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Posts Tagged ‘uranium enrichment technology’


Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

March 3, 2011
Nuclear Townhall
From the Editors

Somehow word of the worldwide nuclear renaissance hasn’t yet reached Washington.
In yesterday’s edition of The Hill, Georgetown University lecturer Francis Slakey suggests a new concern for the overburdened Nuclear Regulatory Commission – conducting “non-proliferation risk assessments” on all new uranium enrichment technology.
“Here’s one thing the U.S. can do to help keep [uranium enrichment] facilities [around the world] in plain sight,” writes Slakey. “NRC can conduct an assessment of the proliferation risks of any enrichment facility before granting a license. With a rigorous assessment, a facility would only get commercialized by assuring that it has some unique detectable `signature.’ It may have a distinct infrared or acoustic trace that is evident to our satellite or ground based arrays. Or, there may be a unique component of the technology whose acquisition would indicate the intent to build a facility. Any of those would guarantee that the US would always have the ability to detect the facility, diminishing worries about covert construction or use.”
The argument here is based on one simple premise:  the U.S. is the fountainhead of nuclear technology and the rest of the world is filled with technological idiots. That may have been true in 1977 when we first gave up nuclear reprocessing, but it is no longer true today. “The concern arises,” continues Slakey, “from new and anticipated developments that will allow nuclear fuel facilities — uranium enrichment technologies — to get so small and so efficient that U.S. surveillance methods can’t spot them. Then, a rogue nation might acquire the plans, covertly build the facility, use it to produce nuclear weapons material, and develop a nuclear weapon without the U.S. ever seeing a thing.”
Today the “rogue nation” is just as likely to develop its own technology or ask for help form Russia, China or North Korea. And if they do acquire U.S. technology, couldn’t they just disable whatever “signature” was built into the process? Does anyone think they’re not smart enough to do that?
Unfortunately, it is the non-proliferation industry that is behind the curve. “Fortunately, the secret uranium enrichment facility in North Korea was uncovered,” claims Slakey. In fact, North Korea used plutonium to build its bombs and the CIA report of a secret uranium enrichment facility turned out to be something of a false alarm.
What this new manifesto reveals is that delusions about America as the fountainhead of nuclear technology and efforts to halt nuclear power in this country go hand-in-hand. “If we don’t develop the technology, no one else will,” has been the argument since we gave up reprocessing in 1977. This premise has proved spectacularly wrong. The rest of the world has gone ahead without us.

Read more about it at the Hill