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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Sunset for Nuclear Power? Nuclear Showdown in California

Flag-USAWhy the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You, Sunset for Nuclear Power?  CounterPunch, by JAMES HEDDLE FEBRUARY 12, 2016

Does the dream of nuclear power still ‘look bright’ as one enthusiastic investment advisor gushed less than a year ago, or is it the “the dream that failed,” as the Economist asserted as far back as March of 2012?

Approaching 5 years this March 11 after the still on-going Fukushima nuclear disaster, the debate goes on, enveloped in a miasma of mis-, dis-, and conflicting information generated by industry ‘merchants of doubt,’ but rarely leavened by rational analysis of What’s Really What.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2015 by Mycle Schneider, Antony Froggatt et al went a long way toward settling the issue with just that – a data-based rational analysis.

Its conclusion: worldwide, despite a few troubled construction starts over budget and behind schedule, “The nuclear industry remains in decline.”

You’d never know it from the pro-nuclear happytalk and proposed subsidy and bailout bills being floated in Congress, but all around the world the global nuclear power industry is fighting for its life.

Nuclear Showdown in California

Nowhere is that battle closer to being decisively lost by the industry than in California, where the Sunshine State’s ‘last nuke standing’ – PG&E’s Diablo Canyon – faces a very uncertain future. A showdown between those who want to shut it down, and those who want to keep it going.

Diablo nuclear power plant
It is a microcosmic drama with all the elements of a movie thriller:

· A corrupt California Public Utilities Commission racked in scandals.
· A compromised Nuclear Regulatory Commission captured by nuclear interests.
· A resurgent peoples’ movement determined to shut Diablo down and responsibly manage the state’s thousands of tons of lethal radioactive waste.
· The growing vision of a nuclear-energy-free West Coast and a solartopian transition.
· A handful of atomic denialists clamoring to ‘save Diablo.’
· All this in the context of deepening climate change and the battle for decentralized, clean, renewable power.

A Diablo shutdown in California would be a shot heard in nuclear boardrooms around the world, and would continue this bellwether state’s well-earned reputation as being ‘no country for old nukes.’

A quick look at the history of California’s Nuclear Free Movement tells the tale.

Back last century, then-President Nixon predicted 1000 nuclear reactors in the US by the year 2000.

In the 60’s, PG&E announced plans to build 63 reactors every 25 miles up and down the California coast.

Thanks to informed popular resistance interventions in the courts, in the legislatures, and in the streets, that didn’t happen.

Only 9 of those planned power reactors ever got built: 1 at Humboldt Bay, 1 at Pleasanton, 2 at Rancho Secco, 3 at San Onofre, and 2 at Diablo Canyon.

Today, only 2 are still in operation, those at Diablo Canyon.

From a planned 63 nuclear power plants in the 1960’s, down to 1 in 2015.

Not a bad track record for the effectiveness of informed non-violent, popular resistance…and a demonstration of the non-viability of nuclear energy – vulnerable as it is to public opposition, industry incompetence, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and what renowned energy expert Amory Lovins long ago called ‘a terminal overdose of market forces.’……… http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/02/12/why-the-current-nuclear-showdown-in-california-should-matter-to-you/

February 13, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

USA Government quietly funding billionaires’ nuclear folly

Breakthrough Energy CoalitionThe Breakthrough Energy Coalition is Bill Gates again, and loaded to the hilt with his fellow billionaires all salivating at the prospect of old nuclear pots to mend. 

But given the Breakthrough Coalition is entirely “separate” and “private,” what is it doing even being mentioned in a government budget rollout?

Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget  CounterPunch, by LINDA PENTZ GUNTER  FEBRUARY 12, 2016 “……..Cut to page 19 of the Office of Management and Budget’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget document.  Here we find “clean energy,” a phrase no longer to be trusted at face value, having been purloined into meaning at times something quite the reverse.  For example, nuclear energy tends to hide beneath the “clean energy” mantel, muddling the message and undermining cause for optimism.

