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How would an anarchistic nation manage nuclear materials?

–3 votes
That is, how would a nation in or transitioning to an anarchistic state deal with the safe handling of nuclear weapons and fuel? How would nuclear power plants remain in operation or be safely shut down? How would nuclear materials be safely buried in such a way that malicious individuals could not simply retrieve them at a later date for purposes of nuclear terrorism? How would the anarchistic state deal with the threat of nuclear terrorism in general?

edited by dot to add tags
asked Dec 19, 2011 by anonymous
edited Jul 13, 2014 by dot
i expect the reason that this raft of questions has been downvoted and is not getting answers is because they do not seem to be in good faith (a difficult-to-measure quality, for sure).
they all presume a continuation of life in its current mode - with people having the same expectations and assumptions and paradigms as exist now. for anarchy to work in any kind of big, sustainable way, many many things would have to change, including our expectations about how we live, how we relate to each other, etc.
as for the specifics of these questions, there are other places on this site where questions of practicality have been posed and addressed. you can search by tag, if you like.
To (mis)quote Letters of Insurgents from memory for a moment...

"When asked who would pick up the garbage if there was no government, she immediately shot back, 'And who do you think picks it up now--the government?'"
I am pretty sure that the government picks up the garbage... and also places regulations on dumps and etc. But nuclear materials is different because there is no room for even one error, so the people cannot organically develop their own system through trial and error.
This is really incredible. You actually think the government picks up the garbage?

And that it not only deals with nuclear waste but also has the monopoly on the knowledge of how to do so?

And that the abolition of government means that people would have to develop a system of nuclear waste management from scratch(!!!). I mean, if the anarchist revolution went all Reign of Terror on everyone and cut off the heads of all the nuclear technicians and scientists for being filthy state collaborators, then sure, it'd be a problem.

also, related: http://anarchy101.org/655/would-anarchists-with-nuclear-facilities-after-revolution
Well, where I live a private contractor picks up the trash and this is paid for by the municipal government.  Of course this means that it is not technically picked up by the government, but by (quite well paid) employees of a private company.

1 Answer

+2 votes
As an "I just want the human race to make it through the next century w/o extinction" anarchist (no, that's not really a school of anarchist thought, I just made it up a moment ago based on my sentiments, shared by others of various, and no, adjectives), I think a lot on the practical matters of how one can safely transition out of this civilization (which I believe is in terminal collapse).

I believe the problem of nuclear materials will be one that must be handled locally, *irrespective of whether a government officially exists*, because I believe that the collapse of western civilization will eventually strip elites of their effective authority. Nuclear workers, assisted by local volunteers with relevant skills and abilities, will simply have to work the problem out on their own. Certainly they can't do worse than what we have right now. The problem as it is is being manufactured and aggravated, not resolved, by the decisions of our corporate and government masters.

Some solutions will turn out to be suboptimal (for example, disposing of waste where the geology simply can't handle it, for lack of a better solution), but it is unlikely that the persons involved would be making the kind of reckless decisions currently being made by persons who will never live downwind of the messes they create. People in those instances will have to dig the mess up and try again, just as governments have had to order already, on numerous occasions, with wastes (including the waste left behind from the very first nuclear reactor cp-1/cp-2).

My biggest concern is the possibility of plants simply being abandoned by workers under conditions where, for example, they have not been paid by their corporate masters for months, or where corporations decide to abandon plants and order compliant workers out without safely shutting the plants down. In such cases, local people with relevant skills (physicists, engineers) may need to take heroic measures to try to bring the plants into a state of stable cold shutdown.

I worry not at all about terrorists making bombs from nuclear waste. High level waste is so intensely radioactive that one would need some serious industrial capacity to safely (or even recklessly) separate fissionable material from spent fuel. In fact, in the absence of governments and corporations, there would be exactly ZERO bomb grade material on earth. If you look at all the current efforts to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists, they focus entirely on keeping government-manufactured fissionable material out of the hands of terrorists. The CIA and others assume, correctly, that only a government has the industrial capacity to refine fissionable materials.

