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The Most Important Issue of Our Times

The Question

Can a Nuclear Sovereign be Established That is Not a Political Government?

[KBR] The purpose of this discussion is to put onto paper an idea for a truly permanent control system for nuclear technology and weaponry. It is realized that if such a system can be created, it might also apply to all weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

[KBR] Discussing the current politics and morality of nuclear weapons is not the purpose of this discussion other than to say that there are few legitimate reasons for using nuclear weapons, among them deflecting or destroying asteroids and comets that are likely to hit Earth.

[KBR] Nuclear war is sometimes said to be “unthinkable” or a “nightmare”. Both of these descriptions are ways people refuse to face the facts of a nuclear conflict. We must think about nuclear war or we, like the Allies prior to WWII who thought another world war unthinkable, will have a nuclear war.

[KBR] It has been said that we let the nuclear jinni out of the bottle. That is a poor metaphor>. Nuclear power is an inherent part of the makeup of the universe and can be discovered by anyone who looks with patience and insight>. Indeed there were even natural nuclear reactors here on Earth some 1.7 billion years ago.

See Tech> for why we know. So there is no bottle to let the jinni out of, or, as a few have said, put it back into. To deal with nuclear weapons we have to do something else.

Defining the problem
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[HWR] Nuclear proliferation is on a collision course with organized extremism of the worst sort. We have seen extremists motivate suicidal bombers, and we have seen them take over a nation. Such people could certainly motivate a nuclear-armed nation to suicidal action. This is the first-order threat to humanity.

[KBR] There are other first order threats, such as asteroids, that can only be diverted by the use of nuclear weapons. So there is a basic paradox. The answer to one first order threat, asteroid impact, is another first order threat.

[HWR] Given the immense time Earth will continue to exist, it should be a given that nuclear weaponry will eventually fall into the hands of an extremist or extreme faction. Do all nations now possessing nuclear weapons have governments stable enough to not use them at any future time?

[KBR] No government at any level can be stable enough given enough time. No government in history has remained unchanging for more than a tiny span of decades. The most stable government will lose nuclear weapons given enough time. There are known to be maybe a dozen, or more, such weapons at the bottom of the ocean, lost with submarines and airplanes. The technology exists in the civilian world to recover the lost nuclear material if its location can be determined. (Note: The US Navy periodically visits the USS Scorpion to determine if the nuclear bombs or reactor it has on board have been disturbed.)

[KBR] There is a lot of nuclear material out there – enough for tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. The scale of the problem is not small and every time such material is moved it has less effective security than in static storage.

[KBR] We also need nuclear power and weapons for legitimate purposes. So we cannot just get rid of them and might even need them quickly. So they must continue to exist and even be ready to use.

[KBR] In 1949 the problem of coup and nuclear blackmail in the sole nuclear sovereign was recognized by Robert Heinlein in his short story “The Long Watch”. In that story a young man, named Johnny Dalquist, gave his life to keep the would be dictators from getting the nuclear weapons they would use to carry out nuclear blackmail and take over the world government. In the real world, the threat is all too real and we cannot trust that a “Johnny Dalquist” will be there even once. So there must be some serious checks and balances.>

[KBR] When an organization is the sole holder of world killing power without any deterrence it must be controlled and limited by the most robust checks and balances that can be devised. Because political systems are so vulnerable to the political winds of the day, the nuclear sovereign must be divorced from the political sovereign.

The Apolitical Nuclear Sovereign
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[HWR] The UN, modified in critical ways, could provide the proper purview.

[KBR] The world government would need to be truly accountable to the people of Earth and have the trust of the vast majority of them. It would also need to have an effective system of checks and balances or a deterrent. However the problem of a trusted world government as the sole nuclear sovereign becoming a dictatorship is a serious one. The UN as the sole nuclear sovereign has civilization killing power at its finger tips without any deterrence and, at best, questionable checks and balances. It would be a natural target for any would be world dictators. Then there is the near certainty that the UN will be at least a couple of centuries in the task of remolding itself into a trusted world government with adequate checks and balances not to become a dictatorship.

[HWR ] A nuclear sovereign would require each nation to yield enough sovereignty to ensure the safety of humankind.

[KBR] This will require a degree of trust not just between nations, but between peoples and even within peoples. It will be an extended time, perhaps centuries, before world governments gain a reasonable level of trust in all other governments. An apolitical nuclear sovereign, not associated with the highly political and yet to be trusted UN, will go a long way towards gaining the trust necessary for this to happen.

