Home : WRH Store : Reader Letters : Advertise : Donate

Iran Has Built a Heavy
Water Reactor? Big Deal.

Iran's hardline president declared Saturday that his nation's controversial nuclear program poses no threat to any other country, even Israel "which is a definite enemy." President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke after inaugurating a heavy-water production plant, which went into operation despite U.N. demands that Iran roll back its nuclear program. Tehran says is for peaceful purposes, but Western countries fear it could eventually be used to develop a nuclear bomb. [FOX News]

Heavy Water Reactors are special case reactors. Because of the low absorption of heavy water (used as a moderator in the primary loop to carry heat to the steam generator) such a reactor can create more of the varied isotopes used in the medical, agricultural, and industrial needs. The fuel used in a Heavy Water Reactor needs even less enrichment than that in a conventional light water reactor. So what we have here is a reactor designed to use LESS enriched uranium which has been the main focus of US efforts to provoke a war with Iran.

As a side note, both the US and Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which authorizes signing nations to use nuclear reactors for power generation and to process the fuel for those reactors. Iran is within its rights under international law to build power reactors and fuel them. In attempting to rescind that right, the United States is now in violation of that treaty.

The warhawks will scream that Heavy Water Reactors are more efficient at making plutonium, which is a key ingredient of implosion type nuclear weapons. However, to recover the plutonium from the spent reactor fuel requires a processing plant as complex and large (and observable) as a weapons-grade uranium enrichment plant, i.e. 16,000 centrifuges in a cascade in a plant covering 700 acres of ground. As of this writing, Iran's agreement with Russia under which the reactor was constructed is that fuel rods are returned to Russia for processing.

In summary, what Iran is doing is exactly what it is allowed to do under treaty the US has signed. As was the case with Iraq, claims that nuclear weapons are being built are undocumented and unproven. There is no evidence that Iran is doing anything other than building power stations.

However, if Iran were building nuclear weapons, who could blame them? Israel (which has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and does not allow inspections of their reactor and weapons lab) certainly is building nuclear weapons, and Iraq taught the world a lesson on what the US does to nations that do not have nuclear weapons. The US has already broken the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by attempting to pressure Iran into shutting down their nuclear power projects.

And if Iran had a nuclear bomb, so what? We The People of the United States are still paying off the massive loans from the building of the US nuclear arsenal. We were sold the thousands of warheads and delivery systems with the promise that this was a DETERRENT; that having this formidable (and costly) nuclear weapons arsenal would prevent other nations from attacking us. Well, either the deterrent works, or we all got screwed for the trillions of dollars spent on nuclear missile submarines, nuclear-capable bombers, and land-based nuclear attack missiles.

If that deterrent works, then let Iran have their nuclear weapons. They won't dare use them on the United States because the United States would turn Iran into a giant green glass parking lot.

If, on the other hand, Iran having a nuclear bomb is a real danger to the US, and the deterrent does not work, then we all got ripped off by the government in yet another "Let's suck more money out of the suckers" swindle for which the US Government has become infamous.

Which is it, Dubya? Is the US nuclear arsenal a deterrent or isn't it? Were those trillions spent worth it, or did we get suckered. Are we all owed a refund because we did not get the safety and security we were promised when we paid for those missiles and submarines?

You cannot have it both ways. You cannot force us to pay to build the most powerful nuclear weapons force in the world, then pretend that Iran is a threat to us if they build a single bomb.


See also: Uranium Enrichment


What Really Happened

Email This Page To A Friend