the hydrogen bomb the superbomb or the U-bomb.)
There was a kind of science fiction expectation that by 196X the annihilation bomb would give a 20 gigaton yield  from complete annihilation of 1 ton of matter. 

Could  the Helium Bomb postulated here fulfill that long delayed science fiction expectation?
You'd need 8 tons of Helium at minimum. Estimating the price of the helium at $60 a kg that is $480000. That needs to be either recycled or replaced after each boiloff.  This is packaged in a 300,000 liter dewar. Running the numbers this lesser case would  need an immense dewar the size of a couple big busses. (not that heavy though its helium but you'd need a jumbo jet to carry it.  Or maybe a submarine)  You couild conceivably orbit it but you'd need a cryoplant in the satellite itself.
Nonetheless such a bomb could be build but so could a large hydrogen bomb and that large a bomb has never been built. Most people don't need a 20 gigaton device to get deterrent value. Although if it were either orbited up to say 900 miles (1500 km) or brought to the bottom of the ocean over a magma reservoir it would be an awesome threat simply because of the area to be brought to ignition temperature (probably a 900 mile circle) or the threat of an unknown geological consequence opening up a new volcanic province on the Earth.  I am not sure that 20 gigatons is enough to crack open the upper Yellowstone magma chamber but if it does the grand prize is 10,000 cubic kilometers of magma at unknown pressure. I myself would not want to risk it. Still the energy of a 20 gigaton device is not much bigger than a major earthquake.  The 1755 Lisbon earthquake was about 30 gigatons. In any case the biggest recorded earthquakes tend to be in the sub 200 gigaton range.  Of course this is discussing single shots,  not taking into account the horrific idea of a war fought with 1000 of these babies. Wow. Even if radiation were not a factor, nuclear winter like stratospheric dust and nitrogen oxide prompted ozone depletion (never exhaustion, but great depletion) and nitrogen oxide prompted acid rain imply strongly we are not to give this new frontier of destruction a grand tour.
So we have touched on a few possibilities for war, now what of the possibilities of peaceful use in great engineering works?

For engineering purposes there is one great thing about this hypothetical  system:: No fission products, no fallout no tritium, even somewhat less activation fallout.
But our new playmates
  •  Nuclear winter like stratospheric dust
  •   nitrogen oxide prompted ozone depletion 
  •  and nitrogen oxide prompted acid rain 
are still with us so there are limits to how many of these we can use how quickly.  On the other hand after the Sedan shot in 1962 it was allegedly safe "to stand of the lip of the crater" 1 week later in shirtsleeves. Note I did not say "do sand wrestling championship bouts in the bottom of the crater". I have no experience in doing the activation fallout. analysis with only gamma radiation.  For purposes of this article I will assume there would be no long-lived products and it would be unhealthy to go into the crater promptly but a week later you could farm there.  If a reader happens to calculate different, PLEASE comment below.  A good fantasy physics article has one fantasy for the premise, not two.

What would be the civil  uses of the Helium Bomb?
Ironically since the output is in the gamma range, better than even X-rays, one use would be triggering D-D fusion if underground explosions were allowed. This means that given the cost of helium at $50 a kilogram (with yield of 7mt per kg) and D-D fusion Deuterium at $500 a kilogram with 82.5 kilotons a kg., helium is about a hundred times cheaper still. So who knows how cheap things could end up doing-- but then you have the neutron irradiation problem again. So let's ignore it. On the other hand this feeds back to the military side again. A small power makes Helium Bomb detonators which trigger large D-D bombs? That could breed fissionables, too.  Or breed tritium for D-T reactors in the case of Helium bombs working, D-T fusion working, and you don't want to source your tritium from fission reactors. great pdfs on Project Pacer (nuclear bombs trigger D-D fusion and irradiate thorium and lithium to make U-233 and Tritium plus 1 gigawatt or more of energy.  Practical fusion NOW and lots of isotopes for fission reactors that are 'burners' not breeders, designed to be safe and compact but not neutron productive.
<$1000 in fissionables for a nuclear bomb?  Or even for the entire bomb itself? If the Helium bomb could be made that cheap AND detonate a D-D neutron source,  even without a working DARE reactor (above) it could enable clean energy basically forever. In the sense that D-D is available for billions of years, and 