[KBR] A separate organization with the sole purpose of being the sole nuclear sovereign, but that is not a part of the UN or world government or any military, would offer a serious check to unauthorized use of nuclear weapons by a world dictator. By divorcing nuclear sovereignty from the political sovereign(s) you make the political sovereign less attractive a target of evil people. Such a system must operate wherever humans are and however far we get into the universe. The system would use social, political, economic, and technological means in a carefully integrated web to create checks and balances to cover all possible contingencies yet not have a tyranny. The system would have systems to allow change when necessary. Allowing the nations to keep their conventional military power will help ensure trust. Allowing the nations and the UN significant, but non-nuclear, military power there is a significant deterrence to the nuclear sovereign who cannot deliver weapons efficiently or quickly in the face of such conventional power.

[KBR] The apolitical nuclear sovereign would be governed by a two-part body consisting of one body of political representatives randomly drawn from the legislative bodies of the nations and the UN and a second body of scientists, security people and engineers randomly selected from within the organization. Randomly selected representatives will help prevent the gathering together of the more ambitious. All representatives in the governing body would serve a single limited term (no more than 2 years) to prevent the accumulation of power within the nuclear sovereign by small groups of people. The representatives would be, in effect, drafted and the only way to avoid ser vic e is to resign from their political post (this helps prevent the more ambitious from getting the less ambitious to not accept the post).

[KBR] The nuclear sovereign would not have the means to deliver nuclear weapons but would release them upon authorization to the organization that will deliver and use them under the direct supervision of the nuclear sovereign, the independent inspection organizations and the press. Budget for the nuclear sovereign would be derived from the UN, the nations, the sale of nuclear services, products and electricity from nuclear power plants. Authorization for the use of nuclear weapons would be granted after 75% of the nations, 75% of the World legislative body and 75% of the nuclear sovereign’s control body had authorized and the votes have been validated publicly. By not allowing the nuclear sovereign any significant military capability, delivery systems especially, you make it difficult for anyone in the nuclear sovereign to use nuclear blackmail. But that organization must be so structured that nuclear weapons can be used if needed, and that they are always available to be used should such an event arrive, but prevent them from being used in all other circumstances. This requires a permanent organization and industry.

[KBR] To prevent a coup or unauthorized use, for anyone who works for the nuclear sovereign there can be no civil rights. These people must accept the possibility of round the clock surveillance when at home, on vacation or even in bed. Surveillance to be carried out by the independent inspecting organizations and not just the nuclear sovereign. The people in the independent inspection organizations with significant knowledge of nuclear technology would fall into this category.

[HWR] Be everywhere sovereign for nuclear-related activities; no square meter of earth surface can be exempt from inspection for any reason whatsoever by the responsible agency; freely involve the media and citizen experts in nuclear site inspections; employ inspection intervals that are unscheduled and frequent enough to prevent cheating; employ best available means for remote sensing of nuclear activities.

[KBR] Laws and treaties would take care of most of this. The major problem will be trust and the “everywhere” must extend to everywhere humankind goes. The independent inspection organizations would do the inspections.

[KBR] Inspections and audits must be carried out by independent organizations to prevent corruption and coups and theft of nuclear materials and to act as a counter balance. 3 independent inspectorates, one from the world government, one from the nuclear sovereign and one from the nations would provide significant oversight and transparency.

[KBR] When humankind colonizes the planets and, perhaps, the stars, this system must go with us. If we wish humankind to survive for the long term, we must disperse ourselves among the planets, and ultimately the stars. Only in that way can we prevent the destruction of one planet from rendering humanity extinct.


There is one problem that is very nearly impossible, if not actually so, to design for when it comes to human systems. Nature and time (entropy). The probability of random, and sometimes not so random, events happening over a sufficient amount of time is the most difficult problem with any system devised for any purpose. Checks and balances can break down and systems tend to change over time until they mutate the system into in-operability. Changes, forced by uncontrollable events, in political, social, economic, technological systems and even nature itself often happen very rapidly and overwhelm human systems. Whatever system we, either as individuals or world politicians, can come up with, must stand the test of time. Not just for a century or even a millennium, but for as long as we humans have a technological civilization and wherever we go. It must survive in the face of any event that does not render humanity extinct or de-civilized. I believe it is impossible to design a system that would survive over such long periods of time and against all conceivable events. Even allowances for amendments to the fundamental laws only go so far.

Techno-Political Security
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[HWR] We must guarantee each nation have equal access to nuclear technologies useful only for peaceful purposes. [KBR] Treaties and the Rule of Law would provide the basics for sharing. However, equal access may not be legitimate in all cases if the nation in question is a dictatorship or too small to take advantage of some technology. (Imagine Monte Carlo with a large nuclear power plant or uranium processing facility!)

