# Nuclear fracking

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#### Winston

##### Lorenzo von Matterhorn

Interesting nuclear warhead vs equivalent TNT volume and cost comparison starting at 4:14. Just the cost comparison in 1968 dollars: 10kt warhead $350,000; 10kt TNT$5,000,000; 2MT warhead $600,000; 2MT TNT$1,000,000,000 [thermonuclear weapons provide much more bang for the buck].

Project Rio Blanco

Project Rio Blanco was an underground nuclear test that took place on May 17, 1973 in Rio Blanco County, Colorado, approximately 36 miles (58 km) northwest of Rifle.[2]

Three 33-kiloton nuclear devices were detonated nearly simultaneously in a single emplacement well at depths of 5,838, 6,230, and 6,689 feet (1,779, 1,899, and 2,039 m) below ground level. The tests were conducted in fine-grain, low-permeability sandstone lenses at the base of the Fort Union Formation and the upper portion of the Mesaverde Formation.

This was the third and final natural-gas-reservoir stimulation test in the Plowshare program, which was designed to develop peaceful uses for nuclear energy. The two previous tests were Project Gasbuggy in New Mexico and Project Rulison in Colorado.

Project Long Shot [an 80kt shot to improve nuclear test detection - great coverage of test hole creation and preparation - note that some post detonation survey footage associated with this test shot was incorrectly used in the Operation Grommet - Cannikin shot video found in my other therad about on the most powerful US underground test]

PROJECT RIO BLANCO FINAL REPORT DETONATION RELATED ACTIVITIES

#### Peartree

##### Cyborg Rocketeer
Staff member
Global Mod
I wonder if that cost comparison is valid after considering the ongoing (with no end in sight) cost of cleanup at the Hanford Reservation.

Also, since fracking is currently widespread, and while no one would want nuclear fracking today, I'm still curious, without watching the videos, how successful those efforts were in comparison to current um, less energetic, methods.

#### rharshberger

##### Well-Known Member
I wonder if that cost comparison is valid after considering the ongoing (with no end in sight) cost of cleanup at the Hanford Reservation.

Also, since fracking is currently widespread, and while no one would want nuclear fracking today, I'm still curious, without watching the videos, how successful those efforts were in comparison to current um, less energetic, methods.
These type of bomb uses have little cleanup involved iirc, the Hanford site (where I work) is a way different sort of issue, it is literally millions of gallons of radioactive waste and byproduct chemicals some of which have been released into the environment. Underground nuclear blasts iirc have no or very small amounts of radioactive material at the surface especially deep ones hence the reason underground testing is is/was the norm. I can see how it would be useful for creating gas storage " resevoirs" or domes for natural gas, I worked on a test drilling program for that during the late 90's, using naturally occuring underground rock dome structures to create natural gas resevoirs.

#### Peartree

##### Cyborg Rocketeer
Staff member
Global Mod
I understand that, I'm just saying that the real "cost" of manufacturing nuclear devices needs to include the cost of cleaning up the manufacturing facilities in addition to the c ost of producing the bomb itself. Much as the real "lifecycle cost" cost of building an aircraft carrier must include the cost of decommissioning the ship, and it's reactor, dismantling, and disposing of them. Those "inexpensive" nukes weren't/aren't possible without the separation and purification etc. of the nuclear materials and those associated costs, which should include clean-up and disposal.

#### Funkworks

##### Well-Known Member
Can't watch the videos now, but yeah, what was "great" about the 50's (for nuclear proponents) is that people didn't really know much about radiation yet. Once they realized how difficult it was to manage radiation (protection, clean-up, long term effects and storage), interest dropped (and bombed, HA!). Nuclear energy still has its uses but it's nothing like what people imagined at first.

#### Jeff Lassahn

##### Active Member
I vaguely remember hearing a summary of this many years ago which ended with the conclusion that it's not feasible because the gas you get out afterwards is too radioactive.

#### rharshberger

##### Well-Known Member
I understand that, I'm just saying that the real "cost" of manufacturing nuclear devices needs to include the cost of cleaning up the manufacturing facilities in addition to the c ost of producing the bomb itself. Much as the real "lifecycle cost" cost of building an aircraft carrier must include the cost of decommissioning the ship, and it's reactor, dismantling, and disposing of them. Those "inexpensive" nukes weren't/aren't possible without the separation and purification etc. of the nuclear materials and those associated costs, which should include clean-up and disposal.
Making a nuke weapon in the US these days would pretty much require using Cold War era material since afaik we do not have the ability to restart fuel separation, and the plutonium refining facility is currently a very small pile of rubble (it was torn down last year). Most of our nuclear weapons production facilities are severly limited and iirc are focused mainly on maintaining already built weapons. Yes, lifecycle cost is definitely something to think about. While I am not an HPT (Health Physicist or a Health Physics Technician) I work around this stuff everyday, and do agree it is a huge and complicated subject.

