Wednesday, 30 April 2014






THE last Prison Blue Book (the Report of the 
Commissioners of Prisons and the Directors 
of Convict Prisons for 1903-4), while it shows an 
appreciable advance and improvement in the 
management of our penal establishments, reveals 
also how very much there is still waiting to be 
done. Officialism, as we know, is sadly slow to 
move ; and we are yet a long way from getting at 
the root of all this matter, namely, the trans- 
formation of the Criminal into a useful citizen, 
and the extinction of Recidivism. Penology, 
though made much of as a science on the Con- 
tinent and in the United States, is little studied 
in Britain ; and there is little doubt that in some 
respects even Russian and Siberian prisons are 
more humanely conducted than ours. 

The following chapters are a small contribution 
to the subject. It is easy to see, for any one who 
looks into the heart of the people to-day in our 
islands, that deliberate criminality and perversely 

» anti-social instinct, though of course present, are 
not so very widespread. The immense majority 
of cases that pass through our courts are cases 
arising out of sheer need, or wretched education 
and surroundings, and would disappear with the 
establishment of decent social conditions. But 
at present, as the worker, whether in town or 
country, is unable to secure employment and the 
means of honest hving except by favour of another 
man — as society gives him no rigfU to employment 
I and to work for a living — what wonder that he 
endeavours to secure a living by means 
in the eye of society he has no right ~ 

Changes no doubt are coming, and better 
conditions. Meanwhile, however, it is necessary 
that our treatment of the Criminal should be an 
aid to progress, and not an obstruction — as it so 
often is to-day. Mr. Charlton T. Lewis, President 
of the National Prison Association of the United 
States, has said that " to consign a man to prison 
is commonly to enrol him in the criminal class " 
{see Appendix C). But surely, if we are to have 
prisons at all, their action and result ought to be 
just the opposite. 

I have ventured to indicate in the first few 
chapters of this little book some of the reforms in 
Prison management and Criminal procedure which 
are most needed, and which might at once be 
pressed forward ; and in the Note at the end of 
Chapter IV I have made a list of these. Coincident 
changes must no doubt also take place in our 
Police-system, and to these I have alluded in 
Chapter V. Finally, since there is a growing 
feeling on aU hands, especially among advanced 
officials and criminologists, that prisons and pun- 
ishment are in their present form outworn, and 
productive of as much hajra els good, I have 
endeavoured (in Chapter VI) to sketch a state of 
affairs in which the whole system of government 
by violence will lapse and become antiquated, 
leaving society free to shape itself by voluntary 
methods according to its own good sense : feeling 
assured that if society has good sense it will be able 
to shape itself in this way, and if it has not there 
does not appear much likelihood at present of its 
rulers being able to supply the deficiency, 


January, 1905. 

I Penal Systems, Past and Present 
II Law and Punishment 

III The Sources of Crime 

IV Prison Reform 

V The Police System 

VI Non-Governmental Society 

Appendix — 

A The Solitary System . 

B The Indeterminate Sentence 

C The Probation System 

D Corporal Punishment . 

£ Capital Punishment 

F The Treatment of Unconvicted Prisoners 

G A Court of Criminal Appeal 

know not whether Laws be right. 

Or whether Laws be wrong ; 
All that we know who lie in gaol 

Is that the wall is strong. 
And that each day is like a year, 

A year whose days are long, 

Bui this I know, that every Law 

That men have made for Man, 
Since first Man took his brother^s life. 

And the sad world began. 
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff 

With a most evil fan. 

This too I know — and wise it were 

If each could know the same — 
That every prison that men build 

Is built with bricks of shame. 
And bound with bars lest Christ should see 

How men their brothers maim. 

— Ballad of Reading Gaol, 




"^HE penal systems of ail countries probably 
pass through much the same stages of evolu- 
tion. They begin with Revenge — " an eye for an 
eye, and a tooth for a tooth " ; they pass on to the 
idea of Punishment — a semi-theological conception, 
a sort of sacrifice to the goddess of Justice ; then 
they adopt the method of Deterrence or Terrorism — 
society itself stricken with fear, trjnng to stamp out 
criminality by fear ; and only at the last, if at all, 
do they become human. Only at the last does the 
majesty of society, forgetting its own little fears, 
descend to the work of Reclamation, and to make 
the criminal once more into a fellow-citizen and a 

Our pubKc opinion happily is rapidly passing into 
this last stage ; but our penal system itself lingers 
in the stages of Terrorism and Punishment. It may 
be necessary to say a few words on these stages. 

' Given originally as an address. 


