Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tread on my Dreams

So, a whole bunch of Order of Canada winners have signed a petition to ban nuclear weapons worldwide.

Because banning guns has ended all gun violence, and banning marijuana stopped the drug trade, and.. well you get the idea. Just because you declare something illegal, doesn't mean that people won't do it.

Unfortunately, these misguided recipients are not alone in their foolish push. Many others have argued unconvincingly recently for a total ban on nuclear weapons, and even more worrying, Obama seems to have joined in.

I argued previously that the entire idea of a nuclear weapons ban being at all successful is ridiculous. All it does it makes those states that do have nuclear weapons more powerful since there is literally no deterrent. Imagine a world where North Korea can blackmail the world into doing what it wants by threatening to turn Tokyo into a radioactive wasteland. Imagine a world where Iran could destroy the US navy in the Persian Gulf at whim with a single short range nuclear missile safe in the knowledge that the USA is incapable of serious counterattacks without risking nuclear counterattacks on Israel, US allies in the Middle East or even Europe.

In short, imagine a world that is a lot less safe.

But nations know this, and if the USA was to announce that tomorrow every single nuclear missile or bomb in its possession would be dismantled do you think it would stir India, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, Syria or anyone else to give up their nuclear programs? Of course not. They'd laugh and continue on their merry way towards developing nuclear weapons. The USA and Russia have been signing deals for years reducing their stockpiles of weapons and still Iran and others have been happy to continue their development of the weapon.

Give you a simple historical example to highlight my point. After World War 2, the USA, the USSR and the Koreas agreed that the Korean peninsula was to be void of any tanks. The US and the South Koreans complied, removing all armour and all anti-tank weapons from the peninsula. At first the USSR also did so, but after a few years, they shipped the North Koreans 150 T-34 tanks in secret. When the North Koreans invaded, they caught everyone by surprise and overran almost the entire peninsula before sufficient support could be brought in to stall and stop the advance. The main problem? The US troops on the ground didn't have the weapons to destroy the tanks.

So what makes anyone think a nuclear weapons ban would be any more successful?

Beyond that point, the article I mentioned at the beginning goes on to slag Canada.

Furthermore, he said, Canada has been seeking an exemption from a Nuclear Suppliers Group ban on uranium enrichment. The G8 nations have decided to place a moratorium on enrichment to discourage Iran and other countries from doing so, but Canada has been seeking an exemption so it could potentially export enriched uranium in the future.

"Canada's been trying to carve out a little exemption for itself," he said. "This is seen as a retrograde step in nuclear disarmament."
Canada isn't seeking an exemption to the G8 ban as this article insinuates. Canada is exempt from the G8 ban because it only applies to trade with non-NPT nations (like India). And as far as I can tell there are no bans on who can enrich uranium, especially since Brazil just joined that club. If Brazil is enriching uranium, why shouldn't Canada be allowed to?

Placing a moratorium on enrichment is an unfair restriction on the development of Canadian nuclear technology and forces Canada to be dependent on other nations for enriched uranium while we remain one of the largest exporters of natural uranium in the world (half the world's uranium comes from Australia and Canada). Canada's AECL proposed years ago to incorporate slightly enriched uranium (about 2% U-235) into its fuel bundles in order to be able to employ thorium as a fuel through the CANFLEX bundles. But without the ability to enrich the uranium it would force Canada to first export natural uranium and then import it right back into the country after its been enriched to be able to employ this technology. Moreover, with the exception of CANDU reactors (or CANDU-like) no one uses natural uranium. So we export uranium to other nations so they can enrich it for use in their PWR reactors.

Sure, Iran might be able to claim the same thing, but Canada has had nuclear reactors for over 50 years and has shown not an iota of interest in developing nuclear weapons ourselves. Our track record speaks for itself. So to claim that Canada's request to be allowed enrichment facilities for uranium is a 'retrograde step' is ridiculous.

EDIT: I remembered that Magnox reactors also used natural uranium.

No comments:

Post a Comment