Nuclear Power the hand of God
Frederick Situmorang ; The writer has a master’s degree in maritime policy from the University of Wollongong, Australia, and a postgraduate diploma in strategic studies from Massey University, New Zealand
JAKARTA POST, 24 Maret 2014
When Albert Einstein formulated his famous equation of E = mc², he knew that he had created the most devastating weapon of all time. The multiplication of mass loss by the “c” factor square (“c” is the speed of light or it is three followed by eight zeroes); has a significant meaning. A small particular matter can generate massive energy.
Then the idea was to transform that matter into a small transportable bomb and detonate it within the enemy’s territory. For example, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, the “Little Boy”, was only fueled with 64 kilograms of enriched Uranium 235.
Yet, the destruction was equal to “1,200 tons of incendiary bombs, 400 tons of high-explosive bombs and 500 tons of anti-personnel fragmentation bombs.” The fallout was even greater. It caused years of radioactive fallout, killed people through cancer and other radiation sicknesses.
The overwhelming reality of nuclear warfare leaves no option but total annihilation of the belligerents. Thus, the initial doctrine for nuclear warfare was Mutually Assured Destruction (known as MAD). Subsequently, since no state was mad enough to launch a nuclear strike against its enemy, nuclear states’ lowered their policy to no first use. Furthermore, major nuclear states tended to maintain their nuclear arsenals at the “second strike capability”, which was also more feasible to their national economies.
The balance of nuclear capability, mainly by the two superpowers and the rest of the nuclear states, created some kind of a stable situation, namely the “nuclear peace”. No major war took place during or after the Cold War. Within nuclear peace, a nuclear state tends not to fight with another nuclear state. Hence, stability in international relations may occur.
Nevertheless, as major war by nuclear states becomes off limits, proxy wars are the means for resolving any conflict of interests. As such it has created a new phenomenon of “stability in instability”. In general, no major war happens, yet low-intensity conflicts continue happening. Hence, Kenneth Waltz, a political scientist, argues, “the more may be better”. He claimed that if more world states became nuclear states, proxy wars might become less of an available option, and therefore, low-intensity conflicts would diminish.
Notwithstanding the “Game theory” created by the existence of nuclear weapons, there are several reasonable grounds for a state to procure nuclear capability.
First, it is obvious that having nuclear weapons will instantly elevate a state’s deterrence against foreign-power intervention. Unfortunately, procuring nuclear capability is the easiest capability to procure.
Yet the consequences are provoking. Once a state has a nuclear weapon, its neighbors will feel threatened. The new nuclear state will be under the international microscope, especially by “Big Brother”.
Second, if a state is able to manipulate nuclear power, it will greatly expand its armed forces’ fighting range. For example, supercarriers are only feasible as moving war platforms if they use nuclear as their power plants. They can reach any place in the world — without refueling — carrying planes, troops and other war machines that are sufficient to take on a state.
Therefore, if a state has a supercarrier, it can push the war boundary far beyond its geographical boundaries. Similarly, a nuclear submarine may enhance a state’s strategic attack range. The war machine is able to penetrate any state line of defense stealthily, bringing the war to the enemy’s front door. When fueled by nuclear, it can travel all over the world and expand the owner’s strategic attack coverage extensively.
Third, with the depletion of fossil fuels and the struggle for a new form of energy, nuclear is the most feasible alternative at hand. As an illustration, “a kilogram of U-235 can generate energy similar to 10,000 kg of mineral oil or 14,000 kg of coal [or equal to 45,000 kilowatt hour of electricity].”
Nuclear fuel is even better than fossil fuel. Nuclear fuel does not produce gases that pollute the air and thus it does not create the greenhouse effect and extreme climate change. With these advantages, it is most likely all states will acquire nuclear technology after all.
Regarding Indonesia, perhaps the last two grounds are more sensible than the first. Although, Indonesia does not need to expand its strategic attack capability, to procure a supercarrier or a submarine is a geographical necessity. These two naval platforms could overcome “the tyranny of distance” of Indonesia’s vast archipelago — in order to act robustly in a timely manner if ever a security concern is raised in any spot.
The amount of fuel used would be enormous if conventional warships or conventional submarines performed such duties. The cost would be even greater if this conventional navy became the backbone of the regular duties of patrolling Indonesia’s entire waters. As a result, a nuclear-powered navy is the future solution for Indonesia’s archipelagic security challenges.
In the bigger picture, nuclear power is the hope for the future energy scarcity. Even though Indonesia is a big petroleum producer such natural resources are limited. According to British Petroleum’s data, “Indonesia may run out of oil by 2024” or it is less than 10 years from now.
Although there may be new oil-resource discoveries these resources will be depleted eventually. Hence, if Indonesia does not start considering nuclear as an alternate source of energy, it will face an energy crisis within the near future.
Overall, nuclear technology seems to be God’s hand within the contemporary realm. It lays a boundary between that which is acceptable and which is not. It gives so much power to control but brings so much responsibility to cope with. The right utilization may result in peace and prosperity, but misuse will bring the world straight to its doom. For Indonesia, this is an unavoidable item on the agenda. ●