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PostPosted: Jul 13, 2009 9:45 pm 
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Well, here is a counter argument from the Indian media (Times of India - July 14): http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/NEWS ... 773749.cms

They seem to say that India is not worried about the G8 declaration. Apparently, both France and Russia have some deals made (or are they in the pipeline?) with India where India can reprocess the fuel received from France or Russia, and that the Prime Minister is on his way to Meet Sarkozy as we speak, on these issues.

Further, India might be engaging in some dealing with the US Govt on similar (bilateral?) nuclear trade deals with the US. Not sure what that means. The paper seems to indicate that the G8 decision was more to isolate Iran than India.

Either way, it remains a puzzle, at least to me, as to why the US is at all interested about a nuclear cooperation with India. Why ?

Lastly, can/is either France of Russia engaged with India or anybody else on development of some sort of a Thorium program? We know Russia is working on its own to that end - no idea if there is any cooperation between Russia and anyone else on that front.

The whole thing seems confusing between pushing Uranium technology, looking for a Thorium solution, weapons talk, good old business as usual and etc etc!

Where does Canada stand in all this? Dont they want a piece of the pie too, somehow ?


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PostPosted: Jul 13, 2009 10:10 pm 
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Axil wrote:
The thorium fuel cycle has suffered greatly in the past because it can not produce plutonium. This is why current nuclear powers prefer the uranium fuel cycle. India is building up its stockpile of bomb material to match China. They are not hiding anything here. They can not waste fossil material to produce a nuclear technology that does not support their immediate national defense needs. They estimate they will be able to afford to transition to a civilian thorium fuel cycle by 2050 when they are relatively sure that they will have met this defense objectives under any circumstance into the foreseeable future.


Axil I strongly suggest that you get and read copies of William Langewiesche's book The Atomic Bazaar; T.V. Paul's The Tradition of Non Use of Nuclear Weapons; Abe Itty's The Making of the Indian Bomb; M.A Ryan's Chinese Attitudes Toward Nuclear Weapons and Rajesh Basrur's Minimum Deterrence and India's Nuclear Security . Relying on reviews of books by magazines really isn't enough.

Yes the Chinese were involved with the Pakistani bomb, so were several other countries ether by commission or omission. This is what Mark Hibbs of Nucleonics Week uncovered when he blew the lid off. Several governments were more interested in keeping Pakistan out of the Islamic fundamentalist sphere, than they were in stopping them having a bomb. Everything was just fine (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) until A.Q.Khan's network was implicated in a number of nascent programs in other countries.

Tonu wrote:
They seem to say that India is not worried about the G8 declaration. Apparently, both France and Russia have some deals made (or are they in the pipeline?) with India where India can reprocess the fuel received from France or Russia, and that the Prime Minister is on his way to Meet Sarkozy as we speak, on these issues.

Further, India might be engaging in some dealing with the US Govt on similar (bilateral?) nuclear trade deals with the US. Not sure what that means. The paper seems to indicate that the G8 decision was more to isolate Iran than India.


I told you the game had just begun

Tonu wrote:
Either way, it remains a puzzle, at least to me, as to why the US is at all interested about a nuclear cooperation with India. Why ?


Because it is a huge market that everyone wants a taste of.

Tonu wrote:
Where does Canada stand in all this? Dont they want a piece of the pie too, somehow?


Sure, we are going to sell them uranium.


Last edited by DV82XL on Jul 13, 2009 10:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Jul 13, 2009 10:38 pm 
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I agree that this uranium based proliferation situation is exceedingly complicated and involved, in an area that is potentially explosive and convoluted. It is difficult to see the real causes and effects and I can see how the current nuclear powers get weary and confused trying to keep the lid on situations.

But what is clear, the sooner that there is a complete transition to thorium power, the less complicated both the world wide nuclear power industry and international relations will be; of course that is only an opinion and a hope; the fool that I may be.

