By Russ Wellen · 24 Mar 2015
In Birch’s piece later in the week titled South African who attacked a nuclear plant is a hero to his government and fellow citizens (yes, that’s actually the title), he writes about another incident you likely never heard about. Present-day citrus farmer Rodney Wilkinson (a white)
The episode still spooks Washington, which as a result has waged a discreet diplomatic campaign to persuade South Africa to get rid of its large and, by U.S. reckoning, highly vulnerable stock of nuclear weapons fuel.
But South African President Jacob Zuma, like his predecessors, has resisted the White House’s persistent entreaties and generous incentives to do so, for reasons that have partly baffled and enormously frustrated the Americans.
But Wilkinson is not a pariah in his homeland.
… planted four bombs that caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to the Koeberg nuclear power plant north of Capetown in December 1982, in what is arguably one of the most ambitious and successful terror attacks against a nuclear facility anywhere.
This divergent history, some experts here say, partly explains why Pretoria and Washington don’t share the same level of concern about the threat of nuclear terror.
In other words, as University of Michigan historian Gabrielle Hecht told Birch for the second article:
South African officials say that Washington overplays the threat of nuclear terror, and in doing so threatens to block access by smaller countries to uranium enrichment and other nuclear-related technologies. U.S. officials say in response that South Africa simply does not take seriously the risks created by these materials and technologies.
Here you see echoes of other states such as Iran objecting to the double standard by which nuclear powers attempt to dictate which states are allowed nuclear energy, with its dual-use capabilities. We will close with a touché line from the first article:
… that difference in perspective, among other important factors, makes nuclear security a lower priority for South Africa than the prospect of establishing energy and economic security from nuclear power, which might involve the use of enriched uranium.
Zuma’s appointees assert that it’s absurd for the United States to obsess over the security of the country’s small nuclear explosive stockpile, while downplaying the starker threat posed by the big powers’ nuclear arsenals.