Archive for December 2007

Now will you stop?

December 28, 2007

One of the key ideas in stopping nuclear proliferation is to actually help countries enrich their nuclear fuel and monitor the entire process. A country like Iran which threatens to use its own facilities to enrich fuel can be lent assistance by another country. The goal would be to allow such a country to engage in some preliminary steps of fuel processing (eg. converting uranium to uranium hexafluoride gas). The preliminary processed materials can then be shipped to another country for further processing and enrichment and the enriched fuel could then be returned to the other country. Thus, countries which claim that they want to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes should then have no problem in accepting such an arrangement, and it will be much harder for them to then justify indigenous fuel enrichment. Russia seems to be working on such an agreement with Iran, and leading arms expert Pavel Podvig writing in The Bulletin is optimistic about it. Surprisingly, it also seems to have received a semblance of a blessing from His Majesty George Bush the Second:

“It’s possible that by delivering the first 180 fuel assemblies to the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran on December 16, Russia scored a critical victory for the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Early acknowledgement of the event’s importance came from an unlikely source–President George W. Bush. Commenting on the Russian shipment, he publicly urged Iran to now suspend its controversial enrichment program, arguing that with Russian fuel, Iran no longer needed to enrich uranium on its own. Of course, it’s unlikely that Iran will stop its centrifuges–at least not any time soon. But if Washington accepts the shipment of rector fuel to Bushehr as legitimate–despite the continuing controversy surrounding the Iranian nuclear program–it will set an important precedent that should help build a workable system of fuel supply guarantees.” 

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Another reason for Obama as President?

December 26, 2007

For a variety of reasons, Barack Obama is my personal favourite for the presidential nomination, although I unfortunately doubt whether he could trump Hilary Clinton. But there may be one more reason for choosing him as president; he may provide some positive inputs towards stopping nuclear proliferation. In a C-SPAN book talk by Richard Rhodes, the author of “Arsenals of Folly” hinted that Obama has signed on to an ambitious plan being drafted by George Schultz and Sam Nunn to get rid of nuclear weapons. Given the current president’s stance on these weapons, almost anyone would be a welcome change, but I won’t be surprised if Obama is the foremost champion of arms disarmament, given what I have always felt to be his balanced and reasoned view of things. As an ironic side-point, Rhodes also said that this president can still save his despicable administration from the clutches of history by pushing for abolition of nuclear weapons. Yes, he would do that, if Al Gore became a Republican. Probably not even then.

Another need for nuclear energy

December 15, 2007

This is what happens when there is inertia towards construction of reactors for peaceful purposes:

“Hospitals across North America have been forced to cancel tests for cancer and heart disease because the unexpected closure of a Canadian nuclear reactor has led to a sudden shortage of medical isotopes. The 50-year-old National Research Universal (NRU) reactor located in Chalk River, Ontario, was shut down on 18 November for scheduled maintenance and was due back online by mid-December. But Atomic Energy Canada, which owns and operates the facility, extended the outage to install safety-related equipment, including upgrades to the reactor cooling pumps. The reactor supplies about 60% of the molybdenum isotopes used in medical applications globally, including molybdenum-99, which decays into technetium-99m and is used in about 16 million nuclear medicine procedures annually in the United States…The shortage has reignited a discussion over securing the US supply of medical isotopes by building a reactor in the United States.”

Again, there’s no sense if the debate about nuclear weapons and terrorist attacks is regularly conflated with peaceful and necessary uses of nuclear energy.