Project Plowshare

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pages: 356 words: 95,647

Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking by Charles Seife

Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Brownian motion, correlation does not imply causation, Dmitri Mendeleev, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Gary Taubes, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Mikhail Gorbachev, Norman Macrae, Project Plowshare, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, the scientific method, Yom Kippur War

“Congress Phases Out International Fusion Project Funding.” Press release, 7 October 1998. Sakharov, Andrei. Memoirs. Trans. Richard Lourie. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990. Samm, Ulrich. “Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion Enters with ITER into a New Era.” Ca. 2003. (accessed 26 July 2007). Sanders, Ralph. “Defense of Project Plowshare.” Technology and Culture 4 (Spring 1963): 252-55. Sandia National Laboratories. “Project Plowshare.” Poster. (accessed 25 July 2007). ———. “Rapid-Fire Pulse Brings Sandia Z Method Closer to Goal of High-Yield Fusion Reactor.” Press release, 24 April 2007. Sauthoff, Ned. “US ITER Project.” PowerPoint presentation, 31 October 2006. (accessed 26 July 2007). Schirber, Michael.

With the January 1965 explosion, Russian scientists, in a fraction of a second, had carved a major lake and a reservoir, now known as Lake Chagan, out of bedrock. Program No. 7 was not the only secret government project to harness the power of fusion. An equivalent program was already under way in the United States. A few years earlier, American scientists began work on Project Plowshare and started drawing up plans to use nuclear weapons to create an artificial harbor in Alaska, widen the Panama Canal, and dig a second Suez canal through Israel’s Negev desert. Project Plowshare and Program No. 7 were crude attempts to harness the power of fusion. Researchers quickly reasoned that if humans could learn to control the power of fusion, it could be the biggest boon that mankind has ever seen. We could visit the outer reaches of the solar system and even visit nearby stars.

Rio Blanco failed because the bomb didn’t produce caverns of the expected shape. At first, Gasbuggy and Rulison seemed to work. The nuclear bombs shattered rocks around the test site and natural gas poured out of the wells. Unfortunately, the gas was radioactive, and no utility would buy it. After twelve years of trying and twenty-seven nuclear tests, Project Plowshare sputtered to a halt without ever having proved the usefulness of peaceful nuclear bombs. Thirty years after Teller first dreamed of liberating the power of the sun upon the Earth, Project Plowshare was dead. Even the discovery of oil in Alaska in the late 1960s didn’t make his proposal of a bomb-carved harbor any more palatable. In his waning years, Teller turned away from peaceful nuclear explosions and back toward using fusion as a tool of war, dreaming up unworkable schemes to defend the United States from a Soviet missile attack.

pages: 423 words: 118,002

The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World by Russell Gold

accounting loophole / creative accounting, activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, activist lawyer, addicted to oil, American energy revolution, Bakken shale, Bernie Sanders, Buckminster Fuller, clean water, corporate governance, corporate raider, energy security, energy transition, hydraulic fracturing, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), margin call, market fundamentalism, Mason jar, North Sea oil, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, peak oil, Project Plowshare, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Upton Sinclair

But a partnership between the government and El Paso Natural Gas became a reality. The Plowshare scientists wanted to know whether using nuclear blasts to fracture rocks around wells would work and be cost effective. “Aspects outside the scope of a technical program—political, sociological, and psychological considerations—were not matters of AEC [Atomic Energy Commission] concern,” notes The Nuclear Impact: A Case Study of the Plowshare Program to Produce Gas by Underground Stimulation in the Rocky Mountains, a 1976 book about the program written by Frank Kreith and Catherine B. Wrenn. This oversight would doom nuclear fracturing, as would another problem. In 1967, scientists detonated a twenty-nine-kiloton bomb outside of Farmington, New Mexico. Cheered by local civic leaders and state officials, the bomb was lowered three-quarters of a mile into a gas well, nestled in a shale rock formation.

