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back to article US and Russia to give uranium to ANYONE

So the US is making more nuclear fuel. And they're willing to offer that fuel, alongside the Russians, to countries who cannot get nuclear fuel for political reasons. Recklessness carried to extremes, surely? Well, no, that's not quite what is going on at all. What is going on is that the US and Russia are continuing to take …

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Printer Cartridges

So, the US is going to make some very sophisticated Printer Cartridges, eh?

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Alert

agreed

But you are not going to convince the green brigade that you still need nuclear and not just wind and hamsters.

I'm still banging the drum for this http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13040853 but others appear to have quite another agenda: ie the nuclear powers.

I hope the scientists get their way and find the right words to convince the nay sayers.

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Mushroom

Some of the 'green brigade'...

...are coming round to the idea that nuclear power is not as bad as they first thought.

e.g. http://www.monbiot.com/2011/04/04/evidence-meltdown/

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Devil

"nuclear is safe" - ecomentalists

You sure it's not snowing in hell? I feel a rather strong cold draft from below...

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Silver badge

The problem with nuclear...

has never been the risk of meltdown to my mind. That's no more of a risk than any other industrial accident. My problem with it has always been what to do with the spent fuel rods. The damn things are potentially more dangerous than the CO2 emmisions of a coal fired plant and a hell of a lot harder to deal with. And they remain that way for longer than humans have been recording history.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: give me a way of dealing with the fuel rods other than burying them in Yucca Mountain (or similar facilities) and I'll support nuclear power. Till then, I consider it just as bad as any fossil fuel.

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Vitrification

Turn the stuff into glass (and glass just is metal oxides so this is quite easy) and then stick it in a hole.

Glass is the most stable form that we know of. Doesn't leach etc. Absolutely fine for a couple of thousand years.

Yes, this has all been worked out.

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Mushroom

intresting thought

the reasion spent fuel rods are dangrious is that they are raidocative. it is exactley the same property that made them usefull in the first place. They are litulery throwing out energy everywhere so all we need to do is develop a way of harnshing that energy you know sort of like reprocessing them and resuing them

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Mushroom

@sisk

That's all well and good to say, but when you really think about it ANY form of power we use today produces harmful side effects (waste from construction, C02 from coal, ammonia, and many more nasties).

Generally speaking these nasties are in greater quantities than nuclear fuel rods and realistically (not how it is actually done, but how it should be done) should be treated with the same care. A coal plant generates more radioactive waste than a nuclear plant and it generates ammonia, sulphates, C02 and everything else that should REALLY be sectioned off and buried or reused, but we just let it spew into the environment...

The very laboured point I'm trying to get to is that while we think of radioactive as terrible and horrible because it is dangerous and lasts for 1000+ years, we are at the same time totally ignoring the just as dangerous, higher quantity hazardous wastes from current industry that, and this is the shocking part, NEVER STOP BEING DANGEROUS!

They are poisonous forever, the fact the radioactivity goes away is a hidden blessing and stepping down from lots of uncontrolled dangerous waste to less yet controlled dangerous waste is a very good thing, it's not as good a we'd like but it's a step in the right direction.

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Mushroom

Uranium yes, Plutonium or MOX, no.

I can agree with the supply and take-back of Low-enriched Uranium. The path to a bomb requires megahectares of centrifuges, or a toxic and dangerous reprocessing plant. These cannot be constructed without attracting attention.

What i cannot agree with is the introduction of Plutonium into the fuel chain, as you know this is chemically distinct from Uranium, and can therefore be extracted with mere chemicals, not centrifuges.

Sure, there are a few Pu isotopes, and only the right ones make the biggest bangs, but they are all hugely toxic, and can make a nice "dirty bomb". Plutonium is not available by any means other than reprocessing, and it is a genie i would rather keep in its bottle.

There is also a moral and commercial argument as to whether the US and/or EU should be allowed to monopolise this technology. Its kind of a patent war, but using non-proliferation as the commercial weapon. The intention of the original non-proliferation treaty was to allow countries to develop this valuable, profitable and possibly essential technology. whilst keeping a lid on the bomb risk, like we keep ours thanks.

This new proposal risks handing over the whole world to Westinghouse/Siemens or whoever. Other countries should be allowed to develop their own technology, it will produce better 4th or 5th generation reactors, like say the pebble-bed reactor, or Thorium based designs. There is however the small matter of trust, and proximity to Israel.

