Praying for a toxic end?

This editorial in The Times of India says almost everything that no one in power wants to talk about:

Nuclear energy is toxic
21 Nov 2007, 0001 hrs IST,S H VENKATRAMANI

Amidst the chest-thumping over signing the Indo-US nuclear deal, we have turned a blind eye to the dangers of nuclear energy. We are celebrating our success in persuading the US to rescind its earlier sanctions against India.

The deal will give us access to state-of-the-art nuclear reactor technology. But we have forgotten that there is a very thin line separating nuclear reactor technology and nuclear weapons technology. We need to understand the dangers of using nuclear reactors.

Developed countries, particularly the US, are worried about growing international suspicion that North Korea and Iran are close to making their own nuclear bombs. If countries and sovereign governments cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons, we cannot ignore the possible threat of extremists and radical elements accessing nuclear reactor technology and making their own nuclear bombs. The present political crisis in Pakistan, for instance, opens up the possibility of such groups acquiring access to nuclear bombs.

What makes nuclear energy itself so dangerous is that every commercial nuclear reactor produces 400-500 pounds of plutonium in a year, along with other nuclear waste material. Just 10-20 pounds of plutonium is needed to make a bomb. An average nuclear reactor, therefore, produces enough plutonium waste to make 50 nuclear bombs in a year.

Lethally radioactive plutonium thus brings nuclear reactor technology dangerously close to nuclear weapons technology.

 

In Australia, a political candidate is urging voters to:

Pray for more uranium use: Tollner

An election forum in the marginal Top End seat of Solomon has heard that people should be praying Australia sells huge amounts of uranium to China.Incumbent Coalition candidate Dave Tollner used the forum to claim nuclear power is the only way to effectively tackle global warming. He was scathing about any policy that would see Australia reduce its uranium mining.

“We should be praying that China and India take as much of our uranium as possible to reduce their reliance on coal power. The fact is, the only way that we are going to produce ongoing baseload power… is to export as much of our uranium to them as possible.”

Ignorance and greed really do go hand in hand, don’t they?

And, finally, is DU the way out?

Can anything be done to halt the use of these genocidal weapons? Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois and author of The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence, thinks so. He has launched a campaign for a global pact against uranium weapons.

Boyle points out that the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibits “the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices.” Clearly, he says, DU is “analogous” to poison gas.

The government of France is the official depository for the 1925 Geneva Protocol. Boyle contends that rather than aiming for an international treaty prohibiting the use of DU, which would probably take years, pressure should be put on every state to submit a letter to the French government to enforce a ban.

“All that needs to be done is for anti-DU citizens, activists and NGOs in every country to pressure their foreign minister to write to their French counterpart, drawing attention to the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare of 17th June 1925, prohibiting uses as above.”

The letter should add that this Protocol is believed to “already prohibit the use in war of depleted uranium ammunition, uranium armor plate and all other uranium weapons.” A request should be made that the letter be circulated to all other High Contracting Parties to the 1925 Protocol and addressed to:

His Excellency,

The Foreign Minister,

Republic of France,

37, Quai d’Orsay,

75351 Paris, France.

Or Fax: 33-1-43-17-4275.

Professor Boyle points out, “As the Land Mines Treaty demonstrates, it is possible for a coalition of determined activists and NGOs, acting in concert with at least one sympathetic state, to bring into being an international treaty to address humanitarian concerns.”

 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs in Canada is the Honourable Maxime Bernier [Bernier.M@parl.gc.ca].

2 thoughts on “Praying for a toxic end?

  1. Pingback: Praying for a toxic end? | Technology

  2. A very thin line, huh?

    The line’s not really as thin as you make it seem. Extracting plutonium from spent fuel requires an enormous amount of technology, expense, and effort. By and large in fact, extracting plutonium from a electricity generating reactor’s fuel is rarely worth the effort since most are enriched to only ~5% U-235.

    Tell you what, if it’s so “dangerously close” and the line is so “thin”, tell me how exactly you would get the plutonium out of a spent fuel rod.

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