…….. let’s gerund away anyway and see what lurks beneath the section entitled, “Doubling the Investment in Clean Energy R&D.”  Here we learn that the U.S. Government indeed intends to double its current $6.4 billion investment in clean energy for 2016 to arrive at $12.8 billion by 2021.  A hefty chunk — $7.7 billion — will be given as discretionary funding to the Department of Energy in 2017 alone for “clean energy R&D.”

But for what, exactly?  “About 76 percent of the funding is directed to DOE for critical clean energy development activities, including over $2 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies,” the Budget document reads.  Just two billion dollars for energy efficiency and renewable energy combined?   That leaves $5.7 billion for something else that the DOE considers “clean energy.”  One of those claimants undoubtedly is nuclear power.

More clues to the likely destination of this unassigned mystery money can be found in a later section where the Budget document reveals that the $7.7 billion is actually earmarked as funding for the “first step toward the Mission Innovation doubling goal.”…….

there is only one logical explanation for this “fair and balanced” energy policy nonsense: corporate captivity.

To oversimplify: Barack Obama, the Senator from Illinois, emerged from Rahm Emanuel’s clamshell, and Emanuel invented Exelon and Exelon is today the country’s leading nuclear behemoth.  Exelon’s chief lobbyist in the early days was David Axelrod.  Team Obama was born in the country’s nuclear cradle, then.  Nevertheless, it’s high time that a U.S. president as committed to renewables as Obama, ceased tossing favors — aka our money— to his corporate nuclear cronies.

And so it goes on. Sitting on that Paris stage last December for the Mission Innovation announcement was Bill Gates, whose only energy agenda is tinkering around with nuclear unicorns, an exercise so devoid of relevance to the urgent battle to address climate change that every dime spent there is a dime wasted.  OK they are his dimes, trillions of them.  But think what he could really do for climate change if he spent his riches wisely.

Let’s follow the trail of budget breadcrumbs a little further.  The OMB goes on to say: “Mission Innovation is complemented by the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a separate, private sector-led effort whose purpose is to mobilize substantial levels of private capital to support the most cutting-edge clean energy technologies emerging from the R&D pipeline.”

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is Bill Gates again, and loaded to the hilt with his fellow billionaires all salivating at the prospect of old nuclear pots to mend.  But given the Breakthrough Coalition is entirely “separate” and “private,” what is it doing even being mentioned in a government budget rollout?

What comes out of the Clean Energy R&D pipeline rather depends on what goes into it.   It would be good if that turned out to be a true renewable energy revolution and not more deadly radioactive effluent from an obsolete fleet of new nuclear power plants.

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear. She also serves as director of media and development. http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/02/12/radioactive-handouts-the-nuclear-subsidies-buried-inside-obamas-clean-energy-budget/

February 13, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

87 US Senators blithely voted for more spending on nuclear energy

Renouncing nuclear, then, is the ultimate act of patriotism. Love of country (or “cournty”as the typo-loving Ted Cruz campaign would say) should mean making decisions that protect it, not letting it turn into a radioactive wasteland.

Which makes it so hard to understand why any US political leader on the Left or Right  – but especially those Freedom Fries-loving, jingoistic wall-building, Make-America-Great-Again saber rattlers – would continue to support, promote and secure funds for an industry that could kill tens of thousands of people and exile even more.

With very little fanfare, 87 senators were happy to endorse the squandering of likely billions more taxpayer dollars on yet another nuclear snipe hunt, dreaming of fusion and fast reactors, when solar and wind would do very nicely instead.

Kan, NaotoFukushima PM Naoto Kan: ‘if you love your country, let nuclear go!’, Ecologist Linda Pentz Gunter 12th February 2016   Nuclear power is a uniquely hazardous technology that can destroy entire nations, Japan’s prime minister at the time of the Fukushima nuclear disaster has warned British MPs. The lessons of from such catastrophes must be heeded in other countries that believe that nuclear fission can be harnessed safely, writes Linda Pentz Gunter – or they, and the world, will reap the whirlwind…….

 no coincidence that the leaders at the time of the two countries that have experienced the world’s most catastrophic nuclear disasters, are fervent campaigners against any further use of nuclear energy.

They see the choice to continue with nuclear power, knowing the risk to the nation they swear an oath to protect, as tantamount to declaring war on your own country.