Okay, more uses. Operation Plowshare was covered, with lots of links in my post here
 In the opinion of General Groves
Brigadier General R. H. Groves, USA
Corps of Engineers
Engineering Agent for the Atlantic-Pacific
as quoted in
[PDF] Symposium on Engineering With Nuclear Explosives January 14-16, 1970, Las Vegas, Nevada. Volume 1. 
"I believe the time has come when we must intensify our efforts on the low
yield explosives. Already, the Corps has underway a program to develop, test
and employ ... explosives in the sub-kiloton and low kiloton ranges for
excavation. As we look ahead to the projects which the Corps or other agencies
like us might build in the future, we cannot visualize many where explosives
could be employed with yields greater than 50 kilotons; on the other hand,
there are very many, indeed, where small yields could be employed, if available.
So, where does that leave us today? Consider the unit cost curves for
yields in the 20 to 50 kiloton range (FIGURE 9) and you will find that they
are very close to the margin. ....
And, they must be clean explosives. As we use smaller yields to make deep cuts,
we will have to work in stages. If such work is to be economically feasible,
we must be able to re-enter the site quickly and get back to work. At the
present time this is not possible.
The fact that the total radioactivity
produced and released per unit of energy decreases as yield increases may
lead us to make explosives radiologically cleaner by making them larger,
reinforcing our tendency to rely on larger yields. But it is also a fact
that the total amount of radioactive materials produced and released increases
as yields increase. As we move up the scale to larger yields, we soon come
up against more stringent restrictions, such as the Limited Test Ban Treaty
of 1963, which prohibits us from carrying out any nuclear explosion which
causes radioactive debris to be present outside our territorial limits...- we must reorient our future efforts so as to develop smaller, even cleaner nuclear excavating explosives which
are efficient, economical and capable of being used in proximity to people."

If buildable the Helium Bomb would give General Groves his wish 45 years later. The ability to use small kiloton yields cleanly and far cheaper than the TNT equivalent. The fact that the multimegaton versions would be many times per cheaper per kiloton does not change the fact that sometimes earthquake avoidance and nuisance value dictates working close in with smaller charges and that your biggest worry after leaving the job site should be getting a shower and not checking your dosimeter.

Of course, using gigaton devices for civil engineering would enable amazing things including the ability to cut through entire mountain ranges but at the price of 50 km high dust clouds like a super volcano.  I have a post here about such consequences. There might be a way to shield the Earth from such dust pollution, and I might write an article about such a technique but look well at that picture and imagine a cloud far taller yet than the right side one. It would be visible for over 800  kilometers. A deep detonation might well bury a river in a base surge or otherwise alter coastlines by throwing great masses of rock to extend the land into the sea-- while making a giant inland harbor in the same blast.

 On the other hand, I could see a future Chinese government for example doing a very large trench detonation project (in stages, over decades)  to get a unbombable kilometers wide  sea level canal going all the way to the Black Sea to end China's geopolitical isolation from the west.  I don't mean from the political West, I mean  to literally give China's west a seaport from which you could sail west to Turkey. I mention this not because I think it's ecologically sound but just to give this as a sample of the amazing capability such devices would give, to enable a government to change by super engineering the previously unchangable geopolitical facts of life. The advantage would not simply be the ability to do it but the ability to do it radiation free (again, curious if that is really true because of the gamma activation).

 The Soviet government at one time contemplated diverting north flowing rivers that dumped fresh water from Siberia to waste in the Arctic Ocean and bringing them to the Caspian Sea (and even larger projects might have refilled the Aral Sea as well).  If  governments could redo their very geography the world would rapidly become an unfamiliar place but there would be side effects. There always are. And there are also limitations that even possessors of such power will encounter-- for example, cutting through the Himalayas just to do it would certainly not pay. (Uncovering deep deposits there might thought)

With Tsar Bomb or larger absolutely clean bombs you could uncover deep ore deposits half a kilometer and more down.  With that or far smaller bombs Wang Bullet or other impulsive space launch systems such as Orion would once more be a possibility given the cleanness of the devices.

The problem of course is the earthquakes.  The Iranian government could give Teheran a seaport and canal to the south coast but it would mean massive quakes in what is already one of the most Earthquake prone countries of the world.

