Saturday, July 16, 2005

Trinity on my mind

I offer you these links to some famous photos of the Trinity blast, and I invite you to consider where we have come in the intervening 60 years.

These photos were taken 0.025, 0.090, and 7 seconds after ignition. That's about where the world is right now in solving the problem of living with nuclear waste. We're still just starting to see the dimensions of the problem, which properly lie on a geologic time scale that we have barely begun to traverse.

Since Trinity, in weapons programs and in commercial nuclear reactors, the world has generated hundreds of tons of Plutonium and orders of magnitude more tons of high level uranium wastes. We don't know what to do with all of this. We have not demonstrated any ability to deal with the long term ramifications of this explosion--not politically, not economically, and not even technically. There are many ingenious ideas being researched by many brilliant minds. But there are no demonstrated solutions—and most proposed solutions are stop gap measures that pale in comparison to the size and importance of the problem. The scope and magnitude of the problem, like the Trinity blast wave above, is still expanding practically unchecked.

While we stand in awe of Trinity, lets also bear humble witness to the unfolding story of humankind's nuclear legacy.

If you want to read more, let me recommend the Nuclear Threat Insitute's article on U.S. Plutonium Disposition and Russian Plutonium Disposition. A best-case scenario has the US and Russia "disposing" of 50 tons of plutonium by "burning" MOX fuels in convention light water reactors. There is a risky, rocky road that lies ahead. Vigilance, and possible radical new solutions, will be needed. Also, check out the Federation of American Scientist's page on Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century and in particular, check out their Bomb-A-City Calculator


1 comment:

sasha said...

It's on my mind, too. See my post for my thoughts.