On December 11, 2013, Henry Sokolski, the Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), hosted a event titled Avoiding Future Irans: A New Course for US Nonproliferation Policy.
The papers offered as background material before the event started, the prepared remarks from Sokolski’s invited speakers, and the post meeting engagements I had with a couple of the speakers all supported my theory that many of the leaders in the “nonproliferation community” will do everything they can to maintain the hydrocarbon hegemony by restricting access to useful fuel materials and fuel manufacturing technology.
Sokolski revealed the fact that his true purpose was to slow or prevent nuclear fuel development — as opposed to preventing nuclear weapons proliferation — with the following statement from his introductory remarks.
Today, we are going to try to speak to what our government might do to reduce the likelihood of ever pushing another civilian nuclear cooperative agreement with a state like Iran the way we did in 1957. Most people don’t know it, but the nuclear cooperative agreement that was largely responsible for launching Iran’s nuclear activities today began with a nuclear cooperative agreement that did not even have a hearing, never mind a vote. It certainly did not lay down conditions to get Iran to foreswear making nuclear fuel or to open up for inspections that would prevent it from ever getting as far as it has gotten today.
Sokolski went on to mention several other recently completed or in-progress cooperative agreements and his desire that they should all include provisions in which the other party — the one that is not the United States or one of the existing nuclear fuel suppliers — foreswears the capability to make nuclear fuel.
From a technological and economic perspective, there are many reasons why companies or nations might be interested in making nuclear fuel. Fuel may not be the biggest component of cost in nuclear power generation, and it may seem to the superficially informed that commercial nuclear fuel is a mere commodity. However, fuel is the most important component of a nuclear power plant; its capabilities and limitations drive an almost infinite set of design choices for the rest of the plant. Without the capability to manufacture fuel, there is little or no capability to move nuclear technology beyond large, light water reactors.
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