Would helium availability or supply limits have interesting effects? The world supply of Helium is certainly limited. However at say $25 a liter. $200 a kilogram,  $2500 for 100 kilograms, we have a 7 megaton yield. By the speculative framework of this article we would say  $357000 a gigaton for the fuel alone. A gigaton of D-D fuel would cost at $500 a kilogram 6.06 million (assuming 100% burnup, 12 tons of fuel)
: As of December 31, 2006, the total helium reserves and resources of the United States were estimated to be 20.6 billion cubic meters (744 billion cubic feet)

Then we turn to the helium mass calculator at
and find that helium's density is .1785 kilo per cubic meter (air is 1.29) x 20600 x 1 million

  • helium supply limits in USA are 3677.1 kg x 1 million or 3.677 million tons of helium. Very scarce for everyday uses but as a suddenly revealed nuclear material amazing. At $25000 a ton ($200 a kg) it is worth $91.9 billion.
  • But if it were able to be used as 7 megatons of yield in TNT equivalent per $2500 100 kg charge that is the equivalent of a gigawatt year almost.
    8760 gigawatt-hour = 7.537284894837 megaton
    At a penny a kilowatt hour (you pay 10 cents) that is 87.60 a kilowatt year or 87.6 million dollars a gigawatt year. So the Helium Bomb's output would be 35040 times cheaper than penny a kilowatt hour for the fuel alone,  even deuterium is only 2000 times cheaper.

  • helium world resource--biggest in USA, Russia, Iran and Algeria but there is sure to be more. And the outer planets measure their helium resources in Earth masses. Long term if we do what we need to in space we won't run out.

  • This is a 1963 LLNL study of a sea level canal from the Med to the Red Sea. A gigaton of 2 megaton warheads would never be allowed by the Israeli government's planning commission.  If there were absolutely no fallout-- well, times have changed and there is a powerful green movement in Israel.  Even in case of national emergency the damages for seismic shock in Beersheba and Eilat (and probably Ashkelon) would be considerable.  But in a 1973 like war when the Suez was closed-- you never know.  Every country probably has one or more projects like this that would like to get done if the gain is more than the pain.

    Direct non explosive release of helium's mass energy at the same relative cheapness and ease would change the whole world. If it could be used directly as electricity-- well, how many appliances do you have in your home vs. charges of TNT?   

    And the joker would be if snap-conversion could literally be done from a small gas capsule on a power chip that literally never ran out (given the rated output, it would last longer than a lifetime in human terms). Your laptop need never go off, your car need never be refuelled-- what would that kind of world be like? A future article may consider it.

    UCRL-ID- 124767 

    Use of Nuclear Explosives for

    Excavation of Sea-Level Canal Across
    the Negev Desert
    (Canal Studies Filefolder)

    H. D. MacCabee 

    Channel width of 1000 feet in rock 520 2 megaton devices.

    Conventional methods of excavation of this magnitude are prohibitively expensive.
    One possible route for such a canal across the Negev desert has been
    sketched out in Figure 1. The route northward from Eilat on a bearing
    of 5 degrees for 83 miles, then turns westward on a bearing of 295 degrees for 20 miles to
    pass between two mountains  then turns northward again on a bearing of 348 degrees for 58 miles, to the Mediterranean  passing by Beersheba and the Gaza Strip.
    Approximately 130 miles of the 160 mile length of the route are in
    virtually unpopulated desert wasteland, and are thus amenable to nuclear excavation
    methods. Conventional methods could be used in the vicinity of the populated (areas).

    If you liked this article, please give it a quick review on ycombinator or StumbleUpon. Thanks

    Nuclear Fracking in 1973 and Excavation Gigaton Device Damage Radii And Space Colonization In Nuclear Caves

    A guest article by Joseph Friedlander

    When researching the Plowshare article for this post
    I ran across this 1973 state of the art summary

     about nuclear chimney stimulation of gas and in situ oil shale mining and for many other uses.  Note some of the pictures to aid local state authorities in planning for damage claims.

    Damages (radiation earthquake financial and otherwise) are what stopped some of the serious application of the much more economical megaton and eventually gigaton devices.  For example if you could fully utilize the heat of a gigaton device and it cost $10 million (12 tons of deuterium cost $6.06 million at 500 dollars a kilogram) it would be the equivalent of many billion dollars in coal. Even wastefully applied you could cook vast beds of minerals, possibly having preinjected fluids to aid in the digestion of the resource. But as you will see that would work a lot better on a planet that was basically deserted. I can see using these things to seriously mine Mars, for example. But on Earth---people can sue if you break their windows.

