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This afternoon, I was reading through ProPublica’s chart of the history of government regulation, “From Gung-Ho to Uh-Oh“. I was very surprised that the first effort at releasing tight natural gas came from a nuclear bomb in 1969. The chart says that in 1969 “The government detonates a 43-kiloton nuclear bomb deep underground in an effort to get at natural gas deposits in Colorado.”
I suppose they shouldn’t have been surprised when it turned out that the resulting natural gas was too radioactive to use. The AP story which ProPublica links, “Legacy of nuclear drilling site in Colorado still lingers“, goes on to describe the 1969 explosion as causing the ground to roll, “Like a wave coming through.”
The government is going to regulate fracking ingredients more closely, but I don’t think we’re going to see drillers using nuclear weapons any time soon!
Possible applications for peaceful nuclear explosions include:
Large-scale excavation to create reservoirs, canals and ports.
Stimulating oil and gas recovery.
Creating cavities for underground oil, gas or waste storage.
Extinguishing gas field fires.
Interception of potentially dangerous Near Earth Objects (asteroids, etc).
Recovering oil from oil shale.
Energy production via molten fluorides underground producing steam for electricity.
Breaking up copper and phosphate ore preparatory to mining.
Of these, the first four have been tested (and even applied in some cases by the USSR) while the remaining five have been investigated but not tested.
A total of 151 PNE experiments have been carried out by both the USA (27) and the USSR (124 plus 32 tests that helped develop explosive devices used in PNEs). No other country has ever carried out a PNE testa and there are currently no moves towards a resumption of tests.
Project Rulison, named after the rural community of Rulison, Colorado, was a 40-kiloton nuclear test project in the United States on September 10, 1969, about 8 miles SE of the town of Grand Valley, Colorado (now named Parachute, Colorado) near western Colorado's Grand Valley in Garfield County. The location of "Surface Ground Zero" is WikiMiniAtlas 39°24′19.0″N 107°56′54.7″W / 39.40528°N 107.948528°W / 39.40528; -107.948528. It was part of the Operation Mandrel weapons test series under the name Mandrel Rulison, as well as the Operation Plowshare project which explored peaceful engineering uses of nuclear explosions. The peaceful aim of Project Rulison was to determine if natural gas could be easily liberated from underground regions.
Project Rio Blanco was an underground nuclear test that took place on May 17, 1973 in Rio Blanco County, Colorado, approximately 58 km northwest of Rifle. Three 33-kiloton nuclear devices were detonated nearly simultaneously in a single emplacement well at depths of 5,838, 6,230, and 6,689 feet below ground level. The tests were conducted in fine-grain, low-permeability sandstone lenses at the base of the Fort Union Formation and the upper portion of the Mesaverde Formation.
Project Gasbuggy was an underground nuclear detonation carried out by the United States Atomic Energy Commission on December 10, 1967 in rural northern New Mexico. It was part of Operation Plowshare, a program designed to find peaceful uses for nuclear explosions.
Project Plowshare was the overall United States term for the development of techniques to use nuclear explosives for peaceful construction purposes. The phrase was coined in 1961, taken from Micah 4:3 ("And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more"). It was the U.S. portion of what are called Peaceful Nuclear Explosions (PNE).
Originally posted by Phage
Is it going on now? No. The seismic signature of an underground nuclear blast is quite distinctive.
Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy (sometimes referred to as Program #7), was a Soviet program to investigate peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs). It was analogous to the US program Operation Plowshare.
The plan was really just a way for the military to get around the looming 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which made it illegal to test weapons in the upper atmosphere and in the ocean. The Sedan Test was Operation Plowshare's second test and it was, in scientific terms, a son of a bitch.
Originally posted by Phage
reply to post by TrueAmerican
Are you sure you know what a neutron bomb is? They do produce radioactive products and would be very, very expensive to build (tritium is not cheap). Might as well use TNT (or fracking fluid).
....Using data recorded worldwide by a host of seismic monitoring stations, the team successfully differentiated the nuclear blasts from typical regional earthquakes, characterized the yields of the tests, and noted inconsistencies between the announced test yields and the seismic data.
Seismic P waves are compressional waves, similar to sound waves in the air. Shear (S) waves are transverse waves, like those that propagate along a rope when one end is shaken. Because underground explosions are spherically symmetric disturbances, they radiate seismic P waves efficiently. In contrast, earthquakes result from sliding or rupture along a buried fault surface and strongly excite the transverse motions of S waves. Thus, we expect that explosions will show strong P waves and weak S waves and that earthquakes will show weak P waves and strong S waves
A Review of the Cavity Decoupling Evasion Scenario: Implications for Seismic Monitoring of Underground Nuclear Explosions
The concept that it might be possible to significantly reduce the seismic signal radiated by an underground nuclear explosion by detonating the device in a sufficiently large air-filled cavity (i.e. cavity decoupling) was first proposed publicly by A. L. Latter of the U.S. at the 1959 Nuclear Test Ban Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Despite the fact that the concept has been around for more than 50 years, it continues to pose the greatest challenge to effective seismic monitoring of possible clandestine underground nuclear tests.