VT Nuclear Education: As the Hammer Drops

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Possible Ukranian Nuke Terror Cell Arrested in Texas

 

By Gordon Duff, Senior Editor

 

Three Ukranian special forces affiliated with groups working in concert with the US embassy in Kiev were arrested in Texas after crossing over from Mexico.  We watch with interest as the US government is expected to try to push this one under a rug.

The following are notes, some in public domain, some part of highly classified evaluation reports.  The subject is nuclear weapons.  As VT has always been, if anything, over represented with nuclear weapons designers,  chemical engineers and nuclear weapons specialists, we have found the bizarre mythology about nuclear weapons to be a danger to the public.

If you are looking to build a weapon, go elsewhere.  If you already have one or more and want to keep them safe, we can help.

Troublesome Issues for Nuclear Weapons Owners
Plutonium Aging

Plutonium aging is going to have some serious implications. Since the government has been so worried about this, it is important to try to understand why.

First of all, spallation due to PU aging and corrosion effects will ruin the implosion symmetry. But, the central issue with boosting is to keep the boost gas cool as long as possible. This is very difficult to do inside an exploding nuclear bomb.

Spalled flakes due to PU aging will fly off the inner pit wall at around 5000 m/s. This conceivably could generate entropy in the boost gas which would force you to compress it at a higher adiabat.

Then, as the neutrons start to build up, the spalding flakes are going to fission, evaporate, and generate all kinds of entropy in the gas. This is potentially a big effect for weapons failure.

A larger boost gas volume will also end up heating up more due to recoil from fission neutrons.

More heat and more volume means that further compression of the boost gas cavity after the neutrons build up will be much less effective at increasing both temperature and density.

The greater volume means that it will take more energy in photons to heat it up so the boost doesn’t really go in that event.

If you are not using the most stable of Pu alloys, then the phase transition properties may be important in the hydrodynamics.  If this is true, that would help explain why the government has been so worried about this. Anyway, it’s nuts to design bombs so close to the margin of error that this would be become an issue….. (redacted)

Corrosion issues

Both uranium and plutonium are very susceptible to corrosion. A number of the problem-plagued W47UGM-27 Polaris warheads had to be replaced after corrosion of the fissile material was discovered during routine maintenance. The W58 pits also suffered corrosion problems. The W45 pit was prone to corrosion that could alter its geometry.

The Green Grass pit was also corrosion-prone. The radioactivity of the materials used can also cause radiation corrosion in the surrounding materials. Plutonium is highly susceptible to humidity; moist air increases corrosion rate about 200 times. Hydrogen has strong catalytic effect on corrosion; its presence can accelerate corrosion rate by 13 orders of magnitude. Hydrogen can be generated from moisture and nearby organic materials (e.g. plastics) by radiolysis. These factors cause issues with storage of plutonium. The volume increase during oxidation can cause rupture of storage containers or deformation of pits.

Contamination of the pit with deuterium and tritium, whether accidental or if filled by design, can cause a hydride corrosion, which manifests as pitting corrosion and a growth of a surface coating of pyrophoricplutonium hydride. It also greatly accelerates the corrosion rates by atmospheric oxygen. Deuterium and tritium also cause hydrogen embrittlement in many materials.

Improper storage can promote corrosion of the pits. The AL-R8 containers used in the Pantex facility for storage of the pits are said to promote instead of hinder corrosion, and tend to corrode themselves. The decay heat released by the pits is also a concern; some pits in storage can reach temperatures as high as 150°C, and the storage facilities for larger numbers of pits may require active cooling. Humidity control can also present problems for pit storage.

Beryllium cladding can be corroded by some solvents used for cleaning of the pits. Research shown that trichloroethylene (TCE) causes beryllium corrosion, while trichloroethane (TCA) does not.[31] Pitting corrosion of beryllium cladding is a significant concern during prolonged storage of pits in the Pantex facility.

Isotopic composition issues

The presence of plutonium-240 in the pit material causes increased production of heat and neutrons, impairs fission efficiency and increases the risk of predetonation and fizzleWeapon-grade plutonium therefore has plutonium-240 content limited to less than 7%. Supergrade plutonium has less than 4% of the 240 isotope, and is used in systems where the radioactivity is a concern, e.g. in the US Navyweapons which have to share confined spaces on ships and submarines with the crews.

Plutonium-241, commonly comprising about 0.5% of weapon-grade plutonium, decays to americium-241, which is a powerful gamma radiation emitter. After several years, americium builds up in the plutonium metal, leading to increased gamma activity that poses occupational hazard for workers. Americium should therefore be separated, usually chemically, from newly produced and reprocessed plutonium.

