John McCain gave a speech on nuclear security this morning at the University of Denver, and given his abiding love of nuclear power as the solution to climate change, that came up too. Where there’s “civilian” nuclear energy, there’s the possibility for nuclear weapons — and if he’s promoting the former, that leads to plenty of questions about how to prevent the latter. And of course, all that spent nuclear fuel has to go somewhere. His remarks:
As we improve the national and multilateral tools to catch and reverse illicit nuclear programs, I am convinced civilian nuclear energy can be a critical part of our fight against global warming. Civilian nuclear power provides a way for the United States and other responsible nations to achieve energy independence and reduce our dependence on foreign oil and gas. But in order to take advantage of civilian nuclear energy, we must do a better job of ensuring it remains civilian. Some nations use the pretense of civilian nuclear programs as cover for nuclear weapons programs. We need to build an international consensus that exposes this deception, and holds nations accountable for it. We cannot continue allowing nations to enrich and reprocess uranium, ostensibly for civilian purposes, and stand by impotently as they develop weapons programs.
The most effective way to prevent this deception is to limit the further spread of enrichment and reprocessing. To persuade countries to forego enrichment and reprocessing, I would support international guarantees of nuclear fuel supply to countries that renounce enrichment and reprocessing, as well as the establishment of multinational nuclear enrichment centers in which they can participate. Nations that seek nuclear fuel for legitimate civilian purposes will be able to acquire what they need under international supervision. This is one suggestion Russia and others have made to Iran. Unfortunately, the Iranian government has so far rejected this idea. Perhaps with enough outside pressure and encouragement, they can be persuaded to change their minds before it is too late. I would seek to establish an international repository for spent nuclear fuel that could collect and safely store materials overseas that might otherwise be reprocessed to acquire bomb-grade materials. It is even possible that such an international center could make it unnecessary to open the proposed spent nuclear fuel storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. [emphasis mine]
One can’t help but wonder who decides what constitutes “responsible,” and where, exactly, this huge international nuclear repository would be located.
Democracy Arsenal has much more on McCain’s speech.