Early Days of Oil: A Pictorial History of the Beginnings of the Industry in Pennsylvania. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1948. History of Petroleum Engineering. New York: American Petroleum Institute, 1961. Howard, George C., and C. Robert Fast. Hydraulic Fracturing. New York: Society of Petroleum Engineers of AIME, 1970. Kreith, Frank, and Catherine B. Wrenn. The Nuclear Impact: A Case Study of the Plowshare Program to Produce Gas by Underground Nuclear Stimulation in the Rocky Mountains. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1976. Lederer, Adam. “Using Public Policy Models to Evaluate Nuclear Stimulation Projects: Wagon Wheel in Wyoming.” Master’s diss., University of Wyoming, 1998. McLaurin, John J. Sketches in Crude-Oil: Some Accidents and Incidents of the Petroleum Development in All Parts of the Globe. Harrisburg, PA: self-published, 1896.

By 1959, the oil industry was also interested in the power unleashed by nuclear reactions, but for an entirely different reason. It wanted to use nuclear bombs to frack wells. Edward Teller, a father of the hydrogen bomb, convened a meeting that year at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory—now the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory—to discuss peaceful uses of nuclear power. Teller suggested it could be used for mining and excavation. The US Atomic Energy Commission agreed and created Project Plowshare, named after the biblical verse from the book of Isaiah: “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” The program focused first on using the power of the atom as a massive earthmover. The government toyed with the idea of using bombs to carve out a new deepwater harbor in Alaska and build a new canal through Panama. None of these ideas ever made it off the drawing board, beset by technical problems and environmental worries.

pages: 398 words: 105,032

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve And/or Ruin Everything by Kelly Weinersmith, Zach Weinersmith

2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 23andMe, 3D printing, Airbnb, Alvin Roth, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, connected car, double helix, Elon Musk,, Google Glasses, hydraulic fracturing, industrial robot, information asymmetry, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, market design, megastructure, microbiome, moral hazard, multiplanetary species, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, personalized medicine, placebo effect, Project Plowshare, QR code, Schrödinger's Cat, self-driving car, Skype, stem cell, Tunguska event

As far as your authors know, this is the only known gopher-related nuclear accident, but it is nevertheless illustrative of why Project Plowshare never quite got off the ground. In theory, it was a beautiful idea: There are all sorts of uses to which massive, cheap explosions could be put—creating harbors, digging a new Panama Canal, and generating new elements. If this sounds crazy, that’s for two reasons: (1) It’s crazy, and (2) this was the age of nuclear optimism! Walt Disney released “Our Friend the Atom,” in which Tinker Bell makes the atom symbol with her magic wand. Ford released the Nucleon—a concept car design for a future nuclear vehicle.* The jury was still out on just how dangerous atmospheric radiation was. Thoughts like these led to what came to be called Project Plowshare. Between 1961 and 1973, under this program the United States conducted thirty-five individual nuclear detonations as part of twenty-seven tests.

Biology Letters 9, no. 2 (2013):20120999. Kaufman, Scott. Project Plowshare: The Peaceful Use of Nuclear Explosives in Cold War America. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2012. Kharecha, P. A., and Hansen, J. E. “Prevented Mortality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Historical and Projected Nuclear Power.” Environmental Science & Technology 47, no. 9 (2013):4889–95. Khoshnevis, Behrokh. “Contour Crafting Simulation Plan for Lunar Settlement Infrastructure Build-Up.” NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate. (2013) Kipper, Greg, and Rampolla, Joseph. Augmented Reality: An Emerging Technologies Guide to AR. Amsterdam and Boston, Mass.: Syngress, 2012. Kirsch, Scott. Proving Grounds: Project Plowshare and the Unrealized Dream of Nuclear Earthmoving.