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Yag
Flame

"better 4th or 5th generation reactors, like say the pebble-bed reactor"

Mixing radioelements and flamable graphite on a design working at high temperatures... I'm not that sure that pebble-bed reactors are that safer and better...

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Unfortunately ...

Unfortunately, a uranium-fuelled reactor inevitably creates Plutonium as a by-product.

Fortunately, it creates not just the Pu isotope that can be made into bombs, but other isotopes of Pu that are more radioactive and less fissile. Pu chemically separated from a reactor isn't good for making nuclear bombs.

MOX made purely from dismantled warheads could have Pu-239 separated from it. Therefore, before giving it to suspect nations, MOX fuel would beed to be partially used in a reactor or include a blend of mixed-isotope Pu separated from used reactor fuel. Both ways the fuel would be rather "hot" and dangerous to transport. Best to burn up the unwanted cold-war warheads ourself, and offer only LEU to states wanting to build reactors.

Regardless, I'd much rather see warheads turned into reactor fuel, than see them sitting around in storage, waiting to be turned back into warheads.

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Re: kevin 3 - 'monopoly'

That may be the real reason Iran is interested in doing it's own enrichment.

Right now oil is often produced, refined elsewhere, shipped back as petrol/etc.

Iran has it's own uranium supply, yet they're effectively being told they have to ship it out for enrichment, and buy it back.

Maybe they don't want to be paying a tax to the west for this imposed service, if they can advance sufficiently to do it themselves. Then they can get ALL the profit from selling LEU themselves, and have a better control over energy in the post-oil world than they enjoy now.

I am highly suspicious of Iran's motives, but there is a clear national interest in owning the process so I would at least give them some benefit of the doubt.

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Devil

Suspicion turned upside down

I don't know what Iran's real motives were, but I find it rather demagoguish and hypocrite for the world's nuclear powers to go "you wanted to build a boooomb, didn't you?" and "neener neener you can't haaaave it". Were I Iran, my motivation might well be, if not outright making bombs, retaining the option. But far more importantly in my thinking would be that I'd rather not be depentent on the whims of frankly fickle superpowers for the steady supply of fuel rods for my nuclear reactors. That alone would be plenty of justification already to want to have a plant capable of refining uranium, on my own soil, where I control the thing and not some bunch of untrustable busybodies.

Remember, these people are very much not part of the cosy western clique and so they can't rely on not getting an earful if the big ones get a bug up the posterior for whatever reason. How many wars have the superpowers fought by proxy? Iran is one of the places where that'd happen, so it makes perfect sense for them to not be too trusting.

Of course, I'm not actually the Iranian government. I think they're a scary bunch and would be just as happy if they didn't have the capability, but I could say the exact same about the USoA and the Russian Federation. But by the same token simply dismissing their arguments and blindly assuming they're after bombs is --even if that turns out to have been entirely true-- a bit dishonest in a shortsighted sort of way. So I say the other side of things, why Iran might want to have its hyper centrifuge plant even if it mightn't pursue a bomb, does deserve to be mentioned.

You could ask why Iran hasn't pursued thorium or something much more aggressively, but you could ask the exact same thing of everyone else with and without existing nuclear power plants. If even Japan hasn't, then you can't tell Iran they should've, as they're a backwater trying to get up and were I them I'd want affordable, proven technology, not theoretical beyond-bleeding edge stuff even the techiest of countries isn't pursuing.

As such it's not hard to see why Iran is acting miffed. When they're complaining "we" are not being overly constructive here, they have a point.

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Mushroom

"so it makes perfect sense for them to not be too trusting"

It makes more sense for them to make a weapon, no nasty wars by proxy if you've got the bomb.

It's what I'd do.

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Facepalm

Both make sense.

I'm not prepared to say which makes more sense. And moreover, the point was that it doesn't do to blindly assume that bombs must be the motive. Doing that is rather patronising and runs the risk of failing to get countries like Iran to comply with your wishes.

As such, this initiative lacks hard guarantees of fuel availability regardless of politics and plenty of indications that should they be there betting the country on them would still be a rather risky bet. Helium monopoly and the LZ 127, anyone?

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Headmaster

Nice argument, thank you.

Even more thanks for writing "should've"

I can't bring myself to type what unwashed Regtards would've typed.

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Mushroom

Expensive?

There is nothing more expensive than depending on "allies" for critical supplies.

