For all it’s faults (byproducts that have to be sequestered for half a million years, for instance), nuclear energy is amongst the best ways to generate electricity known to mankind at this time – discounting any future advances in fusion or solar power generation.
Nuclear doesn’t generate the greenhouse gases that spew forth from coal and natural gas power plants… isn’t effected by cloudy days or winter seasons like solar… has no problems when the air is still and fails to turn the windmills… and it doesn’t reroute entire aquatic ecosystems like hydroelectric dams.
But yes… there is that need to protect humankind and all our friends in the wild kingdom from the nuclear waste on scales of time that are longer than civilization has existed on the face of the planet.
Regardless, nuclear energy’s benefits are vast and every facility constructed to harness the power of the atom is a boon to society as it generally means there are less coal-burning plants toxifying the air we breath.
The problems with nuclear energy fall into two categories: environmental, which I’ve touched on above… and political, which I’m going to talk about below.
Nuclear reactors can be harnessed for electricity generation, yes… but they also can be used to create fissile material like plutonium or enriched uraniums that are necessary to create an atomic weapon.
Generally speaking, the technology required to build a nuclear power station is only affordable to nations that are more or less responsible enough to be trusted with any nuclear weapons that they might create – countries with governments that subscribe to the reality that deploying such weapons in anger would not be in their best interest.
Even the two most volatile neighbor countries that have nuclear weapons – India and Pakistan – realize that exchanging atomic potshots at each other would never be a small, localized engagement… that other nuclear powers greater than their own would most likely intervene with punishments of either military or political varieties.
With India being aligned with the Western superpowers like the United States, Great Britain, and France (don’t laugh… nukes can be dispatched from Parisian bunkers), a marginal country like Pakistan – who’s alliances aren’t clearly defined – would likely be struck with thermonuclear warheads carried by ICBMs or cruise missiles fired by New Delhi’s friends in the event Pakistan somehow came out on top.
The biggest check in the nuclear weapons business is that both the United States of America and Russia have enough nuclear weapons to end human civilization as we know it (or possibly altogether), with China, Great Britain, and France following behind them… and this is clearly enough to discourage smaller countries from developing any sort or atomic weapon.
There would assuredly be dire consequences for launching any sort of nuclear attack – no matter how much you hate the guy you’re pointing them at.
However, reality isn’t a universal concept in some corners of the globe.
There are a few governments that are so removed from society that they have become pariah states – the ones that nobody ever invites to the New Year’s celebrations at the United Nations, and ones that are perfectly happy with their status.
In the context of this discussion on smashing atoms, I’m focusing purely on the communist nation of North Korea and the middle eastern country of Iran.
Both countries eschew the global community (and the realities embraced by it) and have created unto themselves their own version of reality… one that generally places themselves at the center of the universe and deludes the ruling parties into thinking they’re untouchable/invincible.
In the case of North Korea, Kim Jong Il and his buddies (I use ‘buddies’ loosely since there isn’t a person in the country he wouldn’t shoot – including family members) rule the land in an almost empirical manner that really hasn’t been seen since the great dynasties of history: it’s taught to every North Korean child that Kim Jong Il is in fact a God.
In fact, North Korea barely qualifies as a communist state, and it can be argued – I’d imagine quite successfully – that it’s more in line with the leadership of Egypt’s pharaohs… just without the bountiful empire: North Korean citizens are probably the poorest out of any of the developed nations.
Kim Jong Il is so crazy that even his biggest (read: only) supporter at the United Nations, China, keeps him at arm’s length… and even then, they barely touch Pyongyang with their fingertips while wearing eight gloves on each hand.
The fact that this nutbar has access to nuclear weapons is entirely indigestible – and quite hard to fathom when you take into account that North Korea has no real money to speak of to pay for any sort of research program… but I suppose you can afford just about anything when you don’t actually have to pay the people who work for you.
Kim Jong Il is a god, remember? Don’t do what he wants and he’ll smite your ass… and probably your entire family while he’s at it.
If there’s any consolation, it’s that his atomic weapons are very basic and shoddily constructed: when testing them, they have a tendency to fizzle – more of a runaway nuclear chain reaction than an actual detonation.
These North Korean atomic bombs are barely in the same class as those deployed by the United States against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II… and nowhere near as advanced as even Pakistan’s.
But even the most rudimentary nuclear weapons are devastating… either through their explosive force (see photo below) or through the mass radioactive contamination of the target area.
In terms of instability, North Korea is like the guy who was arrested for killing his neighbor because he though the neighbor was telepathically raping his wife.
