Monday, December 03, 2007

What are Nuclear Weapons Good for?

Pete has an interesting post about Australia worrying about developing nuclear weapons or not. The current political climate in Australia may not support it, but the rising military dominance of China and India makes it an almost certainty that they'll have to either adopt nuclear weapons for defensive reasons, or develop some sort of Anti-Ballistic Missile technology. Nuclear weapons would be cheaper than developing and deploying an ABM technology. There is another, better reason for adopting nuclear weapons and it's a peaceful one. Nuclear weapons are the most powerful explosives mankind currently possesses. Some day, we will have to use nuclear explosives for vast civil engineering projects and Australia could be a beacon in that regard. If the geologists are right, the Aborigines burned down the vast interior forests of Australia 50,000 years ago creating the great desert known as The Outback. Because of early man's geoengineering, Australia is the most arid continent on the planet. How would one reverse that 50,000 year old mistake and bring the interior forests back? The use of nuclear explosives would be one approach.

What do I mean by this? Well, the monsoons don't go down far enough south any more. One would have to dig a canal from the north and may be the south of Australia into the interior of the Outback. One would also have to create a big enough inlet and inland sea such that the evaporation would affect the microclimate of the Outback and bring back the monsoons. If the Australian Outback were bisected by a canal with an inland sea through the interior desert, it would be more economical for shipping. Doing it with conventional explosives might be cost prohibitive, but nuclear explosives would likely work just fine. The critics will contend that it won't work. Yes, it will. Look at the Aral Sea. Before its rivers were dammed and diverted, it rained all around that inland sea. The Aral Sea is going to become the next great Outback if measures aren't taken to remedy the situation. Mankind alters the environment and climate all the time in the name of progress, all too often short-sighted progress. However, I have never heard any one state that the Panama Canal was ever a mistake, or ecological disaster.

The side benefit of this project would be the discovery of new mineral wealth, fossils, commerce, and deterrence. Likely no one would bother a people who work with nuclear explosives every day and have a sufficient supply on hand. If Australia partnered with Britain or the US to do the project, it'd be a win-win. Britain or the US would get to actually destroy obsolete weapons and weapons grade material in an economical and beneficial way. Australia would get a canal, an inland sea, jobs, commerce, nuclear deterrence, and their prehuman climate back. Trees could be planted around the canal and the inland sea and the desert reclaimed. It'll happen one of these years, but it's something the Australians should be talking about and discussing now. If the Aborigines can do all the damage they did with forest fires, then it might take modern man with a different kind of fire to fix it!

Australia currently:

Australia in the future?:


What if there are nor ever have been any 'mistakes' on any scale?

Biblically there hasn't.

Then, if they actually did this, you scientists that is, allied with governments unresponsive to some people who would oppose these things, then it wouldn't be a mistake either, that is how it works, I don't much like it either, (but maybe it is better really than us human brains being in charge), but what do I know?

Just wanderin' and wonderin'.

If we know the world is getting warmer and the glaciers are melting faster, and a lot of the world's fresh water is in glaciers, and populations keep growing, and we do nothing to prepare for the water shortages to come, whose fault is that when we know better? It's one thing to be ignorant and not know any better, but when you have a good idea that the course you are pursuing leads to disaster one way or another, and you keep on doing it, that's insanity. If you want to see people get violent in a hurry, take away their water.
Fascinating post John

Its true Australia is mainly desert. Its arguable whether the desert was caused by fire from Aborigines or whether climate (without human intervention) simply changed the lanscape.

As in most countries there are considerable environmental and political constraints on peaceful nuclear explosions (PNE). But world overpopulation and global warming may make PNE more acceptable.

Its interesting looking at US Operation Plowshare in

"Operation Plowshare, not to be confused with the anti-nuclear Plowshares Movement, was the overall term of the U.S. portion of the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions project. Twenty-eight nuclear shots were conducted between 1961 and 1973. One of the first plowshare nuclear blast cratering proposals that came close to being carried out was Project Chariot, which would have used several hydrogen bombs to create an artificial harbor at Cape Thompson, Alaska. It was never carried out due to concerns for the native populations and the fact that there was little potential use for the harbor to justify its risk and expense. There was also talk of using nuclear explosions to excavate a second Panama Canal.

The largest excavation experiment took place in 1962 at the Department of Energy's Nevada Test Site. The Sedan nuclear test carried out as part of Operation Storax displaced 12 million tons of earth, creating the largest man-made crater in the world; it also generated a large amount of fallout that drifted beyond Nevada and over Utah. Explosions in oil and gas fields did indeed stimulate production, but in some cases they also made the fuel so radioactive that it could not be used."