However in around 1967 the Rocky Flats Plant stopped this separation, blending up to 80% of old americium-containing pits directly to the foundry instead, in order to reduce costs and increase productivity; this led to higher exposure of workers to gamma radiation.

Aging issues

Metallic plutonium, notably in the form of the plutonium-gallium alloy, degrades chiefly by two mechanisms: corrosion, and self-irradiation.

In very dry air, plutonium, despite its high chemical reactivity, forms a passivation layer of plutonium(IV) oxide that slows down the corrosion to about 200 nanometers per year. In moist air, however, this passivation layer is disrupted and the corrosion proceeds at 200 times this rate (0.04 mm/year) at room temperature, and 100,000 times faster (20 mm/year) at 100°C. Plutonium strips oxygen from water, absorbs the liberated hydrogen and forms plutonium hydride.

The hydride layer can grow at up to 20 cm/hour, for thinner shells its formation can be considered almost instant. In presence of water the plutonium dioxide becomes hyperstoichiometric, up to PuO2.26. Plutonium chips can spontaneously ignite; the mechanism involves formation of Pu2O3 layer, which then rapidly oxidizes to PuO2, and the liberated heat is sufficient to bring the small particles with low thermal mass to autoignition temperature (about 500 °C).

The self-irradiation occurs as the plutonium undergoes alpha-decay. The decaying atom of plutonium-239 liberates an alpha particle and a uranium-235 nucleus. The alpha particle has an energy of more than 5 MeV and in the metal lattice has range of about 10 micrometers; then it stops, acquires two electrons from nearby atoms, and becomes a helium atom. The contaminant plutonium-241 beta-decays to americium-241, which then alpha-decays to neptunium-237.

The alpha-particles lose most of their energy to electrons, which manifests as heating the material. The heavier uranium nucleus has about 85 keV energy and about three quarters of it deposit as a cascade of atomic displacements; the uranium nucleus itself has the range of about 12 nanometers in the lattice. Each such decay event influences about 20,000 other atoms, 90% of which stay in their lattice site and only are thermally excited, the rest being displaced, resulting in formation of about 2500 Frenkel pairs and a local thermal spike lasting few picoseconds, during which the newly formed defects recombine or migrate. In a typical weapons-grade bulk material, each atom gets displaced in average once per 10 years.

At cryogenic temperatures, where next to no annealing occurs, the α-phase of plutonium expands (swells) during self-irradiation, the δ-phase contracts markedly, and the β-phase contracts slightly. The electrical resistance increases, which indicates the increase of defects in the lattice. All three phases, with sufficient time, converge to amorphous-like state with density averaging at 18.4 g/cm3. At normal temperature, however, most of the damage is annealed away; above 200K vacancies become mobile and at around 400K the clusters of interstitials and vacancies recombine, healing the damage. Plutonium stored at non-cryogenic temperatures does not show signs of major macroscopic structural changes after more than 40 years.

After 50 years of storage, a typical sample contains 2000 ppm of helium, 3700 ppm americium, 1700 ppm uranium, and 300 ppm neptunium. One kilogram of material contains 200 cm3 of helium, which equals three atmospheres of pressure in the same empty volume. Helium migrates through the lattice similarly to the vacancies, and can be trapped in them. The helium-occupied vacancies can coalesce, forming bubbles and causing swelling. Void-swelling is however more likely than bubble-swelling.

Production and inspections

The Radiation Identification System is among a number of methods developed for nuclear weapons inspections. It allows the fingerprinting of the nuclear weapons so that their identity and status can be verified. Various physics methods are used, including gamma spectroscopy with high-resolution germanium detectors. The 870.7 keV line in the spectrum, corresponding to the first excited state ofoxygen-17, indicates the presence of plutonium(IV) oxide in the sample. The age of the plutonium can be established by measuring the ratio of plutonium-241 and its decay product, americium-241.However, even passive measurements of gamma spectrums may be a contentious issue in international weapon inspections, as it allows characterization of materials used e.g. the isotopic composition of plutonium, which can be considered a secret.

W78 Nuke Warhead Pit Corrosion Problems Confirmed

Top of Form

  1. The W88 is the replacement warhead for our aging inventory. It is essentially a rehash of what we had on the shelf when we stopped making them in the 80s. After a ‘competition’, this design won. The W78 is in service, and its ‘pit’ isn’t a happy camper. The problem is, after 30 years we’ve really forgotten how to do this. People grow old and retire. Processes aren’t always documented….    I believe NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Don Cook has provided the first open-source confirmation of rumors that the W78 warhead has a pit corrosion problem.