    Seismic damage ranges of typical underground explosions is the first picture. Note that 150 miles radius is the minimum to be absolutely sure there are no damages from a megaton device on a sensitive day (atmospheric lensing of shock) 6 kilometers or 10 miles might be a totally safe distance from a kiloton device, and from a gigaton device --what?--1000 or 1500 miles radius might be the minimum.  So no Swiss government is ever going to set off a gigaton engineering shot say 30 kilometers down in the Alps (hypothetically you could get it there by a crust melter probe that ALSO cooled the hellish device within)  because it would probably rattle most of the windows in Europe and break every window in Switzerland. Do that in winter and you will be rather unpopular (It would probably take several years to replace even most of them)

    The Source Files and the search that got me there:
    Plowshare technology assessment : implications to state governments : final report
    by Whan, Glenn AWestern Interstate Nuclear Board

    Published 1973
    Topics Project Plowshare (U.S.)Underground nuclear explosionsNuclear excavation


    From  LLNL-CONF-415308 
    Edward Teller Biographical Memoir
     S. B. Libby, A. M. Sessler
     August 4, 2009 
    about the Plowshare project

    technically the results were very positive. One Utah test, in 1967, called Gasbuggy,
    increased gas production by a factor of six, another test, in Colorado, in 1969,
    called Rulison, increased well production by a factor between 10 and 15.
    Again, public concern about radiation (in this case quite unfounded) brought
    the activity to a halt

    Very large mushroom clouds can reach the stratosphere-- this is for a surface detonation. Even a deeply buried gigaton device would probably throw up dust plumes to nearly 50 km.

    The Sedan shot did this

     The fusion-fission blast had a yield equivalent to 104 kilotons of TNT (435 terajoules) and lifted a dome of earth 90 m (300 ft) above the desert floor before it vented at three seconds after detonation, exploding upward and outward displacing more than 11,000,000 t (11,000,000 long tons; 12,000,000 short tons) of soil

    So a 104 megaton device would (simple cube dosen't really scale exactly but this is back of the envelope) would move about 11 billion tons of earth, and a gigaton device 110 billion tons, about 30-40 cubic kilometers. A pity it would be radioactive...

    Sedan shot resulted in a radioactive cloud that separated into two plumes, rising to 3.0 km and 4.9 km (10,000 ft and 16,000 ft).
    A gigaton device or better would be like a supervolcano, topping out from the high 30 km to up to 45 or even higher.

    A circular area of the desert floor five miles across was obscured by fast-expanding dust clouds moving out horizontally from the base surge, akin to pyroclastic surge.

    A excavation gigaton device then could sweep a dust and rock storm across sixty miles or 100 km. Thirty miles in your rear view mirror and you are still in danger. Wow.

    The explosive device was lowered into a shaft drilled into the desert alluvium 194 m (636 ft) deep.The resulting crater is 100 m (330 ft) deep with a diameter of about 390 m (1,280 ft). 

    So an equivalent excavation gigaton device would be buried several kilometers deep and even then would give a crater over a kilometer deep (even pushing a mile deep) and with a diameter of well over 5 kilometers. Wow again. That's the crater, dude. Actually, that's the apparent crater, the bottom of that crater hides the deeply buried real crater. You could drill through a mountain range with a row charge of these at who knows what cost to the planet's ecology.

    The blast caused seismic waves equivalent to an earthquake of 4.75 on the Richter scale The radiation level on the crater lip at 1 hour after burst was 500 R per hour (130 mC/(kg·h)), but it dropped to 500 mR per hour after 27 days.
    Within 7 months(~210 days) of the excavation, the bottom of the crater could be safely walked upon with no protective clothing,with radiation levels at 35 mR per hour after 167 days.

    Assuming just one fission trigger and staged D-D fusion without spark plugs from that point with a lead radiation casing, the fission products would be about the same amount as this Sedan event shot, but over a far bigger area so ironically the fission products would be far more dilute. But the activation products from a gigaton of D-D fusion! Strongly recommend boron around the device to absorb neutrons or you'll be sorry....

    The chart below extrapolated runs into strength of  materials limitations-- there are limits to how big a cavity void or  'nuclear cave' you can make that will not collapse under the stress of the roof arch.  Like a retarc (crater spelled backwards, bulging up of the surface without a dome burst to cause an actual crater), there is a limit to the size you can do it.