Former leaders during nuclear meltdowns, now oppose nuclear power

Former Soviet Premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, who led the then USSR during the April 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion in Ukraine; and Naoto Kan who was prime minister of Japan when the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster began, both now travel the speakers’ circuit extolling the need to abolish nuclear power.

Kan, now 69, who resigned the premiership in August 2011, has become a ubiquitous and compelling voice for the global anti-nuclear movement. Gorbachev is equally on board but, due to age and infirmity (he turns 85 on March 2nd) is less often in evidence.

Kan made his case in January during a presentation at the UK’s House of Commons co-organized by Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Green Cross International (the group Gorbachev founded) and Nuclear Consulting Group. Gorbachev was scheduled but had to cancel.

Kan compared the potential worst-case devastation that could be caused by a nuclear power plant meltdown as tantamount only to “a great world war. Nothing else has the same impact.”

Japan escaped such a dire fate during the Fukushima disaster, said Kan only “due to luck”. But he is clearly haunted by the map his advisors showed him in the early days of the still unfolding triple meltdowns, one he screened for his London audience:

“I was shown this map with a 250km radius around Fukushima. An area home to 50 million people. One quarter of the country’s population would have had to flee if all the fuel had escaped at Fukushima. We came that close. If 50 million people had had to evacuate Japan, as a state our very survival would have been questioned.”

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few Continue reading

February 13, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

South African President’s very problematic nuclear deal with Russia

Five things you should know about Sona 2016, Mail & Guardian 12 FEB 2016  MG REPORTER From nuclear to belt-tightening: If you didn’t last through Jacob Zuma’s speech, we’ve got you covered with these five quick highlights………..3. Zuma may be pressurised into scaling back on his nuclear ambitions

The proposed deal to acquire 9 600MW nuclear power stations will dwarf the controversial arms deal and has already caused concerns with reports that Russia was allegedly the preferred bidder in what appears  to be a very problematic deal. It also seemed to be one of many points of contention between Nene and Zuma, with treasury estimating a cost of R1.4-trillion and  the pro-nuclear cabal putting it at just R600-billion.

A subdued Zuma, who has been chastised by business and his party for axing Nene, reaffirmed that the “nuclear energy expansion programme remains part of the future energy mix” but added that government would “test the market to ascertain the true cost of building modern nuclear plants”’ and emphasised that “we will only procure nuclear on a scale and pace that our country can afford”.

Current finance minister Pravin Gordhan was thought to have had a strong hand in this speech and may well have re-asserted Nene’s cautions around cost. ……..http://mg.co.za/article/2016-02-12-five-things-you-should-know-about-sona-2016

February 13, 2016 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Electricite De France (EDF) faces €100bn bill for upgrading ageing nuclear power stations

AREVA EDF crumblingEDF faces €100bn bill for upgrading ageing nuclear power stations, Ft.com  Michael Stothard in Paris , 11 Feb 16 French utility EDF is facing a €100bn bill for upgrading its ageing nuclear power stations at the same time as a new law could force it to close a third of its reactors, according to the country’s state audit office.

The report by the Cour des Comptes comes at a bad time for the world’s largest nuclear power generator as it scrambles to secure financing for a contentious £18bn nuclear project in the UK.

Unions and analysts have already raised concerns that EDF might be biting off more than it can chew with the proposed nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The utility is grappling with a large debt load as well as increased competition in its domestic market.

Shares in EDF, which is 85 per cent owned by the French government, have fallen 55 per cent in the past year, reducing its market capitalisation to €21bn. The group has net debt of ‎€37bn.

The audit office said on Wednesday that the cost of increasing the life expectancy of the 58 nuclear plants in France from their current 40 years would be €100bn during the 2014-2030 period.

This is well above EDF’s €55bn estimate for the 2014-2025 period. The difference is in part because the €100bn also includes EDF’s operating expenses over that period.

The audit office also said that a law passed last year to reduce the share of nuclear in French energy production from 75 per cent at the moment to 50 per cent by 2025 could lead to the closure of 17 to 20 EDF reactors.

