Trump Is Right. U.S. Should Greatly Strengthen Nuclear [Energy] Capability via Forbes

Donald Trump has once again caused a huge stir with the issuance of a 140 character statement of purpose.

Here is the tweet heard around the world:

There is nothing immediately offensive or dangerous in that tweet. There is no reason to automatically assume that the word “nuclear” is equal to the phrase “nuclear weapons.”

Nuclear is also a word that can mean clean, abundant, reliable energy. “Nukes” is a word that is frequently used as a term of endearment for both the machines that use fission as their heat source and for the specialists who have chosen design, operations and maintenance of those machines as their profession.

Some people are deeply concerned about human prosperity and society’s ability to provide an improving standard of living for an increasing population without massively increasing air pollution or the potential for disruptive climate change. From their perspective, proposing a “massive increase in nuclear capability” that helps “the world come to its senses regarding nukes” is a promise with incredible positive potential.


Aside: The fuel source for the nuclear submarines where I honed my nuclear skills contained a bit more than my body weight’s worth of uranium. It powered a 9,000 ton submarine for 14 years. About 50% of the uranium was consumed during that period. End Aside.

For many years after the process was discovered and verified–which happened in a flurry of experiments, discussions and computations between December 1938 and March 1939–it was known as “atomic fission” and often referred to as “atomic energy”, but eventually some detail-oriented scientists pointed out that it wasn’t really “atoms” that were splitting, but the nuclei of atoms. They pushed hard and successfully converted the lexicon from “atomic” to “nuclear.”

Part of the pressure for the terminology shift from “atomic” to “nuclear” came when a group of physicists–the most visible and famous of which was Edward Teller–demonstrated that it was possible to release even more energy by forcing the nuclei of the lightest elements in the periodic table to fuse together. Sustained fusion requires an intense heat source that could only be provided by a nuclear fission explosion, so devices whose power was boosted by nuclear fusion were known as “thermonuclear weapons” or “thermonuclear bombs.” Laziness–or a quest for brevity–in an era of typewriters and sound bytes shortened that term to “nuclear.”


A nuclear energy “arms race” would have unpredictable, but probably negative effects on the interests of multinational petroleum companies, petrodollar banks and hydrocarbon-based economies while enabling a huge burst of prosperity in places with more creative and energy intensive economic systems. A rapid increase in the world’s nuclear energy capabilities could possibly stave off the worst consequences of massive climate change, finally enable a foundation for peace in the Middle East, protect pristine areas from extreme hydrocarbon extraction and make strides in alleviating world hunger.

In August of 1997 Apple Computer and Microsoft joined forces to cooperate and compete in a move negotiated between two confident, competitive and friendly creators – Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. The resulting explosion of creativity has irreversibly provided previously unimaginable technical capabilities.

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