And if you have uranium, nuclear plants and have enemies that ban sales of certain produts to you, it makes sense to have the whole system in place.

Iran had Boeings. But US dedided that no parts would be sold to Iran: suddendly, their planes where useless.

They decided to buy airbus and Soviet planes. USSR failed and Airbus had to stop selling them parts: they had to do them themselves.

It is only normal that they want to have the whole process in their hand. Otherwise, they would be at the mercy of Russia and/or US and China. Of course, you have the plus of being able to make nuclear bombs on demand (as Japan, that's one of the main reasons they also enrich, reprocess and have rockets for "space").

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What could possibly go wrong?

Yup, relying on the US for your energy production seems perfectly reasonable, especially if you own Oil and already kicked out one CIA-installed/backed regime in the past... right?

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Mines

Uranium does not grow on tree's. I am relatively sure the USA and Russia both have Uranium mines but does Iran?

If a country has Uranium mining facilities then I can see that the argument of "we want to be able to refine our own fuel" applies but if they have to guy ore or unrefined materials from 'allies' then surly they may as well buy refined material from a stock pile?

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Uranium is quite a common metal

There's a lot of Uranium out there. I doubt there's any country that couldn't feasibly mine Uranium within its own borders if it wanted or needed to. Any nation that's not land-locked could also extract it from seawater. No-one does that because it's cheaper to mine it, and many countries don't mine it because it's cheaper to buy it.

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Not so bad ...

Relying on one monopoly supplier of anything is a bad idea.

However, if there are a number of countries with LEU-production facilities, then it becomes much less of a risk. What chance of simultaneously alienating all of them to the point that they'll *all* renounce their treaty and contractual obligations? And if a state is worried that this might happen, well, what conclusion should one draw from them thinking that way?

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Boffin

One of the reasons, no doubt,

that according to US AEC figures (http://www.aec.go.jp/jicst/NC/iinkai/teirei/siryo2009/siryo34/090908e.pdf.pdf), at the end of 2008 Japan had about 10 tonnes of plutonium stored on its soil, as well as a total of over 25 tonnes abroad (in the UK and France). How much plutonium does it take to make a bomb of Nagasaki («Fat Man» type ? With a 15 cm U 238 shield, between 4 and 7 kg (http://www.ricin.com/nuke/bg/bomb.html) depending upon how pure the plutonium is. In any event, ten tonnes would suffice for quite a lot of fireworks - but of course, while everybody talks about Iran's possible plans (for which no evidence exists), nobody talks about Japan's....

Henri

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US and nuclear

I'm not that sure that I trust the US with nuclear more than I trust North Korea. Not only did they use a couple in Japan to show what they can do, or that they considered the use of them in Iraq, but they keep building more technology for the simulation / improvement of nuclear weapons. They also seem to be addicted to warefare.

Also whereas the Russians are deactivating their warhead stockpile and converting it into fuel, the word on the street is that the US are just removing the warheads from rockets and storing them.

As for power from nuclear fuel, I think that the more the better.

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Stop

Reread the article perhaps?

Since it was about an active US program to convert warheads into fuel, you may want to reconsider the second half your second paragraph -- or at least provide reliable references to support your "word on the street." For an example of a somewhat reliable reference, look here:

http://nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/pressreleases/doennsaafs81811

<-- The most common word on the street.

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Mushroom

THORP

Is that back up and running yet after it's recent chequered history?

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Bronze badge

This seems like a reason not to have a war with Iran, but we're still going to, obviously.

So a bit of a distraction...

If fuel enriching is ruinously expensive to do, why isn't it also ruinously expensive to pay someone else to do it for you? So, no advantage?

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Same reason not many chip companies have fabs.

It's the cost of establishing the facility to make LEU. Cheaper to buy it in from countries that have already built an enrichment plant, as well as less likely to cause your country to be perceived as a threat.

Threats aside, it's the same with high-tech chips using the latest 28nm and 20nm technologies. A fab costs many billions. Debugging a process likewise. It's cheaper and less risky to design your silicon and let one of a few fab operators make it for you, unless your volumes will be enormous.

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Anonymous Coward

Maybe they...

...want their own processing plants so they wont become dependent on two nations that has never been particularly trustworthy.

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Holmes

Enrich the uranium in the mining countries

Rather than depending on the USA and Russia, why not set up enrichment plants in the countries where the uranium is mined, such as Namibia, and pay them?

