US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Swords into electricity

Kevin Clarke | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

It's not every day that you get to see biblical metaphors brought to life, but a program conducted between the United States and Russia has taken the classic swords into plowshares image to heart and turned it into a commercial opportunity for Russian cold warriors and U.S. power companies. It's been quietly transforming some of the most dangerous weapons in the world from the arsenal of the old Soviet Union into electricity to run kitchen appliances in America for years.

In fact the effort has been so successful it is apparently on the verge of running out of the deadly raw material which powers this unique commerce between these two once adversarial superpowers. For years U.S. electric utilities have been buying up diluted weapons-grade uranium from Russia, a toxic power source derived from decommissioned Russian nuclear weapons and transformed into fuel for nuclear reactors in the United States. Currently (get it?) the program generates about 10 percent of the electricity in the United States.

U.S. utilities have used up almost all the uranium the Russians have been able to reclaim from nuclear weapons surplused by previous arms decommissioning agreements between the United States and Russia. As commerce certainly makes odd ideological bedfellows, executives at U.S. utilities have become low-profile supporters of President Obama's plans to negotiate further arms reductions since that would mean mothballing more nuclear weapons in both nations and essentially locating a entire new reserve of low-cost fuel for their ongoing operations. Let's hope the president succeeds in reenlivening the disarmanent effort, getting more nuclear weapons off the streets before they end up in the wrong hands and creating a pipeline for more low-cost energy for U.S. consumers. Now if we could only figure out something to do with old M1 Abrams tanks. The world's least efficient street cars maybe?