Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The US-India nuclear deal, military versus civilian nuclear power, and what to do with nuclear waste

As US House of Representatives get ready today to consider the US-India nuclear deal (see,
the best statement of the Indian position is at:

My own view is that the deal will be good from the viewpoint of US companies interested in selling nuclear technology to India as well as from the Indian national point of view and from the viewpoint of enabling India to sell its own nuclear technology worldwide.

The deal will be distinctly bad from the viewpoint of discouraging nuclear proliferation.

However, pressures to move to nuclear power will only increase as long as the political situation in oil- and gas-rich countries remains uncertain in the short-, medium- and long-term.

Some people are not worried by such pressures to move in the direction of nuclear power, as they can't see any problem with the use of nuclear energy for civilian purposes.

I would like to draw to their attention that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to draw a line between civilian and mulitary nuclear power and, unless disincentives and punishments of the sort I have urged (earlier, on this blog) are put into place, greater proliferation of civilian nuclear power will lead inevitably to greater proliferation of military nuclear power. Indeed, it is clear that even the existing proliferation of military nuclear power (Iran and so on) would not have taken place without the existence of current levels of civilian nuclear power. In other words, what Iran and Libya and other countries who try to set up military nuclear programmes do is to buy in civilian nuclear knowledge which they then simply mis-apply to military purposes.

All that I have said above does not take into consideration the enormous question of what to do with nuclear waste, whether from civilian or military uses - all the suggestions that have been mooted so far are much more terrible than the disincentives and punishments that I have urged - but, for some reason, people seem unable to stomach my "small carrots" (as the German expression is) but are quite content to smile as they swallow the huge stone of the prospect of a nuclear holocaust from issues related to nuclear waste disposal.

Naturally, the question of what humanity is to do with nuclear waste disappears if we move from fission to fusion - but do we really want that kind of nuclear technology proliferating? Without the sort of disincentives and punishments that I have urged, that is exactly what will happen. Sphere: Related Content

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