What Iran Really Wants

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President Bush
will soon ask Congress to "not veto" a U.S.-Russia "civil"
nuclear deal – "not veto" because Russia is a "have-nuke"
signatory to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Hence, the U.S.-Russia deal – unlike the U.S.-India deal –
will not require modification of the Atomic Energy Act or repeal
of other laws.

Nevertheless,
the U.S.-Russia NPT-friendly deal – unlike the U.S.-India NPT-busting
deal – could face significant opposition in Congress.

Why?

For the same
reason many members of Congress had a cow when North Korea unsuccessfully
test-fired a missile the Koreans claim is intended for launching
satellites – but is capable of reaching Hawaii, according to
the Cheney Cabal. Those same lawmakers didn’t even seem to notice
when India, a few days later, also unsuccessfully test-fired two
missiles, one of which the Indians claimed was intended for launching
satellites – but is capable of reaching Beijing, according
to the Cheney Cabal.

The
Washington Post suggests
that Bush concluded the civil
deal – which the worldwide nuclear power industry wanted –
in return for some kind of promise by Putin to "pressure"
the Iranians into giving up "any aspirations for nuclear weapons."

Now, if that’s
all Bush got in return for virtually insuring the success of Russia’s
plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide [MOX] fuel cycle, he’s been had. Because,
as everyone knows, the Iranians have sworn on a stack of Quran’s
that Islamic law prohibits their having "any aspirations for
nuclear weapons" to give up.

But back to
MOX.

The avowed
purpose of the U.S.-IAEA-Russia Trilateral Initiative – launched
by Russian Minatom Minister Mikhailov, IAEA Director-General Blix
and Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary in 1996 – was "to
fulfill the commitments" made by Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin
concerning IAEA verification of the disposition of weapon-origin
fissile materials and to "complement their commitments regarding
the transparency and irreversibility of nuclear arms reductions."

Under the Trilateral
Initiative, we and the Russians were each – under IAEA
supervision – to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium, obtained
from the dismantlement of thousands of nukes.

In a separate
agreement, Clinton agreed to help Russia financially and technically
dispose of their 34 metric tons of plutonium as plutonium-uranium
mixed-oxide nuclear power plant fuel.

Now, in the
operation of a plain-vanilla nuclear power plant, the reactor is
loaded with uranium with the U-235 "enriched" to about
5 percent and the U-238 reduced to about 95 percent. After a fuel-element
has been in the reactor about five years, it is replaced. About
a third of the U-235 is unburned, but in addition there has been
"bred" from the U-238 an almost equal amount of "burnable"
plutonium. Hence, as fuel, the "spent" fuel element is
worth about two-thirds its original value.

In Russia and
in Europe – but not in America – that spent fuel is reprocessed,
the uranium and plutonium chemically recovered and new fuel produced,
with enough burnable plutonium added to the uranium to get it back
up to 5 percent U-235 equivalent.

A large fraction
of the operating nuclear power plants in the world are American
built or fueled and are, hence, prohibited by U.S. law from participating
in the Russian MOX fuel cycle.

Five years
ago, Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici called for the
secretary of energy to develop a "National Spent Nuclear Fuel
Strategy."

Domenici said
that Congress urgently needed that strategy to determine "whether
the spent fuel should be treated as waste, subject to permanent
burial" (at Yucca Mountain) or whether it "should be considered
to be an energy resource that is needed to meet future energy requirements."

Five years
later, it appears that strategy has been developed and it involves
our treating "spent" fuel as an asset, not a liability.

Hence, it appears
the principal provision of the U.S.-Russia "civil" nuclear
deal will be to allow owners and operators of all U.S. built or
fueled nuclear power plants to participate in the Russian MOX fuel
cycle program.

Now, it may
be that Bush has realized that a solution to the current Iranian
uranium-enrichment "crisis" would be for the Russian nuclear
power plants at Bushehr to be fueled from the get-go with MOX fuel.

With Iran cooking
with MOX, the need or even desirability of their having a uranium-enrichment
capability would be obviated.

However, this
U.S.-Iran confrontation has never been about Iranian nuke ambitions.

What have the
Iranians been seeking ever since Bush launched his war of aggression
against Iraq?

A promise not
to be nuked.

Unfortunately,
as long as the mullahs are in power, Bush is not going to take the
nuke option off the table.

July
17, 2006

Physicist
James Gordon Prather [send
him mail
] has served as a policy-implementing official for national
security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency,
the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department
of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department
of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for
national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. –
ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the
Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather
had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory
in New Mexico.

Gordon
Prather Archives

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