Talking about how things really are, I will start with a picture that shows the total number of nuclear warheads in Russia and the United States. The picture, as it is easy to see, shows the situation on the 2009 year. As you can see, we are far ahead of the United States in the number of warheads (including more than four times in tactical warheads). It is also easy to see in the picture that out of the 13 thousands of 8.160 warheads, we simply have nowhere to install - there are no missiles for them. And the situation in the USA is similar too.
At the same time, by the end of the 1985, the USSR, at the peak of its glory, had about 44.000 nuclear charges. And even then some of them had nowhere to put. The United States reached a peak in 32.000 nuclear charges in the 1965 year, then began to gradually reduce the number of charges, but nevertheless, by the 1995 year, we were in a situation similar to that of a shortage of missiles for charges.
It should be understood that the nuclear charge itself is not eternal - it gradually deteriorates during storage, its fissile materials due to self-decay are gradually poisoned by the resulting isotopes, etc. It became clear that with such an abundance of old warheads they must be disposed of, and those removed from them weapons uranium and plutonium are either cleaned again for use in weapons purposes, or - which is cheaper - diluted with low enriched uranium and used as fuel in nuclear power plants.
As of 1991, the situation was as follows: The United States possessed about 600 tons of weapons-grade uranium and about 85 tons of plutonium. The USSR managed to accumulate about 1100-1400 tons of weapons-grade uranium and 155 tons of plutonium.
Separately, it should be noted that until 1995, the only enrichment plant in the United States, which was responsible for both the production of weapons-grade uranium and the supply of uranium to nuclear power plants in the US — the current USEC company — was a structural division of the United States Department of Energy (DOE). At the same time, the number of own EPP (fissile materials enrichment capacity), which was at the disposal of the United States until 1991 of the year (and this is the only gas diffusion plant in Paducah) was only 8,5 million EPP. And the need of all nuclear reactors built by the US 1979 (after the US 1979, the reactors were not built - and more on that below) was estimated from 11 to 12 million SWU per year.
And this only plant in Paduk, as a single basin in a bath, the United States covered both the production of weapons and the production of reactor uranium. You are no longer surprised that the maximum warheads at the disposal of the United States was for some reason not at the end of the Cold War, but also in the 1965 year? Yes, the US nuclear power plants began to devour more uranium from 1965 than the US had time to enrich. And the United States began to cover the difference by loosening weapons-grade uranium and plutonium, followed by its use in fuel for nuclear power plants.
Already in the 1979 year, the United States realized that if things went on like that, they risk being left completely without nuclear weapons. And they were forced to stop the construction of nuclear power plants. A convenient reason was used for this - the accident at the Triple Island NPP. Conspirologists say the accident was rigged, more critical people say it was accidental, but it was greatly inflated in the media.
However, the already built nuclear power plants gradually ate up the US nuclear stockpile, and American businessmen did not intend to close them, as the stupid Japanese or Germans do. I had to look for a source of supply of additional quantities of nuclear fuel.
Since 1987, the United States and the USSR have adopted a whole series of joint agreements, which are sometimes combined into a kind of coordinated program “Joint Threat Reduction”. In these agreements, there was a lot of political chatter, but their main meaning for the United States was economic. It consisted in freeing up the reserves of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium to cover the shortage of fuel for American nuclear power plants. In February, 1993 Russia and the United States signed an agreement to sell 500 tons of uranium extracted from old nuclear warheads (the so-called HEU-LEU agreement, or "megatons in exchange for megawatts"). Implementation of the agreement is designed for a long period (more than 10 years), and the total amount of the contract is estimated at 12 billion dollars. This is the very agreement about which our pro-grapolymers love to vote - they say, we gave the United States our weapons-grade uranium, 500 tons, "usy, lost, chef!" and so on.
Well, first of all, nobody sent weapons-grade uranium to the United States. Weapon uranium has a degree of enrichment of more than 90%, but is supplied by the United States in diluted form (depleted or natural uranium), so that the concentration of U-235 in the resulting mixture was about 4%. Moreover, it is believed that Russia simply deceived the United States, supplying mostly ordinary low-enriched fuel uranium.
