Francis Anthony Govia
This is an exercise for students, teachers and parents, and a game that can be played by anyone. It is a discussion that should be held by all of us because we inhabit the planet earth. Any danger to the planet earth is a danger to us. The issue of nuclear proliferation is important to every resident on mother earth because nuclear weapons can destroy our entire civilization. The following information should be read carefully and noted with caution. You can translate the following information into another language by going here. Make sure you plot whatever is described in this exercise on to a note pad. A drawing of a Non proliferation Thermometer, a large surface area such as a blackboard, and a map of the world are also recommended. You will have to keep notes at each step of the way, and use arrows to capture the relationships between the facilities that you create. For purposes of research, having access to the Internet may be helpful to you. Everything will become clearer if you participate willingly in this exercise. Remember that this is fun and you should devote time to it for you are protecting the planet earth.
Don’t get bent out of shape and go to war before you know what the fuss is about nuclear technology.
A nuclear reactor needs uranium to create energy. Draw a picture of a Nuclear reactor. Do not use up all your space. Remember you will have other things to draw, and arrows to connect the relationships between them. Find out if you have a reactor in your state or nation? When you have the time read information about a reactor that is located close to you.
Natural uranium consists of quantities of Uranium 235 (U-235) and Uranium 238 (U-238). In fact, natural uranium consists of 0.72% U-235 and 99.72 U-238, in addition to other small quantities of uranium isotopes. Draw a warehouse for storing natural Uranium. Note what properties are in natural uranium.
Some reactors can use natural uranium. They are reactors moderated by heavy water or graphite.
However, to make uranium work in a reactor, many scientists use a Centrifuge process to enrich U-235 to a level between 3 to 5% and use it in nuclear fission to heat water which produce steam and make electricity. U-235 enriched to a level of 3 to 5% is not good enough to make a nuclear bomb. Conduct research into what Uranium enrichment facilities do. Try to learn a little more about the process.
U-235 enriched below the level of 20% is called Low-enriched Uranium (LEU). U-235 enriched at a level near 20% is used in some forms of medical research including cancer. Note that you are doing work to help people at this level. Plot the information at the relevant stages on the Nuclear Non-proliferation Thermometer.
Enriched beyond 20%, the U-235 is considered Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU).
U-235 enriched above 20% can be used to make a dirty nuclear bomb. Draw a picture of you with a worried or perplexed look on your face. Plot this picture adjacent to appropriate level on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Thermometer.
A true nuclear bomb has U-235 enriched to about 95%. Plot this information with great balls of fire on your Nuclear Non- proliferation Thermometer. Draw a picture of you and your family scared to the dickens next to it. If you are a particularly good artists makes sure that you have people biting on their finger nails and pulling their hair out from the root. A nuclear weapon is really destructive.
Now let us attend to more information.
The enrichment process is considered the most demanding and expensive part of making a bomb and beyond the capability of most non-state actors. Non-state actors are typically terrorists but utility companies may also be interested in using nuclear technology. What do terrorists look like? Draw pictures of them if you care. Can you think of a non-state actor that would be interested in nuclear technology for good reasons?
Some Nations have tried to make a nuclear bomb and failed. Do you know any of these nations?
Since the first Trinity Nuclear Test in 1945 only a few nations are accepted to have made nuclear weapons. They are the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, and South Africa. Make note of these nations. Can you identify when these nations carried out their first nuclear test?
There are other nations that are said to have nuclear weapons positioned on their soil. Identify nations that have nuclear weapons other than the ones that have built them. Why? Push a pin into each nation on a map where nuclear weapons are positioned.
When you hear a discussion about nuclear proliferation you should refer to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Thermometer, pins on your world map, and notes you have written to guide you.
Go back to your Nuclear Non-proliferation Thermometer. At the bulb (or foundation) of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Thermometer write that every nation has an inalienable right under Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NTP) to the peaceful use of nuclear technology. Read the Treaty. Print it and share it.
Are you now ready for a discussion on nuclear proliferation? Let us recap.
On the Nuclear Non-proliferation Thermometer, when the mercury reaches the 5% level of enrichment of U-235 a nation may be planning to use it to for peaceful means like producing electricity, right?
On the Nuclear Non-proliferation Thermometer, when the mercury reaches just below the level of 20% enrichment of U-235 a nation could be conducting medical research with something called Low Enriched Uranium (LEU). Is that correct?
When the mercury passes 20% level of enrichment of U-235, our assessment of what that nation may be doing is no better than Alice in Wonderland, and a source of bewilderment. The U-235 is now considered Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU). What is your natural reaction to news about a nation capability to produce HEU? Write it down? Compare your reaction if you can to another peer who resides in another area of the globe. Ask friends on Facebook (or another social media) to build a Nuclear Non-proliferation Thermometer as you are doing, discuss proliferation, and share differing views in a respectful way.
Most people would agree that a nation has that capability to build a nuclear bomb if it can enrich U-235 to the level of 95%. Many innocent civilians will be harmed from the detonation of a nuclear weapon in war, and the plumes of radiation may affect people that live in adjoining nations. Is the planet a safer place because one nation has the bomb and another does not? Discuss your views on these issues and others.
Only nations that are signatories to the NPT and ratified the agreement have agreed not to proliferate. Other nations operate within the context that they are able to do as they please but they are monitored by the world’s police within the parameters of International Law. Have your nation signed and ratified the NPT?
The police consist of the Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) that came up with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in the first place. The NWS are the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and China. They work to prevent other nations from joining the nuclear club, and they are determined to stop nuclear proliferation. The NWS have huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons that can destroy the planet earth many times over. Try to imagine the worst that can happen to the planet if there is a nuclear war. Approximately how many nuclear weapons are there in the world? To which nations do they belong? How many independent nations are there in the world?
Students may think of the nuclear club as a privileged group. It is like a sorority or fraternity. As a member you can choose your friends. Now that you know the pros and cons of nuclear technology how do you want to manage it? Do not forget Article IV of the NPT.
Depending on where you live in the world you may have different views concerning which of the NWS are good cops or bad cops. See if everyone shares your opinion.
Let us complete the last of the exercises.
Try to research which nations of the world have large deposits of uranium, and depending on the level of commitment devoted to this study, learn more about the peoples and cultures of these nations. Do they also have nuclear weapons?
Has your nation been guilty of nuclear proliferation?
Which nation is believed to have dispossessed itself of its nuclear arsenal? Why?
Have a discussion about states that thwarted the understanding of the NPT and acquired nuclear weapons. Are nations that did not sign or ratified the NPT guilty of breaking International law?
Discuss contemporary issues about nuclear non-proliferation. Act as ambassadors for nations (other than for the country where you reside) and role play. Contemplate what punishment (sanctions) should be implemented against nations suspected and/or guilty of nuclear proliferation.
Discuss what plans can be implemented to make the world totally free of nuclear weapons. If you believe that you learned things about the world and nuclear technology that you did not know, and want to use that knowledge to make planet earth a safer place for all of us, perhaps you also agree that knowledge is powerful. Will you agree to share your knowledge?
Copyright © 2010 The Muffin Post. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to schools to use for educational discussions. Please cite The Muffin Post for work done in creating this exercise.