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PostPosted: Jul 13, 2009 11:32 pm 
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Axil wrote:
But what is clear, the sooner that there is a complete transition to thorium power, the less complicated both the world wide nuclear power industry and international relations will be; of course that is only an opinion and a hope; the fool that I may be.


One can hardly disagree with the hope that we can one day free ourselves from the tyranny of war and we both agree I think that a world with plentiful cheap energy will be a world free from want, and that in and of itself will do more for peace than any treaty. Certainly we both think too the path to this state of plenty is paved with thorium. Where we differ is in how this will come about.

I am of the opinion that we must look carefully at each situation, and understand it as it fits both into present conditions and the historical context, and realize that others have valid issues that must be addressed along with our particular needs and desires. Failure to do this I fear may prove to to lead to failure to satisfy ether side.


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PostPosted: Jul 14, 2009 8:00 am 
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DV82XL
Nuclear deterrent was a credible theory during the cold war when the antagonist was a rational player such as the Soviet Union. This theory doesn't make sense against irrational players, like modern terrorists.

What is worse is that a mad actor can trigger a collapse into a global nuclear war with even rational players attacking each other's stockpiles as a note of precaution.

The only way to prevent the threat of loose nuke explosions is by a thorough global inventory of fissile material. This is the only safe-bet, not nuclear "deterrent".

Axil

Riaz Haq is a US based Pakistani supporter, who periodically dishes out anti-India articles on his blog.

The culprit in South Asian politics is the Pakistani army which owns the country of Pakistan. It periodically topples the government and installs dictators when things are not going its way. All the 3 wars that were fought between India and Pakistan were initiated by Pakistani military dictators, the most recent being the Kargil war which was initiated in full knowledge that both countries had nuclear weapons.

Both Indian and Pakistani people are very friendly towards each other, and share a lot of things in common. When democratic governments are elected on both sides, peace reigns usually.The problem is that Pakistani nationality is defined in terms of the Indian "other", so a constant reinforcement of this is necessary for the Pakistani right-wing (usually religious fundamentalist, based mostly in Pakistani Punjab). Most of the Pak defence comes from this background, the pinnacle of this being the dictatorship of Zia ul Haq.

China treats Pakistan as a counterweight so that India doesn't grow too big to its shoes, just like how the US treats India as a counterweight to China. The real threat to India comes from China which is a stronger country and with whom India shares a long disputed border.

The USA also treats Pakistan as a crucial counterweight so that Indian influence doesn't spread too much to the west, especially in the oil and natural gas rich Central Asia.


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PostPosted: Jul 14, 2009 8:16 am 
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tonu
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Either way, it remains a puzzle, at least to me, as to why the US is at all interested about a nuclear cooperation with India. Why ?


US wouldn't engage in such a magnanimity if it's not getting something in return. Many people in India think that would be a bigger pie in the defence purchases of India, which come mostly from Russia and Israel today. Also there would be pressure on towing the US line with respect to Iran and other international issues. There would also be pressure to enforce US intellectual property rights in the Indian market.


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PostPosted: Jul 14, 2009 9:43 am 
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vakibs wrote:
DV82XL
Nuclear deterrent was a credible theory during the cold war when the antagonist was a rational player such as the Soviet Union. This theory doesn't make sense against irrational players, like modern terrorists.

What is worse is that a mad actor can trigger a collapse into a global nuclear war with even rational players attacking each other's stockpiles as a note of precaution.


First I do not lend much credence to a strategic analysis of a potential nuclear conflict by someone describing herself as: "a longtime student of consciousness and libertarian decentralist pacifist activist, writer, songwriter and video producer."

Secondly, elsewhere here I have pointed out that the technical and practical problems facing a 'terrorist' group wishing to acquire a working nuclear weapon are for all intents and purposes insurmountable. Weapons-grade fissile material tightly controlled by those nations producing it, if for no other reason than it is extremely expensive to produce, and to date there have been no credible reports of trafficking in this material.