And first on the subject of Punishment. We need 
not discuss the theory or abstract meaning of this 
term. It is sufficient to point out that pubHc opin- 
ion is rapidly coming to see the incongruity and even 
absurdity of its actual apphcation in the courts. 
The country squire or J. P. who, in his own person 
or in that of his forbears, has filched a common from 
the villagers, punishes with lofty sense of justice the 
farm-labourer who appropriates a goose ; 

The law condemDS the man or woman 
Who steals the goose from off the c 
But leaves the greater felon loose 
Who steals the common from the goose. 

The judge whose moral relations are notoriously 
unsatisfactory is virtuously severe over some youth 
who has been carried away by his passions, and sen- 
tences him to a year or two of hard labour. Such 
situations are common enough. It is clear indeed 
that human nature renders them unavoidable as 
long as our present legal system continues ; but their 
incongruity is becoming every day more patent. 

Of course it may be said, and is said, that the ad- 
ministrator of the law does not punish in his own 
name, but in that of society. He acts not as an err- 
ing individual, but as the arm of the corporate body. 
That is why he wears the scarlet and ermine. But 
then, what is society that it should punish a man ? 
What does the great Institution of Law, for all its 
rules and precedents and agelong experience, know 
of the temptations, the struggles, the exasperations, 
of the individual criminal — of the human soul within 
him — that it should sentence and condemn ? What 

is the Institution that it should clothe itself in the 
garment of Righteousness and Judgment ? 

Here is a man who murdered his wife the other 
day. What a generous, affectionate fellow he was, 
dark, and with a brow just for the moment like 
thunder when vexed, but so really gentle ; and de- 
voted to his children. His wife a perfect shrew, her 
digestion all wrong. She tore at him with her 
tongue, aiming always at galled and weak places. 
One day, transported with anger, he struck her a 
heavy blow. She reeled and fell, and never spoke 
again. He, transfixed with grief, also hardly spoke 
again. The judge put on the black cap. {It was 
the idea of Righteousness and Punishment that the 
judge had in his mind.) The neighbours remon- 
strated — a petition was got up — a hundred signa- 
tures — quite a number for a working man's friends ; 
but it was so much waste paper — the man weis 
hanged without mercy.* 

• Take, for instance, the following case from the daily 
papers of August lO, 1897: "Thomas Lloyd, who has 
been lying in Walton Gaol, Liverpool, under sentence of 
death for the murder of his wife, was executed yesterday 
morning. Reporters were not admitted to the execution, 
but an eye-witness of the execution stated that Lloyd 
walked calmly and firmly towards the scafiold. When 
he came in sight of it, however, he turned ashy pale, and 
for a mornent seemed to be paralyzed with grief. He 
stopped and gave a great sob, but in a moment recovered 
and said, ' I am ready,' and resumed his walk to the 
scaffold. Billington, the executioner, gave Lloyd a drop 
of six feet, and death, it is stated, was instantaneous. 
Application for a reprieve had been made to the Home 
Secretary on the ground of the great provocation whicli 
Lloyd received, but Sir Matthew White Ridley declined 
to interfere with the sentence. It transpired at the trial 

It is this idea of Punishment, and the obvious im- 
possibility of awarding punishment in any rational 
way, which makes judges and magistrates so hope- 
lessly at sea over their sentences. What is the 
proper punishment for murdering your wife ? or what 
is the proper punishment for forging a cheque of 
£ioo ? Say, what is it ? One judge tries long sen- 
tences, another tries short sentences ; another gives 
a heavy sentence on one occasion, and a light sentence 
for the same offence on another occasion — just to 
make things equal in that way. But no one has any 
reasonable system ; for obviously there is no such 
thing, nor can be. 

Does it follow from all this that society must leave 
offenders alone ? Not at all. It is clear that society 
will, and indeed must protect itself, against those 
whom it considers injurious to itself. Nor is it easy 
to give a reason why it should not do so, since self- 
preservation is the first law of nature. But there is 
a great difference between society protecting itself, 
and society punishing the criminal. The whole 
attitude is different. 

Thus we come to the next stage — that of Deter- 
rence, Criminals must be deterred. They must be 
terrorized, so that those who have come to prison 
once, won't come again, and others will not come at 
all — and society will thus be safe from its own wild . 

that Lloyd's married life was most unhappy, the murdered 
woman being of very bad temper and aggravating dis- 
position. Among those most anxious to obtain Lloyd's 
reprieve was a stepson, who in a statement said that the 
condemned mao was a good husband, and was, in fact, as 
good as gold." 

children ! This is a less theological and more positive 

It would not do to say that Deterrence is of no use. 
That would be too strong a statement. It is pro- 
bable that Fear — the fear of the gallows, fear of the 
lash, fear of the prison, or of the social stigma it 
brings with it — keeps a certain number of people 
back from crime. But not so very many. In most 
cases, it only makes thera more careful about being 
found out. 

