Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Nuclear Age, part deux...

Did you know that the ready-to-launch New Horizons space craft carries 24 pounds of radioactive plutonium-238 on board its piano-sized hull? This plutonium is used to power the battery that will keep all systems go on the 10 year voyage to Pluto. (Plutonium to get to Pluto. Get it? Go ahead and insert your own Uranus joke here.) So I'm all for going to Pluto but, I'm less in favor of a rocket ship exploding in Earth's atmosphere and releasing the deadliest single radioactive substance in the universe into our rain clouds and air supply. They say the real damage would be centralized in Florida (insert your own Jeb Bush joke here), but I can't see how an explosion slightly higher in the atmosphere wouldn't make for a significantly larger target area.

As terrifying as all that is, I really bring this up mostly to show off this ultra-cool illustration of a "working" underground missile silo. Located in Green Valley Arizona just south of Tucson, it is the only remaining preserved example of a Titan II missile silo. During the cold war there were 17 other similar silos around Tucson, as well as 18 in Wichita Kansas and 18 in Little Rock Arkansas. This Site (named 571-7) was on alert from 1963 to 1982 with a single 110 foot tall 330,000 pound titan II missile armed with a nuclear warhead. What no back-up?

To top it off: a prediction. Not mine, but one firmly espoused by someone I know and trust. Here's how it unfolds: The world is about to re-embrace nuclear energy in a big way. You see, a loose confederation of conservative-leaning governments will rise to "answer" a steadily increasing world outcry against oil as a viable energy source. "We hear you," they will say, "and we agree. Oil is not the way into the future." And this talk will win elections. Of course, what they really mean is: oil will continue to be profitable for a while, but since it does seem to cause a lot of turf wars, we're gonna figure out a way to set up a mess of seriously profitable worldwide development contracts to reinstate nuclear energy. There will be lots of talk about how it's safer this time around, that the risk is negligible and the prices will be very reasonable. What they won't talk too much about is how, like before, there really is no safe way to store nuclear waste. Ironically, old oil drums full of the nasty stuff will be buried into mountainsides or empty lots or elsewhere where it can continue to risk contaminating the earth and the water and the air for thousands of years to come. There's more to this theory, but I can't remember it all now. But, back to my main point: Cool picture, eh?


Blogger pigatschmo said...

Much has been written recently about peak oil the current energy predicament. "The Long Emergency" by J.H. Kunstler is the one I read. He argues that even to create more renewable energy, you need oil, which is about to run out. He then says nuclear is the only way out, except that there won't be enough oil to build the plants. Meanwhile France is the poster child of successful nuclear power; they reprocess the waste at night when the energy load drops (maybe the cause of Mrs. Martin's cancer?)

7:45 PM  
Blogger pigatschmo said...

It's a very cool picture. I think that place is still open to the public -- I remember seeing the brochures in AZ.

7:49 PM  

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