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Summerly questions on nuclear Iran

By Hooman Moradmand, Canada
Hooman's Scribbles

The US Secretary of State, Collin Powell, raised a yellow flag on nuclear Iran the other week. Iran joins the countries feared to have nuclear weapon or could reach that potential sooner than expected. That jerked me back to the summer of 2002.

First thing that came to my mind was a story carried by BBC. Back in September 2002, an investigation by BBC Radio 4 program File on Four disclosed that Britains Department of Trade and Industry had allowed a quantity of the metal, Beryllium, to be sold to Iran the year before. Beryllium is a metal with a limited number of high-tech uses in civilian industry, but is mostly used in defense applications and is a vital component in a nuclear bomb. Britain has had an arms embargo to Iran since 1993 and has signed up to an international protocol which bans the sale of Beryllium to named countries, including Iran. It is interesting to know that Pakistan had also been successful in procuring material for its nuclear program from the same place. When I read the news for the first time this question popped up in my mind if this was simply fattening the turkey before the big dinner. Well, I cannot obviously answer this question, but we all can keep this story in mind when the new events start to unfold.

The other thing that had happened to me was my soaring hydro bill during the heat waves of the summer. You couldn't simply get enough of endless discussions on ending the nuclear era on radio and TV at that time. Taking an aging nuclear power plants off the grid for repairs, prospect of closing down another plant which happened to be one of the most advanced nuclear plants in the whole world, and a privatized hydro market helped rising the cost of cooling yourself down during the hot season. In the midst of these discussions, it struck me why, from a practical and economic perspective, Iran needs a nuclear power plant in the first place. Iran's relentless attempts to acquire such technology have coincided with the rich countries' plans to discontinue this source energy. Every one of us might have ideas on non-practical and non-economic advantages of having a nuclear power plant in a region where competitions force countries to look for bargaining leverages.

It has been almost more than thirty years since nuclear power was introduced as "the source of energy for today and tomorrow." Many things have changed since then, and a lot of questions have been raised surrounding its viability and sustainability in the industrialized countries. While campaigning for the elections, Social Democrats in Germany pledged to phase out nuclear power once they come to power. And after the elections, Germany became the first leading economic power to officially announce its intention to shut down all of its nuclear plants within 20 years. Canada and the United States also considered this option and both, not so officially though and amid pro and con arguments, pursue the same goal. Although it was originally thought that nuclear energy was cleaner and cheaper to produce as opposed to fossil fuel alternatives after a couple of decades downsides started to show. Fossil fuel energy could be immediately dangerous to the environment due to its carbon dioxide emission. However, nuclear waste proved to be no less of a headache in the long run. Dumping the hazardous waste is also facing more and more resistance by populations of these countries. More and more mountains of radioactive waste in Saskatchewan, Canada, and New Mexico, USA are looked at with concern. What makes provincial or state governments to crunch numbers, though, is the maintenance cost of these facilities. To keep the plants up to certain safety codes and avoid possible disasters, the power plants have to go under long and expensive maintenances. These costs had not been taken into account when this energy was sold as a "cheap source of energy." To make things worse, under-repair plants have to be off the grid sometimes during the long maintenance period.

There are heated debates over the economic efficiency of these plants, and the proponents of this energy, maybe not as vocal as before, but still could be heard. However, something is pretty clear: Nuclear power is not the way of future.

Now the question is if it is not worth to keep such energy in a non-oil producing Germany, will it be worth investing in a country like Iran where oil is cheaper than beer in lager producing country of Germany. For those of us who have seen stubborn insistence in Iran to invent the wheel or discover the gravity to demonstrate self-sufficiency, while the rest of the world has decided to move on, part of the ration behind an Iranian nuclear power plant sounds about that attitude.

... Payvand News - 3/26/03 ... --

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