    A retarc is shown about 3:48-4 minutes into this movie 0800035 - Nuclear Excavation, Excavating with Nuclear Explosives - 1968

     Otherwise a sufficiently deep many gigaton shot row charge could throw up a mountain range at will--- just the sort of insane thing that a supervillan would do in the comics to stop 3 patrol cars chasing him.  Hm.

    You could probably in very competent rock have a top of rubble chimney void 'nuclear cave' up to the size of the biggest natural cave rooms, a couple hundred meters across. (Remember the thing has to survive not just a static load but the dynamic load of actually being formed.)  That is megaton sized, not gigaton. Otherwise you could make a underground cavern kilometers across.

    The nuclear cave formed by the Gnome event--3 kilotons not 3 megatons or 3 gigatons made a cavern 170 feet across 90 feet high. Typically such a cavern represents the uncollapsed void on the top of a rubble chimney.

     I am wondering if in microgravity or on a small asteroid simply putting a bomb in the (competent, joined rock) core would be enough to puff it up and it would freeze into a giant spherical colony hull by itself. If so it would be a sphere around the original explosion point, smaller than the rubble chimney portrayed above.

     Maybe on the Moon you could make a multi kilometer colonizable cave at exactly the spot you want without being dependent on natural lava tubes (which certainly exist there). I am guessing on Ceres you could use gigatons in very competent and cold rock. (In real life there is so much water there that major steam emissions might result).  But any body that size or smaller should be able to make an instant dome-- or not if you have structural failure. I think though there would be a major learning curve, and anyway to start you would want people within eyeshot and emergency running radius in case of an emergency decompression event (blowout) and that argues for a megaton sized under 300 meter fused-sealed nuclear cave and work your way up from there.  These devices really are more for use in space than Earth, always supposing the radiation problem can be licked.

    Another use for multi-megaton, not gigaton bursts might be to heat seal such a cavern against cracks that could lose air when it formed. The dripping liquid rock  from the roof in a lunar nuclear  cave  would make it look extremely creepy, though as it froze-- Stalactites in vacuum.. Welcome to the Batcave!

    If you had abundant water available part of me is wondering about using the water in a sea cave like corridor for an impromptu airlock.  In case of a a leak it would tend to sublime and if you design a cold trap multi W shaped exit correctly it would form an ice plug. Even if the bottom of the cave was very uneven you could have a floating colony inside and swimming like in a sea cave.

    So you would swim like a frogman to get to the outer space environment, since you are wearing oxygen tanks and a suit anyway. Then you would go in the (hopefully intact) real airlock and sublime the water out and do your tasks outside.

    To contain a 10 megaton device it would have to be over a mile underground, 100 megatons over two miles, a gigaton range device would advisably be nearly 10 km or 6 miles down.  It would fracture strata under a whole county. The seismic event would be noticable throughout a good size state or country.
    Below is a picture comparing the various AEC gas stimulation shots and quotes from the work about Nuclear Fracking , the state of the art in 1973.

    "September 1973." p40-45 table  statson ---Project Rulison
    also a gas stimulation experiment, was conducted on September 10, 1969.
    Participating in this project with the AEC were the Austral Oil Company and
    CER Geonuclear Company. A 40-kiloton nuclear device was detonated at a
    depth of 8425 feet, 15 miles southwest of Rifle, Colorado. The total gas
    production from this experiment has been 455 million cubic feet, and the
    estimated potential gas recovery over a 30-year period is about 6 billion
    cubic feet (the average potential production of nearby conventional wells
    is 260 million cubic feet)
    An analysis of material resources has shown that the need for uranium-235 and plutonium-
    239 for this proposed natural gas stimulation program could be as much as
    5% to 10% of the requirements of the civilian power program. 
     Limitations on the supply of special nuclear material for nuclear explosives may well
    prohibit a rapid commitment to natural gas stimulation in spite of the
    demonstrated need.

    In fact, the amplitudes of surface waves from earthquakes are
    several times larger than those from underground nuclear explosions.
    Also, earthquakes are more damaging because the energy release lasts for
    a longer period of time (seconds to minutes) , whereas the energy release
    time for a Plowshare explosion is less than a second. Therefore, a
    nuclear explosion of Richter magnitude five does not have the same potential
    for causing, through ground motion, damage and injury as does an
    earthquake of Richter magnitude five.

