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December 17, 2006

Russian Nuclear Fuel for Iran

Sorry, I don't get what the problem is here:

RUSSIA is to begin supplying Iran with nuclear fuel early next year despite mounting concern in the West that this could accelerate Tehran’s plans to build a nuclear bomb.

Why would this accelerate a bomb program?

Spent nuclear fuel produced at the Bushehr plant is to be sent back to Russia for storage and the process will be monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. But there are fears in America that Iran will find ways of siphoning off spent fuel containing plutonium, which could be used for a bomb.

This is actually what we want Iran to be doing!

Look, they have a right (whether they should or not is a different matter. They do.) to civilian nuclear power. What we're all worried about is that they'll build a bomb. But to build a bomb they must do one of two things. Either they must enrich uranium to HEU or, they must process plutonium out of used fuel rods.

Now, originally, the Russians were going to build an enrichment/recycling plant for the Iranians (I was actually told this in the offices of Atomenergoexport a decade or more ago). They've dropped that idea. They are providing already enriched fuel and will take back the spent rods for processing.

This is what we actually want to happen: that Iran gets civilian nuclear power without building the rest of the infrastructure that would enable them to build a bomb. So what's the problem?

Yes, I know that Iran is also working on cascades for enriching uranium, but that's a very different matter. This particular deal is just what we want.

Or is it that people would prefer it weren't the Russians making money out of this?

December 17, 2006 in Nuclear | Permalink


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Actually, if they had to use uranium enriched at Natanz, it would reduce their excess enrichment capacity. Build 4-5 more LWRs that rely on internal production capabilities and their enrichment capacity is gone. Build 5-6 ACR-1000 heavy-water/light-water hybrid reactors--which would (and in the circumstances could only) run on the spent fuel from the light-water reactors--and 75% of the plutonium is gone, too.

Posted by: Stewart Peterson | Dec 24, 2006 12:42:45 AM