To understand the situation, I will inform you of the little-known fact that, as part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, the United States stopped the last plutonium-producing reactor back in 1992. In Russia, the last such reactor (in Zheleznogorsk) was stopped only in April 2010. And only because Russia has a powerful commercial reactor breeder on the way, which receives a large amount of plutonium almost free then, along with energy production. Doesn’t it, it doesn’t fit well with the sale of "extra" weapons material?
Secondly, the Russians also threw the USA on raw materials. In the 90s, Russia, after the separation of Ukraine and Kazakhstan, simply did not have enough natural uranium to fully utilize its enrichment capacity. Own production of natural uranium in Russia focused on a single facility, the Priargunskoye deposit, where only about 2.500 tons of ore were mined, and at least 7.000 tons per year were needed. And why allow ultracentrifuges to stand idle?
Therefore, the Americans were told that Russia allegedly lacked natural uranium to dilute the weapons component. In order to ensure at least some implementation of the program (and for the first 6 years of the contract, only 50 tons of HEU diluted with any kind of shred were shipped), in the 1999 year, the US Government convinces the largest western producers of natural uranium - Cameco (Canada), Cogema ( now Areva, France), and Nukem (Germany) to sell Russia at a special price 118.000 tons of natural uranium! You think about this figure - this is the raw material on 17 years of full loading of our centrifuges. And the USA provided it to us.
Why? Because the situation with the fuel in the USA was absolutely catastrophic.
In the 1998 year (that is, a year before the United States was forced to organize supplies of uranium ore to Russia), the US Government conducted its HEU-LEU program (HEU-LEU), transferring tons of weapons-grade uranium to the civilian sector of 174 (one third of Russian twenty-year program!).
In 2005, the US Department of Energy again announced the transfer of another 40 tonnes of "substandard" highly enriched uranium to natural uranium. For some reason, this amount of uranium turned out to be quite “tainted” by the 236U isotope, which is why a separate “mixing” program - BLEU (Blended Low-Enriched Uranium) was declared.
The HEU-LEU program on normal weapons-grade uranium was continued by the US Department of Energy in 2008, when the same American contractor, TVA, which digested the previous batch of substandard uranium, was offered another 21 ton of weapons-grade uranium. And 29,5 tons of normal weapons-grade uranium were diluted by other US Department of Energy contractors.
In total, over the 1993-2013 period, the United States used for its nuclear power plants, in addition to Russian 500 tons of virtual HEU, 201,2 also used tons of its real highly enriched uranium.
It should be emphasized that all this uranium eventually went away in the form of fuel for "western-type" reactors. That is, about 700 tons of weapons-grade uranium were the oxygen cushion that held the American (and, more broadly, all Western!) Atomic energy generation over the past 20 years.
However, all good things come to an end. The HEU-LEU program is over. Yes, yes - although it still formally works until the 2014 year, but the actual volumes of Russian fuel supplies under this program are already close to zero. But after all, Russian HEU-LEU supplies provided about 12% of the global demand for reactor uranium and 38% of the need for reactor uranium in the USA itself.
So what will the US charge its reactors with?
I think that I’m not mistaken if I say that the United States now has no more 300 tons of weapons-grade plutonium and uranium, including what can still be “picked up” from old but not yet dismantled warheads, without touching the strategic 1500 warheads and some more tactical. If we replace the Russian program with these 300 tons, this number of isotopes will be enough for 6 years. And then we need to build centrifuges, start up breeder reactors, buy uranium at market prices on the international market - in general, work, work and work again.
And tolstopindos do not want to work. Therefore, if Fukushima did not happen - the Americans would have to organize it. After all, they have organized the “Green Party” in Germany with their idiotic program “to shut down all nuclear power plants” and start funny experiments with power generation with the help of wind and sun? After all, the statements of the Indians are being paid against the discovery of an already completed nuclear power plant? After all, paid for the closure of an excellent nuclear power plant in Lithuania?
Russian stocks of weapons-grade uranium make up the figure in the 780 area, about which, for example, such a knowledgeable person calmly speaks of Jerry Grandi, the president of the Canadian company Cameco. This Canadian peasant knows this business well - he has delivered natural uranium to Russia at “special prices” exactly from 1999 onwards. He felt these Russian "prorasny polymers" in his own skin.