    The worst geologic composition for the creation of large amounts of
    surface gound motion would be a detonation area surrounded by granite or
    other "hard" rock out to a relatively large distance (greater than five
    miles) . This configuration allows the seismic waves to propagate with
    little energy loss over a large distance. If there are geological discontinuities
    some distance away from the detonation area located on alluvium
    or other "soft" rock, significant surface motion will then occur
    in this region. Thus, an area which may seem far away, twenty to thirty
    miles from the point of detonation, may not be free from potentially
    damaging ground motion.

    Ground motion thresholds for various types of damage to structures
    have been well documented in the literature.Upon superimposing
    these thresholds on a graph of predicted ground motion for a typical Plowshare
    project, the relationship between expected damage and distance from
    ground zero for various explosive yields can be demonstrated (Figure
    V-2) .
    Uncertainties in both the damage thresholds and the predicted
    ground motion limit this diagram to only qualitative trends. Actual
    damage predictions must be made for each specific Plowshare project at a
    particular location. Such a diagram, however, serves to demonstrate that
    minor "architectural damage" (cracking of plaster, disturbance of bricks
    and concrete blocks, etc.) can be expected to occur 10 to 20 miles from a
    typical Plowshare detonation.The Rulison detonation resulted in 337 damage claims settled for a
    total of nearly $135,000 of which $97,570 was for property damage.

    The other $37,000 was for losses such as lost production time in nearby mining
    operations. The majority of claims were for brick chimney damage and
    cracked interior plaster. The dollar damage to structures came within 88%
    of the predicted damage.

    In anticipation of the Rio Blanco experiment, an extensive inventory
    and hazard assessment was made for structures out to a distance of 30 miles;
    these included buildings, bridges, tunnels, power and telephone lines, gas
    and oil and water pipelines, mines and quarries, railroads, hydraulic structures,
    airports, and roads. On the basis of this investigation, structural
    bracing and modifications were carried out prior to shot time. The unavoidable
    damage to approximately 170 structures in the area was estimated to be
    about $50,000. After the actual detonation, however, structural seismic
    damage appears to be much lower than the maximum estimated. As of June 15,
    1973, 72 claims had been settled at a total cost of $13,425. For the
    Wagon Wheel experiment, preliminary indications are that the sequential
    detonation of five 100 kiloton explosives could cause minor architectural
    damage to about 200-400 residential, public, and commercial structures and
    1 8 associated buildings for which repair costs could be about $65,000.

    Possible Earthquake Stimulation by Seismic Waves
    No relationship has yet been established between underground nuclear

    It is expected that an explosion
    in the one hundred kiloton yield range would generate no more than
    a few dozen aftershocks, none of which would have a Richter magnitude of
    greater than 3.0 (compared with a Richter magnitude of 5,5 for the original
    explosion). The aftershocks should cease within a few hours, and the
    total seismic energy released in all these shocks would be substantially
    less than that from the original one hundred kiloton a 100
    kiloton, all fission explosion with material efficiency of 30%, about 13
    kilograms of nuclear fuel (about 800 curies for plutonium) remains behind
    after the detonation.
    It has been reported that from 5,000 to
    20,000 curies of residual tritium per kiloton of explosive energy is produced by a fusion device.

    The energy yield of a fission explosive is achieved through the fission
    or splitting of trillions upon trillions of individual nuclei. The
    fission of 1.45 x 10e23 nuclei of a suitable fissionable material will result
    in the release of 1 kiloton of explosive energy.

    In rock with a lithium content of 30 parts per million (by
    weight) some 1 to 3% of the neutrons which escape the explosion will produce tritium.
    Fenske estimates that sorption alone will decrease the concentration
    of long-lived nuclear reaction products such as strontium-90 and cesium-
    137 by seven orders of magnitude before they can move outside the explosion zone. (Explosion zone is defined as the rubble chimney and fractured area immediately surrounding.) The effect of sorption on tritium
    is usually neglected; tritium will generally move almost as fast as ground
    water in the form of tritiated water or tritium dioxide.

    With the exception of the possible use of nuclear explosions for water
    management, ground water migration in the vicinity of most industrial Plowshare applications is extremely slow (200 to 800 feet per year) .