Nothing said by Kim Jong Ill or his government makes any sense, and North Korea has no qualms about threatening anyone with total and complete destruction… promising a war that will end Western civilization – despite lacking any way to follow through on these threats, even when including the estimated 5 to 8 nuclear weapons that Pyongyang possesses.
The North Korean military may have one of the largest standing armies on the world when compared to it’s national population, but the equipment they are outfitted with is barely any more advanced than it was during the Korean War in the 1950s – at best, it’s equivalent to Soviet designs from the mid to late 70s.
This irrationality is alarming for two reasons:
1) Technically, North and South Korea are still in a defacto state of war since the Korean War ended in a cease-fire treaty – a truce that’s been in place ever since… if only barely on some occasions – and that war could pick up at any time, and that becomes more and more likely as North Korea becomes more and more impoverished.
2) Pyongyang has made no secret of it’s willingness to help political entities that have similar designs to destroy the West… and has routinely shipped weapons and military equipment to those ideological comrades, and it’s not a stretch of the imagination that North Korea would share nuclear weapons technology – or even a finished atomic bomb – with those same comrades.
The only silver lining in the North Korean situation is that ships leaving North Korean waters are some of the most scrutinized vessels afloat: any tub that can carry anything bigger than a refrigerator is fair game for random inspections by South Korean and American naval assets – which makes shipping nuclear weapons, fissile material, or technology to create either of those things by water not really a winning strategy.
This of course doesn’t rule out shipping illicit weapons by land or air…. but similar searches are carried out against trucks leaving North Korea by Chinese and Russian agencies (how effectively, nobody in the West can say for certain), and all air cargo from North Korea is thoroughly screened at airports abroad.
There is only one destination outside of North Korea that North Korean ships and aircraft are welcome – and it also happens to be the other rogue nation with nuclear ambitions: Iran.
I’m sorry, Tehran… were you hoping I’d forgotten you?
In many ways, you’re worse than those nutjobs in Pyongyang – mainly because, even though you’re batshit crazy, you’re also very focused on the destruction of those you hold in ill regard.
In Iran’s case, that’s most notably Israel.
There isn’t a day that goes by that Iran’s puppet government and it’s religious masters don’t call for the total destruction of the Jewish state, and it works on a daily basis towards that goal by funding terrorist organizations that operate in Palestinian territories.
If that wasn’t problematic enough, the Ayatollah also sends money to terrorist outfits – including Al Qaeda – that attack other Western nations that are allied with Israel.
And while the Ayatollah isn’t necessarily as committed to destroying the West as Osama bin Laden was, his plans call for weakening the resolve of Israel’s allies by hopefully making it more bother than it’s worth to the United States, Britain, and others.
It’s this fanatical devotion to destroying every single Jew in the Middle East (and everywhere else in due time) that makes Iran more dangerous.
While North Korea is more reactive – as in it puffs itself up and makes threats when it perceives itself to be threatened – and can be calmed down with offers of candy (financial and food aid), Iran is completely proactive in it’s plans… spending nearly all it’s money on weaponry and armed forces.
It should be noted than Iran has a lot of money to use for it’s own military and the funding of terrorism around the globe, and that money comes from the export of oil to the countries that need it – both the export of Iran’s own oil assets, and money from neighboring countries’ oil sales who are agreeable to the Iranian way of things… primarily certain factions inside Saudi Arabia.
While Western nations don’t conduct a lot of oil business with Iran, countries like Russia and China don’t make that distinction and gladly take any oil Iran can send their way to fuel their own economies.
Russian and Chinese weapons technologies have also readily been made available to the Iranian government, and this is why the Iranian military possesses weaponry that’s equal to the West’s technology of the late 1980s to mid-1990s.
You may not think weapons circa 1989 to 1995 would be all that dangerous to Western targets using weapons made in this millennium… but keep in mind, those Iranian weapons are equivalent to what the U.S. defeated Saddam Hussein with in the first Gulf War – so they aren’t to be ignored by the wise.
With all that oil money, Iran has been able to afford a fairly modern nuclear energy program – one that Tehran insists is for purely peaceful purposes and that they’re not at all interested in making fissile material for making atomic weapons.
You know what? Put a kid in a room with both a dart gun and a target to shoot at, he’s going to shoot those darts at the target the second you turn your back – no matter how much you tell him not to, and how much he denies his intention to do so.
The fact of the matter is that Iran has far more centrifuge units required to enrich uranium than are needed for the modest civilian-purposed nuclear reactor that Tehran claims is the only beneficiary – and these enrichment facilities are spread far and wide throughout the country, with some of them located underground in hardened facilities that would be problematic to destroy.