In short, the whole terrorists with a nuclear weapon meme is a construct of irrational fears based almost entirely on a profound ignorance of the mechanics of a nuclear device, and unwarranted assumptions about the availability of material to make one.

As for deterrence, one can see it at work between India and Pakistan by looking at events between them over the past two decades. This is just a matter of historical record.

vakibs wrote:
The only way to prevent the threat of loose nuke explosions is by a thorough global inventory of fissile material. This is the only safe-bet, not nuclear "deterrent".


This is just a tautological statement, it may well be true, but it is not relevant - much of the issue we are discussing here is the difficulties of doing just that.


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PostPosted: Jul 14, 2009 10:48 am 
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DV82XL

I will be very glad if the challenges facing a terrorist organization from building a nuclear weapon are "insurmountable". But it is hardly the case.

As technology progresses, it will become easier and easier for people to build deadly weapons. The only missing ingredient for a nuclear weapon is the fissile material. There is no global inventory on its whereabouts. It will only be time before it is sold in the black market. One need not have enrichment technology to build a nuke, one just needs "access" to an enrichment plant. This is all.

About the retaliatory strikes in case of a nuke explosion, there is nothing alarming about them. This is what will happen if each player takes "rational" decisions. A communication gap or a miscommunication (which could even be engineered) will ensure that the players act out on their decisions.

Since I am an Indian, all these fears are very real for me. The scenario of a terrorist organization placing some moles in the Pak defence is highly likely.

It can also happen if a mad state such as North Korea is pushed beyond the brink, they might sell nukes for money. If no proof can be traced to where the bomb originated from, the perpetrators can hide well in the shadows.

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As for deterrence, one can see it at work between India and Pakistan by looking at events between them over the past two decades. This is just a matter of historical record.


Actually, Pakistan has initiated a full-scale aggression in Kargil just after both the countries tested the bomb. The reasoning is that India would not cross a line, to prevent the war from escalating into a nuclear confrontation. Many suspect that the coordinated terrorist attacks in Mumbai were done through some cooperation with Pak army or ISI. This is not proven, and Pakistan rubbishes these claims obviously. But Pakistan did neither own up to its infiltration in Kargil for a very long time. As a rational player, it helps Pakistan army to engage in terrorist attacks or cold-war tactics with the safety guaranteed by the nuclear cover. Whether they are taking this ambit or not is an open question.

So no, nuclear weapons do nothing in reducing the amount of conflict in the world. At best, as long as they are not being used, they are neutral to this whole thing. But once they are used, they would wreak havoc. There would be no turning back.


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PostPosted: Jul 14, 2009 11:16 am 
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May be I should also explain the reason for Pakistan being the aggressor and not India. India is a status-quo country, it doesn't covet the territory that is controlled by its neighbours. This includes the portion of Kashmir that is occupied by Pakistan and China. It is willing to convert the current line of control to an international border, and then push for a free movement of people across.

In contrast, Pakistan is not a status-quo country. It doesn't want to demarcate the border, and wishes to impose a referendum in Kashmir. If this doesn't happen, at least instigate a uprising in Kashmir. The same thing is true with China. India is a status-quo country. But China refuses to accept territory under Indian control to be under Indian jurisdiction (the state of Arunachal Pradesh) and the border is still under dispute.

A country which is not happy with the status-quo is more likely to be an aggressor.


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PostPosted: Jul 14, 2009 12:23 pm 
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vakibs wrote:
DV82XL

I will be very glad if the challenges facing a terrorist organization from building a nuclear weapon are "insurmountable". But it is hardly the case.


This is easy to state but it just doesn't hold water. A careful review of the evidence suggests that there are technical obstacles to such an attack that are insuperable, and there is no evidence that any terrorist group currently possesses the technical expertise necessary for a nuclear effort. Claims that this is possible glosses over the difficulty of finding the kinds of highly qualified experts such a project would need and omits real consideration of at least a dozen points in the process where something could, and very likely would, go wrong that would bring the whole project to an end.

vakibs wrote:
The only missing ingredient for a nuclear weapon is the fissile material. There is no global inventory on its whereabouts. It will only be time before it is sold in the black market. One need not have enrichment technology to build a nuke, one just needs "access" to an enrichment plant. This is all.


