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Monday, October 16, 2006

Another danger of North Korean nukes

Last night, I mentioned the possibility that North Korea could share its nuclear technology with rogue states or terror groups. Writing in yesterday's Washington Post, Andrew Grotto suggests what might be an even greater danger:
But another threat, more likely and more dangerous, may emerge. Pyongyang's test could encourage "near-nuclear" proliferation -- a world in which states master key technologies that are ostensibly for harmless energy-related purposes but can be quickly adapted for deadly, offensive ends.

Indeed, governments aspiring to join the small but growing club of nuclear states don't need to consider testing nukes or withdrawing from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Instead, their first step could involve learning how to enrich uranium or separate plutonium; that technology can produce fuel for nuclear energy reactors -- or bombs.

Under common interpretations of the NPT, governments are allowed to acquire such technology for peaceful purposes. Once states perfect these techniques, though, they will have overcome the greatest obstacle to getting the bomb -- access to nuclear fuel.

These aren't hypotheticals: Iran has claimed that its fledgling uranium enrichment program is intended to diversify its energy supply by producing fuel for reactors. This year, Egypt and Turkey announced interest in nuclear energy as well.
Grotto suggests five states that might be interested in doing this sort of thing. Japan and South Korea don't bother me too much. But Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are another story.


At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"North Korea could share its nuclear technology with rogue states or terror groups"

Carl, North Korea IS a rogue state, if not a terror group ;-)


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