Colin Powell on Meet the Press – September 19, 2010 Re: Iran's Nuclear Energy Program "Trust but Verify"

Yesterday, Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State who gave a key presentation to the UN as part of the Bush Administration’s efforts to justify its decision to go to war in Iraq, appeared on Meet the Press. The discussion covered a lot of current political topics, including the current effort to discourage Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapons program. That segment of the program provides some valuable food for discussion and thought. Here is the quote from the show transcript

MR. GREGORY: In Iran, a path toward confrontation is possible, and I wonder what you think is worth–worse: an Iran with a nuclear weapon or the fallout of an attack on Iran by either the U.S. or Israel to prevent it having a nuclear weapon?

GEN. POWELL: I don’t think the, the stars are lining up for an attack on Iran either by Israel alone, or Israel in concert with the United States, or the United States alone. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’ve heard nothing to suggest that we would be interested in doing that or think it would be useful even though the option is always on the table. I think eventually we will have to deal with the reality that sanctions may not change the views of the Iranians on these issues; and, therefore, let’s see if we can find a way to see if Iran can have a nuclear program that is fixed on power production, low-level enrichment of their material, so that it’s not a track to become a weapon.

Now, people will say that’s naive. Once you know how to do that you can then enrich up to weapons capability. But I think if you take them at their word, “trust, but verify,” (emphasis added) Reagan’s old line, if you take them at their word, and they say they are not interested in a weapon, just power, then put in place a set of sanctions that would be devastating to them if they violate that agreement (emphasis added), and then put in place an IAEA inspection regime, the International Atomic Energy Administration, inspection regime that will keep them below that, and get Russia and China and everybody else to agree to it, then you might have to live with an Iran, and you might be able to live with an Iran that has a nuclear power capability, but rigid enforcement constraints have been put in so they can’t move up to a weapons grade program and the production of a nuclear weapon. Now, at the same time, what can they do with a nuclear weapon compared to what we could do in return? I don’t think it is–you know, they are interested in remaining in power. The easiest way for them to lose power is to seriously threaten or use such a weapon.

Having just retired from the Navy after three Washington DC headquarters staff tours in a row – starting in July 2001 and lasting until July 2010, I have a pretty good understanding of the long term effects that nine years of conflicts have had on our military establishment and our domestic economy. It looks like Colin Powell shares that view. Caution, talking, and enforceable agreements are far more advisable than any other alternatives that some might propose.

About Rod Adams

9 Responses to “Colin Powell on Meet the Press – September 19, 2010 Re: Iran's Nuclear Energy Program "Trust but Verify"”

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  1. Jerry says:

    Iran’s insistence on completing their (first) 1 GW nuclear plant seems to have awoken the entire Middle East to their dependence on oil/gas for their electricity. Without Iran, would all these countries – UAE, the Saudis, Egypt, Turkey, Kuwait – be pursuing nuclear energy right now? – Competition can be a wonderful thing!!

  2. Michael R. Himes says:

    If research on nano scale controlled fusion were to take front stage and allow “OLD” nuclear energy to enter the energy market place there would be NO ENERGY ISSUE here. The science is here and proven and being kept off the commercial market in defference to hydrocarbon fuel stocks by power brokers. The fight is on Wall Street and not Iran. The hold Wall Street has on our executive branch in energy policy is criminal.
    The US Patent Office will not even grant patents on privately funded fusion devices siting “Unconventional” nuclear processes as the reason. In short the government is denying useful clean fusion energy whilst doing the same in Iran with old technology nuclear plants. In short what you are offered is what you get like it or not.

    • Robert Steinhaus says:

      Michael – Readers of this blog would be greatly interested in any scale (including nano scale) controlled nuclear fusion. How about providing us with links for a few published papers that report positive results (and actual measured production of neutron fluence from fusion) that we can use to follow-up on your report?

    • katana0182 (Dave) says:

