[eDebate] Securing Our Survival - lend your smarts

Mitchell, Gordon Roger gordonm
Wed Oct 10 22:16:23 CDT 2007

Hi folks.

This Friday from 9-5, here are some ways to take advantage of an opportunity to conduct primary research for contest round preparation on the 2007-2008 CEDA/NDT topic, interact live with top experts on global warming and nuclear proliferation, and use your debate chops to shape the world conversation:

WATCH live from http://mediasite.cidde.pitt.edu/mediasite/Catalog/Front.aspx?cid=895cfbde-1ee8-48b2-9335-c137257c9189

SUBMIT text questions for specific speakers by clicking on the ?Ask? icon at the top of the Mediasite player. Your question will be fielded by Ridgway deputy director Gordon Mitchell, who will be in position to convey outstanding queries to speakers live and on-site - if your question is selected, you'll watch the speaker hear it and respond.

INTERACT with others in the comments section of Security Sweep at http://www.securitysweepblog.org, where Gordon will live-blog the conference and highlight outstanding questions submitted by online audience members.

Media run-up:




Op-ed by Joseph Cirincione, William W. Keller and Gordon Mitchell coming in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [below is sneak preview of text]:

Global warming and the spread of nuclear weapons are the two great moral and technological challenges of our times. Both are caused by machines made by humans. Both could destroy life on the planet. Both can be prevented. But in our zeal to find a solution to one, we must not make the other threat worse.

Some tout civilian nuclear power as the clean energy source of the future. It does not generate carbon gases and could replace dirty coal-powered plants. But there is a catch. The same facilities that make and reprocess the fuel for nuclear reactors could make fuel for nuclear bombs. For example, more than $100 billion has been spent globally on projects to commercialize plutonium, yielding 250 metric tons scattered in repositories throughout the world, enough to make more than 30,000 nuclear bombs.

Conversely, failure to stem nuclear proliferation complicates potential solutions to the climate crisis. As former CIA Director John Deutch and colleagues observe, ?the prospects for nuclear energy to play a larger role in our energy future would be devastated by any nuclear-weapons incident associated with the nuclear-power fuel cycle anywhere in the world.? Security analyst Daniel Poneman calls this scenario a ?proliferation Chernobyl,? which ?could mean the end of nuclear energy for decades.?

Given these dicey tradeoffs, it is imperative that policy makers see these twin threats as intimately entwined. The solutions to one must propel policies that promote solutions to the other.

Enter the Bush administration?s Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), an effort to expand the use of nuclear power globally. It promises to meet escalating energy demand while controlling the nuclear-fuel cycle. Through international cooperation the GNEP aims to produce ?abundant energy without generating ? greenhouse gases.? Further, by accelerating research on advanced reactors with potential to use nuclear waste as fuel, the program claims to ?minimize waste and reduce proliferation concerns.? Last month in Vienna, U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman announced that 11 new nations had joined original GNEP partners China, France, Japan, Russia and the United States in this ?new global nuclear-power partnership.?

Could this 21st century version of President Eisenhower?s ?Atoms for Peace? be the silver bullet we need to slay the twin Gorgons of global warming and nuclear proliferation? Unfortunately, th e GNEP is more likely to increase risks of a ?proliferation Chernobyl,? since its technical centerpiece is construction of the world?s largest nuclear reprocessing facility, capable of ?recycling? 2,000-3,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel.

Since 1982, the U.S. has steered clear of the nuclear reprocessing business, and for good reason. ?Fast breeder? reactors that burn spent nuclear fuel and produce plutonium have proved to be economic liabilities in Britain and Russia while producing mountains of bomb material. Even pro-nuclear-power experts agree that wide-scale generation of plutonium presents significant proliferation dangers. Among these skeptics is John Deutch, who said earlier this year that GNEP ?is hugely expensive, hugely misdirected and hugely out of sync with the needs of the industry and the nation.?

Today there is broad agreement that a comprehensive nonproliferation solution must include reform in how fuel is produced for nuclear reactors. Proposals for doing so have been advanced by IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and by leading nongovernment experts. These proposals seek to end the further production of materials for use in nuclear weapons and would stop ? at least temporarily ? construction of new facilities for enriching uranium or separating plutonium. GNEP rushes headlong in the opposite direction.

Secretary Bodman is expected to decide early next year whether to move ahead with development of the first nuclear fuel reprocessing facility on American soil in over 35 years. As the decision nears, it behooves citizens to take a closer look at the GNEP, pitched as the solution for global warming and nuclear proliferation. Using breeder reprocessing nuclear-power generation might help us reduce greenhouses gases, but at the expense of spreading more weapons-grade plutonium around the world.

Is it possible to fashion a nuclear-power solution to the climate crisis without worsening the proliferation problem? The nuclear industry is hard at work on ?proliferation-resistant? reactor designs, but even these pose security risks that would be magnified in a world where nuclear power is counted upon to produce enough electricity to significantly reduce fossil-fuel emissions.

* * *

Joseph Cirincione is director for nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress; William Keller and Gordon Mitchell are director and deputy director of the Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. They will be participating in a public conference on ?Securing Our Survival: Meeting the Threats of Nuclear Weapons and Global Warming? in Oakland tomorrow and Saturday. For more information: www.ridgway.pitt.edu <http://www.ridgway.pitt.edu> ,

* * *

Gordon R. Mitchell
Associate Professor of Communication
Director, William Pitt Debating Union
Deputy Director, Ridgway Center for Security Studies
University of Pittsburgh
CL 1117, 4200 Fifth Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Phone: (412) 624-8531
Fax: (412) 624-1878

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