In fact, the situation for the United States and the West as a whole is even worse. The fact is that sensible centrifugal concentrating industry in Western countries (mainly by the efforts of European companies Areva and Urenco) is still being created, and gas diffusion plants USEC (USA) and Areva itself are already scheduled to close during the 2015-2017 period of due to the extreme degree of wear and tear of equipment, which threatens accidents, against which Chernobyl will seem like pretty jokes.
Is it possible to say how much uranium will cost tomorrow and who will be worth something in the world when the nuclear morning comes? Yes you can. Moreover, even the illogical and insane actions of Germany and Japan, who are committing "economic hara-kiri" before our very eyes, have long been calculated, taken into account and, moreover, are most likely recognized in some places as correct and fully compliant with the "requirement of the revolutionary moment."
The picture shows the nuclear world in 2010. Before Fukushima and before the “German Consensus” 2011 of the Year, which left Germany a pitiful “stump” of its once powerful nuclear generation, at once reducing the number of operating units from 17 to 9. Moreover, the Greens demanded that all nuclear power plants be closed altogether.
The coming winter, of course, will add to the world statistics on how stable generating and distribution networks are in the presence of such pleasant dispatching and control sources as wind and solar energy, and in the absence of "non-ecological" nuclear power plants. Germany will show us all an example, ha ha.
In the meantime, the German industry is already actively buying (surprise! Surprise!) Gas-fired stand-by gas piston installations (Gazprom rubs its hands and considers future profits), and generating companies talk about the usefulness of a permanent gas power plant (Gazprom starts rubbing its handles three times faster), which can at least quickly pick up "falling pants" from such hot and unstable guys like the wind and the sun. And yes, who would have thought - coal-fired TPPs cannot gain power as quickly as is necessary from the point of view of the stability of the networks;
It’s clear, of course, that Putin and his agent of influence, the hidden crypto-communist Angela Merkel, are personally in this mess. And not the agents of US influence, which (the United States) desperately need to cut out nuclear fuel for their nuclear power plants. Just because most of the reactors are located in the United States - 104 units are working there. For comparison, in France (which at 3 / 4 covers its energy needs at the expense of nuclear power plants) reactors 59, and in Russia there are only 31.
Yes, by the way - the accident of 1986 in Chernobyl was very convenient for the USA. It is so convenient and happened in time that there are big doubts about its randomness.
The situation with the abandonment of atomic energy in Japan in general looks like going beyond the boundaries of good and evil. The country, which had almost a third of electricity generation due to nuclear reactors, according to the results of the equally convenient and timely for the USA Fukushima accident, has the entire 2 reactor from 54 on the move. Alternative energy, from which new ones can then be planted, as if from a needle, kilowattics, must first be brought to the Japanese islands, and now it’s necessary to take all the coal to the Asia-Pacific region of China and Indonesia, taking all the coal out of the country. And - the most expensive, liquefied. Do you think it would be good for the Japanese economy, which is already uncompetitive against the background of South Korea and China, if its costs still increase due to the consumption of expensive liquefied gas?
Meanwhile, with the enrichment capacity in the United States, the situation is quite a guard. "Immediately after the privatization of USEC, various accusations began to be made against it, from incompetence to dishonest collusion and bribery ... The financial situation of the corporation is very difficult, and the future of the uranium enrichment program in the US is questionable ... High overhead and outdated 50 technology USEC turned the business into a non-profitable and fully dependent on Russian subsidies, "wrote Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in May of 2002.
Since then, little has changed. “The operating organizations (in the USA) hate the USEC. The Russians hate the USEC. The US Department of Energy hates the USEC,” the British newspaper Financial Times notes. And in these conditions of general hatred, the enrichment corporation regularly postpones the start-up of the plant in Picton, constantly recalculates the construction budget upward, and also permanently requires additional inflows from the federal budget.
The United States has lost many positions in the fuel cycle and is dependent on imports. The weapon-grade uranium conversion is almost the only NFC area where a company from the United States can still compete with foreign suppliers. And this is not my opinion - this is the opinion of the atomic company "ConverDyn" from the USA itself.
So, the hard work with weapons-grade uranium in Russia has benefited, and in the United States, thanks to it, the degradation of the nuclear industry has accelerated. The flagship of American enrichment is USEC, after the work of the HEU-LEU program is in deep crisis, and Russia still for some reason still has nearly 800 tons of free weapons-grade uranium.
Based on crustgroup.livejournal.com and Wikipedia