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Civilian nuclear plants where designed, built, and operated to reduce the costs of nuclear weapons. This resulted in huge subsides, but also a lot of export controls. You can't say that about the internet.

PS: A lot of past regulations seem dumb today, but power was not the primary goal which shaped a lot of policy.




"Civilian nuclear plants where designed, built, and operated to reduce the costs of nuclear weapons."

Nope. They were, in fact, designed in a manner that made it very difficult/inefficient to use them to produce weapons-grade plutonium. Reactors designed to produce weapons-grade material operate in a completely different regime. In particular, you need to refuel them on a short continuous cycle, lest the desired plutonium be burned up in the normal operation of the reactor. Power reactors, by contrast, were designed to burn up much more of the fuel, and be refueled all at once.


In terms of manufacture, I agree. Further, Pu-239 has a half-life of 24,100 years so we don't currently need anything in the way of production. So, yes direct production was mostly from dedicated reactors.

However, the lack of reprocessing beyond simple plutonium exaction increased the demand for uranium ore. This lowered prices and because waste was not reprocessed early stockpiles where created, even if they where not in fact used. So, the impact would have been minimal except the lack of innovative R&D calcified the industry around this approach.

Further, there was an actual attempt to extract plutonium from civilian reactors: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Valley_Demonstration_Proj... was really a legacy of this failure as it only produced 4,373 lb of plutonium vs https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanford_Site which produced most of the US's plutonium for nuclear weapons. Which is why I feel this is a little more nuanced than your suggesting.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sellafield#Calder_Hall_nuclear...

Early commercial nuclear reactors, here the British Calder Hall Power Station, were producing plutionium and electricity.


That was more or less a prototype. No one uses power reactors to produce plutonium. It just isn't done.


The UK had 26 of these Magnox reactors for electricity production. These nuclear reactors were coming out of military technology and some of them were built and operated for dual use: Plutonium production and energy production.

The UK now sits on around 140 tons of plutonium from fuel reprocessing...


The UK has about 200 warheads.

The US has almost 7,000.

The US has never used commercial power reactors to produce plutonium, because they simply aren't well-suited for the purpose.


>never used commercial power reactors to produce plutonium

That's not true. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Valley_Demonstration_Proj...


That was essentially a demonstration plant. Note that it only ran for six years, only produced 1,926 kg of plutonium over its entire lifespan, and was shut down because producing plutonium from spent fuel from commercial power reactors proved to be uneconomic.

2000 kg of plutonium is a rounding error, given that well over 1 million kg of plutonium have been produced since WWII.


I think it is true (in the USA) but rather meaningless. I don't think we want commercial entities producing plutonium unsupervised by the military.


How did west valley produce power? Your link is unclear.


No, it simply reprocessed spent nuclear fuel. It was not economically useful to do so, but we only really learned that by trying.



The second paragraph concludes the reactor was built for nuclear weapons development, I don't see how it can be considered "another example."


It's another example of a reactor designed to produce electricity and plutionium. North Korea a;so operated a smaller 5 MWe reactor creating electricity for a town and plutonium for their weapons program.


It's a reactor designed to produce large amounts of plutonium. Any reactor produces some amount of energy, nuclear reactions are famous for their energy creation.


> It's a reactor designed to produce large amounts of plutonium.

It's a dual-use reactor: plutonium and electricity production (200 MWe).

> Any reactor produces some amount of energy

But not electricity. For that a power plant has also turbines, generators, etc., ...

The US for example had no electricity production in the early reactors for Plutonium production.

But the US Hanford N produced both Plutonium and electricity for the commercial grid for 21 years...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N-Reactor


>But not electricity. For that a power plant has also turbines, generators, etc., ...

Yes,but if you don't do that, you're just wasting energy. The US realized that, which is why they added electricity generation to the N Reactor. Both were still designed to create plutonium, and would not be built without the aim of nuclear weapons.

It's like saying we grow the same corn for the edible part and for biomass. While technically true, the edible part is driving the production.


>Civilian nuclear plants where designed, built, and operated to reduce the costs of nuclear weapons.

ARPANET was designed, built, and operated to enable the exchange of information in the face of nuclear annihilation of cities.

The big famous radio dish on top of the hill behind Stanford and the signals research that went into it was placed there to look for anti-ICBM radar signals bouncing off of the moon from Russia.

We are standing on a mountain of tech based on research driven by the cold war. Nuclear energy is no different.




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