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Germany Seeks Multilateralization of Nuclear Fuel Cycle

The Federal Foreign Office announced today:

Germany is stepping up its efforts to establish an international uranium-enrichment plant under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Today, at IAEA's headquarters in Vienna, Federal Government representatives informed interested States about the details of the German proposals to multilateralize the nuclear fuel cycle, receiving a highly positive response. This concept is based on an initiative by Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier. More and more countries are thinking of starting their own enrichment activities. Any joint solution must therefore take the desire for the peaceful use of nuclear energy into account, while at the same time making sure no fuel is misused to build nuclear weapons.

Could this be a workable compromise for the conflict over Iran's nuclear program?

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pen Name on :

yes if that facility is located on the Iranian soil [Mr. Ahmadinejad's 2005 offer at UN], No otherwise.

joe on :

Actually I thought relocating the UN to Iran made a lot better sense.

Kevin Sampson on :

Do they plan to reprocess the spent fuel as well? Will mixed oxide fuel be provided to the Iranians?

John in Michigan, USA on :

There are any number of possible workable compromises. This could be one of them. However, no compromise will be workable unless the Iranians sincerely want to reach an agreement. They may temporarily cooperate in order to get a carrot or avoid a stick, but I've seen no evidence whatsoever that they have made a strategic decision to give up their weapons program(s). As to the rest of the world...the German proposal may have some merit, if it helps the world finally get serious about using nuclear power responsibly.

pen Nmae on :

According to your own government Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. Iran also has plans to develop idustrial level expertise in reprocessing technology. Iran does not have the right to reprocess the Russian fuel - it is rented to Iran. I do not know if the fuel is MOX or not.

John in Michigan, USA on :

"According to your own government Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program." I guess you are talking about the famous National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was leaked. If you read it carefully and all the way to the end, including footnotes, you see a very different picture. First, the NIE says they DID have a nuclear program, in violation of many treaties and assurances. If the NIE was correct, they GAVE IT UP in 2003. There's a big difference. Anything else happen in 2003? If they truly did give it up, it is another victory for Bush's preemption doctrine! Second, Iranians only gave up the bomb assembly part of the program (which they don't need to restart until they have the fuel for bombs), they did not give up the fuel production. In other words, only part of the program was stopped, and "paused" would be a better word than stopped. Third, elements of the US "intelligence community" have now started retracting the conclusions of that NIE. I suspect that after some time has passed, the spooks will "discover" that Iran still has a program, meaning that they had it all along. Fourth, the Iranian medium- and long-range missiles make no sense strategically unless they are armed with WMD of some type. The missile program is still going strong. So is the steady stream of apocalyptic rhetoric. Finally, the idea of a peaceful, Iranian nuclear power program is a joke. Iran is a country floating in oil, yet due to incompetence and corruption can't even manage to refine enough oil to meet its domestic fuel needs -- how on earth will they manage nuclear power generation which is much more complicated and dangerous?

joe on :

John, pen has a template just as David and M$M. This fits.

Zyme on :

yeah they sure seem to be cut from the same wood.

Richelle on :

