THE NEW LOOK OF PLOWSHARE

FORMALLY ESTABLISHED BY THE U.S. ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION IN 1957 TO INVESTIGATE POTENTIAL INDUSTRIAL AND CIVIL APPLICATIONS OF NUCLEAR EXPLOSIVES, THE PLOWSHARE PROGRAM'S MAIN THRUST WAS TOWARD DEVELOPMENT OF EXCAVATION TECHNOLOGY. THE LIMITED TEST BAN TREATY HAS PUT A VIRTUAL HALT TO EXCAVATION RESEARCH, AND THE PROGRAM IS BEING REORIENTED TOWARD MEASURING AND PREDICTING EXPLOSIVE EFFECTS AND DEVELOPING SUITABLE EXPLOSIVES. OPERATIONS HAVE NOW SHIFTED FROM EXCAVATION TO UNDERGROUND ENGINEERING APPLICATIONS, WHICH CAN BE GROUPED INTO THREE MAJOR CATEGORIES: ENERGY RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT, MINERAL RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT, AND WASTE MANAGEMENT. IN ALL APPLICATIONS THE NUCLEAR EXPLOSIONS ARE COMPLETELY CONTAINED. THE "CAVITY-- CHIMNEY" FORMATION PROCESS OF THESE EXPLOSIONS IS DESCRIBED. PLOWSHARE HAS BECOME OF SPECIAL IMPORTANCE IN STIMULATING LOW-PERMEABILITY GAS RESERVOIRS, AS THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT HAS EXERTED PRESSURE FOR A SHIFT FROM COAL OR FUEL OIL TO NATURAL GAS AT A TIME WHEN SUPPLIERS ARE OPERATING AT OR ABOVE 100 PERCENT OF THEIR PROJECTED DELIVERY CAPACITY. THE BUREAU OF MINES ESTIMATES THAT NUCLEAR METHODS CAN PRODUCE 317 TRILLION CUBIC FEET OF NATURAL GAS, COMPARED WITH 275 TCF BY CONVENTIONAL MEANS. TECHNIQUES AND NEW PROJECTS ARE DESCRIBED. THE SAME METHODS CAN BE APPLIED TO STIMULATION OF PETROLEUM APPLIED TO STIMULATION OF PETROLEUM RESERVOIRS. NORMAL PRODUCTION METHODS WOULD REQUIRE 30 YEARS TO RECOVER WHAT NUCLEAR EXPLOSIVES CAN RECOVER IN 10. SECONDARY RECOVERY HAS BEEN SUCCESSFULLY ATTEMPTED IN THE SOVIET UNION. NUCLEAR EXPLOSIVES CAN ALSO OBVIATE PEAK-DEMAND PIPELINE FACILITIES BY CREATING STORAGE IN A VERY TIGHT, UNFRACTURED, IMPERMEABLE FORMATION. FEASIBILITY STUDIES OF SUCH STORAGE ARE ENCOURAGING. NATURAL GEOTHERMAL ENERGY IS ANOTHER APPLICATION IN THE ENERGY RESOURCES CATEGORY. WITH RESPECT TO MINERAL RESOURCES, CONTAINED UNDERGROUND NUCLEAR EXPLOSIONS CAN CREATE A CHIMNEY AND FRACTURE ZONE IN THE ORE DEPOSIT BELOW THE WATER TABLE, PERMITTING IN SITU LEACHING WITH AN ACID SOLUTION. THE TECHNOLOGY IS DISCUSSED BRIEFLY. IN THE CASE OF NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL, RADIOACTIVE WASTE FROM FUEL-REPROCESSING PLANTS WOULD BE STORED IN ONE OR MORE NUCLEAR CHIMNEYS AT THE SITE AND ALLOWED TO SELF-BOIL. WHEN IT HAD SERVED ITS PURPOSE THE CHIMNEY WOULD BE BOILED DRY AND CEMENTED SHUT. THE HEAT GENERATED BY THE WASTE WOULD THEN MELT THE ROCK, WHICH WOULD DISSOLVE THE WASTE MATERIAL. WHEN THE MOLTEN MATERIAL COOLED, THE RADIOACTIVITY WOULD BE PERMANENTLY INSOLUBLY INCORPORATED INTO THE ROCK. THE CLOSE-LOOP OPERATIONAL CYCLE WOULD ENSURE NO RELEASE OF CONTAMINATION TO THE ENVIRONMENT DURING THE DISPOSAL OPERATIONS.

  • Authors:
    • Green, J B
  • Publication Date: 1972-7

Media Info

  • Features: Figures;
  • Pagination: p. 233-6
  • Serial:
    • Military Engineer
    • Volume: 64
    • Issue Number: 420
    • Publisher: Society of Military Engineers

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00233313
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Aug 31 1972 12:00AM