[HWR] We must include uranium mining, extraction, refining, isotope separations, material preparations, and the distribution of products for peaceful purposes. [KBR] Unequal distribution of Uranium ore will need to be dealt with. Treaties will deal with all of these. The nuclear sovereign will pay reasonable prices for all raw or manufactured materials taken from the nations.

[HWR] We must include the design, building, operating, maintaining, repairing, refueling, and decommissioning of reactors; and extending to safely handling, processing, and disposing of waste products. [KBR] This is mostly technological, What is not technological will be taken care of by a treaty. Patents and other such issues are quite solvable.

[HWR] We must secure nuclear materials to at least the level of Fort Knox; for example this might require a military perimeter under a no-fly zone with remote packing and unpacking of materials to limit vehicle access.

[KBR] Any place where fissionable material is stored must be a zone where lethal force is authorized and without warning. Even an accidental trespass cannot be excluded from this for fear that deception may be used. Anti-aircraft missile batteries installed at every nuclear materials storage or manufacturing site. Aircraft of any type, even ultra-lights, would not be allowed in the aircraft exclusion zone since there are nuclear weapons so small a man can carry one. Perhaps even a “suicide nuke” would be included that would be detonated to destroy all nuclear materials if the site is breached. If such a site is deep underground, it would allow for the detonation of a suicide nuke and not contaminate the surface environment. Underground siting of fissionable materials storage would also make it more difficult to gain access – especially if normal explosives are placed to block the access points should an emergency occur.

[HWR] We must manage all nuclear matters in a transparent manner with material checks and balances that are precise; provide accounting systems with double and triple independent audits for accuracy of measurement; use standard units of measure in record keeping; be open to review and inspection by the media and expert citizens.

[KBR] The three inspectorates would oversee and audit this.

[HWR] We must maintain nuclear armed missiles in strategic locations, in high earth orbit, or on the moon for deflecting errant asteroids, comets, or oversized bolides in Earth-collision orbits; manage these life-protecting missiles in ways to save life on Earth and preclude destroying it.

[KBR] Orbiting nuclear weapons must be based on a human staffed station or the moon with carefully designed systems to prevent unauthorized use. Un-attended weapons that are in orbit or on the moon may be hijacked and used before any response can be effective.

[HWR] We must promote fusion power as a long term replacement for fission or breeder power reactors.

[KBR] This would be funded and researched by the nuclear sovereign with the usual inspections and audits. Despite more than 30 years of research, fusion power is still decades away - barring a breakthrough.

[KBR] Anti-missile technology must be developed as far as practicable and be cheap enough that any nation can acquire it. Missile defense provides yet another measure of deterrence to a sole nuclear sovereign which has no significant military or delivery capability.

[KBR] Put in place (at all airports, ports, transportation nexus and cities) a network of detectors capable of tracking the movement of nuclear materials. This technology already exists and, apparently, is so sensitive that ceramic tiles made from earth containing small amounts of Uranium can be detected from outside a steel cargo container.

[KBR] Nuclear weapons to be designed so that they can be kept in a “safe” mode and need activation. Only a few weapons are kept in the ready state. Perhaps only a few dozen. Enough to do the jobs required, but not enough to destroy civilization.

[KBR] A lot of the existing nuclear material can be made difficult to extract by recombining with U238 (which has been done with a few thousand tons of it) . But there is enough PU239 to make thousands of weapons and there is no way to make Plutonium hard to separate since simple chemical processes can do it in a small area. The only way to permanently get rid of plutonium is to burn it up in reactors or send it into the sun (safety is an issue with this last).

[KBR] Nuclear weapons do not have a long shelf life and must be constantly maintained and even rebuilt.

[KBR] Scientific and peer review would be carried out by the independent inspection organizations. No new technology is allowed to be built until a full peer review is done.

Social & Legal Issues
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[HWR] We must be as careful in selecting personnel at all levels as in handling the material itself; insure that each worker, manager, and leader involved has demonstrated emotional stability and commitment to this greater ser vic e for all humanity; provide an ethos where each such involved person would individually and collectively take high pride in being a guardian of humankind, indeed of life on earth; select each involved person by "profiles" using the latest psychometric- and other psychological-assessment tools, prior psycho-social history, and other techniques such as genetic testing that become available over time; make all such profiles available to the public for inspections; require that published profiles cannot be connected with identities of individuals publicly.