You cannot possibly be made safer from a threat by clinging to the same people who create the threat in the first place.

That corporations and governments have created the stuff means that until we do clean it up, there will be some degree of threat from statist, and just plain psychopathic, terrorist groups who want to be our next government. But once the existing mess is cleaned up, the prospects for further nuclear proliferation are essentially zero. I don't know about you, but if Acme Terrorist Industries opened up a big industrial complex to refine nuclear materials in my neighborhood, I'd organize my neighborhood to shut them down before anything bad happened.

Of course nuclear accidents and nuclear weaponry are not the only threats talked about in the media. There us the 'dirty bomb' scenario, in which a terrorist spikes an ordinary bomb with radioactive materials. Would-be terrorists have already tried to build such devices, if we can believe the US government. But what the media doesn't tell you is that governments, including the US government, have examined such radiological weapons for use in battle for years. They were considered for use by both sides in WWII, and may even have been considered prior to WWII (I can't find the "history" of the dirty bomb concept, but there was enough radioactive material, and sufficient awareness of its hazards, much earlier than that). Why hasn't any government actually used such weapons (no, DU doesn't count, as the logic and methods of DU are different)? ***Because it turns out they don't work all that well*** Most of the damage is done by the explosives. The whole argument behind why a "dirty bomb" is to be feared, according to the War-On-Terrorists, is that such weapons will cause massive economic damage by scaring an ignorant public!

As to the whole notion that governments are needed to guard waste depositories, you should read up on how governments actually do it (and plan to do it in the future). In essence, they don't. The idea is to fill yje repositories, stick one or more carved rocks on top of them saying "warning, don't dig here for a very long time) in multiple languages and pictographs, and  then just walk away. They know the hazards come from accidents, not terrorism, and so have no qualms about leaving such a place unguarded. But then, they also know the virtue of terrorizing the public with the specter of terrorism, so that frightened people will run to Daddy Authoritarianism and demand more of the very thing that has singularly created the danger in the first place.

(semi-disclaimer: I have a physics education and in a more deluded phase of life, imagined I wanted to be in the waste and hazard generation business).
answered Mar 27, 2012 by ultrabluestars (180 points)
The term "anarchist nation" is misleading; so, first, let me clarify that an anarchist society would not have a nation state. That being said, I believe that a free, or anarchist, society would provide a better solution to the danger posed by the existence of nuclear materials than current states. The risk of death and destruction from nuclear weapons or accidents would be lower in an anarchist society; and the risk would decrease exponentially with each states' demise.

The state is a group of people that have convinced a sufficient proportion of a given community that they have a legitimate monopoly on the use of physical force within a geographic area. The state does many things with this authority, mostly sub par and often directly opposed to the interests of the citizenry. Anarchy is a society without a state-run, monopoly government that has a generally accepted "right" to use physical violence as a means to achieve its ends. Anarchy means no rulers, not no rules. There would be a system of law and order and enforcement of rights in a community, absent the existence of a monopoly state.

Law is a technology. States use the legislative process to make law and executive force, or threat of, to enforce, or attempt to, laws made by politicians, at the behest of special interests. If the goal is to promote and achieve prosperity, freedom and safety, the state is not the best mechanism for this task.

The risk posed by nuclear materials is from accidents, attacks, and unsafe disposal or storage. There is no reason to believe that the state does a better job inspecting facilities or designing safety standards than the free market. Competing insurance companies and auditors would provide better assurance of safety that the community desires. For the same reason we expect the free market to provide better cars, movies, and restaurants, it would provide better assurance than the government.

The only group that has ever used a nuclear weapon is a state. States are the only institutions that pose a threat of nuclear violence. The state monopolies around the world provoke each other with war, tariffs, and sanctions. The risk of nuclear attack is greatly increased by the existence of the nation state and its propensity for foreign intervention and aggression. The risk of nuclear attack from a foreign state would be lower for an anarchist society than a state-run society.

