Oscar Wilde once said that when good Americans die, they go to Paris. But what about decommissioned nuclear weapons? Where do old nuclear warheads go when they die? Believe it or not, thanks in part to a conscientious Russian businessman named Vladimir Alexeyevich Smirnov, many of them go to America.
In fact, news sources report that 10 percent of recycled Russian nuclear warheads are used to power American homes, companies, schools, and hospitals. As of December 2009, half of the nuclear power in America came from former Russian nuclear weapons.
In 1994, a U.S. $12 billion implementing contract was signed between the US Enrichment Corporation (now know as USEC Inc.) and Russia’s Technabexport (known simply as “TENEX”) as executive agents for the US and Russian governments.
Thanks to a disarmament treaty between the United States and Russia and a recycling program called Megatons to Megawatts implemented by USEC and TENEX, what was once a Russian nuclear bomb is now refashioned for sustaining a significant percentage of American life, vis-à-vis uranium taken from Russian nuclear weapons that’s been converted into nuclear fuel.
Mr. Smirnov, who served as TENEX’s Director General for several years, is one of the world’s biggest proponents of converting nuclear weapons into usable energy.
In a July 6, 2006 interview with Russia’s RIA Novosti, Mr. Smirnov noted that uranium has gone “from being a weaponry element underlying military programs” into an “essential world-scale power source comparable in its significance with oil and gas.”
Mr. Smirnov is more than right. Over the past 15 years of the Megatons to Megawatts program’s operation, uranium equivalent to over 15,000 nuclear warheads has been eliminated by recycling it into fuel for commercial nuclear power plants.