We will cross this bridge many more times with many more nations.
Nuclear weapons are now acknowledged in the hands of USA, UK, Russia, France, and China. Israel is described as a "threshold state" but most
strategic analysts conclude that Israel has such weapons. South Africa, Pakistan and India have each developed weapons (SA has voluntarily dismantled
From the outset of the Cold War, there was significant international concern about two things: (1) the proliferation of nuclear weapons (this was
principally the concern of the nuclear weapons states); and (2) the proliferation of peaceful uses of nuclear technology for electrical generation
(this was principally the concern of those who wanted to develop nuclear technology).
The Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT), which came into force in 1970, was a deal between the
nuclear weapons states and the non-nuclear weapons states. The nuclear power signatories promised the non-nukes assisstance and cooperation in the
development of peaceful nuclear energy uses. The non-nukes agree to set aside their national sovereignty and permit detailed international nuclear
materials accounting and instpections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The purpose of IAEA Safeguards is to ensure that no plant or material
is diverted from peaceful uses to weapons use.
Safeguards pursuant to the NPT are now in effectin 186 singatory states plus Taiwan.
The single most important ingredient in national economic industrial and post-industrial growth is the availability of energy at a rate that is
capable of meeting geometric rises in demand in conjunction with growth. Absent miracles in the renewable "green-energy" fronts, the requisite
supply has to come from fossil fuels, hydro-electric power or nuclear energy. Fossils take a serious environmental rap in the international arena and
suffer from expense and unpredictability of supply. Hydro-elecric takes environmental raps and is only available in place that have the resources to
make it happen. Nuclear provides roughly 40 year life cycles with predictable electrical production and is conomically efficient. That is why there
is huge pressure on nuclear development.
Look at these world-wide numbers (see www.world-nuclear.org...
* 36 countries (now 37) with declared operable, under construction, planned or proposed nuclear reactors;
* 438 currently operable nuclear reactors;
* 28 reactors under construction;
* 35 planned reactors;
* 71 under construction.
All with a total annual uranium requirement for fuel of 66,658 tonnes U.
The majority of the world (not all) use light water reactors using enriched uranium that much more readily lends itself to weapons grade materials
than do heavy water reactors (Canada, Romania, 2 of the Chinese reactors, Korea and Argentina use heavy water reactors).
Chances are that it is far too late to put the nuclear genie back in the bottle. The science is widely known. The technology within the reach of many.
The lack of adequate control in some socially disrupted societies like the Ukraine may make nuclear materials easily accessible.
There is an unquestionable risk that some nations using nuclear for electricity will not resist the temptation to divert materials to weapons
production. India, Pakistan, South Africa and Israel are good examples (all of whom developed their weapons outside of the NPT and the IAEA
The question is how does the world control those uses so as to avoid potentially very serious consequences. Two options: (1) strengthen and rely upon
IAEA Safeguards; (2) declare war against any nation that we don't like that develops a nuclear reactor. One of the problems of the latter approach
is that sometimes the nations we like become the nations we don't like and if they already have nuclear power by the time we don't like them it will
be too late to stop them.
At the same time, while the IAEA has had a substantially successful history in the control of fissionable materials, it does not provide a complete
answer to international security concerns. Clearly, the current US administration is not content to rely on the IAEA. There are some good reasons to
think the IAEA does not have enough bite until the UN Security Council backs it with threat of serious consequences. I think the Bush administration
is right on that point. The international community should not take too much comfort and believe that self reporting and audits are a sufficiently
robust system to prevent proliferation when someone is willing to cheat.
A better answer might be to strengthen the Safeguards system as follows:
* Right now, nuclear nations like the US, japan, France and Canada get involved in the construction of nuclear reactors and turn over operations to
the local governement or utility. The latter then takes control of the fissionable materials, subject to IAEA safeguards.
* The alternative might be for the IAEA to get into the business of hiring, training and placing operators and managers who take exclusive charge of
the fissionable materials program in any given signatory state. In effect, under this proposal, the Iranian reactor (or at least the fuel cycle end
of it) would be operated by an international contingency from the US, Canada, the UK, France, Gernmany etc. That might be a hard pill for sovereign
nations to swallow but it is probably less of a bitter pill than war.
[edit on 18-10-2004 by G_Scard]
[edit on 18-10-2004 by G_Scard]