Saturday, September 28, 2013

Obama has a chat with Iran

I see in the news that Obama had a nice phone chat with the leader of Iran, Hassan Rouhani. This is a major breakthrough as the US and Iranian leadership have not spoken directly in more than 30 years. Interestingly, Rouhani tweeted details of his conversation with Obama. Very interesting.

There are many who fear that Iran's nuclear program is designed to build the materials needed to make bombs. You know, so that they can pummel their favorite adversary, Israel, with nukes. Nevermind that the US provides Israel with billions in funding and weapons assistance. Would Israel have nuclear bombs without US funding? Not likely. Nuclear bombs are expensive, difficult to make and to maintain.

The media have dutifully reported Iran's denials of a weapons program. Iran's nuclear program is supposed to be for peace. I think that's plausible since they too might like to get away from the dirty business of oil for energy.

I think I would have more confidence in Iran's defense of their statements if they made one significant change to their nuclear power program. If they want nuclear power, they only need to follow China on the high road to thorium power plants.

The benefits of thorium power plants over are many and often overlooked by the mainstream media. I've pointed out a few of those benefits in this post. But there is one that I didn't cover in much detail: non-proliferation. Thorium power plants produce very little plutonium, and what little is produced is extremely hard to extract. If you thought uranium enrichment was fun and expensive with uranium power plants, wait until you see how hard it is to run a weapons program on thorium power plants. The U-233 from thorium power plants also comes with U-232, which makes enrichment for bombs even more expensive and time consuming.

There are some who say that the U-233 produced in thorium based reactors is a proliferation risk. If that were true, given that thorium is four times more abundant than uranium in the earth's crust, we would have done that long ago. Making bombs from U-233 is more dangerous, more expensive and much more difficult to do than with plutonium. If there were such a proliferation risk with thorium, we would have seen it by now. But we don't.

If Iran really means business about using nuclear power for peaceful intents, then it must adopt a thorium based nuclear energy system, namely, the thorium molten salt reactor. Hopefully, Obama will tactfully mention the benefits of a thorium fuel cycle in any discussions of a nuclear program with Iran.
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