Still the use of PNE's for Australian canals and an inland sea may allow the Earth to more easily sustain population growth past 10+ billion.

Well, this is the source from where I read the material: If they are right, mankind created the interior desert rather than climate change. I'm also guessing that we can make fairly clean nuclear explosives. Why else make neutron bombs to save infrastructure and kill people? I suppose if one had to, one could just build tunnels to get the water to the interior, but tunnels are very costly to build even with machines. However, the scheme I propose would likely be the most economical way to green the interior of Australia. It would be an immense undertaking, but worth more than building nuclear weapons and leaving them in missile silos as weapons of deterrence.
Nice to see, John, such passion!

I guess this means you don't see the population dropping in the future, but rising, even in the face of huge odds.

As to my initial comment, I am sure you know of the role of science in the evolution of society, in every way.

I wasn't calling anything in particular a mistake relative to some other 'right', but I was thinking of something else that you made me see, that we all act, and we never know where we are really going, never did, never do, never will perhaps, until something ELSE changes. That something 'else' was actually my subject.

Anyway, I am not criticizing your idea, I don't know about such things.

I think we know on some level where we are going, even if it is subconsciously. Our civilization is different in one respect from the others that have come before us. We are a tiny bit less ignorant. There are a few people who have studied how civilizations fall, and they've figured out the varied ways societies collapse. With computers, we can model various futures and play them out together with various solutions to see what works and what's a waste of resources. Whether policy makers are doing that now, who knows, but they ought to be. So if we allow our global society to collapse in spite of forewarning and various projections and such, we can't fall back on the excuses our ancestors had that we were ignorant of how the world works and didn't know any better.
I may be missing something, but... what about radiation?
Radiation should be minimal. It would also be buried by the tons of rock above the void made by the explosion. You'd drill down, place the explosive, cap the well, and detonate the bomb, making a lovely crater. Excavate excess dirt to spec. One could use conventional explosives in some sites to make nifty beautiful land bridges above the canal for motor traffic. Nuclear explosives would be used for the majority of the excavation.
groundwater contamination?
John, I am disappointed in that I have not been receiving the email-comments to this post, now that I see your additions to the original post, your replies to my comments, and the others!

I am impressed by your thoughtfulness on this subject and don't doubt your reasoning at all!

You and others of your scientific caliber are far better able than I to say what is what relative to this idea and such, it sounds viable to me.

My point was like this, to use an example from the bible (not to convert or change your thinking), the brothers thru Joseph in the hole, thru that he got to Egypt, they were ignorant of his need to go to Egypt, but their act was right in spite of their ignorance OR their disregard for related issues, they were right! No reason why you can't be right too, and maybe it is true, as you say, that you are working with more information relative to future, stuff they never gave thought to at all.

Love your passion!
Of course, that first 'thru' should have been 'threw' him in the hole....

But since I am on this subject, I want to say this and you are the first one I have said it to,

Much of the problem in these third world countries, in terms of economic development and advancement of their human living conditions, is caused by the lack of energy source, electricity to be exact..

Nuclear energy has been denied them because of the perceived evils and bads of human kind...

But honestly, I think nuclear power should be made available to all countries immediately, not for bombs but for energy, I think that us Capitalists and such are being too cautious and actually hurting ourselves and others, creating problems by trying to avoid problems.

At least that is the thoughts I am having these days recently.
And, I will add, your proposal for an actual 'use' of the potential of nuclears, in a constructive way even besides the production of electricity, makes sense to me.

And about the providing of nuclear energy to all countries, I think it is inevitable that they will get them anyway, our delaying that is meant for good but may not be.
John, your passion must be contagious!

I think that we are being too chicken, we need to take a chance and make a big change, take a big step toward that meant for good, do these things, and sort it out as we go, trust, faith and act for our present best interests instead of living in fear and stagnation.

We are always hearing about globalization, but that is primarily economically driven and only about economics really...we need to take a big step on another level, a human caring level, something like you are suggesting might be one piece of that!

It'll be a sea channel. There might be trace radioactivity, but the seawater would dilute it and water quenches radioactive particles. There will be seawater contamination locally if the rock isn't sealed. However, fresh water floats on seawater. The cenotes in the Yucatan have seawater at their bottoms and fresh water on top.


What I am proposing here in top-down and would require governments and the IMF and World Bank. There is a poor track record of the IMF and World Bank getting anything done due to mismanagement and corruption, though we are talking Australia here which is part of the developed world. For little people like us, contributing to Grameen Bank might be best: That's Yunus's bottom-up approach.

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