I vaguely remember hearing a summary of this many years ago which ended with the conclusion that it's not feasible because the gas you get out afterwards is too radioactive.
Natural Gas and Crude Oil on their own have a number of radiactive isotopes contained within the unrefined product, which is removed during refining so that probably wouldn't be much of an issue. The Operation Plowshare wiki mentions about the radioactivity and handling it. Unrefined petroleum products contain a lot of really nasty constituents that are unhealthy to breathe or get on your skin its why crude oil spills are so bad for humabs and critters not just the enviroment.

#### MClark

##### Well-Known Member
When I was in grade school we saw movies “Our Friend the Atom".
Where is the nuclear powered car we were promised?

M

#### rklapp

##### NAR# 109557
TRF Supporter
I hear they have used enrichment equipment for sale in Iran these days.

#### rharshberger

##### Well-Known Member
I hear they have used enrichment equipment for sale in Iran these days.
These are not the centrifuges you are looking for......

#### RobertH3

##### Active Member
TRF Supporter
Our friend the Atom went away because he isn't friendly to DNA - a little poetry there. I read about East Hanford - single most dangerously polluted site in the country. In the 40's during Manhattan they set it close to the Columbia river. River water was used to cool breeder reactors to make Pu239 and now...if not taken care of constantly it could allow all of those amazingly deadly radioisotope and toxic chemical byproducts into the Columbia river basin. Oops. The 50's nuclear fad is truly scary - the 20KT self-propelled artillery, the Davy Crocket recoil-less nuclear rifle, air-air and surface-air nuclear weapons, along with the strategic stuff, yikes.

If you guys are interested in this stuff, there are two really good books out there: "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" by Richard Rhodes, and "Dark Sun" by the same author. Dark Sun covers Fuchs, the Rosenbergs, and nuclear spying, as well as the development of the "Super," aka multi-megaton multi-stage weapons. The second book is a lot darker, and gives some first-hand observer impressions of Ivy Mike and Castle Bravo shots. It also asks the post cold war question of why a super was even needed. It does a really good job of taking those old videos from Eneweitok and scaling them mentally for you. The Castle Bravo test produced a fireball (plasma-ball) nearly 4 miles in diameter and a huge amount of fallout. The hubris of the super program is a great look at human beings at their best and worst simultaneously. We actually had the MK41, a gravity bomb that in full multi-stage configuration, was 35MT yield. Was that for blowing up asteroids? It's all available for reading on the interweb.
I got interested in the cold war and nuclear history (was a very small part of it when I was active duty) and read bunches of books. Want a creepy feeling? Read about the Able Archer NATO exercise in 1983. The Soviets didn't know it was an exercise and did the Russian version of DEF-CONning up. Nearly over that time.

Cheers / Robert

#### Jim Hinton

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
As a long time CO resident, I remember this. Yes it worked. Jeff nailed it, the upshot of this was that it would work but the gas is too radioactive to use. I don't know how they could have believed anything else could happen. I think they just wanted an excuse to touch off a nuke.

Jim

#### Off Grid Gecko

##### Well-Known Member
Will second "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" as a terrific read. Funny enough, I was browsing for a copy of it just last week, as I would like to have it on my shelf to thumb through again (last read it in college).
Cost comparison, yes, some of the cleanup cost should be taken into account, yet how do you "clean up" radioactive waste that's already buried in the ground.
Far as oilfield fracking, nope. Anyone who thinks this is an idea worth entertaining clearly doesn't work in the oilfield, or at least they don't understand fracking operations. Fracking is done with controlled pressure and tiny "beads" that work into the micro-fissures created, to hold them open after the pressure is released. It's a relatively slow process to expose oil that is otherwise hard to get to. Nuclear heat would have the opposite effect in some cases, fusing sandstones into glass, etc.
Far as "filtering" radiation..I have to giggle any time this comes up as part of a discussion. Someone tried to tell me that the potassium we eat in food isn't the same potassium that is radioactive. Unless you use some pretty power-intensive means, radioactive isotopes travel with their non-radioactive companions. All water contains some tritium and duterium, etc. There's background radiation all around us, in the air we breathe and the dirt we tread on and the food we eat.
The stuff that's "filtered out" of crude (and that's a crude way to say it, as the processes can be quite complex in oil processing), yeah, some radioactive goes here, some there. Your carbon fiber airframes contain radioactive carbon as well.
I think we need to stop lumping "radioactive" into this pigeonhole where it's all dangerous and somehow far away from our ordinary lives. In concentration (as in refined species) it can be pretty bad stuff, yes, but overall some radiation is normal and not cause for alarm (like potassium!)

Edit: maybe in the 60s this would have been something to try, didn't see the vids, but not in the modern world.

#### Joekeyo

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Its been a long time since I have heard a more stupid idea.

#### Mushtang

TRF Supporter
I will third recommend The Making of the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun as recommended.

The first one starts just as people were starting to understand how the atom is organized with the particles in their nucleus and orbits. It's amazing to me how quickly they realized from just thinking about it that a chain reaction, if possible, would be able to power a bomb or a power plant depending on how quickly the reaction was allowed to run. Before any of the experiments were done to even show the nucleus could be split at all.

