USS Clueless has a post on nuclear reactors and how they can be used to create weapons-grade material even if they are in a pure civilian power plant. The reason for the post was a reader email wondering if claims that the Iraqi Osirak plant, bombed by the Israelis in 1981, was incapable of producing nuclear weapons were accurate.
Although I don’t really understand the science, I knew that such claims were pure bunk. Steven den Beste explains it to us, and underscores that any nuclear power plant is inherently capable of creating material for use in nuclear weapons. It’s unavoidable.
What I didn’t know was that the Osirak plant, built with extensive help from the French in particular, wasn’t even a civilian nuclear power plant. At all. In any way. Another reader contacted SDB with the details. The Osirak reactor was what’s called a “Materials Test Reactor”. MTRs are used for research when planning and designing larger, more powerful reactors. Since Iraq was buying reactors from the French and had no intention of building its own on its own, this reason doesn’t seem to hold heavy water.
Coincidentally, MTRs also have the capability of producing precise weapons-grade material. Hmmmm.
We don’t hear much about that. I wonder why.