High grade uranium and plutonium:
Back in the day when Great Britain was the superpower it was remarked that policies of America were too wild for folly and too foolish for madness.  Now that America is the superpower, there are conspicuous forces that find it easy to asses us: we are evil.

A case in point is that our ally Japan recently disposed of highly enriched uranium and plutonium.  (Nuclear Handover NATURE vol. 507 no. 7403 March 27, 2014 page 404) The material was for use in a research reactor.  But this reactor has been shut down. 

It makes sense to do the research.  Currently nuclear reactors use fuel that has been enriched just enough to be able to work in a reactor.  When the fuel rod is spent, the overwhelming majority of the fuel is unused.  That produces quite a headache in disposing of it and of course means a whole lot more fuel has to be processed than would otherwise be the case.  In short it is wasteful and dirty.  If you were to devise a reactor that used more concentrated fuel, it seems to me, you could wring more power out of your initial fuel and have less to throw away.

So why did they shut it down?  Maybe the research was disappointing; there was nothing to be gained with higher grade fuel.  But if one looks at our policy with a jaundiced eye – and there are a lot of dangerous people out there who seem to see us through the fog of hepatic coma – the reason that it was shut down was because we pressured Japan into doing that so we could pressure them into giving up the weapons grade nasty stuff.

For many years we have been saying, rather stridently to my ear, that Iran shouldn’t have high grade fissionable material because there is no use for it but making bombs.  I have never heard them to respond, “But Japan’s doing it for peaceful purposes,” but again through the jaundiced eye that might be a matter of a filter in our news outlets.  Oh, we hear then say it’s for research, but not just what research. 

The whole point appears to be to prevent the proliferation of nuclear arms.  But such weapons have already been developed in India, which seems stable but is not our close friend, and Pakistan, which seems to be unstable and North Korea, which seems … well to be a problem anyway.  So we threaten Iran, which is far more congenial than North Korea, but not North Korea, whom we bribe.  We support Turkey against the Kurds even though the Kurds are our best ally against Isis, which has thrown down the gauntlet before us.  We were quick to side with rebels against Assad even after overthrowing dictators in Iraq and Libya, turned out to be disastrous decisions and Assad was effective against Isis.  We are pushing sanctions against Russia, who made an aggressive move in taking the Crimea but only after Ukraine proved to be utterly unstable; Russia has a big base in that peninsula, and it is in their vital interest to keep it.  Otherwise Russia has played a tough game but still seems to be within tolerable bounds.  We went nigh mad when they moved troops up next Ukraine.  Well why wouldn’t they?  There was a war going on right on their border.  Some days I think, gadzooks, whose side are we on anyway?  Certainly not our own.

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