June 11, 2006

Woooooooooooooo!

Congratulations to members of the england team, good first half, second will need to improve against better teams in the tournament.

Unfortunately onto more pressing matters – the Iranian nuclear crisis. I have so far tried to refrain from blogging on the subject, since I haven't had much to offer. Recently however, I have read a little more about the technology behind nuclear reactors and had a worthy thought.

There are a variety of different nuclear reactors, those in America, Britain and most nuclear reactors are water moderated. There are many different types – but they all require that the uranium material that is used be enriched from natural levels of uranium in order to operate, these are known as light water reactors. This is the type of reactor that has primarily been discussed with regards the Iranian situation.

There are other types of reactors however, for example the Canadians use a type of reactor called a CANDU that uses Heavy Water as a moderator. This type of reactor does not need enriched uranium in order to operate. Why not simply sell the technology behind this reactor to the Iranian government?

If the US are concerned about weapons manufacture then this removes the need to enrich uranium. The Iranians can have a safe, clean nuclear power source. There is a lot of speculation that either side wants more out of the dispute than their official claims, however, this really can only be tested by putting forward an offer that keeps everyone happy.

The only issue that I can see with CANDU reactors is that, like all nuclear reactors, they can be operated in a manner that is conducive to producing weapons grade plutonium. But to do this actually requires that the reactor use energy not produce it! This is the actual reason why the IAEA inspects all registered nuclear facilities. I would expect that a solution to this issue would require IAEA cooperation, on any account – because any nuclear reactor can be operated in this manner. And I think offering a technical solution to the Iranian government is probably a good way of getting such cooperation. Better than bunker busters for sure.

The key problem in this issue has become that its becoming a matter of national pride and politics all round. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad needs to get nuclear power in order to continue boosting his internal popularity, and Bush has a complete fear of looking weak. Putting heavy water technology on the table offers a get out of jail free card for all. Ahmadinejad can go to his people and claim victory. Bush can go to his people and claim victory.


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