If you’re producing far more enriched uranium than you could possibly use in your nuclear electricity generation reactor(s), then that surplus uranium has to go someplace… and the two options that come to mind aren’t acceptable: a covert weapons program, or for export to other political entities that also have covert nuclear ambitions – Al Qaeda, for example.
The nuclear situation in Iran puts Israel – and by extension it’s Western allies – in a bind: while Iran potentially acquiring nuclear weapons capability is completely unacceptable, unilaterally attacking Iran in a pre-emptive strike would be heavy-handed and most likely to ignite a war that would spread like wildfire across the entire Middle East – and the forces of the Western allies are already exhausted from a decade of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Which leaves Israel to act on its own – and one must also keep in mind that Israel has an arsenal of nuclear weapons of it’s own if the situation got out of hand.
However, while Israel might have enough thermonuclear devices to level Tehran and a few other Iranian cities, the fact is that Iran is the 2nd largest country in the region… and Israel is the smallest, and therefore extremely susceptible to being destroyed in a single nuclear strike.
There’s also the small matter of delivering those nuclear weapons to Iran as – as far as anyone in the West knows – all of Israel’s nuclear devices are in the form of gravity bombs and not mounted on long-range missiles, meaning that Israeli attack planes would have to fly through potentially hostile Lebanese, Syrian, Turkish, or Iraqi airspace before even getting to Iran.
The same holds out for any non-nuclear intervention raid Israel might want to stage against Iran in hopes of derailing the Iranian nuclear program like they did when they pounded Saddam Hussein’s atomic facilities into dust back in the 1980s – there’s just too much territory to cover from Israeli airfields to targets in Iran unless those Israeli pilots commit to a one-way suicide mission… and I wouldn’t put that past the Israeli people as they know the value of sacrifice and are a hardened people after decades of being under attack from all sides.
And yet… all the logistics of attacking Iran pale in comparison to the destructive potential of either the Islamic Republic Of Iran Army, The Army Of The Guardians Of The Islamic Revolution (the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard), or any other Iranian military body – or any paramilitary body the Ayatollah deems satisfactory enough to share with – possessing nuclear weapons when they are ideologically tuned towards destroying Israel and the Western world.
The situation is untenable and will need to be resolved prior to Iran developing nuclear weapons technology – and that time isn’t all that far into the future.
Am I being an alarmist?
Everything I’ve said here is absolutely true and cannot be argued by anyone outside North Korea and Iran.
The world has been under the illusion up until now that only the big players could afford nuclear weapons, and to be honest, global opinions should have changed once India and Pakistan developed the Bomb.
But we’ve fooled ourselves into complacency again… that we can send strongly worded letters to Tehran and Pyongyang and they will simply throw up their hands with a smile, saying “Well… it was worth a try, right?” before packing their whole nuclear infrastructure up in crates and shipping it to Russia for disposal.
Without total regime changes in North Korea and Iran, localized or global nuclear attacks aren’t just probable – they’re an almost forgone conclusion because both countries stand today as spiteful (in Pyongyang’s case), hateful (Tehran), and wholly irrational states.
Kim Jong Il and his son to follow him will continue to develop their primitive atom bombs into more effective hydrogen bombs by working their researchers to death at gunpoint while the citizens throughout North Korea – who depend on the government – starve to death in the streets (while Pyongyang’s resident god drinks Hennessy and collects expensive toys).
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his boss, the Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will continue on their path to nuclear weapons while they continue to hate on the Jewish people and deny the Holocaust – which was the reason the state of Israel was formed in the first place from land ‘donated’ from the surrounding Arab states – in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.
To me, that’s the sure sign of Tehran’s insanity and the reason they can’t be trusted: to completely deny the Holocaust when it was thoroughly documented by both the Allies when the camps were liberated, and by the Nazis themselves with their meticulous records of the methodical extermination of the Jews who they deemed as sub-human… and the continued existence of facilities like Auschwitz and Dachau to remind humanity that the Holocaust was real.
It’s the equivalent of Ahmadinejad looking up and telling the world that the sky is in fact purple and that we’ve been duped by the Jews into thinking it’s blue… which I’m pretty sure he’s already claimed once or twice in his hateful stand-up comedy routines at the United Nations headquarters.
Folks… these are people who can not EVER be trusted with the nuclear genie.
You should be alarmed… you should feel a sense of panic.
These people aren’t going anywhere and won’t change their ways unless we make them.
And believe me… they’re not going to blink when we send them angry emails from the United Nations’ Gmail account.