Countries that enrich uranium to weapons grade levels do in fact keep inventories, as I stated above the stuff is very expensive to make and is everywhere kept under guard. One would think that in the worst days of the fall of the Soviet Union these stockpiles would be the most vulnerable yet none of this material remains unaccounted for.

Look, I am not a fan of nuclear weapons; I would be happy to see them all be dismantled starting today. however I have to face the fact that this will never be. Talk of one world government and an atomic priesthood dedicated to seeing nuclear power is only used for good is the stuff of fiction, but that is about the only way I can ever see full disarmament ever coming about. Until then we are left with the hand we have been dealt, and I do not wish to see progress in the deployment of clean nuclear energy crippled by international grandstanding which only panders to the fears of the ignorant without doing anything to address the weapons issue. This is what I feel is happening now in the case of India, which is the subject of this thread,


Last edited by DV82XL on Jul 15, 2009 12:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Jul 14, 2009 1:45 pm 
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DV82XL wrote:
vakibs wrote:
DV82XL

I will be very glad if the challenges facing a terrorist organization from building a nuclear weapon are "insurmountable". But it is hardly the case.


This is easy to state but it just doesn't hold water. A careful review of the evidence suggests that there are technical obstacles to such an attack that are insuperable, and there is no evidence that any terrorist group currently possesses the technical expertise necessary for a nuclear effort.


I would use care in using history as a guide to what is possible in the future. Did people believe (or dismiss) the possibility of 9/11? The attack on Pearl Harbor? Russia stealing secrets in real-time at LANL? Having pancreatic cancer that Kim Jung Il would do.......? Given the simplicity of gun designs, I'd be making sure we know where the HEU is, and how well protected it is.


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PostPosted: Jul 14, 2009 2:24 pm 
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I wish I can share your optimism DV82XL. But I cannot.

Quote:
Countries that enrich uranium to weapons grade levels do in fact keep inventories, as I stated above the stuff is very expensive to make and is everywhere kept under guard.


Anything that is expensive, comes with a price. And there are people willing to pay for it. The only way this trade of fissile material can be avoided is when we have the whole fissile pile under common watchful eyes (may be, that's what you've called the atomic priesthood) .

I think the tumbling of Soviet Union was the easy part. There was one single red button, which could be hoped to be held secure. I'm afraid the Kim Jong Ils and Abdul Qadeer Khans of the world are another story.

Quote:
A careful review of the evidence suggests that there are technical obstacles to such an attack that are insuperable, and there is no evidence that any terrorist group currently possesses the technical expertise necessary for a nuclear effort.


There are all kinds of very smart fellows working for terrorists. Don't ask me why.

Also, what makes us think that terrorist / extremist groups cannot form governments themselves in nuclear weapon countries ? Just like the Nazis. How about an Islamist revolution in Pakistan ? If it could happen in Iran (a far more educated and liberal country), it could happen in Pakistan too.


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PostPosted: Jul 14, 2009 2:52 pm 
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arcs_n_sparks wrote:
I would use care in using history as a guide to what is possible in the future. Did people believe (or dismiss) the possibility of 9/11? The attack on Pearl Harbor? Russia stealing secrets in real-time at LANL? Having pancreatic cancer that Kim Jung Il would do.......? Given the simplicity of gun designs, I'd be making sure we know where the HEU is, and how well protected it is.


The only practical reason to study history is that it has proven to be a reliable guide to the future, without it we are only left with induction and that by itself is unreliable.

If you look carefully at the events you mentioned, there were those at the time who were warning that these were possible based on past events. I know that a large aircraft being run into a large building was for decades an unspoken nightmare inside the airline industry, for example.