If a spaceship could collect this material, efficiently separate out the deuterium, and fuse it, that ship would have a potentially unlimited service life. There are probably also a lot of hard-to-predict benefits of cheap energy. It would’ve been hard to imagine gasoline-powered cars by the millions back in the age of whale oil. Just the same, in this age of relatively expensive energy, we may not be able to see what wonders are over the horizon. Nota Bene on Project Plowshare It’s southeastern New Mexico, 1961. Dry, flat land with scattered scrubby plants. A place that has seen few humans over the past millennium is, this day, populated by United Nations representatives invited by the White House. They are here to witness an atomic explosion. Although it may have geopolitical implications, the point of this bomb is not war—it is to demonstrate that atomic bombs can be used for peaceful purposes, that the atomic sword can be beaten into a plowshare.

pages: 1,117 words: 270,127

On Thermonuclear War by Herman Kahn

British Empire, business cycle, defense in depth, John von Neumann, mutually assured destruction, New Journalism, oil shale / tar sands, Project Plowshare, RAND corporation, zero-sum game

In any question as complex as that under discussion, one must, in the long run, depend on informed judgment and intuition in addition to rigorous analysis. For whatever it is worth, the author of this book views the spread of nuclear weapons with the gravest apprehension. Some of the reasons for this feeling are given on pages 491 to 494. While I agree with the notion that we will not be able to control the diffusion of weapons over the next 50 years by the kinds of social, legal, and political barriers which have been erected against Project Plowshare, and which are likely to be erected by normal negotiations, such barriers can effect 5-, 10-, and 20-year delays. It is simply my judgment that if we can buy such time, it is worth buying. We will then be better able to anticipate problems and set up arrangements ahead of time. This small number of missiles will of course be supplemented by quite a force of manned bombers that will have in their bombbays a great deal more megatons than the missiles have in their warheads.

These fuels may or may not be commercially available to each and every country to power the cheap reliable "research" missiles. If these other countries can, in fact, get access to super-fuels, their strategic capability would become an order of magnitude more threatening. Some form of climate- and weather control should be more available in 1965. The Argus effect that has been receiving much prominence at this writing is an example of a current ability at a kind of weather control. Project Plowshare has made some systematic studies on the use of nuclear explosives to modify both weather and climate. In the fifth volume of the Proceedings of the Second Plowshare Symposium (UCRL-5679), J. W. Reed speculates on the possibility that we will be able to control hurricanes by the use of 20 MT clean (relatively nonradioactive) bombs, and L. Machta discusses several suggestions on modifying climate (either increasing or decreasing the average temperature) by injecting suitable numbers and sizes of dust particles into the stratosphere through the use of nuclear explosions.

pages: 519 words: 136,708

Vertical: The City From Satellites to Bunkers by Stephen Graham

1960s counterculture, Berlin Wall, Boris Johnson, Buckminster Fuller, Buy land – they’re not making it any more, Chelsea Manning, Commodity Super-Cycle, creative destruction, deindustrialization, digital map, drone strike, Edward Glaeser, Edward Snowden, energy security, Frank Gehry, ghettoisation, Google Earth, Gunnar Myrdal, high net worth, housing crisis, Howard Zinn, illegal immigration, Indoor air pollution, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Jane Jacobs, late capitalism, low earth orbit, mass immigration, means of production, megacity, megastructure, moral panic, mutually assured destruction, new economy, New Urbanism, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, planetary scale, plutocrats, Plutocrats, post-industrial society, Project Plowshare, rent control, Richard Florida, Right to Buy, Ronald Reagan, Skype, South China Sea, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, trickle-down economics, urban decay, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, white flight, WikiLeaks, William Langewiesche

