One day without warning, our Solar system aligns with the dark matter beam emanating from the galactic core, and for the next 10,000 years nuclear fission simply doesn’t work anymore. How would the world react? My guesses:
[li]The loss of nuclear reactors causes disruption from moderate to severe. The more so since ordinary radioactive decay is unaffected and we now have trillions of curies of useless radioactive waste.[/li][li]The major military powers realize that full-scale World War Two-type conflicts are now possible again. A massive move by the USA, Russia and China to reconfigure their militaries back towards mass-production warfare.Russia now has far less to fear from NATO and starts throwing it’s weight around. China does the same in the Pacific Rim, with Japan and the other “Tigers” desperately seeking enhanced alliances with the USA. The USA finds itself suffering from severe overstretch.[/li][li]Small states like Israel, Pakistan (and provisionally, North Korea) that relied on nukes as a final guarantee against larger neighbors suddenly find themselves much less secure.[/li]
My guess is civilization within a few decades collapses effectively permanently since we just lost our best non-petrochemical source of energy. Humans are reduced to at a preindustrial level and can never again reach higher.
Wait if it’s still radioactive enough to be dangerous, it’s still a potential power source, and we still have nuclear weapons, they’re just very dirty.
Further we might have bigger issues. The Earth’s magnetic field is powered by the core which is heated from radioactive elements decaying. Would it cool enough to weaken the magnetic field in 10,000 years?
Also, does fusion still work? We probably have enough coal to maybe work out how to do fusion.
I sure hope fusion still works otherwise the sun goes out and then we’re really up the creek.
Alright, the sun probably won’t “go out” like a light switch being flipped to “off”, but really, the OP said nuclear fission doesn’t work. Presumably, nuclear fusion would. Suddenly, we have a MUCH higher incentive to get a working fusion reactor up and running, don’t we?
Given the economics of the global economy, I don’t think that anyone wants to have a large scale war with or without nukes. Russia realizes it can’t match us in a a conventional arms race (which is much more expensive than a nuclear arms race). China might try to flex its military muscle, it has its eye on Taiwan and probably wouldn’t mind taking out Japan to settle the old WW2 debt, but they are practical and the economic fallout of such actions would not be worth the gains.
Pakistan only wanted nukes to keep up with India and vice versa, so loss of nukes would probably just put things back where they were 15 years ago. grumbling at each other over border skirmishes. North Korea can keep being a bully by threatening South Korea with its conventional artillery, but it will be easier to ignore on the world stage. Isreal is still a major ally of the US, which can lay a hefty conventional smack down on anyone who attacks it, and they have a not to shabby conventional military of their own, so I don’t see any of its neighbors being too eager to invade.
The US would lose aproximately 20% of it’s electrical energy generation, which would be pretty bad. France though would lose something like 70%, and countries that buy power from France as well as France itself would be seriously hurting…Germany, for example buys some of it’s power from France already after the decision to start phasing out it’s own nuclear power plants…plants it also still relies on for quite a bit of electrical energy generation. China also has quite a bit, with plans to build a lot more…plans that would need to be shifted in the long term, and short falls in the short and medium term.
The US already has the most powerful conventional military in the world, bar none. It’s not our nukes that outclasses all other militarize, it’s their nukes that allow them some parity. If nukes didn’t work anymore, the divide in capabilities would be pretty much insurmountable unless multiple regional super powers allied together against the US. At least for as long as the US (and to a lesser extent Europe and NATO) can afford to maintain such levels of military spending at least. Russia and China have no chance of building a conventional military to compete with the US and NATO in anything less than a few decades, and that assumes the US/NATO stand still and China/Russia are willing to spend a he’ll of a lot more than they do today every year for those few decades to catch up. I don’t think people really grasp how far ahead conventionally the US and our allies are from the rest of the world, or what our huge military budget buys us wrt conventional military force. China et al would be totally out classes if nukes stopped working.
Everyone except the US would be in that boat, but as long as the US is able to continue to spend the massive amounts we do on our military then you are still going to have a Pax Americana in effect. When the US can’t do that anymore, unless Europe is able (and willing) to step up, that would change and it might turn into several regional free for all contests. In the short term though, assuming the nuclear energy gap didn’t cause the worlds economy to crash, the US/NATO would be more dominant militarily than they even are today…and we are pretty dominant as it is.
…so there goes the economic recovery. Demand shortfall depressions such as the current one are relatively simple to fix, though there is the matter of political will and sabotage. Nasty supply shocks are more difficult to handle.
I’m guessing that a quadrupling of inflation adjusted energy prices would make all sorts of adjustments plausible. Solar, wind and geothermal are possibilities… but remember that cell phones and LED lighting don’t necessarily require much power. I’d expect a reduction in air conditioning and private auto use.
Then again, curbs on coal might be eliminated entirely and global warming could become that much worse. That’s one route to a permanent setback.