I find it interesting that the discussion of using nuclear technology for peaceful means rarely brings up the fact of radioactive waste. Where do we put it? How do we deal with safety issues regarding waste? Despite some advances in dealing with this waste, it's still dangerous, especially in the hands of technologically backward nations and unstable nations.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Richelle, It is a good question. I don't see any major problem with burying it very, very deep in a geologically stable location. True, some of the isotopes have a half-life of 1000's, or even 10,000+ years, meaning they don't even begin to be safe until after that time. Happily, in geological terms, even 100,000 years is a very short time. On a human scale, 10,000 years is a very, very long time, so it is possible that "anything could happen" (i.e. somebody decides to recover the waste and do bad things with it) and so some argue that it is impossible to design a burial system that is perfect enough. This, however, is utopian thinking, or making the perfect the enemy of the good. The secret of splitting the atom is now well known. So, the way to approach the waste abuse problem is simply to make the waste so hard to access, that it is easier to create new material (for whatever reason) than to recover the waste. That should be possible, I leave the details up to the scientists. There are at least three approaches that should help: 1) The French system of "glassification" seems promising. It might be even better if they combined glassification with burial, instead of dumping it in the sea, but covert dumping at sea means that it will be hard for any bad actor to discover where it was buried. Radiation doesn't travel far in water. Also politics (Not In My Back Yard - NIMBY) make burial difficult. 2) If reprocessing of spent fuel into new fuel were permitted, it would significantly reduce the amount of waste generated. With reprocessing, the remaining waste could be rendered less dangerous and more manageable (chemically and in terms of radiation and half-life). The international accords that prevent reprocessing need to be revisited; they were the best compromise that was possible during the Cold War, when both sides generally followed them and forced their client states to do the same. Today, the nations that everyone is worried about don't really play by the rules anyway; and the rest of us could agree to the type of detailed inspections and monitoring that would prevent fuel reprocessing operations from being used to make bomb material. 3) IEC/Polywell fusion is still in development, but if it ever becomes viable, reactors could be built that literally transmute radioactive waste into non-radioactive elements in a short time (days or months). If you are interested, I can provide some links. So, when you look at how much technology has changed over only the past 100 years, it is hardly likely we will need to get rid of radioactive waste for much more than another 100-200 (??) years. Either we will have non-radioactive fusion technologies, or biological technologies, or something that will render waste-generating nuclear power plants obsolete. Meanwhile, all we have to do is make the waste harder to recover than the cost of generating new waste.

Kevin Sampson on :

There are no international accords prohibiting re-processing of spent fuel. The British have been doing it at Sellafield for years. OUR prohibition against doing it is another legacy of Jimmy Carter in one of his less lucid moments.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Interesting. I had always thought it was part of the NPT but [url=http://fas.org/sgp/crs/nuke/RS22542.pdf]you are correct it was another Jimmah jamboree[/url]. Apparently Reagan undid the Carter ban but for whatever reasons (probably because it remains a political hot potato) we still don't do it. This calls for some of our famous, unilateral action!

Joe Noory on :

I'm not sure that there's any way of "cornering that market" (and thus have some leverage,) but it would never work with the Russians. They like the idea of naming the value of a commodity they can produce so much of and use strategically in international relations. The last thing we need is a producer that might enduce one nation or another to dump refined fuel on the market, or conversely have someone at the UN using as a pretext to manipulate that market some sort of environmentally inspired anti-energy zealotry.

Pat Patterson on :

O/T-It appears that the Iranians have continued to try to perfect the delivery system, ICBMs and IRBMs, in spite of halting construction of a warhead. This video from Arms Control Wonk shows that the Shahab-3 is having problems with bits and pieces falling off due to Iran's inability to procure the necessary materials. But the testing of dummy warheads, obstensively for scientific purposes, goes on. [url]http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/1792/forden-on-the-shahab-3[/url]

joe on :

Pat, If I remember NASA has problems from time to time with the odd bit and piece falling off.

Pat Patterson on :

Big difference in the Shuttle losing tiles and a missile with a dummy warhead losing its ability to reach apogee. But point taken.

pen Name on :

All: The gist of your approach is a middle-class one in which some how Iran is in the docket and has to prove her innocence of the charges. Iran is not a human being, she is a sovereign state. If you do not like the way she exercises her rights as a sovereign states you have several cohices. 1- You can go to war with her, defeat her, and cause her not to exercise her sovereign rights. If you cannot or will not do that then you other choices are this: 2- Fly to Tehran and try to reach a deal with them on the paramters within which she may exercise her sovereign rights - be ready to make meaningful payments. 3- Do nothing and accept what she does.

joe on :

pen think 55 minutes.

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