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May 30, 2005

Iranian Nuclear Power Crazy? Think Again


by Gordon Prather

Sir David King, her majesty's chief scientist, has declared "global warming" to be a more serious threat to mankind than international terrorism. Hans Blix, former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, concurs.

James Lovelock, father of the Gaia hypothesis, thinks King and Blix – if anything – still underestimate the seriousness of the "global warming threat."

So serious that Lovelock now urges the fastest possible substitution of nuclear energy for "fossil" fuels:

"Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies, and the media. These fears are unjustified, and nuclear energy from its start in 1952 has proved to be the safest of all energy sources.

"I am a Green, and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy. Even if they were right about its dangers – and they are not – its worldwide use as our main source of energy would pose an insignificant threat compared with the dangers of intolerable and lethal heat waves and sea levels rising to drown every coastal city of the world.

"We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilization is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear – the one safe, available energy source – now or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet."

How did Lovelock – if not Blix and Sir David – come to view so seriously mankind's increasing use of coal, oil, and natural gas?

The UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) caused to be established – in 1992 – the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), to which President Bush the elder made us a party.

The IPCC's stated mission is "to assess the scientific, technical, and socioeconomic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change."

The operative term is "human-induced."

The IPCC has three working groups, one of which is charged with assessing options for limiting "human" greenhouse-gas emissions.

So why haven't the IPCC weenies also settled on the nuclear-power option as man's last best hope to prevent global warming?

Well, because of Greenie opposition, the IPCC weenies haven't even let – literally – the International Atomic Energy Agency weenies in the door to make their case.

But that Greenie position may be about to change.

The FCCC's Kyoto Protocol – which went into force in February – obligates all "industrialized" signatories to reduce by 2012 their emissions of six "greenhouse gases" – primarily carbon dioxide – to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels!

Because of the Greenies, five European Union signatories – including Belgium, with 60 percent of its electricity nuclear – were already officially committed to phasing out nuclear power.

Worse, one of the conditions of EU accession is the closure of all first-generation nuclear power plants. More than 85 percent of Lithuania's electricity is generated by such plants.

But wait. End-running the IPCC, the IAEA recently sponsored an International Conference on Nuclear Power for the 21st Century.

And guess what? Some EU countries – including Germany – are having second thoughts about phasing out nuclear power. For one thing, replacing Germany's nuclear power plants with coal-fired plants would result in an increase of more than 170 million metric tons in carbon dioxide emissions.

Finland will begin construction of Olkiluoto-3 later this year, and Electricitι de France is scheduled to begin construction of a new power plant at Flamanville in 2007.

Of course, one of the weird things about the Kyoto protocol is that "developing" countries like India and China are not covered.

Nevertheless, China plans to raise its total installed nuclear electricity generating capacity from the current 6.5 gigawatts to 36 gigawatts by 2020.

Russia plans to raise its nuclear generating capacity from the current 22 gigawatts to 40-45 gigawatts by 2020.

And Russia and China plan to build a half-dozen gigawatt plants in Iran in the next few years.

In fact, Mohammad Saeidi, a vice president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told the IAEA conferees that Iran's goal is "nothing less than self-sufficiency in all aspects of the peaceful use of nuclear energy" – all subject to the IAEA Safeguards regime, of course.

Up until now, Bush and the neo-crazies have argued that Iran should be denied – by force, if necessary – their "inalienable right" under the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons to such self-sufficiency because oil-rich Iran has no "legitimate" reason to have it.

No legitimate reason? Perhaps Bush needs to talk to Lovelock and the Greenies.


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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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