# How long can the entire civilization be powered by converting all nuclear arsenal into commercial reactor fuel?

Imagine a miracle happened and all leaders decided to wind back the minute hand of the doomsday clock and passed a bill that can transform all kinds of nuclear weapons into fuel for power plants, could nuclear weapon turns into improvised battery and if so how long would it lasts for the entire civilization assume the energy demands remained constant? Existing technology only and please show your working clearly.

• So, take a nuclear bomb and try to release its energy slowly instead of all at one time? Interesting. Not sure if it is possible.
– VLAZ
Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 8:11
• You can try to turn the nuclear bomb into nuclear fuel, not into a plant. I fixed it in the text.
– L.Dutch
Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 8:53
• @L.Dutch: thanks. Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 8:53
• Unless the country where you live has enough nuclear power plants to power all economy, the first thing to do would be to built said nuclear power plants and massively upgrade the electric power distribution network and convert all your transport infrastructure and industry to run on electric power. That's a massive outlay of capital and long-term project. (Note that the highest percentage of nuclear-based power production is in France, at 70% of electric power generation; the U.S. is at 20%. Note also that electric power is less than 1/4 of the total power consumed in the world.) Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 8:55
• Just for info, it has already been done, as a proof of concept. See the Megatons to Megawatts Program. Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 8:59

The latest estimate for the size of the world nuclear arsenal amounts to 13475 warheads.

I could not find any estimate on the total yield of that arsenal, so I have to proceed with educated guess.

Let's say the average warhead accounts to 300 kTon, or 1300 TJ, like a W87 warhead.

That would lead to a potential of 17.5 million of TJ, or $$17.5 \cdot 10^{18}$$ J.

The world energy demand in 2017 was 113009 TWh, which multiplied by 3600 gives us $$406.8 \cdot 10^{18}$$ J, about 23 times more.

Assuming that the yield of a nuclear warhead can be 1:1 converted into usable energy in a nuclear power plant, with your plan it looks like we could supply the world for just about 15 days (365/23).

The above is an overestimate, however, since we have fission plants, but yet no fusion plants, so the potential of the arsenal due to fusion warheads would account to 0.

• Nearly all modern nukes (including North Korean ones) are boosted devices with a little less of 3kg of plutonium. The average yield of a 300kTon is estimated at 30kTon of fission, 270kTon of fussion. With bigger bombs is even worse, about 50kTon fission 950kTon fussion for a total 1MTon bomb. So, yes, overestimation by about one order of magnitude. (+1) Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 12:07