It is remarkable indeed to find how little effect 
is attributed to Severity by some who have studied 
this subject. The Rev. W. D. Morrison, who as 
Prison Chaplain has had a large experience, says :■ — 
" John Bright once said — Force is no remedy, and 
as far as the criminal population is concerned, this 
remark is hterally true. Force, in the shape of 
punishment, no matter how severe you make it, will 
not keep down crime. If the penal laws of the past 
teach us anything, they teach us that crime cannot 
be put down by mere severity." ' 

Allowing however that a certain percentage are 
actually deterred from breaking the laws by fear — 
we have to remember what an unworthy motive this 
is. Fear may make a man conform to the respecta- 
bilities, but it never yet made a good citizen. It 
may be necessary to make use of fear sometimes, 
but it must be remembered that it is the lowest and 
least desirable motive that can be set in operation. 
The causes of crime go deeper even than Fear can 
touch, and till we reach them we are not very far on 

our way. 

^^L * Humane Science Lectures (George Bell), p. 87.

Every one has read of the Vagabondage in Eliza- 
bethan times, and the frightful penalties, the brand- 
ings, floggings, hangings that were vainly put in 
force against it. We are amazed now to think that 
authorities could have believed that these things 
would have any effect — when the economic causes 
that produced those tribes of houseless tramps — the 
alterations in the tenure of land,the dissolution of the 
Monasteries, and of the Towns' Guilds, etc., are 
so clear to us. Yet to-day we still believe in the 
hocus-pocus of floggings, hangings, and imprison- 
ments — though the economic causes of nine-tenths 
of our crime are equally patent to anyone who will 
take the trouble to look into them. " Crime," says 
Mr. Morrison again, " springs from disorders in our 
social system, and until these disorders are healed 
or alleviated, crime will continue to flourish in our 
midst, no matter how severe and strong you may 
make the penal law. Some of these disorders consist 
of physical or mental infirmities ; some of economic 
hardships and vicissitudes ; and some in the low 
standards of life and conduct which prevail in our 
midst. The true method of diminishing crime is to 
pluck it up by the roots. And the only way to pluck 
it up by the roots is to alleviate the social disorders 
by which it is produced," 

With regard to our own system, into which Deter- 
rence enters so largely, we are beginning to recognize 
its failure. If the fear of penalties deters a certain 
number who have never been in prison, how does it 
act on those who have been there ? Recidivism is the 
answer — they come back again. The Report of 1895 
quotes figures which show conclusively that the 


more often a man has been in prison, the more likely 
he is to return there. Of every hundred who go to 
prison a first time, thirty return again ; but of every 
hundred who have been to prison five times, seventy- 
nine return again.' This does not look as if existing 
prison methods were largely curative. In fact, our 
system does not create citizens, but rather habitual 
criminals. It lays itself out to terrorize rather than 
to reclaim, and this is the result. 

For habit robs even prisons of their terror. How- 
ever severe a system may be it at last breeds its own 
type of prisoner who is adapted to his environment. 
If you live seven years without speaking or using 
your brain and heart to any appreciable degree, you 
at last lose the need for speech and thought and 
affection. The privation is no longer a punishment. 
Not long ago there was in Sheffield a man who had 
been forty-two years in prison. He had been con- 
victed of some violence in the early days of Trade- 
unions. He was now sixty-three — a tall, gaunt, and 
still powerful man, with the broad arrow marked on 
the back of his hands (a practice forty years ago). 
He had come back to the world, but he had no in- 
terest in it. He seemed utterly callous. Though he 
had been a trade-union enthusiast in his time, he 
took no interest whatever in the labour struggles of 
to-day, or in anything else that was going on. Yet 
he openly said that if anyone wanted a " rough job " 
doing, he would do it. Then he would get back to 
prison — and he would as soon be there as anywhere 
else. That man was completely adapted to his 

 He was the perfected result 
of prison influences during the last forty or fifty 

Things are improving doubtless ; but it is obvious 
that a system which is merely or mainly one of 
Deterrence must turn out such types. " Will a pro- 
longed course of severities and degradations," says 
Morrison " confer the virtues of industrious and 
orderly citizens on these unhappy men ? On the con- 
trary, the more harshly you punish them, the more 
yon reduce the human element which still lives 
in their hearts. The more you punish them, the 
more certainly you doom them to the awful exist- 
ence of a habitual criminal." 

