Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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With a new administration in Washington it will be a challenge to get the 'liberals' to hold Biden-Harris to the few 'progressive promises' they made during their campaign. Biden is bringing back many of Bush & Obama's neo-cons to head his foreign policy. I'll be on this case without hesitation.

Monday, October 19, 2020

No nukes on the moon


Fly me to the moon, but don’t put reactors there


By Linda Pentz Gunter


Not content to desecrate our terrestrial landscape with hundreds of thousands of tons of nuclear waste — much piled up with nowhere to go, the rest released to contaminate our air, water and soil — humankind, in all its folly, now plans to do the same to the Moon. And, eventually to Mars.

While our species’ insatiable scientific curiosity has undoubtedly led to some beneficial inventions, it has also drawn us inexorably towards our own downfall. Our zeal to create the atomic bomb ignored logic, ethics, consequences and the fundamentals of human rights.

The bomb brought us so-called civil nuclear power reactors, the ugly and irresponsible spawn of a weapon that leaves us perched perpetually on the precipice of extinction. But there is nothing “civil” about nuclear power.

At the dawn of the nuclear energy age, not a thought was given to the legacy of deadly radioactive waste it would produce. That can was kicked summarily down the road. Now we are far down that road and no solution has been arrived at, while we ignore the one obvious one: stop making more of it!

So now comes the news that the US wants to put nuclear power reactors on the Moon.

In the news stories that followed the announcement, replete with the usual excitement about space exploration (never mind the cost and bellicose implications) there was not one single mention of the radioactive waste these reactors would produce.

The problem, like the waste itself, will simply be kicked into some invisible crater on the dark side of the Moon.

NASA, the US Department of Energy and assorted nuclear labs are pushing the small modular reactor for nuclear projects on the Moon and Mars. Desperate to stay relevant and to continue gobbling up taxpayer dollars, this is music to the failing nuclear industry’s ears. Financially disastrous and technically unresolved on Earth, the SMR, say these “experts”, is ideally suited to the needs of humans living for extensive periods in space.

Since each of these mini-reactors will likely have an uninterrupted output of only 10 kilowatts, it will take multiple reactors on the Moon or Mars to fulfill the necessary functions for their human inhabitants.

 


Needless to say, so far there is no certified design, no test reactor, no actual reactor, and no fool-proof way to send such a reactor to the Moon. (Rockets have an unfortunate habit of sometimes blowing up on — or shortly after — launch.) Nevertheless, the year 2026 is the ambitious target date for all systems go. In keeping with the theme, “pie in the sky” springs to mind.

While no reactor design has been identified, it will most likely need to use highly enriched uranium (HEU) which puts the reactor firmly in violation of non-proliferation standards. As Dr. Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists told PBS Newshour, “This may drive or start an international space race to build and deploy new types of reactors requiring highly enriched uranium.”

Given the utility of HEU for nuclear weapons use, and the probes currently being sent to the Moon and Mars by “unfriendly” countries such as China and the United Arab Emirates, it does not take much of an imagination to envisage the temptation for theft by force. Will the US deploy guards around its lunar reactors.? Will we see terrorism on the Moon, even war?

What is this really all about? Profit? Prestige? Proliferation? The Idaho National Laboratory, which is eager to develop the lunar SMR prototype, sees this as an opportunity to emphasize “the United States’ global leadership in nuclear innovation,” the lab’s John Wagner told Newshour.

This echoes the mantra parroted by almost every federal institution and corporation seeking to justify some new and exorbitant nuclear expense: we cannot let China and Russia take over; the US must retain — or regain — pre-eminence in the nuclear sector and in space. And so on. 

~  Linda Pentz Gunter is the curator and editor of Beyond Nuclear International and the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear.

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