The law was set to “jeopardise planned investments” by EDF and “force it to close a third of its plants,” with possible consequences for jobs, said the report. It suggested that EDF might have to turn to the state for compensation………

EDF has said it wants to keep all of its 58 reactors running. It said that it wants the reduction of the share of nuclear in the French energy mix from 75 per cent to 50 per cent in the law to come from growing demand.

But the Cour des Comptes said this kind of growth in demand was unlikely. “Only a very significant increase of electricity use or power exports could limit the number of closures, but experts do not expect this will happen,” it said. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/581cb61a-d00d-11e5-92a1-c5e23ef99c77.html#axzz3ztplMhin

February 12, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment

Hinkley Nuclear Project: trials and Tribulations Continue, and EDF is in dire financial straits

protest-Hinkley-CnuClear News, No 82 Feb 2016, Hinkley’s Troubles Continue The resignation of the man in charge of building Hinkley Point C capped a month of very bad news for the proposed £18bn nuclear power plant. Chris Bakken announced that he would be returning home to the US to take up the post of chief nuclear officer for Entergy beginning on April 6 to “spend more time with his family.”

Anti-nuclear campaigners declared the resignation was yet another sign the project is in trouble. John Sauven, executive director at Greenpeace, said: “Coming just days after the EDF board failed to agree a final go-ahead for Hinkley, this move is yet another symptom of the disquiet this project is causing within the company itself. The whole enterprise makes so little economic sense that EDF’s own staff and many board members are concerned it will seriously damage the company.” (1)
According to the French newspaper, Le Figaro, EDF was expected to make a final investment decision on the proposed reactors at its Board meeting on 27th January 2016, (2) although the Stop Hinkley Campaign pointed out it was the ninth time that EDF has said a final investment decision is imminent and then nothing happened. (3) The campaign group argued that EDF is in such a precarious state that it is really not sensible to commit to building two new European Pressurised water Reactors (EPRs) when there are still no EPRs operating anywhere in the world and there is considerable unease amongst employee shareholders about the financing of Hinkley Point C – some fear it could sink the company altogether. (4) The Financial Times revealed at the end of December that the EPRs being built at Taishan have been delayed by at least another year. (5) Dr Dave Toke said the debate is now not about whether Hinkley Point C will go-ahead, but whether EDF itself can survive. (6)

Continue reading

February 10, 2016 Posted by | politics, UK | 1 Comment

Nuclear “renaissance” to Nuclear Fascism

Nuclear energy does not ever exist in some neutral realm; it is always deeply enmeshed in political contexts, and (as South Africa’s own strange nuclear history shows) it is always linked intimately to state power.

Would the honourable member care to explain caesium, strontium and plutonium to the ancestors?

Fascism 1

Power trip: where will Zuma’s nuclear dreams take us?  SUNDAY TIMES OPINION BY HEDLEY TWIDLE, 2016-02-07 Hedley Twidle hiked from Cape Point to Koeberg power station. En route, while passing the traces of our ancient predecessors, he wondered what Zuma’s nuclear dreams might mean for our distant successors. Do we know what we are doing? And will they know what we did?…….

In secrecy and haste, the Zuma government is pushing a deal for a new fleet of reactors. It will be the biggest procurement in our history, with a projected starting price of more than R1-trillion – but nuclear builds are notorious for running over budget.

The reason for the firing of Nene, some analysts suggested, was that he was stalling on nuclear, trying to protect the fiscus from a “presidential legacy” project that threatens to contaminate our economy, and our whole national project, for the rest of our lives.

We all have things that keep us up at night, and the prospect of SA being locked into a “nuclear renaissance” with Vladimir Putin’s Russia (or Xi Jinping’s China, or François Hollande’s France) is mine.

One of the troubling things about the debate is the language in which it is conducted: the technocratic confidence and business-minded briskness that pretends it has everything figured out.

weasel-words1Debates about energy policy happen in the language of developmental economics and financial modelling; in long and acronym-riddled policy documents; in boring technical reports. Decisions are taken amid the short-term cycles of party politics and cabinet reshuffles, not in mind of the long history of building and decommissioning nuclear plants, then disposing of their waste – a process that the world is only just beginning to grapple with. The massive expense and difficulty of it is only beginning to become apparent.

