KINGSTON, NY -- Once again,
the world teeters on the edge of war. Once again, the conflict is in
the Middle East. Once again, the conflict is over energy.
For years, Iran has been developing nuclear power. For years, the
world has disbelieved Iranís claims that its atomic energy would be
only for peaceful, domestic uses.
The United States, Israel, the EU and other nations contend that
Tehran is lying, and have imposed crippling sanctions on Iran. These
embargoes now increasingly deny food and other staples to the
Iranian people while costing companies around the world customers
On February 14th, the sanctions tightened: owners of more than 100
oil supertankers announced that they would no longer load crude from
Iranís oilfields, cutting off the countryís only meaningful source
A day later, Iranís President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, visited the
Tehran Nuclear Research Center to witness the loading of the first
domestically-made uranium fuel rods in a reactor that the country
claims will be used solely for medical purposes.
The conflict is careening beyond control. In 2009, Iran lost the use
of hundreds of centrifuges ≠ devices that spin on an axis like the
hubs of a wagon wheel and use centripetal force to separate things,
including the isotopes of uranium. In June 2010, it was discovered
that the problem was due to the infamous Stuxnet computer worm,
which had damaged the centrifuges by causing them to spin suddenly
at wildly varying speeds.
A year later, an explosion at an Iranian military base reportedly
damaged a facility where Iran was developing long-range missiles
capable of delivering nuclear warheads. In the past two years, four
Iranian nuclear scientists have been murdered ≠ one just last month
on the streets of Tehran. Iran blames the sabotage and murders on
Mossad, Israelís intelligence agency, and the CIA.
In what are now being termed revenge attacks, Thai authorities
charge two Iranians with a series of bombings in Thailand this week
and Thai investigators claim possible links between these attacks
and the attempted murder of Israeli officials in India. And, Israel
has also accused Iran of planting a car bomb (that was defused) in
an Israeli embassy vehicle this week in the European country of
Meanwhile, the US military has held a series of press conferences
and are hosting mainstream media reporters on navy warships
patrolling the Persian Gulf. All of the war drum beating,
assassinations and sanctions are made under the pretext of Iranís
alleged intention to use their quest for nuclear power as a cover
for the building of nuclear weapons.
The Celente Solution: If Iran is sincere that it seeks only peaceful
uses for its nuclear energy, the crisis can easily be defused.
The problem isnít that Iran seeks nuclear power. The problem is
that, like the rest of the world, Iran has made a poor choice of
Uranium, the fuel that runs the worldís nuclear reactors, is lethal
even when itís not packed in a bomb. Itís absurdly complicated to
handle, its behavior is touchy and unpredictable, and its waste is
fatal to humans for millions of years after weíve wrung the small
amount of energy from it that our technology allows.
Instead, Iran can follow the lead of China, India, Brazil, and other
nations and turn to thorium.
Thorium is an obscure, mildly radioactive metal produced as a waste
product from the mining of rare earth minerals. This waste sits in
piles on the ground in China, which produces most of the worldís
rare earths; itís locked away underground in most other countries,
which have followed the USís lead in banning the mining of rare
earths because the process produces radioactive waste ≠ in the form
Yet when thorium was tested as a nuclear fuel in the 1950s, it was
found to be both cleaner and safer than uranium. It canít melt down
or spontaneously explode when a ďcritical massĒ of it is piled up;
and it produces mainly alpha radiation, which is so weak that it
canít penetrate skin. Although thorium does produce a trace of
radioactive waste that endures for billions of years, the amount is
vastly smaller than uraniumís leavings.
Thorium also is more easily accessible around the world than uranium
and more plentiful ≠ itís about three times as abundant as tin. In
theory, a lump of thorium the size of a golf ball could supply the
lifetime energy needs of a typical American ≠ and more than that of
Even better, the technology to produce thorium is close at hand.
International Thorium Energy & Molten Salt Technology, Inc., a
private Japanese firm, intends to produce a 10-kilowatt thorium
reactor within five years. China and India also are engineering
thorium reactors. With some re-engineering, thorium even can be
combined with uranium to make cleaner, longer-lived fuel rods for
conventional nuclear reactors already in service.
In the years it would take Iran to build a conventional nuclear
reactor, with its hundred-foot cooling towers and thousands of miles
of plumbing, the nation could make a factory to turn out small
thorium reactors. Iran has modest rare earth deposits and China, as
Iranís largest trading partner, could easily supply the reactorsí
fuel. China and also India could share their growing technical
expertise with Iran, not over international objections but with the
approval of the rest of the world.
These small generators would present no regional or global threat
and would serve Iranís internal needs even more effectively than its
current plan: the smaller thorium reactors can be made relatively
quickly, with consistent quality, in a factory and then shipped and
installed right where power is needed ≠ at a factory, a mine, a
military base, or as an incremental addition to a conventional
generating plan. Iran could quickly achieve a strategic goal of
western nations: the simultaneous expansion and decentralization of
the electrical grid.
As is often the case, the current crisis is an opportunity. If Iran
truly wants only peaceful nuclear power, it can choose thorium as
its nuclear option Ö and the US, Israel, the EU and other nations
can choose peace.
©MMXII The Trends Research Institute®