Grand Challenges for Engineering - May 21, 2013
Engineering can lessen the risk of nuclear terrorism through stronger security, better detection, and ways to neutralize nuclear devices. Which approaches might be the most effective?
I believe we need to entertain the idea of bringing back the Strategic Defense Initiative, also known as Star Wars, and revive interest in having a satttilite missile defense grid.
I think it's important not to overlook social engineering when it comes to protecting ourselves. That invovles educating and providing alternatives to would be terrorists. There are better things than nuclear bombs that can be used to solve problems suffered by any people group. There are tons of technologies via the internet that we could use to promote commuication, awareness, democracy, human dignity, and actual aid. If we find better ways to engage our world in humanatarian ways, even fewer people are going to want to blow us up to begin with.
Make a shelter using a mixture of toughest materials in the world which will be able to withstand the explosion of nuclear weapon.
Educate people about the use and dangerous of nuclear to prevent misuse of it.
Send a missile to stop it in the air.
We all need ways to detect and neutralize nuclear power that could cause harm to innocent people. When the word 'Neutralize' comes into mind, I think about how nuclear power is generated/created by splitting atoms in a large quantity. There should be a way to cancel these split atoms out and 'Neutralize' them. First, we could detect the heat from the small or large scale nuclear plant, then send out a sort of pulse that has high powered negatively charged atoms that can penetrate metals that could contain these nuclear threats, and neutralize them. Or we could develop a device along the lines of the idea I just explained, but with both positive and negatively charged atoms and somehow reattach the split atoms, which will stop the nuclear threat in that space. I hope this makes some sort of sense, I honestly do not know much about the chemistry of nuclear powers, but I do know the affects of its destruction on the Earth, and it's people.
Whilst engineering and the application of technology to nuclear proliferation can have a mitigating effect, it is unlikely to contribute much to the problem of reducing nuclear terrorism.
Nuclear Terrorism is a extension of the power of the nation state. It is not wielded by groups or those the West defines as 'Terrorist'.
The engineering and scale of nuclear bomb making is enormous and commands much applied effort which is difficult to conceal.
So the proliferation to date (French assisted the Israelis, the Chinese, perhaps assisted Korea and Pakistan.. who knows who else is been playing.. ) is between state players.
The act of deploying a Nuclear bomb in the future is likely an act of a nation state. So the solution will not be found in engineering it will be found in the relations nations have with each other.
If the World continues to conduct it self as a cut-throat bazaar of limited resources and squabbles over the bounty nature affords, then the bounty as is now happening, is wasted in the creation of ever more ingenious methods of waging the grand old art of war against our fellow human beings.
These thoughts are offered by a semi retired handy-person from rural New Zealand with no formal tertiary education.
If the logical truth is available to me, why is it that the combined brains trust that runs this place doesn't get it? Co-operation not competition.
Have a lovely and bomb-free future, greg
A nuclear reactor on a small scale is feasible. One would think that creating something on a smaller scale would be considerably easier, not to mention cheaper. It would bring in a large amount of money as well, because the reactor would be integrated into vehicles (eventually), and would greatly decrease the dependence on fossil fuels. the only problems i can think of (feel free to add) is that the reactor could possibly crack and cause radiation poisoning/death (possibly explode?)... OR with all the accidents in vehicles, the reactor could become damaged and there would need to be a solution to this problem...
I think it would be possible to develop radio sensing devices that can monitor the amount of energies coming from these hot rocks and sense when they are enriched. I have a re-occuring dream of a pile of hot rocks possibly uranium 238? that is apparently just sitting in one place but has been formed into fuel rods. It appears yellow and isn't really causing me any mentally energetic problems, however it does make me wonder if someone else is looking at it with me. Isn't it time we looked to other materials for nuclear power??? Perhaps Uranium and Plutonium are a little bit nasty compared to enriching other materials for energetic purposes. Isn't fission possible with other kinds of rocks or elements?