It is the habitual criminal who is the bugbear of our 
modem civihsation, and notwithstanding our sys- 
tematic starvation of both his body and his mind 
his proportions remain as alarming as ever ! Michael 
Davitt, in an excellent letter to the Daily Chronicle 
at the time of the shooting of the escaping convict 
Carter, said : " All such reasoning and arguments 
[in the direction of Reclamation and humanity], are 
I know, thrown away upon those who believe only 
in the efficacy of the stem and undeviating practice 
of intimidation towards those criminals who have 
forfeited to the law for a time the ordinary claims 
and considerations of citizenship. Advocates of 
more humanizing methods of prison discipline are but 
the votaries of a misplaced sentimentality with such 
critics, and this closes the case in favour of the ex- 
isting system of punishing malefactors. But the 
case is by no means closed in this off-hand way. 
There are other sides to the question, the most serious 

side being the steady growth of recidivists under 
the fostering influence of a purely intimidatory 
and non-reformative prison law and administration. 
All the sneers in the armoury of ofi&cial criticism at 
meddlesome reformers cannot dispose of this damni- 
fying evidence against the failure of the existing 
system to reform the criminal, 

"The reason of this failure is not far to seek. All 
individuality is mercilessly suppressed in the pri- 
soner. No prisoner is allowed to do anything except 
with the permission and in sight of a warder. He 
is the object of constant and ceaseless vigilance from 
sentence to Uberation. He is closely watched when 
at prayers in chapel. He is under the warder's eye 
while in his cell, and is never for a second lost sight 
of while at work. He is made to feel in every parti- 
cular of his routine life of silence and labour that he 
is treated, not as a man, but as a mere disciplined 
human automaton. To possess a will or to attempt 
to exercise it even in some praiseworthy or harmless 
manner — as, for instance, to share a piece of bread 
with a more hungry fellow-unfortimate — is to com- 
mit a breach of the prison rules. The human will 
must be left outside of the prison gates, where it is 
to be picked up again five, seven or fifteen years 
afterwards, and refitted to the mental conditions 
which penal servitude has created in the animalized 
machine which is discharged from custody. All 
initiative has been enervated under a remorseless 
discipline, and a man weak in mental and moral 
balance at best is turned out into a cold, repelling 
and pitiless world, crippled in all those qualities 

! self-reliance which are the essential needs of a 

creature destitute of friends, and liable to be a prey 
to the ticket-of-leave hunters of the law. The 
system which reduces a man to a condition of moral 
helplessness of this kind may be scientific, ' just,' 
punitive, and all the rest ; but it is not, and cannot 
possibly be, reformative, any more than it can be 
merciful, Christian, or considerate. 

" It is not in the nature of things human to expect 
sentient, reflective beings, no matter how degraded 
by crime, to be cured of their moral maladies through 
the media of inhuman submission, or to be deeply 
impressed with respect for a law which penalizes 
almost every natural faculty in a prisoner in re- 
taliation for his offence against society. Working 
on such lines, on the lines of greatest resistance, it is 
no wonder that penal servitude is a fruitful nursery 
of recidivism and a patent instance of expensive 

Sir Godfrey Lushington lends the weight of his 
authority to the same views. He says (as quoted by 
the Report of 1895), " I regard as unfavourable to 
reformation the status of a prisoner throughout his 
whole career ; the crushing of self-respect, the starv- 
ing of all moral instinct he may possess, the absence 
of all opportimity to do or receive a kindness, the 
continual association with none but criminals, and 
that only as a separate item amongst other items 
also separate ; the forced labour, and the denial of 
all liberty, I beUeve the true mode of reforming a 
man or restoring him to society is exactly in the 
opposite direction of all these ; but of course this " 
a mere idea." 

Sunday, 20 April 2014


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  • The USA and Russia have investigated and trialled the use of nuclear explosions for civil engineering purposes, though only one significant construction resulted: a dam in Kazakhstan. A DAM MESS IN UKRAINE
  • Russia has used nuclear explosions to extinguish major gas well fires. 
  • Some 150 experiments spanned 1957-75 in the USA and 1965-89 in the USSR.
  • PNEs will be banned under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty when it enters into force.
Following the military use of nuclear weapons in August 1945, attention turned to harnessing nuclear power in a more controlled manner for electricity generation. However, at the same time there was considerable investigation and testing of peaceful nuclear explosions (PNE) by both the USA and USSR.
From the outset it was realized that thermonuclear blasts (as distinct from fission) would have the least potential for radioactive fallout. However, along with early weapons tests, some PNE tests did contribute to atmospheric radioactivity, and some test sites now pose a radiological hazard.

