Michael is a good friend and a dedicated, caring man who works hard to make the world a better place. He is also a nuke. Recently he shared a story about an occasion where he had the opportunity to meet and talk with young Iranian engineers and scientists that needs to be shared more widely.
His story is something you will not read on the pages of Washington Times or hear on right wing talk radio. Heck, you probably would not even read it in the New York Times; anti-Iranian prejudice comes from both conservative fans of Saudi Arabia and liberal New Yorkers who believe that self preservation justifies any actions that Israel takes against its neighbors.
Here is the story:
Dear Rod, Joe, Robert:
I read this article this morning, regarding the completion of Iran’s first nuclear power plant (my reaction follows):
In 2010, the International Youth Nuclear Congress (IYNC) will probably be held in New Orleans. Despite the venue being a historic location that should have quite an appeal to domestic and international tourism, the attendance is expected to be relatively sparse. The reason being: the difficulty for young nuclear professionals to procure funding and obtain visas in a reasonable time frame is relatively high for locations within the United States. The visa issue is exacerbated by the difficulty from young professionals from “non-western” countries – more than a handful of whom have historically shown great interest in these gatherings.
Back in 2006, when I attended the International Youth Nuclear Congress in Stockholm, there was a significant presence from South Korea, former Soviet-block countries, and even Iran. Surprising? It was for me. Perhaps it was my paradigm that Iran really had no interest in nuclear power for the sake of electricity. Wasn’t “nuclear power” just a ruse to help mask their “true” ambitions, which were to develop nuclear weapons? Or, so we’ve been told so many times by our media. Is propaganda something that only occurs in radical countries that haven’t yet embraced capitalistic democracy? Probably not.
One of the greatest things about scientific conventions is that the people who are in attendance are usually there because of their genuine interest in learning and promoting their science. In a week-long conference, international boundaries, religious and political preferences, though present, are greatly diminished in their influence on the interactions among the people. As a person who is seldom content to accept popular wisdom as fact, I sought out the Iranian delegation at IYNC. Although I have on more than one occasion been burned by my eagerness to trust people and take them at face value, I still consider myself a pretty good judge of character. Even if it’s not overt, I can generally get some kind of a sense of megalomania, patronization, or when someone is not being honest with me. That being said, while the delegation of young engineers from Bushehr Nuclear Power Station probably didn’t have any direct ties or influence on the Iranian political agenda, they seemed honestly interested in nuclear technology strictly for the sake of nuclear power. I could see the wide-eyed excitement in their eyes of being pioneers in their country, on the verge of providing a much-needed commodity that increases the standard of living by providing prosperity to the community, an educated workforce, and a stable source of non-polluting energy.
I can’t personally attest to any of the political goals of the country of Iran. But, I can honestly say that after talking to members of the Iranian delegation, and coupled with the knowledge that used nuclear fuel is a lousy source for material for weapons, I am compelled to believe it highly probable that the purpose of Bushehr is genuinely to generate electricity and not to serve as a feed stock for nuclear weapons. If anything, Bushehr will consume what would otherwise be good feedstock for nuclear weapons. In that light, does it seem possible that the completion of Iran’s first nuclear reactor could, in fact, be good news?
Last night Michael called me with an update to his thought provoking note. Partially based on the projections of poor attendance, the International Youth Nuclear Congress, a biannual gathering of young nuclear professionals and a place where lifelong friendships and networks will be formed, is going to be held in Cape Town, South Africa, not in New Orleans. This is not really new information, but Michael is a busy guy and he had not heard that the decision had been made to avoid bringing the INYC to America because it is too difficult for many of the potential attendees.
Funny – I always thought that I had signed up to support and defend the Constitution of a place that considered “all men to be created equal” and that prided itself in being the land of the free and the home of the brave. Brave people are not so afraid of the rest of the world that they shut them out.