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More nuclear reactors in more countries increase proliferation risks

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 16th Nov 2017, In an August 2017 report, former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz argues for federal subsidies to prop up the US nuclear power industry on the novel
grounds that the industry is vital to our national security.

One of his principal conclusions is that to have an effective nonproliferation policy
we need to be selling lots of reactors internationally. The conclusion is
dead wrong but, unfortunately, it’s also influential.

The current energy secretary, Rick Perry, picked up the argument. In October 12 testimony, he
told Congress that “we have to support this industry,” because, among other
things, it is important to the success of our nonproliferation policy.

What kind of reactor exports might this entail? The Energy Department’s acting
assistant secretary for nuclear energy, Edward McGinnis, told an
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conference in Abu Dhabi on
November 1 that the United States wants “to spur exports of nuclear energy
plants and equipment, including to the conference’s host nation UAE and Saudi Arabia.”

That, after all, is where the export opportunities are—in
the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, among countries taking their first steps
into nuclear energy. Most don’t have the required financial resources and
would need massive loans.

Some, like Saudi Arabia, or perhaps Turkey,
appear to have more on their mind than electricity generation. The trouble
is that power programs based on the most common type of nuclear power
plant, the light water reactor, give a country a large leg up on creating a
nuclear weapons option if that is what it wants. As a result, more nuclear
reactors in more countries increase proliferation risks. Whatever the
advantages of this technology, nonproliferation is not one of them.

November 18, 2017 - Posted by | marketing, USA

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