Journalistic expertise and coverage of these larger questions is thin; but beyond even this, do we have the imaginative capacity to understand what a nuclear future entails? I want to suggest that when it comes to nuclear power and its afterlives, we (in a deep sense) do not know what we are talking about.

what does it mean – culturally, philosophically – to produce isotopes that are invisible to our senses but lethal for thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of years? What does it say about our civilisation, the geologic layer we will leave behind, the Anthropocene? What is the lifespan of a human “fact” when read across the expanse of deep time?……..

When Koeberg opened in 1984, the whole population of Cape Town was given iodine tablets, since any of the winter northwesterlies would carry the radioactive “plume” right towards the city. Iodine reduces the absorption of radionuclides by the thyroid gland: the first line of defence in a nuclear emergency. Looking at the evacuation plan, the city’s chief health officer accused Eskom of “absolute naivety” and moved out of the metro in protest………

Writing against India’s nuclear ambitions in her stinging 1998 essay The End of Imagination, Arundhati Roy registers a similar sense of rhetorical exhaustion. There can be nothing more humiliating for a writer, she says, than to restate a case that has, over the years, already been made by other people across the world, “and made passionately, eloquently and knowledgeably”. But she is prepared for this humiliation, she says, because silence would be indefensible.

“So those of you who are willing: let’s pick our parts, put on these discarded costumes and speak our second-hand lines in this sad second-hand play. But let’s not forget that the stakes are huge. Our fatigue and our shame could mean the end of us.”…….

Nuclear energy does not ever exist in some neutral realm; it is always deeply enmeshed in political contexts, and (as SA’s own strange nuclear history shows) it is always linked intimately to state power………

, it is an energy path that requires, that mandates, that fits perfectly with centralised state control and secrecy – hence its ongoing appeal to autocracies. It is the opposite of decentralised, small-scale technologies for renewable energy. Following the events at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011, most social democracies have turned away from nuclear. Russia, India, China and now SA are looking to major expansion in the sector, even as the rest of the world regards it as a dying, expensive industry – and one which has never solved the problem of the long-term toxicity it produces, or in its euphemism, its “legacy waste”.

The cleanness and bracing sea air of Koeberg are an illusion. Somewhere within that perimeter fence, the high-level waste of spent fuel rods is stored in cooling ponds. Low and medium level waste is driven up the N7 highway to be buried in an open pit at Vaalputs, in the dry landscape of Namaqualand.

But the most lethal waste – hundreds of tonnes of it – remains on the premises, too dangerous to move, or even to think about.

Outside the closed visitors centre, there were notices about the construction of a new “transient interim storage facility” within the grounds, using the dry casks in which the nuclear industry parks its most dangerous legacies.

The doubled-up adjective is telling: the strategy for this kind of waste is always temporary, transient, interim. It places an unasked-for burden not just on “future generations” (that bland and tired phrase), but even on future species of hominid that might evolve in the geographic space that is known (for now) by the bland name of South Africa………

The lethal time capsules being built deep underground are meant to reach as far into the future as human symbolic behaviour reaches back into the African past: 100,000 years.

Timeline-human-&-radioactive

To even begin to conceive of what the nuclear option means, you have to abandon opinion pieces, leave “rational” argument and enter the realms of speculative fiction. In 2116, 100 years from now, will the people required to take care of the waste of Koeberg (or Thyspunt, or Schulpfontein, or Duynefontein) understand what they are being asked to do, and why?

Will they have the technology to do it, and the money? Will they still be filing progress reports to a nuclear regulator? What language will be spoken here? Will those two grain silos still be there at the water’s edge, or will they be drowned by rising sea levels?

What about in 3016? Will “South Africa” still exist? Will there be any remnant of the national road system along which the dry casks will (supposedly) be transported to their final resting place at Vaalputs?

Will there be any trace of the companies that profited from the nuclear furnaces, after all the CEOs and the PAs and the PRs and the shareholders and their children’s children’s children, unto the 20th generation, are no more than ash on the wind?