Applications of PNEs

Possible applications for peaceful nuclear explosions include:
  • Large-scale excavation to create reservoirs, canals and ports.
  • Stimulating oil and gas recovery.
  • Creating cavities for underground oil, gas or waste storage.
  • Extinguishing gas field fires.
  • Space propulsion.
  • Interception of potentially dangerous Near Earth Objects (asteroids, etc).
  • Recovering oil from oil shale.
  • Energy production via molten fluorides underground producing steam for electricity.
  • Breaking up copper and phosphate ore preparatory to mining.
Of these, the first four have been tested (and even applied in some cases by the USSR) while the remaining five have been investigated but not tested.
A total of 151 PNE experiments have been carried out by both the USA (27) and the USSR (124 plus 32 tests that helped develop explosive devices used in PNEs). No other country has ever carried out a PNE testa and there are currently no moves towards a resumption of tests.
Some advocates claim that PNEs would be the most economically feasible method of carrying out large terrestrial engineering projects, and that they provide one of only a few feasible means of managing large gas field fires and destroying chemical weapons.

USA: Plowshare Program

The Plowshare Program was the name given to the main US efforts to promote and develop nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes during the 1960s and 1970s, concluding in 1975.
Project Plowshare was formally established in mid-1957 by the former US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Later in the year, the AEC carried out the first underground nuclear explosion at the Nevada Test Site – the Rainier event, of 1.7 kilotonc. Results from this validated theoretical concepts and gave impetus to Plowshare. In total, 27 PNE tests consisting of 35 separate blasts were conducted between December 1961 and May 1973 in the USA as part of the program.
Most of the Plowshare proposals were for large-scale civil engineering projects involving massive earthmoving, specifically to improve the shipping lanes linking the Atlantic and the Pacific. At least one was intended to widen the Panama canal, another aimed to create a new sea-level waterway through Nicaragua. Two other geo-engineering proposals were for a harbour and a highway and rail cutting. Other Plowshare proposals and tests sought in various ways to exploit other applications listed above, particularly gas and oil recovery.
From a scientific and engineering perspective the program was by most accounts successful; however, economic viability was questionable and no commercial operation involving PNEs has resulted in the USA or been carried out by a US organization. Over time, scientists learned how to shape charges to provide the desired engineering result and also almost completely to eliminate the release of radioactive materials. However, not all explosions proceeded as planned and in certain cases, notably the Sedan blast (see below), significant radioactive releases occurred.
An early proposal was Operation Chariot, accepted by the AEC in 1958, to build a harbour at Point Hope, Alaska to facilitate the transport of coal and oil. The harbour was to be about a 1.5 km long and 0.8 km wide. One scheme for its development involved the use of five chained thermonuclear explosions. The plan was permanently shelved in 1962 due to local opposition from the Inupiat Eskimos and conservationists concerned about the health of the local ecosystem which the Inupiat relied upon for food. The economic viability was also questioned.
In 1959 the Oilsands study looked at using a PNE for extracting oil from Canada's Athabasca tar sands, and the Olishale study looked at shattering oil shales to enhance oil recovery from them, this being taken further in the 1967 Bronco study focused in Colorado. A 1971 study looked a using a PNE to harness geothermal energy.
In 1963, the Caryall study on the use of PNEs to excavate a cutting through the Bristol Mountains near Amboy was carried out by the California State division of Highways and Santa Fe Railway. The 3.4 km cut was designed to accommodate both the Interstate 40 highway and a new rail line. About 22 nuclear explosions would have been required, ranging in size from 20 to 200 kilotons, providing a total explosive force of 1730 kilotons. The plan was cut from the US budget in 1965.
After Chariot, almost all excavation research to 1970 was then focused on building a sea-level canal across the Central American isthmus in support of the Atlantic-Pacific Interoceanic Canal Study Commission to replace the Panama canal. As part of this project, six cratering experiments were carried out at the Nevada Test Site over 1961-68, including Sedan described below. Part of the purpose was to establish means to reduce radioactive contamination from such blasts.