      The problem with fusion is that it’s like trying to light a freshly-cut 12-inch diameter tree trunk on fire with a lighter in the middle of a driving rainstorm. Yes, it can be done…possibly…you’ll need a very large amount of lighters…but can it be done easily? No.
      Fission, on the other hand, is like starting a fire in a wood stove with newspaper and well-seasoned 1/2 inch diameter pine kindling, split off of that freshly-cut tree trunk 1 year before. It’s an energy source that’s a lot easier to get started. You don’t need a massive $50 billion tokamak to make it work…just some enriched uranium cast into rods placed in close proximity within a moderating medium. The complexity of fission is not found in making fission produce net energy; assuming you have the right materials, fission is incredibly easy to get to produce net energy. The complexity of fission lies in other areas, and that complexity has been made highly manageable.
      As for the idea of powerful interests suppressing fusion, I would instead refer you towards fundamental physical limitations that have caused net-energy inertial confinement fusion (never mind commercially practicable) to only become viable within the near term using extremely large quantities of taxpayer funds (still quite a feat), and have caused tokamak-regime magnetic confinement fusion to become questionably viable in an international approach (ITER) involving decades of time and funded by most of the major nations of the world (US, Russia, China, Japan, Korea, Europe, India, etc.) giving very large sums of money (billions each) to make it work.
      As we already have fission, fusion is – and will remain – the energy source of the future for the foreseeable future. It’ll be just 20 years away for the next century or so.

  3. Robert Steinhaus says:

    Rod – While I have no taste for more protracted war in the middle east I believe that when Iran demonstrates it first nuclear weapon it will initiate a sequence of events that will force all nations in the region to actively work to acquire nuclear weapons. This would be greatly destabilizing to the peace of the region and the world. I do not believe there is any combination of sanctions that will have any significant impact on Iran. Short of actual military action, there are no sanctions or other fall back diplomatic moves that are effective.
    (Thorium nuclear fuel has no enrichment step and full utilization of Thorium Fuel Cycle does not require mastery of enrichment technology with its weapons proliferation risks).

  4. Michael R. Himes says:

    In response to Robert Steinhaus request:
    http://www.ipp.mpg.de/~Wolfgang.Suttrop.ppcfsites.html
    Rod is privy to more information about cavitation fusion which is the object of Russian and US National Laboratory research programs. Most of this research is military funded and as such is classified. There is a Defense Inteligence Agency report suggesting concern for advances being made in fusion research.
    If a nano bubble 2-4 nano meters cavitates with doped water or D2O under controled confinement there are low yield fusion reactions. Mass driven engines from dissociated fractions and fusion heating show promise.
    The ITER on the other hand is a bad joke!

    • katana0182 (Dave) says:

      Michael – I think your link is broken. I am dubious of revolutionary claims regarding fusion. The scientific community and the journalistic community have been burnt before by these sorts of things with regards to “cold fusion”, and as such, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence with extraordinary reproducibility from an extraordinary number of sources. “The (insert_organization_name_here) is keeping it secret” is insufficient to add credibility to claims of cavitation-induced sonofusion. Further, even if it is occuring, riddle me this: how do you extract power? In commercially useful quantities?
      Personally, I have high hopes for the General Fusion hybrid magnetic-inertial approach, as it appears to be the most practical way of generating the compression necessary for fast ignition, and has a realistic way of dealing with the materials challenges as well as extracting energy. Still, the tolerances implicated, the sheer amount of moving parts in the concept, as well as the magnetic fields and high energies involved caution against premature optimism. Further, even if it works, I doubt it will be initially commercially viable…without large quantities of time and money. Maybe in a decade or ten.
      But this is a fission blog. The question here relates to Iran. I think that Powell is spot-on with his comments. We need no adventurism with regards to that nation; just the ability to “trust, but verify”. Hold what they value to threat using non-military means if they try any funny stuff with the enrichment program. Their power program, on the other hand, is no threat to anyone, period.

    • Robert Steinhaus says:

      Michael – I would like to thank you for your follow-up post on fusion.
      This is a pretty tough crowd of fission enthusiasts that follows this blog and, while it is not impossible to get a hearing for other technologies like fusion, I think katana0182 (Dave) has it right in that if you claim extraordinary claims you will be expected to provide extrodinary evidence.
      Bubble fusion or cavitation-induced sonofusion is an entertaining idea but I have seen insufficient evidence of actual confirmed results to believe it exists. I would be genuinely delighted to be wrong about this fusion technology. A cheap source of neutrons from fusion would transform the world and change the life of every human on the planet.
      Please don’t be put off by a few technical rebuffs, your idea was an interesting one but does require extraordinary confirmed evidence to prove. In the case of fusion – follow the neutrons.

  5. Michael R. Himes says:

    I certainly will not prove fusion on this blog. Actually there are many trying to hide what has been discovered and those that would kill to protect continued hydrocarbon fuel markets. My concern is for keeping the “Playing field” level. Frankly, the Russians are doing a better job of research with limited means than we are. The research being conducted in the Ukraine and the “Projects” in the Black Sea Navy yards is enough to chill you out on fusion power should you care to investigate yourself.