How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

Final proof that eco-consciousness is pen­e­trat­ing into all cor­ners of gov­er­nance. This gen­er­ally excel­lent Scientific American arti­cle (sub­scrip­tion only, sadly) on the rather mis­guided attempts by the military-industrial com­plex and the US gov­ern­ment to replace its aging nuclear war­heads with a more mod­ern, “reli­able” (but untested) arse­nal, doing a lit­tle end-run around non-proliferation, con­tains a lit­tle nugget that made me spit my cof­fee across the table this morning.

The RRW1 [reli­able replace­ment war­head] also would elim­i­nate the need for some of the toxic sub­stances often used in weapons, such as beryl­lium, a brit­tle, car­cino­genic metal that reflects the neu­trons released in a nuclear explo­sion and redi­rects them back to start a ther­monu­clear chain reac­tion. “Because of the release of the weight require­ment, we are able to use mate­ri­als that are heav­ier but more envi­ron­men­tally benign,” says Livermore [a spokesman for the lab­o­ra­tory design­ing the nukes]… You replace [beryl­lium] with some­thing that quite hon­estly you could eat and be healthy….

Gosh, that makes me glad. Do you think that last bit holds true after it’s spent that long next to plu­to­nium and ura­nium? I won­der if I’ll have to unlearn my most reli­able child­hood rule: “never eat yellowcake”.

The real ques­tion is, are they going to car­bon off­set the 100 kilo­ton blast?

_(Related opin­ion piece on the free side of the pay­wall here

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