Yes, too there can be unpredictable events - but that's exactly what they are - unpredictable. We cannot run the world as hostages to our imaginations, which is exactly what I think is happening here.

It is true a a gun-assembled HEU uranium bomb is conceptually simple, however building one that will work, is not and requires more resources than an extranational group can muster.

And again HEU is treated by all countries that make it as if it were more valuable than gold, a critical mass worth of HEU represents a huge investment to a country who made it for a purpose, and as part of a program. The fact remains that this stuff is controlled and accounted for very closely, which is why it has never showed up on the black market.

But let's take it one step further. Any terrorist group that decided it wanted a nuclear weapon would first reason that the easiest way would be to steal or buy a device from a nuclear weapons state. They are quickly disabused of this idea because it is impossible for them to do so. Why do we know this? Because it hasn't happened. If it was that easy there would be no running planes into buildings; there would already be a radioactive crater in Manhattan.

So they are left with building one. Now they have three issues: HEU which is no easer to obtain than a complete device, people that know what to do with it' (and are willing to cooperate) and some place on Earth where the host government won't have instant diarrhea at the thought of a group they had no control of holding a nuclear device inside their borders.

Looking at it like this, the terrorists can see that it would require a very unlikely series of events and a great deal of effort, and pressed for information, any high school physics teacher will tell them there are no guarantees the damned thing will work.

Result, scrap Plan A and go to Plan B: Hijack four widebody aircraft...

vakibs wrote:
Also, what makes us think that terrorist / extremist groups cannot form governments themselves in nuclear weapon countries ? Just like the Nazis. How about an Islamist revolution in Pakistan ? If it could happen in Iran (a far more educated and liberal country), it could happen in Pakistan too.


I have answered your leading items above. As for this last concern, we are then dealing with a national entity which becomes a legitimate target for retaliation should they attack.

Your leading argument up thread was that deterrence cannot apply to subnational groups it does however work fine against nations.

Also you should not confuse the military concept of deterrence with paralysis, it's much more complex than that. Pakistan has used nuclear deterrence in its conflicts with India as a tactical element for example, by offering the Indians a choice between escalation or retreat.


Last edited by DV82XL on Jul 15, 2009 6:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Jul 14, 2009 3:35 pm 
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I doubt that most terrorist groups are much interested in causing maximum damage.
The name of the game is to create publicity and wrings concessions, not to provoke those they wish to negotiate with to massive retaliation.
They would not be terrorists if they had the capacity to deal with that.

There are a lot easier ways to kill a lot of people than building a nuclear bomb if that is your objective.
Off the top of my head, firing a shoulder held missile into a natural gas tanker as it is entering port might have unpleasant consequences, as an explosion there, for instance, would wave goodbye to Milford Haven.


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PostPosted: Jul 14, 2009 4:43 pm 
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Dave Mart,

What kind of massive retaliation will work against a hit-and-run terrorist ? This is not war, but terrorism. The aim is to just terrorize people. No government shall give terrorists concessions after getting bombed. Has it happened ever ? No. But the terrorists still do these tricks because the aim is something else. To create confusion and panic amongst people and spread distrust on the government. This will slow the economy of a country, which gives ample time and advantage for an enemy country to fight back.

So if terrorists get hold of a scheme to create a mega-death, they will use it certainly.

DV82XL,

The logic of using nuclear weapons as a deterrent for violence works only if you are on the defense. But if you are the aggressor, having nuclear weapons will only magnify your aggression. as I mentioned with the Kargil war example of Pakistan.

Just because no terrorist group has yet captured nuclear weapons in commerce doesn't violate the possibility that it will not happen in the future. These days most terrorist groups are shadowy and operate in loosely knit collection. It will be difficult to point out who exactly is behind an attack. This uncertainty (lack of proof) is enough for a terrorist to use nuclear weapons. Because even if there is capacity to retaliate, the victim doesn't know what to retaliate against.


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