PNE tests in the USA

The first full test of the Plowshare Program was Project Gnome, which took place in December 1961, near Carlsbad, New Mexico, in a bedded salt formation. International observers were in attendance. The device was placed in a tunnel 360 metres underground and the resulting 3.1 kiloton blast created a cavity 20 metres wide and 50 metres high. The explosion was supposed to be self-sealing, but a brief burst of radioactive material was released. Some six months after the test, a new access tunnel was drilled and crews entered to survey the results. They found a blue, green and violet landscape of melted salt stalactites, and the temperature of the cavity was still above 60°C.
The second PNE test under project Plowshare was also one of the largest. The Sedan blast took place at Yucca Flat on the Nevada Test Site in July 1962. It was a shallow underground explosion designed to test the cratering potential of PNEs for the creation of artificial lakes and reservoirs. A thermonuclear device was inserted 194 metres into the desert alluvium. The resulting 104 kiloton explosion created a dome 90 metres high which then exploded outwards displacing more than 10 million tonnes of material to create a crater 100 metres deep and 390 metres wide. Of all Plowshare nuclear tests, Sedan created the most radioactive fallout. Twin dust plumes deposited radioactive material downwind, with the highest concentrations in Iowa and South Dakota of more than 0.22 gigabecquerels per square metre.
Three separate PNE tests were carried out to assess the ability of nuclear explosions to stimulate gas production from low-permeability formations. These were Gasbuggy (December 1967, New Mexico: 29 kilotons), Rusilon (September 1969, Colorado: 43 kilotons) and Rio Blanco (May 1973, Colorado: 3 blasts of 33 kilotons each at depths of 1600-2100 metres using charges 195 mm diameter). Rio Blanco also marked the end of the US PNE test program. It was already known that conventional explosions could stimulate production of gas, and the use of nuclear explosives just added to the overall force of the explosion. While the level of gas production from the tests was less than expected, it would have been sufficient to make the process commercially viable if the resulting gas had not been considered too radiologically contaminated by tritium for saled.
Starting with the Gnome test in 1961, Plowshare provided support for scientific experiments, primarily as additions to weapons tests, to look at the possibility of using these high neutron fluxes to produce heavy transplutonic elements well beyond the end of the Periodic Table. The ultimate goal was the use of multiple neutron captures to reach the predicted 'island of stability' at element 114. Between 1962 and 1969, Plowshare supported the design and fielding of five dedicated experiments and 'add-ons' to some 10 weapons tests at the Nevada Test Site in an attempt to reach this elusive goal. Certainly large quantities of some heavy elements were produced, and traces were recovered from the melt zone, e.g. the actinides curium-250 and fermium-257.

USA: Other proposals for the use of PNEs

Not all US concepts for the use of PNEs officially came under the banner of the Plowshare Program. A few other proposals, developed by various organizations, include the potential use of PNEs for space travel and energy production.
PNEs for space travel
Project Orion was the first serious attempt to develop the concept of Nuclear Pulse Propulsion, i.e. using nuclear explosions for spacecraft thrust. It was initiated by the company General Atomics in 1958 and continued until 1965, though impetus for the idea was largely killed off by the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treatye in 1963, which banned nuclear testing in space due to fears over the effects of fallout. The basic concept was to detonate shaped nuclear charges in space behind a spacecraft mounted with a pusher plate and a shock absorber so as to transfer momentum. The principle was shown to be robust, leading to both excellent thrust and impulse characteristics, something quite rare for space propulsion techniques which usually trade one off against the other. It was also well suited for large spacecraft (about 1000 t) since significant mass was required to shield against the effects of radiation.

Electricity from PNEs

One possibility of harnessing nuclear fusion as an energy source was the suggestion of detonating small thermonuclear weapons in an underground cavity and capturing the energy. The Pacer Project, developed at Los Alamos National Laboratories during the mid-1970s, investigated the design and operation of such a system. The original proposal involved the use of low-yield hydrogen bombs, while subsequent proposals advocated simpler fission devices. One variation of the plan called for nuclear devices in the kiloton range to be detonated in an underground cavity at regular intervals of about 45 minutes. The heat would be captured by molten fluoride salts flowing down the chamber wall which would then act as a heat exchange fluid producing steam to drive a turbine for electricity. The early plan envisaged the blast chamber as being inside a salt dome, but later developments called for a fully-engineered vessel. The concept never developed past the planning stage.

