Nuclear Weapons for the Masses!
posted at 2:57 pm on August 31, 2010 by Steven Den Beste
Glenn Reynolds tends to get hyped on certain kinds of high-tech. His latest “faster please” is thorium reactors.
And yeah, there’s a lot to like about them. But there’s a really huge gotcha which is enough to kill the idea stone dead.
Thorium reactors use natural thorium, which is isotope 232. There are a lot of neutrons running around in there; it’s how reactors work. If an atom of thorium 232 absorbs a neutron, it becomes isotope 233. Some will fission, but some won’t.
Thorium 233 beta decays (HL 22 minutes) to proactinium 233, which beta decays (HL 27 days) to uranium 233.
Uranium 233 is fissionable, and you can make bombs out of it. And the best part of all is that it can be purified chemically out of the spent fuel of the thorium reactor. You don’t have to mess around with gas diffusion or centrifuges.
If, as some propose, there’s a thorium reactor buried in every backyard, you could face the possibility of pretty much any dedicated extremist being able to build nuclear weapons.
Is that a “faster please”?