I invite you to take a look at a Paris trash can by following this link.
If you've been to the city of light - and let's be clear that the electricity generated for that famous light is nuclear electricity - it is somewhat surprising, given the French passion for beauty and elegance, to see that their municipal litter receptacles are clear plastic bags hanging on a stick.
Well there's the matter of terrorists. Terrorists going back to 1995 have been dropping bombs in Paris trash cans, so they took the trash cans away.
The French are sort of matter-of-fact about terrorism. Here's a true story: I have seen bags blown up at Charles DeGaulle Airport. Someone leaves their bag somewhere either by mistake or to go to the bathroom and the police show up. They cordon off the area with yellow tape. Someone in protective gear walks up to the bag and places an explosive charge next to it. The guy or gal walks away and a police officer blows a whistle. The explosive charge is detonated and some unfortunate person's underwear goes flying with shreds of leather and shreds of suits around the airport.
De rien. You leave a bag unattended there it is assumed to be a terrorist bomb.
We, of course, have terrorism here in the United States as well. The very same year that the garbage cans of Paris went under attack, a bad fellow with some very bad ideas drove a rented truck filled with diesel fuel and fertilizer up to the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and detonated it, killing 168 people. This fellow, Timothy McVeigh, claimed that his justification included "defending," at least in his own twisted mind, the US Constitution or his own particular fetish about its Second Amendment. Actually the attack did nothing either to advance or harm the constitution. The perpetrators of the attack were arrested, tried in accordance with Constitutional and local laws, convicted and punished. The nation more or less forgot about the whole thing. Neither rental trucks, nor fertilizer, nor diesel fuel were banned.
Later, more famously, some very bad people hijacked aircraft filled with jet fuel and flew them into the tallest buildings in New York. These terrorists were not citizens of the United States, but represented a class of Arabs who were upset about the US interaction with their oil exporting nations.
Unlike the French trashcans, the mechanism of the attacks were largely unaffected. Neither tall buildings, nor commercial aircraft, nor jet fuel were banned, although there were some cosmetic changes to commercial aviation.
To the extent that the latter attack involved the US Constitution, the effect was mostly to emasculate it. Provisions about habeas corpus, cruel and unusual punishment, Presidential powers, the right to privacy, etc, were discarded, meaning that the terrorists in this case quite nearly managed the difficult trick of destroying the American system of government.
All of a sudden there began to be lots of talk about "nuclear terrorism," not only schemes like dirty bombs, but terrorist nuclear bombs. The people of the United States were collectively inspired to go commit murder in someone else's country merely by the evocation of "nuclear terrorism." Even though no such terrorist plot with real participants having a real demonstrated ability to perpetuate such an attack has ever been discovered anywhere on earth, suddenly everybody was talking and thinking about a nuclear terrorist attack.
For me, a pro-nuclear power anti-climate change activist, it was particularly odd - and mind you - in my position you really get to see some very twisted thinking, thinking that is so incredibly bad that you have a real time imagining the quality of the minds that generate it. After years of hearing endlessly about so called "dangerous nuclear waste" that has not actually proved dangerous to anyone, since no one has ever been injured or killed by it, I faced a new "issue" in justifications for "refuting" my points from those who attack my views: The threat of nuclear terrorism. Suddenly everybody wanted me to contemplate what a terrorist nuclear attack on New York would do. The proponents of the case who said that I needed to contemplate this issue of course, were perfectly ready to assume that I would of course accept the equation of this sort of event as a near certainty with my support for nuclear energy. That is, they wished to imply that my support for nuclear power plants in say, Alabama or my home state of New Jersey, was identical to supporting a nuclear terrorist attack on New York City.
C'est la vie. Sigh...
Of course, New York is the perfect place to strike, because it's always in the imagination. King Kong climbed the Empire State Building. At the end of Planet of the Apes, Charlton Heston - nutcase - stumbles across the Statue of Liberty sinking in the sand. The climate change tidal wave in "The Day After Tomorrow" sweeps away mid-town Manhattan. Maybe this is why the World Trade Attack caused Americans to attack their own two century old constitution - New York is so embedded in their imagination.
OK. Let's do it. Let's contemplate the terrorist who will strike New York as a result of me getting what I want - more nuclear power plants. How does might it happen? What's involved?
Let's say my advocacy of nuclear power results in the construction of the "NNadir Memorial Nuclear Station" at the New Jersey shore. First off, we will have to ignore those options that do not involve nuclear power per se, like the possibility that a terrorist will take over a uranium enrichment plant and run it for several years consuming megawatt-hours of electricity in order to produce a highly enriched uranium bomb. One could build a bomb in this way, but doing so would not involve would not involve the "NNadir Memorial Nuclear Station" or any other commercial nuclear plant. So what's left?
In order to demonstrate the case, I am going to need to make some assumptions. Since this is the "NNadir Memorial Nuclear Plant" (hereafter NNMNP) it will be a typical nuclear plant that I advocate, a Gen III EPR, a pressurized water reactor achieving a fuel burn up 55,000 MW-days per ton. There are other types of reactors that might be better optimized to produce a nuclear weapon, but don't forget, my opponents contend that typical performance raises the risk of "nuclear terrorism."