Another great part for me was when Ulam realized how to make Teller's idea for the thermonuclear bomb work, and how it's explained. So fascinating! So they used plastic as one of the main components, really? Let's set this nuclear bomb right next to a bunch of other stuff, set off the bomb, and the other stuff will react from the X-rays coming off the bomb to add to the explosion before the shock wave from bomb destroys everything. That's a fast reaction!!

My interest in all of this came about after hearing the song Manhattan Project by Rush while I was in high school. The lyrics interested me and I headed to the library to look up some of what was mentioned and the more I read the more I wanted to know.

#### rocketguy101

##### Well-Known Member
Will second "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" as a terrific read. Funny enough, I was browsing for a copy of it just last week, as I would like to have it on my shelf to thumb through again (last read it in college).
Cost comparison, yes, some of the cleanup cost should be taken into account, yet how do you "clean up" radioactive waste that's already buried in the ground.
Far as oilfield fracking, nope. Anyone who thinks this is an idea worth entertaining clearly doesn't work in the oilfield, or at least they don't understand fracking operations. Fracking is done with controlled pressure and tiny "beads" that work into the micro-fissures created, to hold them open after the pressure is released. It's a relatively slow process to expose oil that is otherwise hard to get to. Nuclear heat would have the opposite effect in some cases, fusing sandstones into glass, etc.
Far as "filtering" radiation..I have to giggle any time this comes up as part of a discussion. Someone tried to tell me that the potassium we eat in food isn't the same potassium that is radioactive. Unless you use some pretty power-intensive means, radioactive isotopes travel with their non-radioactive companions. All water contains some tritium and duterium, etc. There's background radiation all around us, in the air we breathe and the dirt we tread on and the food we eat.
The stuff that's "filtered out" of crude (and that's a crude way to say it, as the processes can be quite complex in oil processing), yeah, some radioactive goes here, some there. Your carbon fiber airframes contain radioactive carbon as well.
I think we need to stop lumping "radioactive" into this pigeonhole where it's all dangerous and somehow far away from our ordinary lives. In concentration (as in refined species) it can be pretty bad stuff, yes, but overall some radiation is normal and not cause for alarm (like potassium!)

Edit: maybe in the 60s this would have been something to try, didn't see the vids, but not in the modern world.
I design pumps for a fracing company (no "k" in fracing, it's a contraction of hydraulic fracturing). I've heard stories about the company being involved w/ various atomic projects, doing a lot of cementing work for DOE in Nevada. Interesting to see our equipment in the Longshot video (around 5:24). But I was always puzzled why they thought an atomic blast would be good to frac with. In the early days of oil fields, drillers would drop nitroglycerine into a well and set it off to increase oil production. The rubble created by the blast sometimes *decreased* output because the fines, etc. would block the oil flow. That is one reason hydraulic fracturing came to be (1949). As OGG states above, it is controlled and they are very careful to make sure the channels aren't blocked...the "beads" (usually just finely graded sand) prop open the fissures created by the hydraulic pressure. At one point the industry was looking for spherical proppants (glass beads, ceramics, carborundum, etc) to provide even more control over the "permeability" of the flow channel, but with the advent of horizontal drilling and the shale plays, fracing has become a commodity market, and customers don't want to pay for high priced proppants, so sand is mostly used now.

#### Winston

##### Lorenzo von Matterhorn
As a long time CO resident, I remember this. Yes it worked. Jeff nailed it, the upshot of this was that it would work but the gas is too radioactive to use.
On my tour of a few of these fracking sites before I had a vehicle equipped with GPS, I couldn't find the site near Rifle, CO described in my first post in this thread, so I stopped into what looked like a major natural gas facility which I just measured via Google Earth to be only five miles from the location of that 99kt shot. They had no idea of it!!!

I used to have a PDF describing the specifics of the water tanks they placed between the devices with a nice diagram. Can't find it right now.

#### Winston

##### Lorenzo von Matterhorn
I understand that, I'm just saying that the real "cost" of manufacturing nuclear devices needs to include the cost of cleaning up the manufacturing facilities in addition to the cost of producing the bomb itself.
I agree. The vast amount of the hazardous waste comes from the plutonium production for the fission trigger. Thermonuclear devices use lithium deuteride and depleted uranium for the huge boost in yield at little additional cost, monetarily or hazardous waste wise. However, there is supposedly a plutonium "spark plug" along the central axis of the fusion secondary, although I don't know how much Pu239 it uses in comparison with the fission trigger pit.

#### Winston

##### Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Will second "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" as a terrific read.
Will third that. Here's some much more detailed info without the human interest / historical part:

Section 4.0 Engineering and Design of Nuclear Weapons
Version 2.20: 13 March 2019

Another good book. This guy lit a cigarette with one of his nuke designs. He found a small parabolic mirror at work and made a cigarette holder to hold the tip at the focal point.

The Curve of Binding Energy: A Journey into the Awesome and Alarming World of Theodore B. Taylor

#### Winston

##### Lorenzo von Matterhorn
My photo of a place to definitely visit: