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Power Hardware Science

Is an International Nuclear Fuelbank a Good Idea? 187

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-for-the-people dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A roundtable at the Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences explores the notion of nuclear fuel banks which would offer nations a guaranteed supply of low-enriched uranium if they renounce the right to enrich on their own. From the article: 'The basic idea behind an international fuel bank is that it would, in a reliable and nondiscriminatory way, make emergency supplies of market-priced low-enriched uranium available to states that sign up to participate. States that opt for membership in a fuel bank would gain increased confidence that their access to reactor-grade fuel would not be interrupted. In return, they would renounce the right to enrich uranium and reprocess spent fuel on their own. Such an arrangement could be appropriate for a number of states. But for others, it might be less than ideal.'"
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Is an International Nuclear Fuelbank a Good Idea?

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  • Won't work (Score:2, Insightful)

    by p51d007 (656414)
    Those that sign up, will be at the mercy of the UN (useless nations), bank on it.
    • Re:Won't work (Score:5, Interesting)

      by icebike (68054) * on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @07:50PM (#41173659)

      Those that sign up, will be at the mercy of the UN (useless nations), bank on it.

      Which is to say they will face no restrictions what so ever, and will be free to use the nuclear material for any purpose they want with no fear of anything but a stern "talking to".

      This probably amounts to a promise of refueling from the original reactor manufacturer, because most of these are one-off designs or made
      to specifications such that fuel rods can only be manufactured by one source. So realistically, you only have one country you have to remain
      on good terms with, and that is the country that supplied your reactor. Even if there was a fuel bank, they are not likely to be trusted with any
      significant amount of fuel, and would simply serve as an intermediary to process orders.
      So if you piss off the country that made your reactor the chances are you still would get no fuel, unless you could go to the UN and have
      them deliver a vicious tongue lashing to the country withholding the rods.

      • Re:Won't work (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @10:06PM (#41174589) Journal

        Those that sign up, will be at the mercy of the UN (useless nations), bank on it.

        Which is to say they will face no restrictions what so ever, and will be free to use the nuclear material for any purpose they want with no fear of anything but a stern "talking to".

         
        Or to put it another way, this "low enrich Uranium fuel bank" idea is to ensure a permanent divide of two classes of nations -
         
        First Class Nations which are allowed to do whatever they like with Nuclear Science - including producing super-enriched-grade Uranium (and all other radioactive materials) and to make all types of nuclear bombs),
         
        ... and ...
         
        Beggar Class Nations which have to rely on the First Class Nations to supply them with the low-grade Uranium, to power their nuclear power plants
         
        Right now, there's already a divide, but the line between them is not clear cut. With this, the line is fixed, and the beggar class nations will forever sign away their right to become self-dependent
         

        • by nazsco (695026)

          Any country that signs that would have less control of their energy as the USA have by buying Canada electricity and foreign oil.

        • Beggar Class Nations which have to rely on the First Class Nations to supply them with the low-grade Uranium, to power their nuclear power plants

          It's possible to build plants which run off natural uranium. RBMK is one such design. So they could just build fleets of RBMKs. What could possibly go wrong?

        • Re:Won't work (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Patch86 (1465427) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @08:27AM (#41177015)

          On the other hand, there are a huge number of nations that are in absolutely no position to have a nuclear programme of their own, for financial or technical reasons. For countries like that, this scheme would give them access to nuclear power, membership of the nuclear club, without them having to renounce anything except for hypothetical things.

          I mean, maybe Haiti thinks nuclear power would solve their power needs. Haiti isn't going to be developing enriched uranium reactors independently any time soon, and even if they wanted to they'd meet an impenetrably hostile diplomatic wall. This scheme would be fuel on tap for them, with none of the hassle.

        • More importantly, it will mess up the market. Nations A, B, and C can produce nuclear fuel. Nations D, E, and F figure out they can do it cheaper, and they can high-enrich the spent uranium and recycle it through their reactors and make it last 10 times... 100 times as long. D, E, and F have to buy nuclear fuel ... but if they could make their own, there would be a surplus, and the value of nuclear fuel on the market would drop, meaning nations G, H, and I who simply don't want to invest in nuclear fuel

    • by fredrated (639554)

      Do you ever open your eyes? The U.N. does what the United States tells it to do, and in fact any nation that signs up will be subject to the whims of whatever political party is in power in the U.S.

      • by RevDisk (740008)
        Incorrect. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council hold the balance of power. China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States. China does not care unless an issue has to do with the PRC directly. Russia (and the former USSR) often vetoes actions. Ditto US, roughly equally to Russia. UK and France vary, more than PRC but less than US or Russia.
    • by jonadab (583620)
      > Those that sign up, will be at the mercy of the UN (useless nations), bank on it.

      I think the larger problem will be in the other direction. Realistically, I don't see how this measure will actually prevent anyone from enriching weapons-grade uranium who has the desire and level of technological advancement to do so.

      All it really does is offer countries who genuinely don't *want* nuclear weapons the ability to use nuclear power without worrying everyone as much. Problem is, the set of nations who genu
    • Is this how the ARM [wikipedia.org] gets started?!
  • by BMOC (2478408) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @07:41PM (#41173583)
    What you would essentially be asking states to do is give up energy independence. It's a nice idea if you strongly trust every other nation in the world. The trouble is, even most allied nations these days harbor low-level suspicion of each other. That is to say nothing of all the ongoing conflicts and near-conflicts that exist. We're still living in a time of independent nation states that look after their own interests and try to avoid getting too pissed off at each other, so compulsory use of a central fuel repository is asking a lot of your average nation.
    • by memnock (466995) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @07:50PM (#41173665)

      Also, I want to know how they're going to distribute in a "nondiscriminatory" way. The U.N. Security Council nations or NATO or the country/ies supplying the nuclear material are/is going to demand some kind of say in running the fuelbank. There is no way to guarantee there'll be no politics or bias in deciding who will get to fuel distributed to them.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @08:21PM (#41173935)

        This program is basically designed for Iran. What they are trying to say that if Iran gives up their Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty rights for enrichment, then the US and Israel probably won't bomb them for that reason. And if the US or Israel needs to bomb Iran in the future, it can be done knowing that Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons or highly enriched uranium that they can give to their allies. Even better, if Iran starts misbehaving, this fuel can be sanctioned. Finally, if Iran doesn't accept this program, then they must be building nuclear bombs, which gives the US and Israel justification to start bombing.

        • by shiftless (410350) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @09:05PM (#41174273) Homepage

          This program is basically designed for Iran. What they are trying to say that if Iran gives up their Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty rights for enrichment, then the US and Israel probably won't bomb them for that reason. And if the US or Israel needs to bomb Iran in the future, it can be done knowing that Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons or highly enriched uranium that they can give to their allies. Even better, if Iran starts misbehaving, this fuel can be sanctioned. Finally, if Iran doesn't accept this program, then they must be building nuclear bombs, which gives the US and Israel justification to start bombing.

          You forgot to add, that's what the propaganda would like us to believe. Why would a sane nation give over its right to energy independence?

          • by dbIII (701233)
            If they haven't really got the energy independence now they may consider it. It requires a massive infrastructure to make nuclear fuel and in most cases large portions of that infrastructure were justified for military purposes, which hides the true cost to an extent. Developing that infrastructure is a huge economic and time barrier to a nation that wants a large civilian nuclear program, so if they can buy fuel from another nation they can get reactors running more quickly.
            Also there is the "eggs in one
    • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @08:09PM (#41173819)

      except that they're already dependent on someone for the uranium. That's the issue. Canada, australia, Russia, Niger, Namibia, Kazakhistan are the big net exporters, with south africa, communist china, the US, germany/czech republic, romania all have some mines, or at least reserves, but unless you're one of the big 5 (for want of a better phrase), you're at their mercy to actually get the uranium.

      Which leads to say, Iran, South Africa or Japan (or others, such as india, brazil, israel, the UK, France etc.). They all want nuclear power (or at least might want it), have no domestic source of the uranium, and they rely on someone to sell it to them. If the US vigorously objects to Iran getting uranium of any sort them well, they can't even have a civilian nuclear power programme, if china and north korea and russia make enough of a stink the same could happen to Japan and South korea. The Israeli's bank on being able to get their supplies from the US, and the US can always buy from Canada or australia, so they're safe, but everyone else that has a legitimate need for civilian nuclear power has a tough time saying 'I'm only interested in civilian nuclear power, but that other guy really just wants bombs".

      If you're talking about oil then sure, I agree, oil is in total worth so much money, and many of the producers so small that they can be forced into particular spheres of influence and the controllers of those spheres have no real vested interest in giving them up. Uranium is basically worthless in terms of total dollar value, 50 000 tonnes a year at $132k/tonne = 6.6 billion dollars a year as total worldwide production. Worldwide oil production is about 8 billion dollars per day.

      It's not like the people at question are energy independent with nuclear power now, this is about finding a way to expand that market so that lots more people can get access to supply without (further) threatening the security of the world with more nuclear bombs. Obviously it's sort of an absurd proposition, if north korea can build nuclear weapons anyone can, but it's an honest effort.

      • by Smauler (915644)

        They're already interdependent, but states arrange deals independently. A big UN marketplace just could not work, because of the reasons uranium trading is going on now. It's impossible to regulate, at least with countries that allow some kind of private transactions.

        The UK is oil independent - It doesn't need imports. Uranium, I'm guessing we have big contracts with Australia.

        • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @08:56PM (#41174191)

          A big UN marketplace just could not work, because of the reasons uranium trading is going on now

          In the same way that you can't have wheat board that just buys all the wheat, and resells it for the same price it paid (give or take)? (e.g. the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Wheat_Board, which survived quite successfully for 77 years until it was shut down for purely political reasons?).

          I'm not saying it's going to work, but you certainly could create a controlled market for low enriched uranium overseen by the 'rich reliable' countries who benefit by being the only ones doing the enriching (free money!) and everyone else gets reactor fuel, which means they have power, to you you know, use all the electronics and software that runs on electronics that we want to sell them.

          Uranium isn't sold like any other, the problem is enriched uranium, where you can't buy uranium if someone thinks you're going to enrich it. There are some broadly similar problems, pharmaceuticals that can be used for lethal injections for example cannot be sold if they're going to be used for lethal injections. The broad verifiable regulatory framework for uranium belongs with the UN, because no one trusts the Russians (who are claiming to do it for Iran for example), and for everyone else the added transparency elsewhere won't matter. Of course that makes it harder for Russia to supply nuclear weapons supplies to their friends, so it's not likely to go anywhere.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sxpert (139117)
            The wheat Board was shut down to allow "The Markets" to take over, and make people hungry with their stupid nonsensical speculation bullshit and High Frequency Trading of food, whatever the dumb-ass thing this is
            • by Tyndmyr (811713)
              This seems unnecessarily panicky. The US doesn't do this, and we don't have mass starvation. Realistically, both the US and Canada have plenty of food. A board or not isn't going to matter at all for starvation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by shiftless (410350)

        It's not like the people at question are energy independent with nuclear power now, this is about finding a way to expand that market so that lots more people can get access to supply without (further) threatening the security of the world with more nuclear bombs. Obviously it's sort of an absurd proposition, if north korea can build nuclear weapons anyone can, but it's an honest effort.

        Sure. It's an "honest" effort to enslave the world. Your line about "threatening the security of the world" is right out of the propagandist's storybook. Whose "security" is really threatened by Iran having the nuclear trump card? When was the last time Iran ever invaded or bullied around a nation, like the United States does regularly?

        The nuclear cat's out of the bag and it's never going back in. The more nations who have nukes, the better. The idiots will destroy themselves in short order, as a further re

        • by Sir_Sri (199544)

          If you're going to quote both lines you should probably pay attention to the last one, just sayin'

          I parroted the propaganda precisely because that's the argument being made - and I said why it's absurd.

          Also, Iran, since the revolution, has been funding attacks against the Israeli's, that's pretty much the root of the whole disagreement between the lot of them. They might even have been funding/contributing to various elements of the Iraqi resistance to the US re-colonization effort.

        • by khallow (566160)

          Whose "security" is really threatened by Iran having the nuclear trump card? When was the last time Iran ever invaded or bullied around a nation, like the United States does regularly?

          Everyone within about 1,000 km of them. And I think it's pretty naive to assume that their behavior won't change with the ownership of deployable and fairly reliable nuclear weapons.

          • by Sir_Sri (199544)

            I don't really think Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan pakistan or afghanistan feel threatened any more or less by a nuclear powered Iran. It's really the Israelis, via Iranian proxies, for want of a better way of putting it the 'wrong kind' of iranians, who don't conform to the central government (including ones looking to overthrow the ayatollahs naturally), potentially opponents of Iranian allies (e.g. the people trying to out assad) and the Sunni arab states like Saudi - who are worried about Iran.

            That, admitte

            • by khallow (566160)

              I don't really think Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan pakistan or afghanistan feel threatened any more or less by a nuclear powered Iran.

              First, I doubt those countries, particularly Pakistan, would agree. First, at least two of those countries are likely to be downwind from any nuclear retribution against Iran. Canada and Mexico have similar concerns about the US's nuclear program.

              Second, there are plenty more countries where those came from. Israel is the obvious problem. I imagine a lot of people think that the mutually assured destruction model of US/USSR strategy would hold here as well. I don't think that holds for several reasons. F

      • Which leads to say, Iran, South Africa or Japan (or others, such as india, brazil, israel, the UK, France etc.). They all want nuclear power (or at least might want it), have no domestic source of the uranium, and they rely on someone to sell it to them.

        What are you talking about? Japan has loads of uranium, the ocean is full of it and it's literally all over the countryside.

        . . .

        Too soon?

      • by dbIII (701233)
        Australia is at the point where they will sell Uranium to anyone without restriction. That's a policy for one political party and a bit of an under the counter deal with India and anyone else that asks for the other. Whatever the miners want they will get no matter who is running Australia at this point since that's where the government gets a lot of revenue.
        It's not necessarily an advantage for civilian nuclear power to have a reliable Uranium supply because I expect India will scale back their promising
        • by Sir_Sri (199544)

          Most of the nuclear restrictions against India from western aligned countries have melted away as the reality of the second most populous country maintaining a nuclear deterrent seemed as reasonable as it is, and because they have a significant demand for legitimate nuclear power anyway.

          This really is about money, it's about places like Australia being able to sell uranium to places like Iran and Pakistan without the secondary wrangling over nuclear weapons.

          • by dbIII (701233)
            If the miners want to sell then whatever Australian government is in place will let them. If even Iran wants it then Iran will get it. Currently Iran are already sitting on a stockpile of yellowcake so they are not buying, what Iran want is the enriched stuff which Australia couldn't give them without a decade of setting up infrastructure. At the moment Indian and Russia are buying so that's where the yellowcake is going.
        • by HJED (1304957)
          Yeah, but we are selling raw Uranium, we don't (although we should) have a nuclear enrichment program on that scale. (We do some nuclear enrichment, but I don't think its Uranium and its only for medical puposes. )
    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @08:15PM (#41173873)

      so compulsory use of a central fuel repository is asking a lot of your average nation.

      I suspect this is just an excuse to justify developing nations being forced at gunpoint to buy carbon credits and other non-sense intended to cripple their economies. The only civilian use for low grade enriched uranium is energy. Power plants are expensive, and in many countries, if one or two fail, the entire grid for that country fails. Nobody has power. Look at India right now -- they have a massive energy crisis. While having access to uranium to fuel a nuclear reactor looks tempting at first, once they're on the hook, they have to pay whatever price is dictated to them, or agree to sanctions, etc.

      Remember the story of the scorpion who wanted to cross the river...

      • Remember the story of the scorpion who wanted to cross the river...

        Charon promised the scorpion that his boat would safely ferry him across the river Styx. The scorpion looked Charon dead in his eye and said: "Fool! The river grants immortality, I'll just fucking walk you shady twit!"

    • by prefec2 (875483)

      We are all dependant to those oil countries. So that will make no difference here. However, the real problem is. Why should there be countries trustworthy enough to have uranium enrichment facilities while other are not. The Iran-problem ist only a problem from the western country view point. Obviously the Chinese do not see a problem in that, and they are normally planning ahead by decades not years, like western countries. So they do not consider an atomic equipped Iran as a problem to world safety, as th

  • Secrets (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bugs2squash (1132591)
    So states will line up for their handouts and conduct enrichment programs in secret, denying that they do so. Where's the difference from today ?
    • They're not handouts. They have to pay market price.

    • by Dr. Spork (142693)
      You basically can't do bomb-level enrichment in complete secret. You have some chance of hiding your bomb program behind a civilian enrichment program, and that's exactly what this fuel bank is supposed to prevent. If it's up and reliable, it takes away any reason for peaceful countries to get uranium centrifuges to begin with.
  • How would this work? We can't monitor Iran properly with them continuing to claim it is research/power they are refining for, difficulties even finding where their nuclear facilities are etc. How would this work with 10's or 100's of nations? Is the UN or whatever send monitors into 100 countries? How about countries that the west has decided it is okay to have nukes (US, UK, Russia, China, France)? If a nuke becomes obsolete are they allowed to replace it with a newer model with a new warhead?

    • Re:um no (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @08:35PM (#41174027) Homepage

      Iran is being fully monitored by the IAEA and the IAEA continues to confirm absolutely no diversion of any Iranian nuclear material to any weapons-related program.

      There is absolutely ZERO evidence that Iran is doing anything not permitted by the NPT. There is almost zero evidence that they have EVER done anything not permitted by the NPT.

      The sole reason for suspecting Iran had a nuclear weapons program was, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency position (which did not make it into the 2007 Iran National Intelligence Estimate, but is undoubtedly correct), when Iran was concerned that Saddam Hussein had one. Apparently the Ayatollah Khamenei authorized a "feasibility study" to see what Iran would need to do to develop a nuclear weapon if Iraq did. Iran was unconcerned about both Israel's nuclear arsenal and the US nuclear arsenal, because they knew those arsenals were "constrained" by international consensus. Saddam's was not.

      Once the US destroyed Iraq in 2003, Iran clearly no longer needed even a feasibility program and that is why, as all the intelligence agencies agree, Iran stopped its program in 2003.

      For facts about Iran's nuclear program and the real reasons that the US, NATO and Israel are pressuring Iran, follow the following Web sites:

      www.raceforiran.com
      www.asiatimes.com
      www.antiwar.com
      www.campaigniran.org

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        You are a completely naive gullible fool if you don't believe Iran is pursuing the bomb.

        You can say they deserve to have it. You can say Israel, USA, European responses suck. That's ok.

        But if you honestly believe Iran isn't pursuing the bomb you are a complete idiot.

        You believe only the West is capable of lying? You think you are smart by believing the opposite of what the West says? Here's a trick for you to learn: dont believe anything the west says AND anything Iran says. Not liking the west shouldn't be

  • by pubwvj (1045960)

    If the United States, or the UN in a pinch, will give me $2Billion in aid money, for food of course, then I hereby agree to not make nuclear weapons. And just to show how serious I am I will not explode a bum at an undisco site on Saturday.

    Worked for North Korea so I figure, why not?!

  • by DarwinSurvivor (1752106) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @08:17PM (#41173889)
    And in which country do they plan to enrich and store said nuclear fuelbank?
    • The United States! Because we're the most "civilized" in the world and we are the only ones that can be trusted!

      Before I get modded down, this was sarcasm!

    • Enrich it in Australia, and elsewhere, where it is actually mined. Not sure if that would actually save on transportation costs, even though you are transporting less volume and mass, you are transporting something inherently more dangerous.
      • Fine, but where do you *store* it? Chances are each country that ends up being given the job of "enriching it for everyone" because they just happen to have the raw stuff underground is going to say "Hey, why don't we just hold some back instead of shipping it to COUNTRY X and then back again when we need it" and right there the whole "You must not enrich your own Uranium" thing goes right out the second story window.
      • And actually Australia has a lot of desert and geologically stable land where noone lives, which is perfect for storing spent fuel.

        I nominate Australia for this great project. Politically it might even be viable as it is far from most people (kilometer-wise) and also close to US and UK politically that it might pass UN muster.
  • I've yet to hear of any part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty that would prevent Russia or China from transferring fuel-grade material to Iran. The current international regime is as follows:

    • Refine fissile material
    • Decline international oversight
    • Remain in the NPT

    Pick any two.

    Iran wants to have their cake and eat it too; it doesn't matter what you call their potential fuel suppliers, they want it in-house regardless.

    • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @08:47PM (#41174129) Homepage

      And they are fully justified in requiring at least some of the processing being done on Iranian soil.

      Several NATO countries have reneged on nuclear technology deals over the past thirty years, mostly as a result of US pressure.

      Russia itself delayed and delayed the Bushehr project for various reasons.

      When the Tehran Research Reactor came up for re-supplying in 2009, the US and NATO refused to supply fuel on the open market as is REQUIRED by the NPT. This lead to negotiations in fall of 2009 which resulted in an ultimatum to Iran to ship out all of its low-enriched uranium stock in exchange for the TRR fuel - WITHOUT any guarantee that Iran would actually get that fuel. Iran naturally refused this offer and made a counteroffer to exchange the LEU at the time of delivery of the TRR fuel, with the LEU being held in Turkey or elsewhere under IAEA seal. The US refused.

      So Iran went ahead and began enriching to 20% to produce the TRR fuel itself in January or February of 2010.

      Then Brazil and Turkey tried to make a deal with Iran similar to the deal it offered in November/December of 2009. Obama wrote a letter to the Brazilian President outlining the details of a deal the US would accept. The Brazilians and Turks got the deal with Iran. The US then refused the deal under the spurious notion that since Iran's stockpile of LEU had gotten bigger in the meantime that the deal was no longer acceptable.

      Iran has every reason to distrust the US because it is clear from the behavior of the US over the years that it has no serious interest in negotiating a genuine resolution of the issue. The nuclear issue is merely an excuse being used by the US to justify extreme sanctions and an upcoming military attack on Iran. The real reasons for this process is the US and Israeli desire for hegemony in the Middle East. Iran (and to a lesser degree Syria which is why Syria is in trouble now) is the only country in the Middle East not beholden to the US for foreign aid, weapons and security. The US and Israel will not rest until Iran, Syria and Hizballah in Lebanon are "brought to heel."

      • by Jiro (131519)

        By that reasoning, Al Qaeda has every reason to distrust the US as well.

        If they want to be able to trust the US the first thing they should do is stop being Al Qaeda. The same goes for Iran, Syria, and Hizballah. (And don't you find it a bit scary that that means "the party of God"?)

      • by Guppy06 (410832)

        And they are fully justified in requiring at least some of the processing being done on Iranian soil.

        With supervision or after formally abandoning the NPT, hence the "pick any two" statement.

        When the Tehran Research Reactor came up for re-supplying in 2009, the US and NATO refused to supply fuel on the open market as is REQUIRED by the NPT.

        This was after Iran confirmed production of Po-210 in 2003, outside of IAEA supervision.

        Iran naturally refused this offer and made a counteroffer to exchange the LEU at the time of delivery of the TRR fuel, with the LEU being held in Turkey or elsewhere under IAEA seal.

        Waiting until delivery would have allowed Iran more time with a large enough stockpile to begin weapons production.

        The US then refused the deal under the spurious notion that since Iran's stockpile of LEU had gotten bigger in the meantime that the deal was no longer acceptable.

        The stockpile had grown to the point that using the original fuel swap numbers would still leave Iran with a large enough stockpile of material to begin weapons production.

        Iran has every reason to distrust the US because it is clear from the behavior of the US over the years that it has no serious interest in negotiating a genuine resolution of the issue.

        P5+1 includes Russia and China, so my original

  • by Genda (560240) <[mariet] [at] [got.net]> on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @08:18PM (#41173897) Journal

    As a species, we get together (good luck on that) and relinquish uranium and plutonium for any use on planet, and instead create a thorium based nuclear economy. Take all the uranium and plutonium and use it to build and power cities on the Moon and Mars. The cities on Moon can then beam collected solar energy back to earth in the form of microwave, collected by a network of geosynchronous satellites. Anyone who agrees to using Thorium now get's a share of the solar power coming from the moon so they have abundant Nuclear power now. Abundant Solar power later, and the threat of global thermonuclear war is eliminated (at least until the folks on Mars decide to nuke earth for holding back on the cream puff shipment or whatever.)

    The problem is simple. People claim to want clean, unlimited power. They don't. They want bombs. They want to make certain that if you nuke them, they can nuke you back. The solution is to give up the right to nuke anybody, so everyone can live with the threat of having ones home converted into a blue ashtray eliminated. Sadly there is a certain amount of trust required for this to work, and nations with good sources of yellow cake need to trade these for free thorium technology. Its really simple. Society is sick and we can either cure or perish from the illness together.

    • by Great Big Bird (1751616) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @08:24PM (#41173959)
      Thorium can be used to produce U-233 which can be used to produce a simple bomb.
    • Build the power plants on the Moon and Mars - then what happens is that Mars and the Moon become self sufficient over a significantly long timespan, tensions break out between the three competing planets, and you have the exact same situation we're in now, offset many years into the future.
    • by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @09:32PM (#41174431) Journal

      The solution is to give up the right to nuke anybody, so everyone can live with the threat of having ones home converted into a blue ashtray eliminated.

      Excellent idea, then we can go back to the good old days of industrialized total warfare! By taking away nuclear weapons you remove the only thing that places limitations on the willingness of nations to use force to meet their political objections. What do you purpose to replace MAD with? History tells us that political/international institutions won't preclude war, recall the League of Nations. Nor will treaties that purport to limit the allowable conduct during war remain effective once the balloon goes up. As a random example, unrestricted submarine warfare was outlawed after WW1, so naturally both sides employed it to maximum effect during WW2.

      Mutually assured destruction is the only thing that will prevent war, or at the very least manage it to the extent that it doesn't turn into total warfare. The proxy wars of the Cold War era weren't a lot of fun, but they beat the hell out of out of the alternative of total war between east and west.

      • by Genda (560240) <[mariet] [at] [got.net]> on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @11:39PM (#41175067) Journal

        Oh yeah, we've done so well since Hiroshima! Let's see the Korean War, The Viet Nam War, two Gulf Wars, The War in Afghanistan, a couple dozen outbreaks in Africa and the Mid-East. That's just the U.S, Add the fun and games from all the other countries in the world and there's been about 12 war free days since we nuked Japan. Nukes don't stop war. In fact technology is moving fast in a direction where war is going to performed from remote consoles, and nukes won't impact that process either. There is no reason to have them. We should just dismantle them, remove the possibility of some idiot building a crude nuke or dirty bomb, and get on with life.

        • by khallow (566160) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @12:06AM (#41175245)

          Oh yeah, we've done so well since Hiroshima!

          And indeed we have as the previous poster noted.

          Let's see the Korean War, The Viet Nam War, two Gulf Wars, The War in Afghanistan, a couple dozen outbreaks in Africa and the Mid-East. That's just the U.S, Add the fun and games from all the other countries in the world and there's been about 12 war free days since we nuked Japan.

          Peace doesn't mean complete absence of war. If you add up the body count for every war since the end of the Second World War, you barely get something comparable to the First World War (excluding the influenza epidemic).

          Nukes don't stop war.

