December 05, 2010

This Weekend’s News: Iran’s New Strategic Minerals, and More!

This week will be hot and heavy on Cancun, with CNAS alum Alex Stark reporting from the climate negotiations here on her blog, which we’ll repost here as well. So save for this brief but witty diversion from Mike Luckovich, I’ll stick to the highlights of other natural security news from this weekend.

On Saturday, The Washington Post reported the UN’s success at standing up a nuclear fuel bank. The article quotes an anonymous official noting that one of the chief benefits of this system will be that it will “undercut” claims by countries like Iran that they need to run their own fuel enrichment programs in order to maintain guaranteed fuel supplies.

This is welcome news, especially as Iran announced over the weekend that it has reserves of the mother of strategic minerals for countries seeking, er, peaceful nuclear programs: uranium And it claims that it knows how to use them. As MSNBC reported:

"Today, we witnessed the shipment of the first domestically produced yellowcake ... from Gachin mine to the Isfahan nuclear facility," said Salehi, whose comments were broadcast live on state television. The country has previously used yellowcake bought from South Africa in the 1970s, but some Western analysts have said Iran may be close to exhausting its supply of the material. Salehi, who is also the country's vice president, said the step meant Iran was now self-sufficient over the entire nuclear fuel cycle — from extracting uranium ore to enriching it and producing nuclear fuel.

These announcements by the UN and Iran landed in a timely manner, creating an interesting dueling narrative in advance of this week’s P5+1 talks with Iran. Laura Rozen has the best assessment of why expectations for the discussions are ever so low.

In other news, the Guardian reported that the recent round of WikiLeaks revealed how energy can get wrapped up in broader dealings with international partners. Its headline says it all – “US backs UAE bid to host green energy agency: Dispatches show support for major oil producer to host Irena as trade-off for political, military and financial help in Middle East” – but the story is worth a read in full. Finally, we often highlight failures in electricity services in places like Iraq on this blog. But Sunday, the Post reminded us that regional power supplier Pepco leaves much to be desired in ensuring reliable electricity supplies to the nation’s capital and its surrounding areas as well.

The Week Ahead

On Monday at 12:15, the University of Maryland hosts “Nuclear Energy, Networks, and Nonproliferation.” The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is hosting a 30th
anniversary bash on Tuesday and Wednesday with Secretary of Energy
Steven Chu and others, the topic being “Energy Efficiency - Advancing Our Economy, Environment, and Security.” Also Wednesday, at 1:00 p.m., SAIS is hosting a talk on “Iraqi Oil Development and Implications for the Global Oil Market.” ACORE is hosting a two-day “Renewable Energy in American National Policy Forum” Wednesday and Thursday.