Christine Spolar wrote an article for the Chicago Tribune that was published on Wednesday, October 18 titled More nations clamor for nuclear energy.
Here is the lead from the article:
When more than 100 ambassadors gathered at the United Nations nuclear agency to mark its 50th year of juggling global arms and energy demands, organizers were surprised by the ambitious agenda that the envoys had in mind:
More countries than ever wanted the International Atomic Energy Agency to back their desires for nuclear power.
According to Ms. Spolar, the interested countries – which include Egypt, Poland, Vietnam, and Nigeria – are motivated by recent high prices for fossil fuels combined with concerns about global warming. They are also being motivated by interest in the growing debate about controls on nuclear technology – they are very concerned that some people in the developed world want to sharply limit their access to a huge new energy source in the name of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.
People focused on non-proliferation often remain convinced that the only way to halt the spread of nuclear weapons is to control the materials and the technology that can lead to their development. They also have invested huge portions of their intellectual and time capital into the notion that there is a great benefit to the world in not letting the nuclear ‘genie’ spread any farther than it already has. In their world view, a list of nations with nuclear weapons capabilities that includes Russia, China, the UK, France, the US, India, Pakistan, probably Israel, definitely South Africa (though they voluntarily retired their previously constructed weapons), certainly North Korea, probably Japan, and probably South Korea is somehow far safer than a world where the list keeps growing.
I do not share that view. The materials and technology that CAN be used to create weapons can also be used to produce a vast quantity of reliable, emissions free energy whose cost can be dramatically lower than that of competitive energy sources. Harsh restrictions on access to those materials and to that technology will ensure that the world remains sharply divided between the haves and the have nots.
Ike (Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States from 1953-1961) was right when he created the Atoms for Peace program – a rich world where everyone has opportunities is far more secure than one where people have to fight over resources that are artificially limited. Abundant, safe, reliable, emissions free nuclear energy can help to provide a massive source of low cost energy to a world with a large and growing population. Cheap energy makes clean water production possible and clean water enables sufficient food production for all, especially if the Earth’s productive lands are not dedicated to growing energy crops or to hosting solar panels that starve plants of their needed energy supply.
Of course, if the wrong choices are made, it is possible to drive the cost of nuclear power to astronomical levels. The cost per unit energy for those plants that were never completed is an infinite number, and the cost per unit for plants with long construction periods, poor operating records and/or early retirement is certainly far higher than that for most of the competition.
One final editorial comment – if I put myself in the shoes of people from developing countries, I would be cautious about the recent proposal by the Nuclear Threat Initiative to establish a bank of low-enriched uranium. This idea of a nuclear fuel bank has been around almost since the end of World War II but there have always been issues that prevented its actually implementation.
One of the major stumbling blocks over the years has been the onerous requirements that have been proposed for any customers of the bank that are not already recognized nuclear powers. The inspection regimes and the conditions on the use of the fuel would have put those countries at a significant cost disadvantage and would have made them almost as vulnerable to nuclear fuel supply interruption as they are today for fossil fuel.