One easy and effective way to neutralize nuclear devices would be to render them obsolete. Let's build bigger, better weapons to eclipse the threat presented by nuclear war, so that we can move on to worrying about other things.
I can't imagine that this is not a basic thoght and in existence now.
Place a constellation of satelites detectors, a la GPS, to alarm any motion of radiation sources so that they can be investigated.
So, any engineering work towards this end would be helpful,such as smaller,more sensitive and simpler detectors, basic signatures of the sources to target, areas of the globe most likley to be target sources,
there is always the posibility of useing nano bots to build barriers in between the two parts of radioactivity to block them from touching and there for keepingfission from taking place.
The world needs healers and thus for the destruction idea of nulear material or bomb can be such that if unauthorised personnel have access to the bomb then the auto setup sefusses the material to produce heat or so that they can't use it for their dangerous purposes untill authorised.But side by side we must find some method to convince various countries to submit their n bomb inventories to no external entities but their own peaceful purposes like power generation.
Other political approach can be that if some country surrenders its n bombs to its own peaceful needs then various countries can provide it a agreement of protection in case of war or so because it has surrendered its nbombs for peaceful reasons.
Lets pray that such ideas may reach the right hands at the right time and become realized.
Various countries or some international organisation/s can join hands for producing electricity for the specific global region or so which can be a country or more then one.
The management can be a combination from various responsible entities.
Another idea can be like a company secretary sits in the board of directors of a company for looking after the compaliance mainly of the equity related issues and monitoring of the similar and related financial and other departmental responsibilities in the same way a representative of the UNO or a nuclear responsible entity can depute a official for monitoring the nuclear production unit and give report every day basis.
The combined efforts for such a cause would bring understanding among the countries and developmental research can be worked upon through shared expenses and transparency.
Hope someone capable reads this and gets some changes for better resource allocation, planning and implementation of this idea.
For Dr.Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar Scientist from India
I think like a material like iron can be distroyed by rust. Same we need an environment which we can project it at place where we find nuclear material exist and make it of no use.
It may be a crazy idea but if it is possible then we can save our planet from nuclear distructions.
Instead of stopping other to generating nucea weapons i have a idea to create safe atmosphere around us which can protect at a time of nuclear threat.
half of this is completely ridiculous. the easy majority of nuclear reactors simply cannot produce bomb grade plutonium or uranium. reactors use relatively unrefined nuclear materials as opposed to bombs that require incredibly refined materials. and with nuclear inspectors from the un going around everywhere, reactors with enough power would be both in an easily recognizable set-up pattern and would also be three or four times bigger than a reactor should ever have to be. while nuclear terrorism is a thing to fear, chances of terrorists crafting their own billion-dollar reactor to churn out bomb grade materials is just incredibly unlikely... honest opinion: this article is chock full of bs.
Something we have to accept is that there is no way to prevent the use of nuclear weapons absolutely. No matter how hard we try or how many devices we try to use, somewhere, somehow, someone will find a way make a bomb. Some nutcase will always find a way. The best we can do is prepare for the inevitable and work on ways to rehabilitate the world once the destruction occurs.
I really think a lot of you are taking the wrong idea on this article. This is a political website, it is simply stating that engineers have to figure out a way to keep terrorist from using nuclear weapons. Obviously engineers can't stop the US or Russia from using nuclear weapons already developed. They may be able to design something that would keep plutonium from falling into the hands of someone that at this very moment if they had a nuclear weapon would be willing to launch it. None of the world governments decisions can be prevented by an engineered machine. Wow some people are dumb you are responding to this article as if it is a political issue. Further more you do not understand politics. The UN can just inspect every countries nuclear facilities. The IAEA already inspects all willing nations nuclear facilities. But um the UN doesn't infringe on sovereignty so you know nations like North Korea don't allow the IAEA come in. Other nations such as Iran don't allow them to inspect all parts of there facilities. Other nations like the US and Russia will not share 100% of there technological advances with the rest of the world. These are political issues to preventing Nuclear War not engineering issues. Do you understand not people? Does it make since. This article is about what engineers can do to prevent Nuclear Terrorist attacks. Not how to prevent Nuclear attacks and war altogether.