.: Yale University Press, 2003, p. 234. 25Quoted in Alex Marshall, Beneath the Metropolis: The Secret Lives of Cities, New York: Carroll & Graf, 2006, p. 56. 26Maja Gori, ‘The Stones of Contention: The Role of Archaeological Heritage in the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict’, Archaeologies 9:1, 2013, p. 223. 27Eyal Weizman, ‘The Politics of Verticality: Excavating Sacredness’, Open Democracy, 28 April 2002, available at 28Cited in Gori, ‘Stones of Contention’, p. 226. 29Weizman, ‘Politics of Verticality’. 30See Chiara De Cesari, ‘Hebron, or Heritage as Technology of Life’, Jerusalem Quarterly 41, 2010, pp. 6–28. 31Scott Kirsch, Proving Grounds: Project Plowshare and the Unrealized Dream of Nuclear Earthmoving, New York: Rutgers University Press, 2005. 32See Brian Hudson, Cities on the Shore: The Urban Littoral Frontier, London: Pinter, 1996. 33Réné Kolman, ‘New Land in the Water: Economically and Socially, Land Reclamation Pays’, Terra et Aqua 128, September 2012. 34Lizette Alvarez, ‘Where Sand Is Gold, the Reserves Are Running Dry’, New York Times, 24 August 2013. 35Sand is also necessary to produce glass, the concrete used in vertical construction, and in high-tech industries. 36Joshua Comaroff, ‘Built on Sand: Singapore and the New State of Risk’, Harvard Design Magazine 39, 2014, p. 138. 37Peduzzi, ‘Sand, Rarer Than One Thinks’. 38Maria Franke, ‘When One Country’s Land Gain Is Another Country’s Land Loss’, Working Paper No. 36, Institute for International Political Economy, Berlin, 2014, available at 39Comaroff, ‘Built on Sand’. 40See Denis Deletrac’s 2012 documentary at 41See Fazlin Abdullah and Goh Ann Tat, ‘The Dirty Business of Sand: Sand Dredging in Cambodia’, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, 2012, available at 42The $60 billion debt the project created for the developer, Dubai World, was a major reason that forced Dubai to go to its rich Emirati neighbour, Abu Dhabi, for a $10 billion bailout in 2008. 43Adam Luck, ‘How Dubai’s $14bn Dream to Build The World Is Falling Apart’, Daily Mail, 11 April 2010. 44Mark Jackson and Veronica Della Dora, ‘“Dreams So Big Only the Sea Can Hold Them”: Man-Made Islands as Cultural Icons, Travelling Visions, and Anxious Spaces’, Environment and Planning A 41:9, 2009, p. 2092. 45Jacks and della Dora ‘“Dreams so big only the sea can hold them” ‘, p. 2088. 46Dia Saleh, ‘Bahrain: An Island without Sea’, Arteast, Fall 2013, available at 47Martin Lukacs, ‘New, Privatized African City Heralds Climate Apartheid’, Guardian, 21 January 2014. 48Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative, Mischief Reef, January 2015, at 49See John Burt, ‘The Environmental Costs of Coastal Urbanization in the Arabian Gulf’, City 18:6, 2014, pp. 760–70; Paul Erftemeijer et al., ‘Environmental Impacts of Dredging and Other Sediment Disturbances on Corals: A Review’, Marine Pollution Bulletin 64:9, 2012, pp. 1737–65. 50‘No Place to Land: Loss of Natural Habitats Threatens Migratory Birds Globally’, New York: United Nations Environment Programme, 2011. 51Susan Strasser, Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash, New York: Macmillan, 1999, p. 15. 52Cinzia Scarpino, ‘Ground Zero/Fresh Kills: Cataloguing Ruins, Garbage, and Memory’, Altre Modernità, 2011, pp. 237–53. 53Daniel Hoornweg and Perinaz Bhada-Tata, ‘What a Waste: A Global Review’, Urban Development Series 2012, no. 15, Washington, DC: World Bank, March 2012. 54Thelma Gutierrez and George Webster, ‘Trash City: Inside America’s Largest Landfill Site’, CNN, Atlanta, 2012. 55See Rodney Harrison and John Schofield, After Modernity: Archaeological Approaches to the Contemporary Past, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. 56Quoted in Thelma Gutierrez ‘Trash City: Inside America’s Largest Landfill Site’, available at, 28 April 2012. 57‘Street Children, India’, 2006, available at 58Dave Petley, ‘Garbage Dump Landslides’, American Geophysical Union Blog, 22 June 2008, available at 59Quoted in Petley, ‘Garbage Dump Landslides’. 60Karl Mathiesen, ‘Is the Shenzhen Landslide the First of Many More?’