Since the contention is that the NNMNP is raising the risk of nuclear terrorism, it follows that the weapon will be a plutonium based nuclear weapon and not a uranium based nuclear weapon. Normally, for those who do not know, weapons grade plutonium contains plutonium that is at least 95% pure isotopically, consisting almost wholly of plutonium-239. The plutonium in the NNMNP however, since it is commercial plutonium, will not be this type of plutonium, but will be reactor grade. Its isotopic composition is given in this link. Please note that this composition while not weapons grade, can still be made into a nuclear weapon. It will require more plutonium (e.g. a higher critical mass) for the terrorists to make a bomb than the 10 kg normally required, but it can be done. Reactor grade plutonium can be used to make nuclear weapons and the United States, for the purpose of verifying this, actually conducted a nuclear test in 1962 to prove this. However the bomb while it worked, fizzled to some extent, and gave a low yield.
I have discussed in another diary entry the similar North Korean nuclear bomb fizzle, called a "waste of plutonium."
A fairly detailed discussion of some of the differences between reactor grade and weapons grade plutonium are explained in this link: Yes, you can make a nuclear weapon with reactor grade plutonium.
According to the link, the critical mass of a nuclear weapon produced from reactor grade plutonium would be around 13 kg, as opposed to 10 kg for a sphere.
So you want 13 kg of plutonium from the NNMNP that you could make into a nuclear weapon. Well drive on over to the plant. You could of course apply for a visitor's pass to get into the plant, but you, being a terrorist, might have generated some security concerns. I leave it to the reader to determine whether shooting your way in or trying to pull the wool over the security officials would be the best idea.
Next you have to get to the fuel. How much fuel? Well, typically spent nuclear fuel contains about 1 to 2% plutonium, the bulk of the remaining material being unchanged uranium and a hell of a lot of highly radioactive fission products that generate a fair amount of heat and gamma radiation. If the fuel contains 2% plutonium, you're going to need a minimum of 650 kg of spent fuel, contained in its fuel assembly. You will need, then at least a ton of fuel, minimally.
Did you bring in a forklift? I hope so.
However your fork lift will need shielding as well, since the plutonium is contained with fission products. You have to haul the shielding out with the fuel, and I don't think Tim McVeigh's Ryder Truck rental is going to be sufficient, especially because you don't want anyone to notice what you're up to.
Well let's say you get two tons of fuel out somehow. Now what?
You have to dissolve the fuel, preferably in nitric acid. You need many tons of nitric acid and some rather large shielded chemical reactors that are resistant to attack by nitric acid. You also need a few tons of kerosene and some esoteric complexing agents, butyl phosphates and things like that.
OK. Mission accomplished. You've got to take your isolated plutonium and reduce it to metallic form. Be careful, plutonium metal is pyrophorric and spontaneously bursts into flame when finely divided. It also undergoes phase changes so be sure to remove the excess heat associated with that plutonium-238 contaminant. Also, remember you have excess neutrons here and you don't want to go critical accidentally.
Oh, and by the way, the safe exposure time for this plutonium is about 1/10th as much as it is for weapons grade plutonium, so work fast.
Now you have to melt the plutonium into a lump of metal and machine it into a sphere. Now, find yourself some moldable plastic explosives to induce implosion - no you can't buy them at Home Depot - and wire them with the timing you have calculated, and build the structure for transporting the bomb.
Now you have to deliver the bomb.
Although the entire nation of North Korea worked for years and managed a bomb - working in isolation from any authorities - that only yielded a bomb that was the equivalent of 1000 metric tons of TNT or less. But you are much more clever than they are of course, and I'm going to assume that you have made a bomb that has a yield of 10 kt. Why? Because it's possible and "possible" is, apparently, exactly the same as "inevitable."
You are taking the bomb to New York, of course and detonating it downtown. You rent your Ryder truck, and nobody notices all of your previous activities and you get it off.
Here are your results:
(Note: You will have to plug in the yield of "10" kt, but since you are a bomb designer, and are scientifically sophisticated, you will have no problem doing that.)
Wow, you've done slightly more damage than the airplanes did in 2001, and released (gasp) radiation as well. It was all so easy too. You took out most of the structures in 9 sq. km (3.5 sq miles) of downtown Manhattan, and maybe killed 100,000 people as well.
Of course, if you wanted to destroy this amount of Manhattan, and kill way more people, you could have, were you more lazy, just waited around for sea level rise to do the same thing. However this sort of outcome is more certain and thus less impressive. Everybody likes a go getter.
Speaking of risk, there is something called an "expectation value," which is the product of the number of persons or things likely to be effected by an event and the probability of that event occurring.
Climate change is now a certainty. Look out your window one of these days. (If you expect a nuclear blast out there, don't look directly at the flash.) Climate change will affect everyone now living.