For some time, I have wondered why the Obama Administration wants to replace both the W88 and the W78 with a common warhead, utilizing newly manufactured W88 pits. The statement of work for the W78 LEP isn’t all that helpful.

Stephen Young has previously noted rumors of pit corrosion problems with the W78. The Jasons themselves noted that the 100 year estimate was only for “most” or “predominant” pit types. There were other pit types for which NNSA was undertaking or considering “mitigation paths.”
Congressional testimony:
Cook, in answer to a question by Senator Feinstein about why the Administration wants to produce between 50-80 pits per year appeared to confirm those rumors by describing how the decay of plastics and other materials may corrode the pit and then confirming “we’re seeing those kinds of problems” in some pit types.

MR. COOK: Again, I think this is a very good question. Let me try to give a quick technical answer.

JASON [An elite advisory committee of our scientific overlords -ed.] determined that the lifetime of the plutonium parts in pits are good for 100 years or 80 was their conclusion. Due to plutonium decay which is by alpha — that’s helium that interstitially causes a potential problem. The actual problems that we have go well beyond that.

We have the plutonium pits in the midst of the chemistry of high explosives with binders that decompose just like plastics in cars exposed to the sun. The plutonium is radioactive. The decay goes on. That degrades all of the plastics, all of the cushions, all of the things that are around the pit. And it also causes corrosion in the pit.

So on the one hand, JASON is absolutely correct about what they said. But the difficulty is that, as weapons get older, much of the chemistry in a radiolytic environment starts to take over. And that has been the problem, and we’ve invested many of the people and time in surveillance to actually pin down in which weapons systems we’re seeing those kinds of problems. And we can predict how long they’re good for.

Those are not good for 100 years.

Bottom of Form


Template measurement is an important method in nuclear disarmament. The gamma-ray spectrum of Plutonium pit shows unique property due to age, abundance, amounts and thickness of the Plutonium pit; that is, same designed pits yield similar gamma-ray spectra while different design give distinct spectra.

Useful information is extracted from gamma-ray spectrum generated by the reliable Plutonium pit radiation as ‘template’. Comparison of the data from inspected objects with the template can give conclusion whether they are of the same type. Because of the strong self-absorption of Plutonium, some characteristics of a Plutonium pit can only be  identified by gamma spectrum. MCNP simulation was employed to prove that in some cases, template depending on gamma-ray spectrum from the reliable Plutonium pit alone can’t effectively distinguish the spurious objects.

And a further approach indicates that enhancing neutron counting rate of spontaneous fission of Plutonium can improve the problem. Neutron counting rate can be indirectly acquired by spontaneous fissile neutrons bombarding a 10B target. 478 keV γ rays are concomitant with the nuclear reaction 10B(n,α)7Li* from 7Li* nuclei’s deexcitation. Neutron information is gathered by detecting 478 keV γ photons. Using HPGe γ detector can both detect γ-ray spectrum and acquire neutron counting rate. This method efficiently increases confidence of template measurement and also ensures the dismantling process without revealing sensitive nuclear warhead design information.

 

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Posted by on June 18, 2014, With 6855 Reads Filed under WarZone. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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27 Responses to "VT Nuclear Education: As the Hammer Drops"

  1. Snoopy  June 21, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Comment?

    [embed width="1280" height="720"]https //www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PXWxkT9ZhQ[/embed]

  2. JS  June 21, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Duff said 25. I would assume major cities that are also hubs for gov’t, finance, transportation including ports, manufacturing, energy, etc. I assume my city is one of the 25.

  3. jmreeves  June 20, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Thanks Mr. Duff
    It never ceases to amaze me how scientific we have got as to killing (us, them,, maybe everybody?
    Anyway, interesting as usual.

    John

  4. Bartered  June 20, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    So, to the Sampson option. How long can one of these be buried without people noticing the boiling tap water, the sand turning to glass, or radioactive rabbit droppings?

  5. Jack Heart  June 19, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Dubya has already had them bailed out LC. Apparently they were guests at the Crawford Ranch and after eating to many pretzels they wandered off into the desert looking for Victoria Nuland and a good time. Just some wild and crazy guys.

  6. wolf  June 19, 2014 at 8:40 am

    “According to our own national…director of National Intelligence, FBI director, the next 9/11 is coming from here. I think it’s inevitable. The seeds of 9/11’s are being planted all over Iraq and Syria. You don’t have to believe me. This is what they’re telling you they’re going to do.”

    –Lindsey ‘Light-in-the-Loafers’ Graham on Sunday’s ‘Mace the Nation’

    But in light of the arrest of three Ukrainian Special Forces guys in Texas…were they contractors for ISIS?

