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Using current technology, the only materials that can be used as a nuclear explosive to build an atomic bomb or any other kind of nuclear weapons are (1) highly-enriched uranium (either U-235 or U-233), or (2) any type of plutonium.
With highly enriched uranium, a simple device called a "gun-type" atomic bomb can be constructed. This is the device that was used in the bomb that destroyed the City of Hiroshima on August 6 1945. It is such a simple device that it requires no testing. A powerful nuclear explosion is assured. In a gun-type device, two masses of HEU (highly enriched uranium) are simply brought together very suddenly, using conventional explosives.
With plutonium, a "gun-type" atomic bomb doesn't work - a more sophisticated "implosion-type" atomic bomb is necessary, requiring the use of shaped charges, a perfectly spherical ball of plutonium, and extremely accurate electronic timers. This is the device that was used in the bomb that devastated the City of Nagasaki on August 9 1945. An "implosion-type" atomic bomb is generally thought to require testing, but this may not be needed given today's technology. In any event, it is undoubtedly more difficult to build than a "gun-type" atomic bomb.
So as long as either HEU or plutonium are available for theft or black-market purchase, such material will inevitably fall into the hands of criminals and/or terrorists. That's why HEU and plutonium should NOT be commercially traded, or used as commercial nuclear reactor fuel, or used as a routine research tool by scientists of any kind.
Weapon grade uranium produced at Chalk River
At Chalk River, Canada has a significant stockpile of HEU - a material which has been used to produce "radioactive isotopes" for medical and industrial use. Even after the HEU has been irradiated in a nuclear reactor, the intensely radioactive residues (which are in a liquid acid form) still contain enough HEU to pose a significant security risk; once extracted and purified, this stuff can still be used as a powerful nuclear explosive.
For the last 10 years, these highly radioactive liquid wastes containing HEU have been solidified on site at Chalk River by a process called "cementation". Essentially, they just add the radioactive liquid to a regular batch of wet cement and then let it harden. The HEU still poses a security risk but now it is in solid form, and therefore much less of an environmental risk (considering the possibility of leaks or spillage).
Up until 2003, however, the Chalk River scientists just kept adding the liquid high-level radioactive waste to a great big double-walled steel tank called FISST = Fissile Solutions Storage Tank, which now (as of 2013) contains 23,000 litres of the liquid HEU-bearing high-level radioactive waste. And now plans are underway to ship this material in dozens of convoys over public roads from Chalk River Ontario to Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina - a large complex where much of the work needed to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons was carried out over a span of many decades.
At SRS, the high-level radioactive liquid waste from Chalk River would be processed in a facility called the "H Canyon" to (1) extract the remaining HEU and (2) "down-blend" it by reducing the level of enrichment to the point where the resulting uranium is no longer weapons-usable material, but can still be used as fuel for nuclear reactors. The bulk of the high-level liquid radioactive waste (minus the uranium) would then be solidified.
Many organizations and municipalities in Canada and the USA are opposed to the transportation of this highly dangerous material in liquid form, given the contamination potential for roadways, bridges, rivers, and municipalities along the route in case of an unforeseen accident that breaches the containment - not to mention the consequences of a terrorist attack. The environment would be much less at risk if the material were solidified before being shipped, and in fact this type of solidification has been going on for over 10 years at Chalk River.
Moreover, the "down-blending" of the liquid HEU to make it non-weapons-usable can also be carried out at Chalk River, making the transportation to SRS altogether unnecessary - this "denaturing" or "down-blending" can be done prior to solidification.
Study on banks involved in the financing of nuclear weapons
An ICAN study published on October 10th, 2013 has lists 298 financial service providers from 30 countries that support 27 companies developing, producing or maintaining nuclear warheads, including rockets, bombers, submarines on the scale of 235 billion Euro ($ 314 bn).
Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Allianz, Unicredit (including HypoVereinsbank) together with publicly owned BayernLB, Helaba and KfW place germany on 4th place after USA, UK and France. On the list of receivers are also German companies like EADS and ThyssenKrupp that deliver nuclear enabled submarines to Israel. The medical peace organization IPPNW, one of the founding members of ICAN and partner campaign of atomwaffenfrei jetzt!, claims a contract for a total stop of nuclear weapons.
While latest NATO strategy paper about the reduction of nuclear weapons does not follow the path claimed by former foreign minister Guido Westerwelle who called nuclear weapons a "relic of the Cold War" and said they "no longer have a military purpose." some years ago, the German government denies to join a declaration by 124 countries against the use of nuclear weapons "under no circumstances" as it is in violation of the principles of the NATO military treaty, the government justified on October 11th.
Nuclear sharing is a concept in NATO's policy of nuclear deterrence, which involves member countries without nuclear weapons of their own in the planning for the use of nuclear weapons by NATO, and in particular provides for the armed forces of these countries to be involved in delivering these weapons in the event of their use.
As part of nuclear sharing, the participating countries carry out consultations and take common decisions on nuclear weapons policy, maintain technical equipment required for the use of nuclear weapons (including warplanes capable of delivering them), and store nuclear weapons on their territory. In case of risk of war the NPT treaty would cease , the sharing would end and the management of the nukes would pass totally below the hosting states.
- Gordon Edwards via e-mail as of January 9, 2014
- atomwaffenfrei.de: "Das Geschäft mit der Massenvernichtung", http://www.atomwaffenfrei.de/home/artikel/de122974bf16cb2e06c56cc61280ec71/das-geschaeft-mit-der-massenvernichtung.html as of 10/10/2013
- Susi Snyder (IKV Pax Christi, the Netherlands), Wilbert van der Zeijden (IKV Pax Christi, the Netherlands): "Don't bank on the bomb! A Global Report on the financing of Global Weapons Producers", 2013, ISBN 978-90-70443-26-9, http://www.dontbankonthebomb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/DBOTB2013-FINAL.pdf
- FACING FINANCE: "DON’T BANK ON THE BOMB Deutsche Finanzinstitute und ihre Investitionen in Atomwaffenhersteller", October 2013, http://www.dontbankonthebomb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Germany-Dont-Bank-on-the-Bomb_FacingFinance.pdf
- spiegel.de: "NATO Strategy Paper: Nuclear Weapons Likely to Stay in Germany", 11/10/2013, http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/nato-strategy-paper-nuclear-weapons-likely-to-stay-in-germany-a-722435.html
- International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN): "124 states condemn unacceptable effects of nuclear weapons: 'very survival of humanity depends on nuclear weapons never being used'", 21/10/2013, http://www.icanw.org/campaign-news/124-states-condemn-unacceptable-effects-of-nuclear-weapons-very-survival-of-humanity-depends-on-nuclear-weapons-never-being-used
- facing-finance.org: "Atomare Akzeptanz – Bundesregierung weigert sich Atomwaffeneinsatz grundsätzlich zu verurteilen", 22/10/2013, http://www.facing-finance.org/de/2013/10/deutsch-atomare-akzeptanz-bundesregierung-weigert-sich-atomwaffeneinsatz-grundsatzlich-zu-verurteilen/
- Antwort der Bundesregierung auf parlamentarische Anfrage der Fraktion 'Die Grünen': "Humanitäre Auswirkungen von Atomwaffen und die nukleare Teilhabe Deutschlands", 11/10/2013, http://dip21.bundestag.de/dip21/btd/17/148/1714822.pdf as at October 22, 2013
- Brian Donnelly, member of the British Diplomat Service: "The Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Articles I, II and VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons In: La No Proliferación: Puntos de Vistas de América Latina y el Caribe", 1995, http://www.opanal.org/Articles/cancun/can-Donnelly.htm