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Holmes

You're missing the point davenewman

"Rather than depending on the USA and Russia, why not set up enrichment plants in the countries where the uranium is mined, such as Namibia, and pay them?"

Yeah so their unstable regimes that could fall under the influence of a foreign regime (or religion, or corruption) and at a later point do exactly what the US & Russia try to avoid in the first place.

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Mushroom

Unstable?

With the apparent rise and rise of the GOP and their christian fundamentalist theocratic goals I'd put my money on the US joining the "unstable" (or 'completely batshit crazy') group. At that point, we're ALL in trouble...

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Mushroom

I think that someone...

Has to do some reading on how did paquistan get the bomb.

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Mushroom

I do believe that they have Uranium Mines in Iran

Two anyway. Although about a quarter of the the worlds supply is refined in close by Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Why is it that there is absolutely no concerns about them I wonder? Maybe the west can't admit that Iran has had pretty harsh treatment from us in the recent past.

I think we should not be ruled by fear. If we think about the realistic probabilities that even if Iran made some nukes, and then actually used them on civilians anywhere in the world, how likely is it that the retaliation in kind from everyone would simply make Iran a "once was" country.

Yeah, same goes for North Korea. If they nuke someone, expect the whole country to win a darwin award. I think that mostly the people there are intelligent enough to see that.

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Thumb Down

Natural Uranium not a risk

There's no risk attached to natural Uranium, above that of it being a somewhat toxic heavy metal like (say) Lead, and somewhat radioactive like Thorium (of which gas-lamp mantles are still made!) .Uranium is pretty useless stuff outside of the nuclear industry, although armour-piercing bullets and shells are often made of depleted uranium (what's left over when the enriched stuff is made) because it's nearly as dense as gold. Refining Uranium refers to getting rid of impurities and creating pure Uranium Oxide "yellowcake" or metal. Enrichment is the worry.

To make an A-bomb or nuclear fuel out of natural Uranium you have to concentrate the U235 isotope, which requires a huge investment in a centrifuge plant and associated technologies. A lesser degree of concentration creates LEU - lightly enriched uranium - which can fuel a reactor. A much greater degree of enrichment is needed to create HEU that can be turned into a bomb. There's no cheap or simple process that can perform this enrichment (thank God), so fears of nuclear terrorism revolve around theft of existing nuclear weapons or bits thereof.

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Thorium

Thorium oxide was never the sole component of gas mantles.

All the mantles I've bought recently have allegedly been "thorium free". I expect that means greatly reduced thorium content. The light still seems pretty good, but I imagine the health of gas mantle makers has improved.

Where's the Tilley lamp icon?

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Lamp mantles

Certainly used to use thorium. Rather been phased out in recent years. The (very mild) radioactivity and the hysteria surrounding it led to people substituting other materials. There's still a couple of very small uses but the US market for thorium is about $30,000 a year these days.

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Silver badge

Which congressmen did most to create the internet?

Falsely attributed to Al Gore: "I invented the Internet." Al Gore's exact words: "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet."

During the 70's Al Gore promoted high speed telecommunications. Also, the Supercomputer Network Study Act of 1986 and the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991.

If you want to poke fun at Al Gore for something he did not say, first name a congressman who did more to create the internet and list his achievements.

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umm

In my original, I have Love Story (Al Gore has claimed to be the model for the story), Love Canal (he has claimed that he found out about it, he actually ran Congressional hearings just after Jimmy Carter had revealed the problem and evacuated the area) and the internet (which came from Arpanet, set up before Al was even born I think).

Please note, I do in fact praise him for something he really did do. He was the driving force in the Clinton admin that got the whole "let's make bombs into fuel" thing going and got the Russians to sign up to it. Which is why I praise him for that very thing.

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FAIL

You need to do more research...

Given you are familiar with the genesis of the Internet, you may know who Vint Cerf and/or Bob Kahn are in that area. Anyway, you may be interested to read:

http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-people/200009/msg00052.html

Or simply Google "vint cerf al gore"...

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Mushroom

"why do they really want to do their own enrichment?"

So that they can't be blackmailed by Russia who have a record of cutting off fuel supplies.

Besides, I'd say Iran have a damn good reason to get nuclear weapons. Of the other two countries on the axis of evil, the non-nuclear one got invaded, the nuclear one got invited to a sit-down.

With US troops just over the border and Israel itching for an excuse to shoot stuff, I'd want a few nukes to hand a well.

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Interesting Game.....

The only way to win is not to play...

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