USSR: Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy

The USSR equivalent to the Plowshare Program was Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy. It comprised mainly Program 7, Peaceful Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy.
Overall the PNE test regime was much larger than the US effort and concentrated on a more diverse range of applications. Early support for a comprehensive test ban meant that PNE testing didn’t get underway in the USSR until 1965; it then continued right up to 1989, when a moratorium on nuclear weapons testing was implemented. Like Plowshare, the program was originally focused on excavation and oil and gas recovery, but interest in other applications soon emerged.
In 1965, in cooperation with the Oil Production Ministry, Program 7 began field experiments directed at using nuclear explosions to increase oil production, and also planning experiments in salt to produce cavities. The nuclear weapons laboratory at Arzamas-16 near Gorky initially played the major role in adapting military explosions to peaceful applications.
Overall, some 124 PNE tests were carried out at sites throughout the former Soviet Union (80 in Russia, 39 in Kazakhstan, two in Ukraine, two in Uzbekistan and one in Turkmenistan)f. Five PNEs were used for construction of water reservoirs, 25 for constructing underground cavities, mostly in salt and sponsored by the Gas Production Ministry, 21 for stimulating oil and gas recovery, and five for controlling runaway gas well fires. A further 30 or more tests related to developing explosives, hence total of about 156.
Scientifically, Program 7 included 39 tests spread right across the USSR sponsored by the Geology Ministry for deep seismic sounding of the Earth's mantle, from 1971-88. There were also more than a dozen tests over 1975-79 on transplutonic element production, sponsored by the Ministry of Medium Machine Building (responsible for the Soviet weapons program), all 180 km north of Astrakhan.

Chagan: water reservoir

One of the better known tests is the January 1965 test at Chagan, on the edge of the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan. Designed to test the suitability of PNEs for creating reservoirs, it was the first experiment carried out in the Soviet PNE program and, at 140 kilotons, the largest of any PNE test. The device was placed in a 178 metre deep hole in the dry bed of the Chagan River so that the crater lip would dam up the river during periods of high flow. The blast formed a crater 400 metres across and 100 metres deep with a lip height of 20 to 38 metres. Subsequent to the blast, a channel was cut into the crater allowing it, and the reservoir behind it, to fill up with water. Initially the crater itself held 6.4 gigalitres of water and reservoir contained some 10 gigalitres, but subsidence later reduced this figure by about 25%.
Radiation dose levels in the 1990s were reported as about one hundred times background levels at the lip of the crater, and the crater water was about 100 times drinking water standard for radionuclides, though 100-150 metres away dose levels were at background level. It was estimated that some 20% of the radioactive products from the test escaped the blast zone, and some were detected over Japan. This resulted in complaints from the USA, which thought the explosion was a weapons test and in breach of the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty.

Kama-Pechora canal project

In 1965, another project became the primary focus of the Soviet nuclear excavation program – the construction of a canal to divert water from the Pechora River in the Arctic region into the Volga River basin and Caspian Sea, which had been depleted over the preceding 35 years as a result of climatic anomalies and municipal and agricultural uses of water from the Volga-Kama River system. Water from the north would be diverted through a 112 km canal into the Kama and thence south to the Volga River and the Caspian Sea.
It was proposed to use nuclear explosives to dig the central 65 km of the canal where it passes through higher elevations. This would involve several hundred devices, firing up to 20 at a time, with aggregate yield of up to 3000 kilotons. After initial successful tests – Tel'kem 1 & 2 – approval was given in 1969 to proceed with the project. The next stage of the project involved a major thermonuclear test in 1971 – Taiga – in saturated alluvial deposits at the south end of the route, and showed that nuclear excavation would be unsuitable there. By the mid-1980s, plans for the canal were abandoned.

Urtabulak: gas well fire

In 1966, a nuclear explosive was detonated at Urtabulak gas field in Southern Uzbekistan in order to extinguish a gas well fire that had been burning for almost three years and had resisted numerous attempts at control. The gas fountain, which formed at pressures of almost 300 atmospheres, had resulted in the loss of over 12 million cubic metres of gas per day through a 200 mm casing – enough to supply a city the size of St Petersburg. Two 445 mm holes were drilled that aimed to come as close as possible to the well at a depth of about 1500 metres in the middle of a 200 metre thick clay zone. One of these came to within about 35 m of the well and was used to emplace the special 30-kiloton charge which had been developed by the Arzamas weapons laboratory. Immediately after the explosion the fire went out and the well was sealed.
This was the first of five PNEs used for this purpose, and all but one was completely successful in extinguishing the fire and sealing the well. No radioactivity above background levels was detected in subsequent surveys of any of the sites.

