Megatons to Megawatts: The missile deal that almost blew up

Nuclear power provides about 20 percent of the electricity used in the United States. Since 1995, about half of that has been generated with uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear warheads, shipped to the U.S. under the Megatons to Megawatts (MTM) program. When the 20-year program wraps up in 2013, about 20,000 nuclear warheads will have been put out of commission.

The useful conversion of so much destructive power (think three warheads a day for 18 years) is an inspiring story, but the deal almost fell apart. Structurally flawed from the outset, the agreement required a decade-long collaborative effort led by private sector nuclear industry partners, with considerable support from the U.S. and Canadian governments.

This effort has not been well covered by the media. Even less has been reported about the role played by Jerry Grandey ’68, who sounded the alarm, helped devise the rescue strategy, rallied support, and for six years led tough negotiations with the Russians that finally corrected the flaws and ensured that the weapons continued to be dismantled.

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Colorado School of Mines is a public R1 research university focused on applied science and engineering, producing the talent, knowledge and innovations to serve industry and benefit society – all to create a more prosperous future.