Tritium on Ice
In December 1998, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson announced that the U.S. planned to begin producing tritium for its nuclear weapons in commercial nuclear power plants. This decision overturned a fifty-year policy of keeping civilian and military nuclear production processes separate. Tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, is needed to turn A-bombs into H-bombs, and the commercial nuclear power plants that are to be modified to produce tritium are called ice condensers. This book provides an insider's perspective on how Richardson's decision came about, and why it is dangerous.
Kenneth Bergeron shows that the new policy is unwise not only because it undermines the U.S. commitment to curb nuclear weapons proliferation but also because it will exacerbate serious safety problems at these commercial power facilities, which are operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority and are among the most marginal in the United States. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's review of the TVA's request to modify its plants for the new nuclear weapons mission should attract significant attention and opposition.
Tritium on Ice is part expose, part history, part science for the lay reader, and part political science. Bergeron's discussion of how the issues of nuclear weapons proliferation and nuclear reactor safety have become intertwined illuminates larger issues about how the federal government does or does not manage technology in the interests of its citizens and calls into question the integrity of government-funded safety assessments in a deregulated economy.
About the Author
Kenneth D. Bergeron is an Albuquerque-based writer who specializes in social and political aspects of science and technology. For twenty-five years he worked at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, primarily on the safety of commercial nuclear reactors and the military reactors used to produce tritium for nuclear weapons.
"Tritium on Ice is an excellent book that deserves to be widely read by experts and lay people alike." , Jack Harris, The Times Higher
"Tritium on Ice is a lively and authoritative account and critique of the evolution of US tritium policy. The reader will also learn a great deal about the organization and culture of the United States nuclear establishment and about the fundamental safety issues of the 100-odd nuclear power reactors operating in the US today."
—Frank von Hippel, Professor of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
"Civilian and military uses of nuclear power have always been separate. Secretary Richardson's decision blurred what has always been a bright line. Bergeron's book explains how that significant decision was made. He writes with clarity and conviction about nuclear weapons and nuclear power as a knowledgeable insider in both camps. I have never read an account that covers both the Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission perspectives with such insight."
—David Lochbaum, nuclear safety engineer, Union of Concerned Scientists
"This is an alarming and absorbing book about the dangers to the Tennessee Valley, the country, and the world from the government's 1998 decision to produce the tritium used to turn A-bombs into H-bombs in three civilian nuclear plants. Kenneth Bergeron, a veteran physicist who worked for twenty-five years on nuclear weapons at the Sandia National Laboratories, exposes the little-known agendas that led to the abandonment of the longstanding policy of separating civilian and military uses of nuclear energy. Environmentalists and citizens supporting nonproliferation initiatives will find Tritium on Ice a distinctly important public service by a nuclear weapons specialist who wants you and other Americans actively involved in reversing this reckless, unnecessary undertaking before it begins."
—Ralph Nader, consumer advocate
"This well-researched and well-written book exposes the hypocrisy and deception that lie behind the reversal of the 'no dual use' nonproliferation policy, a reversal likely to diminish long-term prospects for preventing the spread of nuclear weapons throughout the world."
— US Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-MA), senior Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and co-Chair of the Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation
Gold Award Winner for Political Science in the 2002 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.