So, the question is whether or not the anarchist society would be able to defend itself in the unlikely scenario that a foreign state fires a nuclear weapon at the free society. To answer this, I refer to my explanation above; the market produces better products and technologies than a state. The solution to how to meet peoples' demand for security from nuclear attacks by foreign states would be better provided by free-market firms, perhaps insurance companies. There is nothing inherent to military protection that makes it impossible to be provided in a voluntary fashion. The most obvious conceptual hurdle is the public good problem; that it is difficult to make those who benefit from defense pay for it. If this cannot be overcome, the interaction of rational consumers and producers in the market will produce a sub-optimal level of defense from foreign nuclear attacks. In the absence of a state, all property is privately owned; private owners protect their property using security and insurance. Insurance companies only make money when their customers' property is not destroyed; otherwise, they pay out more in claims than they collect in premiums and they cease to exist. The cost of defense would decrease with competition; the key problem with monopolies, including state-run monopolies, is that they raise prices and provide sub-standard products. The specifics regarding how a free-market would meet individuals' and firms' demand for defense from nuclear attacks is unknown. However, there is no reason to believe that a group of bureaucrats and politicians would fair better than competitive, customer-focused firms.

As for disposal of nuclear waste, the regulatory standards created and enforced by the state, supposedly on behalf of its subjects, would pale in comparison to the provisions that could be provided in a free society. People care about what happens to nuclear waste and how it might affect them. This is implied when arguing that we need the state to take care of this issue. As such, people would pay to ensure that nuclear material was processed and disposed of with care. The firm using and disposing of nuclear waste would need insurance just like everyone else. The insurance companies that represent the populous and nearby firms would not work with the insurance company that represents the nuclear power plant unless they agreed to abide by safety standards, assured by audits, to prevent harm to nearby individuals and their property. Monopoly states, providing these standards at present, are not subject to profit and loss, which ensures a lower quality of performance. In addition, bureaucrats and politicians can be reasonably certain that they will not be held accountable should their willful negligence, in service to special interests, result in death and destruction. Private firms would not have this luxury; the market forces of profit and loss would hold them accountable. The individuals charged with this important task would likely have to consent to punitive consequences should they act in unscrupulous ways. And in a free society, it wouldn't be the same people making and enforcing law. The monopoly of the state is far more dangerous than the combined genius of each individual.

edited to make a comment - see "about us" for more info.
How do you define "the interests of the citizenry"? How can the State be simplified down to a sort of different class of property-owner? What is "prosperity"? Why do you think technology is an inherently positive thing? Why do you think a "free society" would have, or need, insurance companies? Why do you think a "free society" would have laws?
Interests refers to the aggregation of each individual's relative, subjective value. An increase in their interests is preferred by the individual. The state is a concept, a fiction that is widely accepted and used to justify monopolized violence. Prosperity is living the good life, whatever that may be. Although value is subjective, there exists in reality universally preferable conditions. For example, to not be murdered is preferable to being murdered (all else equal). Prosperity is based on human flourishing. Technological advancement is not inherently positive. Tools that help meet human needs, such as the concept of property, is beneficial to human flourishing. Insurance companies help solve many perceived market failures. They are useful to provide assurance and transparency when desired. They increase the likelihood that human beings will interact and exchange value to value in a positive sum transaction. This will increase the overall well-being of individuals. I prefer life to death and happiness to despair. If one does not share these preferences, then they would not like the society I imagine. A free society would not have statues legislated by politicians. However, there would be social norms and property rights, without which you could hardly call it free. Each person owns their body and property and there would be rules by which individuals would interact with each other. Property is a system that answers the question who has the right to use a given physical resource to achieve some end. The person with the best claim to the property has the right to use it and control its use. Another person, with a lessor claim, could take ownership via contract. These are rules, we don't have to call them laws, but I believe that they would develop. There does not need to be a state in order for this system to function and achieve its purpose.