Can we stop calling it "Terror"??? That was a term that was coined because George W. Bush couldn't pronounce "Terrorism". If you want to stop Nuclear "Terror", we better start in Hollywood. I recommend working on the prevention of Nuclear Terrorism and to leave Hollywood alone.
I think we should investigate and approve every nuclear plant on earth.
There is nothing bad in Nuclear devices, its all depends on the state of mind of individuals. These nuclear devices could use for both good and bad purposes. America school think of there own problems. Those who do evil will die of evil and those who do good will also die but they will live peacefully and comfortably after their death.
Ways to neutralize nuclear devises. I suggest that the by all means has to be a way to stop a nuclear weapon before it goes off. I suggest some thing like a bug. You send a small yet fast missile to sort of attach itself to a nuclear bomb and send in a small robot or some thing similar to disable it from the inside out. (This would take great testing).
Nuclear terrorism is an issue to be considered by everybody as a serious challenge,though those that invented nuclear weapons did that out of their wide imaginations and innovative minds.But their inventions were not implemented constructively.The diasaster caused by nuclear weapons in Japan will always be a lifetime problem with little solutions,mutation has really taken its toll in the country. Without any gain saying,the effects of nucear weapons affects the whole world when it is used in just some part of the world.It is a very challenging issue that all involved in the making and using of nuclear weapons should pls save the world from the long lasting effects cauded by its use.
nuclear threat can not , should not , be part of our everyday conversation. it should be prevented at all cost. We have the solar energy!
I am often scared of nuclear devices.Many people don't think before they say we need another war or a war. If we could settle things differently we wouldn't need to have arms races or wars or any of those things that we usually have or have had in the past. I always wonder if the United States is so great how come we've had so many conflicts and how come we can't control how many nuclear weapons other countries or states or continents make?
Nuclear material is relatively easy to control, at least in this country. The highly enriched uranium has a high value, so it is all locked up. Plutonium in spent fuel is self protecting due to very high radiation fields. However in a few hundred years, it will no longer be self-protecting, so we should reprocess the fuel to recover the plutonium, and then consume it in non-polluting power plants. If the French can do it, we can too. The USA should be taking the lead in developing sustainable nuclear power utilizing existing, nearly unlimited resources. That would be the best way for us to influence the rest of the world. It is also the one the two best things we can do to reduce air emissions. The only other thing we can do that has anywhere near the potential of nuclear power is all forms of energy conservation combined. In comparison, bio-fuels, wind power, solar power, the "hydrogen economy", and even hybrid vehicles are a joke. I believe each fissile isotope emmits a signature gamma radiaton, which is difficult to shield, so it should be pretty difficult to smuggle this stuff across borders even if the terrorists could get their hands on it. In contrast, chemical or biological weapons seem to be a much greater threat.
nutralizing reactor use in the breeding of PU. The key to insure the safe gaurds against nuclear poliferation is to insure that the reactor burns PU,instead of breeds fusion materials,modern 4th genration fast reactors of the burner type assure this by the use of mox fuels,sealed reactor units,and the refuel life of 30+years projected as in the Tosiba 4S purposed for use in the rural settings of alaska,and equited to being a nuclear battery in safty terms .
I think the easier way to Prevent Nuclear terror is to educate and create awareness in all these countries where terrorists are created - AGAINST TERRORISM ACT and its after effects which only leads to destruction and nothing less.
Well, the best way of protecting nuclear energy from terrorists is that we should stop attacking over other countries. But this is a political solution and we can not talk on that. Disabling terrorists from obtaining nuclear material for destructive use should be the goal of all of us.
