LJ Stambuk, President & CEO of the World Affairs Council of Charlotte, Dr. Marie-Claire Marroum, Board Member of the World Affairs Council of Charlotte and (Ret.) President of Carolinas Pathology Group, with Joseph Cirincione, President of Ploughshares Fund and author of “Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late” — at Hilton Charlotte Center City.
On December 5, the World Affairs Council of Charlotte hosted Joseph Cirincione to discuss the impact of nuclear weapons in today’s world and how diplomatic discussion has a far better chance of securing peace among conflicted nations. The presentation was filmed by C-SPAN for a national audience. “I would guess that very few of you woke up this morning thinking about nuclear weapons,” said Joseph Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund and author of “Nuclear Nightmares: Securing The World Before It’s Too Late.”
Nuclear terrorism is one of the two threats that can bring about devastation- the other being global warming- and it is not only preventable but also reversible. No one has used a nuclear weapon in 68 years, relying less on the use of WMDs and more on the attempts of diplomatic resolution. Aside from discussion of his book “Nuclear Nightmares,” Cirincione honed in on recent negotiations made in Geneva between the P5-plus-1 and Iran.
Science with Cirincione: Bomb or power?
We Think Media, a group funded by Ploughshares Fund, did a survey about all the stories pertaining to nuclear policies. The surveys showed that 70 percent of these stories were about Iran. The questions pertaining to Iran are can we stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons and how are they making these nuclear weapons?
Iran has Uranium mines. Natural uranium can’t be used to make nuclear power unless it is enriched to a rare isotope called U235. So it is mixed with fluoride and turns into gas. It is then put into a centrifuge where it spins the gas until heavier elements go to the outside and the lighter U235 element goes to the middle. Slightly enriched but not enough, it is put into another centrifuge and spins until the U235 is more enriched. They do this process for about three to four months until it becomes three to five percent enriched. The now enriched U235 gas is put into a powder form, the powder form is put into pellets and the pellets are put into fuel rods in a nuclear reactor. Then it undergoes fission: The hotter it gets the more steam is produced from the water around it, spinning the turbines until you have nuclear power. This doesn’t seem so bad; after all, 20 percent of the United States relies on nuclear power. The problem: If you keep these centrifuges going and enrich U235 up to 90 percent, the outcome is a gas-formed metal about the size of a grapefruit used as a nuclear weapon.
Joseph Cirincione, President of Ploughshares Fund and author of “Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late” — at Hilton Charlotte Center City.
Iran: What’s the deal?
Iran has a long history of hiding their centrifuge facilities while the United States has a history of finding them. Iran claims these centrifuges are being used for nuclear power only. By still using these centrifuges for so-called nuclear power, they are still enabling their nuclear program. On the other hand, the United States’ nuclear program is giving the rest of the world an incentive, implying that it is ok to have these programs. President Obama spoke to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a discussion that hasn’t happened between the two countries since Jimmy Carter’s presidency. At the Geneva Convention, the P5-plus-1 and Iran reached a temporary and fragile agreement that Iran would stop its nuclear projects for six months. They are prohibited from using their centrifuges even for nuclear power to ensure there is no advancement of their nuclear program and to stop working with plutonium another element used for making bombs. Iran agreed to highly intrusive daily inspections. In return the P5-plus-1 released sanctions on Iran of about $7 billion.
Iran’s Economy: The impact of Sanctions
Sanctions are a tool to make a deal and we have the toughest sanctions on Iran in modern peacetime. Iran’s economy has crippled because of sanctions. “Sanctions can’t solve a problem,” said Cirincione. “Don’t think you can crush a country into submission by sanctions alone, it has never happened.” Because of sanctions, economic growth is down five percent. Iran’s oil sales have plummeted, value of currency is down 60 percent and unemployment is up 35 percent. Sixty percent of Iran’s youth is under 35. Among the youth, 50 percent are unemployed. “No regime can survive with fifty percent of its youth not working,” said Cirincione. “This is a regime threat.”
Cirincione has “lived long enough to see the impossible happen.” He concluded his optimistic presentation with proof of peaceful negotiations rather than nuclear destruction by referencing historical evidence of overcoming triumphs with diplomatic means. “I’ve seen a man walk out of a prison cell that is held him for 28 years to become elected president of a majority ruled and freed South Africa,” said Cirincione, giving tribute to Nelson Mandela who, only a few hours later, passed away at the age of 95. “If you’re a student and you are following these issues and if you care about national security, I congratulate you on your timing.”
Book signing with Joseph Cirincione, President of Ploughshares Fund and author of “Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late” — at Hilton Charlotte Center City.
Mr. Cirincione stayed after his presentation to sign books and talk more with students and members of the audience. His presentation was all but one hour but it left the audience wanting more and certainly asking more questions.
Written by Brianna Woods