by Rod D. Martin
March 24, 2014
Japan announced today that it would turn over to the United States a large cache of weapons-grade plutonium and highly-enriched uranium. The New York Times described the decades-old research stockpile as “large enough to build dozens of nuclear weapons.”
Needless to say, the Times puts the best possible face on this, lauding it as “the biggest single success in President Obama’s five-year push to secure the world’s most dangerous materials” and quoting an Obama NSA appointee glowingly about The Messiah’s latest miracle. The angle — an admirable one — is to reduce the amount of fissile material in the world, and more important still, show North Korea, Iran and others that it’s not only safe to disarm, but U.S. allies are leading by example.
But in reality, as even the Times notes, Japan is only giving up a small fraction of its stockpile: so much for the example thing. And why should it? The surest way to deter Chinese aggression is probably a Japanese nuclear arsenal, or at least the threat that one could be constructed quickly. Who’s kidding whom?
And that’s the real disaster of Ukraine, at least so far. Nuclear nonproliferation is dead. Completely dead. Because the chief reason to have nukes is not to use them but to make it impossibly unsafe for other countries to attack you. Russia and the United States guaranteed post-Soviet Ukraine that if it would give up its Soviet-era nukes (to Russia, no less), both powers would guarantee Ukraine’s safety and borders forever.
Well, Russia just invaded and the United States stood by and watched (good job, Obama!), so nuclear nonproliferation is dead: no country will ever trust such a guarantee again, and every nation will learn the obvious: that if Ukraine had kept its nukes, it would now be keeping Crimea too.
So the President who announced early in his presidency that his biggest goal was to rid the world of nuclear weapons just guaranteed that everyone who thinks themselves even slightly vulnerable now must have them. Can Iran possibly give up its program now? Not that it would have, of course, but now it can’t. And therefore Saudi Arabia, every other Gulf state, and pretty much every other state that can buy, beg or build a Bomb must do so also.
Though they’ll deny it, Japan took this action today to help Obama try to prove that NNP is not dead. They might as well play ventriloquist with a corpse. This is a genie that won’t go back in its bottle, and can’t. Japan’s own half-hearted half-measure tells the story. In the new, vastly more dangerous world Obama has given us, no one can be without the ability to build nukes, fast.
Leave it to a liberal to unleash an arms race: they always do. But this one is vastly more dangerous than any ever before. Two great powers and a handful of their allies having nukes is a balance of power. Fifty or a hundred powers with nukes is…scary as hell.
One good thing: the nuclear materials Japan is returning are needed to produce any number of important important things like Technetium, the world’s most commonly used medical radioisotope. Technetium is produced from molybdenum, which is usually created commercially through the fission of highly enriched uranium, not the easiest thing to get. So the next time you need a bone scan or a cardiac ventriculograph, thank Japan. But don’t thank Obama: we ought to be producing plenty of this stuff without having to beg foreigners for their bomb-making materials.