Of nuclear security, rainbows, and unicorns

Natural gas fracking well in Louisiana, (c) 2013 Daniel Foster

Yes, I'm all in favor of world peace.  And harmony.  And justice too.  I'm just not convinced we can have a big group hug and conclude the issue has been solved. I'm also in favor of making cleaner energy available to the world even if we have to sometimes subsidize energy access to the very poor. 

But the recent energy security summit promoting the subsidized expansion of civilian nuclear energy throughout the world at the same time we are to be curbing the risk of nuclear "incidents" got me thinking about rainbows and unicorns.  A delusional non-sequitor, you say?  Hardly.  I'm talking about Superhero Rainbow, an integral part of Phineas and Ferb's Team Improbable.  Her power is to "Harness the power of rainbows, unicorns, and sweetness to defend all that is just."

Turns out, I wasn't the only one to feel a bit of a discontinuity here.  National security writer Rowan Scarborough has a good op-ed on the topic, and quotes as well Henry Sokolski, Executive Director of the Non-Proliferation Policy Education Center.    Don't see a link between civilian power and proliferation? This paper by Victor Gilinsky, Marvin Miller, and Harmon Hubbard provides a detailed look at the concerns. 

It's one thing if nuclear power were the only option to save civilization.  Despite industry claims that it is, there are hundreds of things that provide energy services with much reduced greenhouse gases -- and at a much lower total (that means private investment plus government subsidies) cost.  Seems very silly to subsidize the expansion of a very gnarly security problem.

OK; perhaps I'm over-reacting.  The folks at the nuclear security summit were also thinking about states that might sell nuclear know-how where they shouldn't.  Team Improbable has this under control too.  French President Nicholas Sarkozy, who has personally been actively promoting the sale of French reactors to a wide array of countries,  has proposed to try such renegades in an international court.  Because the International Court has been doing such a grand job of dealing with war crimes in the former Yugoslavia; and the IAEA and UN Security Council have proven agile and efficient in dealing with the Iranian nuclear program.  Yet, despite these minor hiccups, a number of other countries seem to agree that the international court approach is a good way to go.  Group hug anybody?