Weaponizing the Weather

Jacob Darwin Hamblin has an essay up on Salon titled, “We Tried to Weaponize the Weather.” He writes:

The years between the first hydrogen bomb tests and the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963 saw more than just increased anxiety about the effects of nuclear testing on weather. They also saw increased interest in large-scale, purposeful environmental modification. Most climate modification enthusiasts spoke of increasing global temperatures, in the hopes that this would increase the quantity of cultivated land and make for fairer weather. Some suggested blackening deserts or snowy areas, to increase absorption of radiation. Covering large areas with carbon dust, so the theory went, would raise temperatures. Alternatively, if several hydrogen bombs were exploded underwater, they might evaporate seawater and create an ice cloud that would block the escape of radiation. Meteorologist Harry Wexler had little patience for those who wanted to add weather and climate modification to the set of tools in man’s possession. But by 1958 even he acknowledged that serious proposals for massive changes, using nuclear weapons as tools, were inevitable. Like most professional meteorologists, in the past he had dismissed the idea that hydrogen bombs had affected the weather. But with the prospect of determined experiments designed to bring about such changes, he warned of “the unhappy situation of the cure being worse than the ailment.”

Oh the things we’re learning about the terrible ideas people had during the first nuclear age.

Real Nuclear Wastelands

Kate Brown in an article for Slate, “Life in a Real Nuclear Watsteland,” writes about contaminated areas of Russia:

The Techa became a flowing radioactive reservoir in 1949 when engineers at the plutonium plant ran out of underground storage containers for high-level radioactive waste. A Dixie cup of this waste could kill everyone in a large ballroom. Compelled by the arms race, the plant director ordered it dumped in the Techa River. The men running the plant didn’t tell anyone about this decision. The 28,000 Russian, Bashkir, and Tatar farmers living on the river—drinking, cooking, and bathing with river water—had no idea. In the 1950s and ’60s special forces resettled most of the 16 contaminated villages on the Techa, but a few villages were too large and expensive to move, so they stayed. Muslumovo is one.

Dissertation Defended

On a bit of a personal note, yesterday I defended my dissertation, “The Apocalypse Archive: American Literature and the Nuclear Bomb.” As I move now toward turning it into a book, the first thing I’m gonna change will probably be the title. Onward toward more nuclear criticism and hyperarchival realism.

Assured Use of Space

My brother just alerted me to this relatively new and ongoing concern of the US Department of Defense: the assured use of space. He was also nice enough to point me toward an article that nicely lays out the global risks associated with space, “Mutually Assured Destruction: Space Weapons, Orbital Debris and the Deterrence Theory for Environmental Sustainability,” published in volume 37 of Air & Space Law. Among the article’s other concerns, Surya Gablin Gunasekara writes: “this article argues that the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction as applied to the space environment and the international space legal framework supply enough deterrence to prevent the widespread use of space weapons without the need for additional international agreements.” This adds a whole new wrinkle to my ongoing thinking about disaster, and further complicates notions of archival destruction because of how vital a role US communication satellites play in the global telecommunications infrastructure.

All Nuclear Reactors in the US are Flawed

As Matthew L. Wald reports in yesterday’s New York Times, “All 104 nuclear power reactors now in operation in the United States have a safety problem that cannot be fixed and they should be replaced with newer technology.” This flaw became apparent after the Fukushima meltdown, which the Times reported on here. This is a striking admission, coming as it does from the former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.