The Atomic Trojan Horses

Basically every piece of nuclear technology is advertised as being “proliferation resistant”, for obvious reasons. And in many cases that’s legitimately true (albeit that as an armchair non-physicist, I wouldn’t be the best at explaining exactly why ). But I’ve had a few hunches and read my share of case studies. And there are undoubtedly a few wooden horses with hoplites lurking inside (at least according to the Roman version of the story).

One is chemical enrichment, which has never been commercialized but has been demonstrated and proposed for decades. There’s actually a real case study of its role in a nuclear weapons program. For Iraq’s pre-1991 nuclear infrastructure, it sought a chemical enrichment plant. To directly make weapons-grade uranium via the chemical method would be hideously impractical according to its proponents (argued as taking over a decade ), but to make LEU that would in turn be easier to further enrich (or use in reactors indirectly) is another story.

Another is small modular reactors. The suspicion I have is that unlike the eggs-in-one-basket normal sized ones, it’d be easier to have some units be used for normal power and others “throttled” (for lack of a better word) in ways that are far less efficient for electricity-but more so for weaponizable plutonium.

Of course, I know very little about the technical side of things so I could be totally off-base, especially for the modular reactors. But it’s still something I’ve thought about.

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