Monday, June 27, 2005

U.S. Has Plans to Again Make Own Plutonium

The Bush administration is planning the government's first production of plutonium 238 since the cold war, stirring debate over the risks and benefits of the deadly material. The substance, valued as a power source, is so radioactive that a speck can cause cancer.

Federal officials say the program would produce a total of 330 pounds over 30 years at the Idaho National Laboratory, a sprawling site outside Idaho Falls some 100 miles to the west and upwind of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Officials say the program could cost $1.5 billion and generate more than 50,000 drums of hazardous and radioactive waste.

Project managers say that most if not all of the new plutonium is intended for secret missions and they declined to divulge any details. But in the past, it has powered espionage devices.

"The real reason we're starting production is for national security," Timothy A. Frazier, head of radioisotope power systems at the Energy Department, said in a recent interview.

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Comments:
I wonder how many smoke detectors are in Jackson Hole? The Americium-241 in those is nearly as radioactive as Pu-238 (432 yr half-life compared to 87.8 for Pu-238; both decay via alpha-decay without the emission of penetrating radiation). How many specks of Am-241 are scattered throughout Wyoming and Idaho, just waiting to cause untold thousands of deaths and suffering?
 
Why don't they just buy it on the black market? It would be a lot cheaper that way -- cheaper than building a whole new plutonium facility and that would take some of the surplus out of circulation.
 
"but in the past, it [Pu238?] has powered espionage devices"

What?
 
I Americium as carcinogenic as Pu?

Pu's danger is as much it's chemistry as it's radioactivity, no?

And precisely what do we need with several hundred pounds of fresh Plutonium?

I don't believe we have enough rightous targets for the warheads we have now. And haven't we bought up all the Soviet Pu we can get our hands on?

"Espionage devices"... is this a Journo Faux Pas or a Bush Faux Pas?
 
OK...I get it now..."Espionage Devices"

Now the worriers can worry about 350 lbs of Pu circling the earth waiting for an excuse to spread itself through the atmosphere...

So we can escalate the "asymmetry" some more.
 
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