pages: 684 words: 188,584

The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era by Craig Nelson

Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, Charles Lindbergh, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, continuation of politics by other means, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Doomsday Clock, El Camino Real, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, Henri Poincaré, hive mind, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, music of the spheres, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, Project Plowshare, Ralph Nader, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Skype, Stuxnet, technoutopianism, too big to fail, uranium enrichment, William Langewiesche, éminence grise

By 1955, Eisenhower decided a nuclear merchant ship should be wrought as an Atoms for Peace global ambassador. Featuring Raytheon’s Radarange (the first commercially available microwave oven), NS Savannah was christened by first lady Mamie on July 21, 1959, and, when it docked in New York City, inspired a “Nuclear Week” of educational events, which included two episodes of the Tonight show. Joining the Atoms for Peace agenda with his Plowshare Program was none other than Edward Teller, who studied the use of fusion bombs to dredge harbors and canals, nuclear explosions for fracking shale oil fields, and firing a nuclear rocket into the moon. This last proposal, Teller said, was to “observe what kind of disturbance it might cause.” He told the University of Alaska in 1959, “If your mountain is not in the right place, just drop us a card” and “We’re going to work miracles.”

pages: 572 words: 179,024

Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen

Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, drone strike, Maui Hawaii, mutually assured destruction, operation paperclip, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Project Plowshare, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, South China Sea, uranium enrichment, urban sprawl, zero day

Nearly half of these explosions resulted in the “accidental release of radioactivity” into the atmosphere. In addition to weapons tests, the nuclear laboratories were racing to find ways to use nuclear bombs for “peaceful applications.” This included ideas like widening the Panama Canal or blowing up America’s natural geography to make room for future highways and homes. These proposed earthmoving projects fell under the rubric of Project Plowshares, a name chosen from a verse in the Old Testament, Micah 4:3: And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. But that was just semantics. Test ban treaty or not, the Department of Defense had no intention of putting down its swords. The men were fully committed to the long haul that was the Cold War.

Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health by Laurie Garrett

accounting loophole / creative accounting, airport security, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, biofilm, clean water, collective bargaining, desegregation, discovery of DNA, discovery of penicillin, Drosophila, employer provided health coverage, Fall of the Berlin Wall, germ theory of disease, global pandemic, illegal immigration, indoor plumbing, Induced demand, John Snow's cholera map, Jones Act, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, mass incarceration, Maui Hawaii, means of production, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, mouse model, Nelson Mandela, new economy, nuclear winter, phenotype, profit motive, Project Plowshare, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Right to Buy, Ronald Reagan, sexual politics, Silicon Valley, stem cell, the scientific method, urban decay, urban renewal, War on Poverty, working poor, Works Progress Administration, yellow journalism

According to a disputed New York Times account some top Biopreparat scientists have turned up in Iran. See: Miller, J. and Broad, W. J., “Bio-weapons in mind, Iranians lure needy ex-Soviet scientists. New York Times (December 8, 1998): Al; Broad, W. J., “Iranian denies seeking biological arms in Russian.” New York Times (December 12, 1998): A3; and Miller, J., “Russian biologist denies work in Iran on germ weapons.” New York Times (January 19, 1997): A7. 69. Miller, J., “Bombs-to-plowshares program criticized.” New York Times (February 22, 1999): A8; Stout, D., “U.S. imposes sanctions on tech labs in Russia.” New York Times (January 13, 1999): A7; and Miller, J. and Broad, W. J., “Germ weapons: In Soviet past or in the new Russia’s future?” New York Times (December 28, 1998): Al. 70. Pomerantsev, A. P., Staritsin, N. A., et al., 1997, op. cit. 71. As the paper’s authors wrote: “acquisition of hemolytic properties by B. anthracis strains can allow them to escape host immunity by means of penetrating [humain] host cells.”