  7. stephanaugust  June 19, 2014 at 7:02 am

    So, according to Lauren Lanmon from CBS7 the three Ukrainian men disappeared when a rancher wanted to call the sheriff. How then can they show us pictures of the three Ukrainian men wearing prison clothes???

  8. Martin Maloney  June 19, 2014 at 5:49 am

    @ Gordon Duff

    “The hydride layer can grow at up to 20 cm/hour…”

    Is that figure correct?

    2.54 cm = 1 in. Thus 20 cm/hour = 7.87 in/hour.

    Wow!

  9. Cold Wind  June 18, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Ok, I’m vaguely impressed with all the technical details regarding fissile bombs. But I am glad I don’t have to take an exam. Here’s what I am really interested in. Who specifically was arrested? Who did the arresting? Are they in custody now? Still in Texas? Who is questioning them? Have they been charged with anything? How did they get to Mexico from Ukraine? How do you know they are special forces? If they had help, who helped them?

    • Tiu  June 18, 2014 at 8:36 pm

      They were probably headed for Prairie Chapel Ranch.

    • Gordon Duff  June 18, 2014 at 8:36 pm

      locals, it is in the news. DHS is supposedly taking over.
      Watch the local news video, it will become obvious.

    • stephanaugust  June 19, 2014 at 1:07 am

      Gordon, I have to apologize for the NSA joke. (I searched ten minutes without finding a headline.) Now, today I found two headlines, here is one —

      — “Brewster Sheriff Ukrainians arrested after illegal entry from Mexico”

    • Charlotte NC Bill  June 19, 2014 at 1:38 am

      So “Ukrainians” ( dual national Mossad? ) want to nuke us and blame it on who? Russia? Iran? Both? But how many American cities have the Rothschild crime syndicate ( which, on the ground, means Mossad and the moles they have here)already planted nukes in to blackmail us? We saw what they did to Japan ( Fukushima…Magna BSP owl camera nukes..and the poor Japs can’t even call them out on it or they might get hit with something worse..)…The lies are unraveling; 9-11..the hypocrisy and lies are out in the open…Iraq was heaven under Saddam compared to this…what criminals!

    • remmiclewis  June 19, 2014 at 3:22 pm

      Local news quoting Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson reported the arrest of Oleksandr Zelinskyi, Oleskii Storozhuk and Vadym Berban before they were able to connect with transport to Seattle, Washington.

  10. Tiu  June 18, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    I’ve often wondered if there would be a problem in the event of a nuclear exchange of missiles with command and control communications. Would all the radio-activity released in the atmosphere interfere with communications being sent through the atmosphere? And would it interfere with any electronic devices such as drones, airplanes or other highly electrified systems… which would make fighting a nuclear war a bit difficult, assuming you need to occupy and secure your targeted territory following an attack… if it was a problem.
    Scary stuff these nukes.

  11. Mike Kay  June 18, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Mr. Duff,
    I reread this, and perhaps I’m getting it wrong, but it certainly appears that man-made radioactive elements are inherently unstable.
    At this point, insert many incredulous explicatives concerning the hubris of certain subgroups of humanity.
    The case you are making seems to result in a scenario whereby lunatics of the powers that be kind, are faced with a use it or loose it option, and therefore are choosing to use it.

    • Tiu  June 18, 2014 at 7:04 pm

      It might be why the Japanese keep theirs un-assembled.

    • Gordon Duff  June 18, 2014 at 7:45 pm

      Mike
      The information here was selected by a former DOE employee tasked with maintaining our nuclear stockpiles who later became an IAEA inspector.
      There are some gems here including information published no place else, information that directly contradicts much the media has been peddling.
      Since we began putting this information into the public record including the fact that Dimona hasn’t produced a nuke since 1988, VT has been under continual “hack attack.”
      To the idiots doing this, not just the thermite sniffers and smalltime phonies out there but the insect infested trolls as well, please note
      We wouldn’t have this information unless we were meant to have it. My own read on this would advise me to leave us alone.
      We can always wait and see what happens.

    • DaveE  June 18, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      The more unstable they are, the more they go “boom.” Large elements with odd atomic numbers like U 235 and PU 239 are easier to “split” because that extra neutron makes them more unstable, but also more inclined to react with other “stuff” in storage.

  12. madashellron  June 18, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    That AR-15 from Bear Creek looks pretty dam nice for $500.00.

  13. stephanaugust  June 18, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    “Three Ukranian special forces affiliated with groups working in concert with the US embassy in Kiev were arrested in Texas after crossing over from Mexico.”

    Coming in from the NSA news room?

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