          They stopped total war in Europe after 1945. The USSR was an extremely aggressive military power that completely changed its approach after the development of nuclear weapons.

        • The man specifically addressed the proxy wars you list. He says direct war between moscow and Washington did not happen because of the bomb. Without the bomb preventing all out world war iii, the wars you list would look like tiny drops in the bucket. Mutually assured destruction is a valid concept that stopped world war iiI even if your feeble mind can't understand it.

      • Mutually assured destruction is the only thing that will prevent war, or at the very least manage it to the extent that it doesn't turn into total warfare.

        Education, economic ties, and free sharing of ideas and knowledge can also suffice to prevent war, but you humans are too primitive to see beyond violence just yet. You'll never solve the drake equation at this rate.

        P.S. Thank you ever so much for producing "How It's Made", and its ilk. You've made my job as a xenoanthropologist as simple as operating a DVR.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      Besides the obvious safety and technical issues of getting solar energy back from the moon: how're you going to GUARANTEE that these thorium-subscribers will get their share? Other than nice words and maybe some paper with something nice written on it, there is no such thing as a guarantee. There is nothing a small player can do to hold the big player that owns the infrastructure to their promises. Nothing.

      And then I'm sure there will be ways to use thorium to make a bomb. That it's not done before, doesn't

  • Why exactly are we talking about uranium instead of thorium again?
  • Guaranteed supply. Really? So who is going to guarantee the supply? The fuelbank will have to buy their uranium from somewhere and what if the country supplying the uranium decides to stop selling it? Or ups the price? Unless the fuelbank has it's own inexhaustible supply of uranium it cannot guarantee anything.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Supply of the raw material isn't the problem. Mining the ore will be permitted worldwide. Its the processing steps that will be regulated. Those licensed to process fuel grade uranium on behalf of the bank are free to acquire the raw material anywhere they can.

  • TWR [gigaom.com] allows us to burn unenriched or even depleted uranium, which is sitting around in huge stockpiles all over the world. Other people have also mentioned liquid thorium, which is a good idea as well. We should start looking past the most primitive and inefficient way to use our fissile fuels. Plus, enrichment is a proliferation risk, as many have noticed.
  • The issue with countries like Iran isn't that they are worried that their supply of nuclear fuel will be cut off. They want to build nuclear weapons. They aren't interested in guarantees of actual fuel. If Iran was truly interested in nuclear fuel, the deal would have been done by now. A fuel bank is solution to a non-problem.

    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @09:42PM (#41174491)

      They want to build nuclear weapons.

      Bingo. Iran has already been caught enriching uranium far beyond what is necessary for power plant fuel. They have already been offered a guaranteed supply of fuel from a consortium of countries, including both the USA and Russia, but they have turned it down because they would have to agree to inspections. They are not worried about fuel, they want to build weapons. This proposal would solve nothing, because it is not addressing an actual problem.

  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @10:48PM (#41174815)

    Who controls this "fuel bank"? The United States?

    That makes me feel instantly safer...~

  • Unless this is going to be dispensed from a boat in international waters, I really don't see this monopoly working. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that neither the US or Russia is going to sign-onto this goat rodeo.
  • ABSOLUTELY NOT!
    And with a few more words: single huge point of failure. Whichever failure.

  • by jcdr (178250) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @03:36AM (#41175975)

    Looking at the corruption in the banks, I can't imagine the consequence if it's about uranium instead of money.

  • In a word, no it is not. Effectively, policies like these create cartels and oligarchies of sorts. This creates opportunities for pricing manipulation and corruption. Effectively, this creates a kind of OPEC. It isn't a perfect analogy but I can see a Nuclear Fuel Bank as heading down a similar path.
  • Nuclear refinement is not inherently an evil thing, as long as it doesn't go beyond a certain point. The problem is with nations that cross that line, and they aren't going to sign up for this anyway.

    Besides: where do you put the bank?

The flow chart is a most thoroughly oversold piece of program documentation. -- Frederick Brooks, "The Mythical Man Month"

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