It is interesting as an author to see my work through the lens of those whose opinions diverge from my own. Steve Kidd’s review in the August edition of Nuclear Engineering International is a case in point. It’s also worth reading an earlier piece by Kidd in Nuclear Engineering International. In it he states: “It is likely that more countries will foolishly choose to acquire nuclear weapons. If they are really determined to do so, there is little really that the world can do to prevent them—the main effort has to be in dissuading them from this course of action. How many countries will have nuclear weapons by 2030 is hard to say, but there could well be a total of 15 by then.”
In other words, Nuklear Uber Alles (with apologies to the Germans, who appear determined to rid their country of reactors as soon as possible and focus on renewables and smart grid technologies). No matter what happens or how horrible the consequences, hands off the nuclear industry. Kidd basically absolves both the industry and the International Atomic Energy Agency of any responsibility for nuclear proliferation. But the fact is most of the programs that exist today would not have developed without the convenient cover of “peaceful” nuclear energy, beginning with India, which used a Canadian-US supplied reactor supplied under Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program to produce fuel for its first nuclear weapon in 1974. (Actually, even earlier, both Britain and France used the pretext of civilian nuclear power to build the reactors they needed for bomb fuel production.) I don’t think most people would be in favor of more nuclear energy if they knew the flip side was a half dozen more nuclear weapons states within their lifetimes.
Reading Kidd’s commentary brings literature’s eternal optimist to mind. When Candide laying dying after an earthquake in Lisbon, he called upon his philosopher friend Pangloss for food and water. “Help! Get me some wine and oil. I’m dying!”
Pangloss replied: “This earthquake is nothing new. The city of Lima felt the same tremors in America last year.” As if that wasn’t enough, the next day, having found a few scraps of food by crawling about in the rubble, Candide and his companions wept over their morsels of bread. But, Voltaire writes, “Pangloss consoled them by assuring them that things could not be otherwise: ‘For all this is the best there is….'”
In Kidd’s view the prospect of a half dozen more nuclear weapons programs is about the best we can hope for since “there is little really that the world can do to prevent them” — and paying that price in order to secure more nuclear generated electricity is as it should be.