[HWR] We must guarantee that inspections do not threaten individual freedoms and privacy; guard the rights of all world citizens individually and collectively by appropriate checks and balances; must insure that all inspections otherwise respect local laws and customs; deploy the highest levels of technology available to prevent or minimize unnecessary intrusions into individual privacy and their societies; ensure that information about industrial activities observed never be leaked to competitors anywhere.

[KBR] Inspections of private property and homes must have probable cause or a court order. Also anyone working for the nuclear sovereign would be required to accept the permanent loss of some personal rights and freedom to allow for constant monitoring. Compensation would probably be needed to attract sufficiently talented people.

[KBR] A world-wide ethic concerning the proper use of nuclear weapons be developed and enhanced. Education would be critical. Not politically correct education, but realist education that admits that nuclear power and weapons are here to stay and that there are legitimate uses for both.

[KBR] The security people of the nuclear sovereign would be stateless – that is without citizenship in any nation and citizens of all nations. They would have police powers in all nations over things nuclear but over nothing else. Abuse of power would make them liable in whatever nation the abuse occurred in as well as in the world court. People involved in security would be transferred often to prevent the development of groups that might generate coups. Leadership would rotate randomly to prevent the accumulation of power.

[KBR] The few necessary laws of the nuclear sovereign would be, like maritime law, applicable to all nations, but normal rights of trial by jury, appeals and whatnot would apply also. The UN court would be the court of final appeal. Crimes by the employees of the nuclear sovereign would be tried in the jurisdiction where they occurred.

[KBR] The constitution of the nuclear sovereign would include mechanisms to change the organization, but only if the UN, the nations and the controlling body all agree by super majority vote after a public and transparent discussion.

Nuclear Technology in Brief
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Most chemical elements occur naturally with in several atomic configurations. Each element behaves essentially the same way chemically, but they have slightly different numbers of neutrons in their nuclear cores. Chemical behavior is determined by the number of protons in the atomic core. Isotopes are defined by their mass number, the total number of protons and neutrons. Elements become radioactive if their neutron count is either too high or too low.

Lise Meitner was the first to realize that Hahn's barium and other lighter products from the neutron bombardment experiments were coming from the fission of U-235. Frisch, Meitner's nephew, and Meitner carried out further experiments that showed that the U-235 fission produced enormous amounts of energy, and that each fission yielded at least two neutrons per neutron absorbed in the interaction. They realized that this made possible a chain reaction with an unprecedented energy yield.

Nuclear fission occurs when the nuclei of certain isotopes of very heavy elements, isotopes of uranium and plutonium for example, capture neutrons. The nuclei of these isotopes are just barely stable and the addition of a small amount of energy to one by an outside neutron will cause it to promptly split into two roughly equal pieces, with the release of a great deal of energy (180 MeV of immediately available energy) and several new neutrons (an average of 2.52 for U-235, and 2.95 for Pu-239).
Radioactive materials decay with time. Each radio-isotope has its own rate of decay. Such an element is said to have a half live equal to the time it takes for decay to reach its starting value. Half lives range between tiny fractions of a second to billions of years. Half lives of the two principal weapons grade fuels are:

U235 -- 700 million years
Pu239 -- 24 thousand years

Natural Nuclear reactors
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All uranium found on Earth, on the moon, and in meteorites contains two uranium isotopes, U238 and U235, in a fixed ratio, along with trace amounts of U234. U235 decays a little over six times faster than U238. in this way the proportion of U235 to U238 decreases slowly over time. That fixed ratio of 143 atoms of U238 to every atom of U235 observed today, requires a different ratio from that when the solar system and earth were formed. Any change in in the 143 : 1 ratio in samples today indicates some process other than decay must have intervened.

Apparently just that happened at the Oklo mine in Gabon Africa. What is unusual about the Oklo ores is that in that some of its contains as little as half the expected U235. Altogether, 15 ore bodies at Oklo deviate significantly, but not uniformly, from the 143 : 1 ratio. What went wrong with the ratio?

Calculating back to 1.7 billion years—the age of the deposits in Gabon—scientists calculate that the U238 : U235 ratio was 33 : 1 back then. That was high enough for nuclear fission to occur naturally, providing other conditions were right. They were at least enough right to fission part of the U235 out of existence.

Spontaneous fission of heavy nuclides in fuel, such as uranium-238,uranium-235, and plutonium-239, results in fission fragments and free neutrons. This process might be enhanced for example by the presence of natural Be-9 which undergoes an alpha-neutron reaction (alpha from the natural decay of U, Pa, or Ra) to become C-12.

Nuclear reactions are a fact of nature everywhere it seems.
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