President Bush will soon ask Congress to "not
veto" a U.S.-Russia "civil" nuclear deal. "Not veto,"
because Russia is a "have-nuke" signatory to the Treaty on Nonproliferation
of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Hence, the U.S.-Russia deal – unlike the U.S.-India
deal – will not require modification of the Atomic Energy Act or the repeal
of other laws.
Nevertheless, the U.S.-Russia NPT-friendly deal – unlike the US-India NPT-busting
deal – could face significant opposition in Congress.
For the same reason many congresspersons had a cow when North Korea unsuccessfully
test-fired a missile the Koreans claim is intended for launching satellites
– but is capable of reaching Hawaii, according to the Cheney Cabal. And they
didn't seem to even notice when India, a few days later, also unsuccessfully
test-fired two missiles, one of which the Indians claimed was intended
for launching satellites – but is capable of reaching Beijing, according to
the Cheney Cabal.
The Washington Post suggests that Bush concluded the civil deal – which
the worldwide nuclear power industry wanted – in return for some kind of promise
by Putin to pressure the Iranians into giving up "any aspirations for nuclear
Now, if that's all Bush got in return for virtually ensuring the success of
Russia's plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel cycle, he's been had. Because,
as everyone knows, the Iranians have sworn on a stack of Korans that Islamic
law prohibits their having "any aspirations for nuclear weapons" to
But back to MOX.
The avowed purpose of the U.S.-IAEA-Russia Trilateral Initiative – launched
by then-Russian Minatom Minister Mikhailov, then-IAEA Director-General Blix,
and then-Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary in 1996 – was "to fulfill the
commitments" made by presidents Clinton and Yeltsin concerning IAEA verification
of the disposition of weapon-origin fissile materials and to "complement their
commitments regarding the transparency and irreversibility of nuclear arms reductions."
Under the Trilateral Initiative, we and the Russians were each – under
IAEA supervision – to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium, obtained from
the dismantling of thousands of nukes.
In a separate agreement, Clinton agreed to help Russia financially and technically
dispose of their 34 metric tons of plutonium as plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide
(MOX) nuclear power plant fuel.
Now, in the operation of a plain-vanilla nuclear power plant, the reactor is
loaded with uranium with the U-235 enriched to about 5 percent and the U-238
reduced to about 95 percent. After a fuel element has been in the reactor about
five years it is replaced. About a third of the U-235 is unburned, but in addition
there has been "bred" from the U-238 an almost equal amount of "burnable"
plutonium. Hence, as fuel, the spent fuel element is worth about two-thirds
its original value.
In Russia and in Europe – but not in America – that spent fuel is reprocessed,
the uranium and plutonium chemically recovered, and new fuel produced, with
enough burnable plutonium added to the uranium to get it back up to 5 percent
A large fraction of the operating nuclear power plants in the world are American-built
or -fueled and are, hence, prohibited by U.S. law from participating in the
Russian MOX fuel cycle.
Five years ago, Senate Energy Committee Chairman Domenici called for the secretary
of energy to develop a "National Spent Nuclear Fuel Strategy."
Domenici said that Congress urgently needed that strategy in order to determine
"whether the spent fuel should be treated as waste, subject to permanent burial"
(at Yucca Mountain) or whether it "should be considered to be an energy resource
that is needed to meet future energy requirements."
Five years later, it appears that strategy has been developed and it involves
our treating spent fuel as an asset, not a liability.
Hence, it appears the principal provision of the U.S.-Russia civil nuclear
deal will be to allow owners and operators of all U.S.-built or -fueled nuclear
power plants to participate in the Russian MOX fuel cycle program.
Now, it may be that Bush has realized that a solution to the current Iranian
uranium-enrichment "crisis" would be for the Russian nuclear power
plants at Bushehr to be fueled from the get-go with MOX fuel.
With Iran cooking with MOX, the need or even desirability of their having a
uranium-enrichment capability would be obviated.
However, this U.S.-Iran confrontation has never been about Iranian nuke
What have the Iranians been seeking ever since Bush launched his war of aggression
A promise not to be nuked.
Unfortunately, as long as the mullahs are in power, Bush is not going to take
the nuke option off the table.