|Dr. Conca reports that nuclear energy is growing around the world after a twenty-five-year lull. Forty-four reactors are under construction in China, Russia and India alone, five in the United States, and over 600 are planned worldwide in the next 30 years. Since there is a worry by a small minority that nuclear energy can lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, this might be a good time for a nuclear primer because all people should know the details and when to worry and when to not worry.|
Nuclear power plant construction is growing around the world, especially in developing countries. While the basic principles of nuclear physics are the same for nuclear energy as for atomic weapons, that is where the similarities end. Nuclear Energy does not lead to nuclear weapons. It never has. Whether weapons or energy, it all starts with the element uranium - U. Natural uranium is a fairly common material, occurring as a variety of minerals in the ground, and consists of two isotopes. Isotopes of any element have the same number of protons, but different numbers of neutrons in the atom nucleus. Natural uranium is 99.3 per cent uranium-238, aka U-238, and only 0.7 per cent is uranium-235 aka U-235.
This whole process of commercial nuclear power is completely different from atomic weapons. They are different enough processes to easily choose one over the other. The primary difference between commercial reactors and weapons reactors is what happens to the plutonium - aka Pu, formed from the U-238 after neutron capture, and this topic will be the subject of the subsequent Nuclear Primer - Bombs Versus Energy.