Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Better Deal With Iran

By now probably everybody has seen those TV ads about how Obama's deal with Iran is unacceptable (to Republicans, anyway) because it allows Iran to keep its nuclear program.  Now, the details of the proposed treaty haven't been  published, so I'd like to know how everybody knows what's in it.  I haven't read it;  have you?

I'd agree that leaving Iran with the makings of nuclear weapons is a bad deal.  I'd also agree that Iran can't be trusted to allow outside inspections, or left to develop nuclear power without such inspections.  There's only one country in the entire middle-east that I'd trust with nuclear weapons or the means to make them -- and that country already has them.  Uhuh.  Maybe the worst-kept secret in politics is that Israel has The Bomb, and in fact has had more than one of them for quite a long time -- thirty years, at least. 

Surely Iran knows that too, and, despite the ravings of the local Ayatollahs, the culture of Iran is not piously suicidal.  Iran wants The Bomb not to throw at Israel but simply to make itself the biggest and baddest bully in the middle-eastern neighborhood.  Iran, as any Iranian will tell you, is not an Arab country;  it was originally called Persia, with all that implies, and its people have never forgotten that.  Iranians -- excuse me, Persians -- despise Arabs, and consider them good for nothing except to serve Persians.  Persia was a great empire 2000 years ago, and ruled the entire middle-east, and would love to do so again.  Iran doesn't want to intimidate Israel;  it wants to intimidate all the Arabs -- and yes, that includes the Palestinians.  This is why Iran wants to join the coalition to smash ISIL.  Such are politics in the middle-east.

Well, anyway, the US can't allow Iran to get The Bomb.  And, believe it or not, there's a way to do that.

Okay, sidebar here.  If all you want from nuclear science is to make electric power, there's a much safer and cheaper way than to use Uranium or Plutonium, and that's to use Thorium.  Thorium is radioactive enough to provide heat, to boil water, to turn a turbine, which is how a nuclear power-plant works -- but it's not radioactive enough to reach critical mass, fission, and explode.  It's remarkably common, and cheap.  India and China right now are building Thorium-reactor power-plants to provide them with cheap electricity.  The use of Thorium has been known for more than half a century.  The only reason the US and the USSR used Uranium and Plutonium for their power-plants is that such plants produce weapons-grade radioactive material, which they wanted for their A-bomb arsenals -- bombs which both countries had better sense than to actually use.

So, if Iran really wants -- as it has publicly claimed -- nuclear power only to give it electricity, then Thorium will serve them just as well, in fact much better, than Uranium.  The US could call their bluff: insist, as part of the treaty, that Iran trade us, pound for pound, all their Uranium in exchange for Thorium.  We can even throw in designs for the latest in Thorium reactors.  We could do this largely in secret, revealing such details of the deal only to Congress -- and to Israel -- while keeping them secret from the rest of the world, especially the Arab countries.

Of course, if the State Department is really working on a treaty that involves just that, they'd keep the details hidden from everybody until it was ready to read the treaty to a closed (and sworn to secrecy) session of Congress -- and likewise slip the news secretly to Israel.

In that case, the rest of us wouldn't really know what was in the treaty, would we?

--Leslie <;)))><      


Technomad said...

A slight correction. "Iran" has always been what Iranians called their country; it derives from the same root as "Aryan." The Greeks called it "Persia" after Fars Province. Kind of like how we often call the Netherlands "Holland" when that's only the name of part of the country.

Leslie Fish said...

Ah, point granted -- but they *think* of it as what we call "Persia", ancient in myth and lore.

Paradoctor said...

I agree that the thorium salt reactor is a superior technology - including its relative uselessness in creating city-busters. (Which is why the US ignored it! How's that for a nonproliferation recommendation?)
Hey, just what is it Persian culture has that has made it survive so long? They even got a shout-out in the Bible!

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Nat. Well, of course Persia got a mention in the bible; it was the biggest and closest empire around when most of the bible was written. It evolved out of Akkadia, Babylonia and Assyria, and was going strong very long before the Romans arrived -- let alone Jesus or Mohammed. That's a good long stretch, enough to leave a very long-lasting cultural impression. Of course literacy -- as the Jews noticed early on -- helped preserve the memories thereof. It didn't hurt to have a major river or two providing water for farming. You might as well ask what's made Chinese culture survive so long, or India. Abundant farmland, water, metal deposits and literacy seem to be enough -- particularly literacy, given the experience of the Jews.