Treaties governing the use of PNEs 

Article V of the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) states that the "potential benefits from any peaceful applications of nuclear explosions will be made available to non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty on a non-discriminatory basis."g
Subsequent to the NPT, the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty is a bilateral agreement between the USA and the USSR designed to allow the investigation of the potential peaceful uses of nuclear explosions without promoting weapons development. It was signed in April 1976, came into force in December 1990h and governs the use of PNEs until the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) enters into force.
Under the PNE Treaty, no single explosion may be greater than 150 kilotons and no group explosion may consist of an aggregate yield greater than 1500 kilotons. In addition, signatory parties are committed to sharing information about explosions, allowing access to the blast site and otherwise not hindering the verification process. The treaty governs permissible underground nuclear explosions which may be carried out for peaceful purposes. A major driver for establishment of the treaty was the Russian desire not to be misunderstood in relation to the Partial Test Ban Treatyi when constructing the Kama-Pechora canal project, which would have involved many explosions (the US Plowshare Program being finished by then).
Under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the use of PNEs will be prohibited. However China has consistently pushed for this condition to be changed, and while it has signed (but not yet ratified) the treaty, it has requested that the issue be reconsidered 10 years after it enters into force. The CTBT opened for signature in September 1996 and will enter into force when all countries listed in Annex 2 of the treaty have signed itj.

Further Information


a. India claimed that its 1974 nuclear test was a PNE, but it was not part of any civil program.
b. The Plowshare Program name derives from a prophetic Bible passage (Micah 4:3) about beating swords into plowshares as nations turn away from warfare.
c. The force of explosions is measured in kilotons: the approximate equivalent of one thousand tonnes of TNT, set by international agreement as 4.184 GJ. For comparison, the Hiroshima bomb was about 15 kt, Nagasaki about 25 kTON
d. There has been a resurgence of interest in drilling near the Rusilon site. As of August 2009, there were 84 permits issued within 5 km of the site, 11 of which were within 1.5 km. Currently there is a 0.8 km radius imposition on drilling near the test site, but there is talk of this being lifted.

 A 2005 report from the US Department of Energy (DOE) states that the radiation levels at the site surface and in the groundwater has reduced to background levels. In contrast, the Gasbuggy site is considered a contamination issue as radioactive material, most likely tritium, has migrated through the bedrock.

g. Article V of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) states:
Each Party to the Treaty undertakes to take appropriate measures to ensure that, in accordance with this Treaty, under appropriate international observation and through appropriate international procedures, potential benefits from any peaceful applications of nuclear explosions will be made available to non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty on a non-discriminatory basis and that the charge to such Parties for the explosive devices used will be as low as possible and exclude any charge for research and development. Non-nuclearweapon States Party to the Treaty shall be able to obtain such benefits, pursuant to a special international agreement or agreements, through an appropriate international body with adequate representation of non-nuclear-weapon States. Negotiations on this subject shall commence as soon as possible after the Treaty enters into force. Non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty so desiring may also obtain such benefits pursuant to bilateral agreements.

h. The Treaty between the United States of America and The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on Underground Nuclear Explosions for Peaceful Purposes (the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty, PNET) was a companion treaty to the Treaty on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapon Tests, also known as the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT), to cover PNEs carried out underground. The TTBT was signed in 1974, but not ratified until after the PNET had been agreed in 1976. Although both treaties did not enter into force until 1990, both parties in 1976 agreed to observe the limit of 150 kilotons

j. The CTBT will enter into force once all the 44 states listed in Annex 2 of the treaty have signed and ratified it. Three have not yet signed it: India, Pakistan and North Korea; and six others have signed the treaty, but not yet ratified it: China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel and the USA.


Wednesday, 9 April 2014


Democratic Error with this control cookie
In an ideal colourless economic democracy where one poor, black or white one vote.... actually does not holds a major impact in democratic life, because poor people have poor education and poor judgement or inability to judge Dredd ideas and economic ideologies of dread or not and economic issues that would be a big problem for democracy in the XXI th century fox. But we do not live in the real waterworld, but in a virtual one not an ideal world to survive in the long run, and in the long run, let's say twenty years... the further away you move from the ideal of democracy
the less rational the virtual democracy becomes.
You're in the United States, have some non democratic moments and the party allegiance in 1850-1880's and 1898-1914- 1919 or 1932-1945 have becoming emotional processes (emotional political and economic processes i should say) like the Obama or the Bush son or father election's or the Reagan's against Carter
And of course the CIA FBI manipulation of elections in this foreign or domestic political candidates or those working directly for the economic~political conglomerates or manipulating those weak links buying their allegiance, there's a pot of drugs at the end of the american rainbow.Iran -Contras ....und so weiter

The issues are unimportant, being merely emotional control cookie's or control touchstones for uninformed voters and in this democratic fail who votes? Doctor Who votes?