    Radioisotopes such as strontium-90 and cesium-137 are strongly sorbed by
    rock surfaces; therefore, the migration of these contaminants will be even
    much slower than the flow of ground water. As previously noted, sorption
    of tritium will be negligible, and it will move at about the same rate as
    ground water. Even assuming no sorption, or dispersion, however, Fenske
    calculates that the concentration of tritium in contaminated water, from
    an underground 1 megaton all fusion explosion, moving at a flow rate
    of 100 meters per year would be below the maximum permissible concentration
    (mpc) in drinking water before the water could move 8.8 miles from
    the explosion zone. Similar calculations predict tritium concentrations
    below mpc values at a water well 6.5 miles from the Rio Blanco project.
    It is also of interest to note that, after 14 years of underground testing
    of nuclear devices at NTS, no radioactivity above normal concentrations
    has been detected at any springs or wells in Nevada.

    Product Contamination : Radioactive contamination of the end product
    of an industrial Plowshare project (e.g., natural gas, geothermal steam,
    copper ore, etc.) will of course depend upon the particular application.
    The two radionuclides of principal concern in product contamination for
    natural gas stimulation are krypton-85 and tritium. Both are present in
    sufficient quantities and have long enough half-lives to pose a hazard.
    It is generally assumed that the gas released by this method will be consumed,
    at least partially, in individual households. Two hypothetical
    studies have been made to evaluate gaseous product contamination - one for
    29 30 Gasbuggy and the other for Rulison.  The study for Gasbuggy predicted
    a maximum exposure from contaminated natural gas of 2.2 mrem/year for residents
    of Los Angeles and 2.5 mrem/year for residents of San Francisco.
    The calculational model used for Rulison indicated that the total
    potential dose that an individual would receive in a home in Grand Valley,
    Colorado, from an unvented gas stove and refrigerator operated with nonflared
    gas piped from the project would be 39 mrems the first year, would
    decrease to about 5 mrems the second year, and would decrease correspondingly
    after that. 

    The same study estimated that the total dose an individual
    in Grand Valley would receive from the same appliances using gas
    taken from the Rulison well after the operational flaring of some 400 million
    cubic feet would be .03 mrems the first year and even lower doses in
    following years. The AEC has noted with respect to both cases that such
    conditions are hypothetical and are not representative of possible large
    scale future gas distribution from nuclear stimulated wells

     Gas from a new well would probably be diluted with gas from older wells in which the
    radioactivity would be at considerably lower levels. Because of this
    dilution factor, it is currently thought that no flaring of gas from a
    new well would be necessary prior to its being connected to the distribution
    In general, normal Plowshare operations would probably increase background
    radiation in the vicinity of a project site less than two percent.

    All nuclear devices will remain at all times under the possession and control of the AEC. 
    Article I of the
    Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, to which the United
    States is a party, prohibits the United States from transferring control
    over nuclear explosive devices "to any recipient whatsoever. "
     In R&D
    Plowshare projects, the actual handling, emplacing, and detonating of
    nuclear explosive devices is done by AEC "contractors" — companies other
    than the industry sponsors, operating on a cost-plus basis on behalf of the
    AEC under tight security and other government controls. A similar arrangement
    is contemplated for the commercial Plowshare phase: emplacement and
    detonation of nuclear devices will be performed by the AEC through its
    "contractors," as a service offered to industrial "users" for a fee.
    the present R&D phase of Plowshare, the regulatory machine of the AEC
    is not involved in the planning and carrying out of Plowshare projects.
    Instead, because the nuclear devices remain at all times in the possession
    and under the control of the AEC itself, through its contractors, Plowshare
    projects are considered "operational functions" of the AEC.

    Governor Hathaway of Wyoming
    indicated that the main problem with Project Wagon Wheel is that El Paso
    Natural Gas has not sold the local people on the idea properly. A twoyear
    lapse occurred between the first public briefing and the next one;
    during this time, the people developed a solid wall of resistance. He
    felt that continued public information and input by the sponsors would
    have alleviated most of the resistance. Governor Hathaway indicated that
    El Paso and the AEC were not specific enough regarding the number of
    nuclear detonations required for full field development.

    If you liked this article, please give it a quick review on ycombinator or StumbleUpon. Thanks

    Форма для связи


    Email *

    Message *