Having solved the USA's DU hazardous waste problem by spreading it around on other countries territory, we've had enough nuclear terror already. Collect and secure all high-grade radioactives. Dismantle all nuclear bombs. Dismantle all nuclear reactors except small research ones. Ditto large scale enrichment facilities. Monitor for construction of enrichment facilities and reactors. Of course, this is politically unfeasible, and we will never get perfect protection, so we need to develop emergency response techniques and teams. The REAL way to greatly reduce the threat is through diplomacy which recognizes that many of the complaints of terrorists are valid, and address those concerns. That requires a change in the meme we folow and build our civilization upon....
Hi, I really enjoyed spending a few hours this morning going over your very informative and important website. The grand challenges for engineering are all very, very important. Stopping nuclear terror or the use of any sort of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) would be my most pressing choice for eradication. As the Literary Agent for an important book being released in the fall of 2008 - we are focusing on this challenge, as well as global warming, overpopulation, and several other global problems. The book has a title and a subtitle - the title is Rescue Plan for Planet Earth. The subtitle is Democratic World Government Through a Global Referendum. Thanks again for your wonderful website and focusing on the major engineering issues of our time. Ted Stalets Vice President www.Vote WorldGovernment.org
Nuclear terror does not belong on this list. It is merely an extension of terrorism. Arguably, technically much cheaper methods may cause more terror. The threat is societal. The nuclear part is merely the technology of the day--solving nuclear terror would not solve terrorism. Biological terrorism is cheaper and likely more effective and more deployable.
Who the heck decided to phrase this one??!?! I am truely appalled and offended. As if a nuclear explosion in ANY kind of populated area would be less disastrous if it were carried out by the good ol' USA, or whatever "legitimate" state that you'd like. Give me a break. Shouldn't the challenge really be to prevent nuclear war altogether? Or perhaps, to safeguard humanity from the scourges of radiation? (And burying the stuff underground ain't a solution btw... ) It's amazing that this prestigious group was unable to remember that the US government is still the ONLY group to have ever used Nuclear weapons on a civilian (make that human) population. I mean, given the evidence, the most basic empirical reasoning would lead us to want to stop all nuclear proliferation, dismanlte all nuclear arms, etc... As long as we keep this foolish bilnd faith in the stability of government, we will never get anywhere. Well, at the least the people whom already commented on this seem to have got that much...
united nations should have access to all nuclear facilities for what ever purpose with out all the mumbo-jumbo u.n. staff on site at all times on all facilities
nuclear threat can not , should not , be part of our everyday conversation. it should be prevented at all cost !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The nuclear genie is out of the bottle. You can't contain it... Develop a new nuclear fuel cycle that can't be used in weapons; it can only be used in power plants. It must be cost effective to be successful. Make all countries sign a new NPT that restricts nuclear power generation to this new fuel cycle. It'd be great if one could also design a new compact nuclear reactor, that uses this new fuel, which could be used in everything that requires a power source.
Engineers of any culture, nation or believe should refuse to develop nuclear devices of any kind, pacific or not and use their brain for better purposes. Whoever contributes to develop such devices has no right to be part of mankind. I bet that in the past 50 years, if only 50% of the effort and money put into nuclear development would have been put in medical, alternative power sources, education, etc... today the earth would have been a better to live
Don't build any new Nuclear power stations. Why add to a technology that requires armed police to guard and produces a waste that no one know what to do with?
I doubt we'll ever be able to control all of the nuclear material. We need to manage the minds that would want to use the material to harm human beings. Terrorists believe that they are making a statement. Provide an alternative platform from which they may present their beliefs without harm. Then treat everyone fairly and let the interdependancies continue to develope throughout the world. People don't shoot the people feeding them, or the engineer developing the next best thing for them. Religion will then return to the forefront as the most significant motivation of terror. Managing religious terror...now there's a threat worth addressing.