Monday, August 30, 2010

Not your average digestive system . . .

It seems the French have come up with a novel way to decommission their ageing submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Ares reports:

The propellant used to fuel France's submarine-borne M45 nuclear missiles -- which are being withdrawn and replaced by the M51 -- will be destroyed by bacteria: eaten not burned. The meal will be relatively pricey: €20 million ($25.3 million) is being spent by propellant-manufacturer SNPE to build the “dining-room” on its site at Saint-Médard-en-Jalles in the south-west of France where the bacteria will digest up to 500 tons of propellant a year.

. . .

The missiles' reservoirs will first be emptied and the residues mashed up before being macerated to separate the aluminum from the perchlorate ammonium, which is water soluble. It is this water which will then be fed to the bacteria.

SNPE says it is the perchlorate which caused them most difficulties and they have been working on a solution since the 1990s, looking for bacteria which could digest the perchlorate... and quickly. Once the bacteria have finished their job, a slightly salty water is left which is so clean it can be pumped into the nearby river.

There's more at the link.

Interesting approach . . . provided the fuel-eating bacteria can be confined to the facility, and not released to contaminate areas occupied by people. I'd imagine getting some of those fuel-laden bacteria into a human digestive system would make the effects of Texas chili pale by comparison!



Anonymous said...

Well, since some of the old gold mines in the US (Homestake in S.D. comes to mind) use bacteria to dispose of the arsenic in their tailing water, this sounds like a great solution to me - provided the critters stay where they are intended to be. And considering everything else that bacteria will eat, fuel should be easy.

Anonymous said...

Let me see if I have this right: They have surplus rocket motors and they're not going to light them off?

Pansies. If they grow a pair they can try this.


SiGraybeard said...

There's no truth to the rumor that the French have surrendered to the bacteria.

I wonder if they ever considered that construction companies might actually pay for the decommissioned engines? It ain't easy digging a hole as big as the ones in that video without explosives.

Anonymous said...

Graybeard - I don't think anyone would sell such an item for scrap, considering what it was designed to do. Too many secrets designed into it and all that.