Let’s go one further. What about 10,000 years from now?

Can any symbol or sign system speak across so many millennia of unstable above-ground conditions? And even if the hominids of 12016 AD do understand the warnings about a slow poison buried deep in the desert, will they heed them?

 The 2010 documentary Into Eternity meditates on the construction of Onkalo, the world’s first geological disposal facility, now nearing completion beneath a Finnish island. Amid long takes of underground blasting and a slow ballet of earth-moving machinery, it asks: should we even try to communicate the dangers of buried waste to the deep future?………

Could a question like this please be tabled among all the integrated resource plans and environmental impact assessments and risk assessments and costing exercises that go on for hundreds of pages but never get to the heart of the matter?

In those paper-thin arguments, language is used less to communicate than to disguise risk and evade the real questions posed by nuclear: questions of time, ethics, inter-generational responsibility. Questions about the kind of human experiment we want to be part of.

Would the honourable member care to explain caesium, strontium and plutonium to the ancestors?

What do you think? Write to letters@sundaytimes.co.za  http://www.timeslive.co.za/sundaytimes/lifestyle/opinion/2016/02/07/Power-trip-where-will-Zumas-nuclear-dreams-take-us

February 8, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Big, fat waste of lawmakers’ time: US Congress trying to block Iran nuclear accord

Groundhog Day for the Iran Deal Congress’ continued efforts to block the Iran nuclear accord undermine real progress in U.S.-Iran relations. US News, By  and  Feb. 3, 2016,  Yesterday, the House once again passed legislation to reject the Iran nuclear accord. Like the more than 60 votes to gut Obamacare, House votes to block the Iran accord from going forward have so far only resulted in one outcome: a big, fat waste of lawmakers’ time.

What makes such votes all the more myopic is that while some in Congress perform as if they are starring in a re-make of “Groundhog Day” set on Capitol Hill, the world has witnessed transformativebreakthroughs in U.S.-Iran relations over the past month.

The Iran accord is now fully implemented, with Iran dramatically shrinking its nuclear program. Iran defied all expectations on how quickly it would shrink-wrap its program. Tehran has already dismantled centrifuges, shipped out its stockpile of enriched uranium overseas and poured concrete in its Arak reactor, cutting off its ability to make plutonium for a bomb. For the first time in a decade, Iran doesn’t have enough fuel for a nuclear weapon. 53 national security leaders praised the agreement for subjecting Iran to “some of the most sweeping inspections and transparency obligations in history, many of which will remain in place for decades.”

And if that wasn’t enough good news to celebrate, five U.S. citizens who were jailed in Iranian prisons are now free, in a stunning display of what diplomacy can accomplish.

Yet despite these breakthroughs, Congress went ahead with an attempt to vote down the Iran accord. With the bill lacking enough votes to override the president’s promised veto or even guarantee Senate support, this is clearly nothing more than a poorly-executed partisan gimmick…….http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/world-report/articles/2016-02-03/congress-vote-to-block-the-iran-nuclear-deal-hurts-real-progress

February 5, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Georgia State panel to do detailed probe of costs of Nuclear Plant Vogtle

nuclear-costsState panel to review Plant Vogtle costs http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/business/2016-02-02/state-panel-review-plant-vogtle-costs  By Walter Jones ATLANTA, 4 Feb 16  — Electricity customers and the public will get a detailed look at what’s to blame for cost overruns in the construction of two nuclear reactors slated for power generation after a divided Public Service Commission voted Tuesday to begin its examination.The detailed probe of what Georgia Power has spent is expected to take 14 months to examine the delays that have added nearly $1 billion to the Plant Vogtle expansion.

February 5, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

South Korea’s President Park under pressure from nuclear weapons lobby

Pressure For South Korea To ‘Go Nuclear’ For Defense Against North’s Arsenal, Forbes, Donald Kirk , CONTRIBUTOR , 4 Feb 16 

North Korea’s success in conducting a fourth nuclear test has ignited calls for South Korea also to produce nuclear warheads as a “defensive” measure that could heighten the balance of terror that already threatens the Korean peninsula.

South Korean nuclear physicists and engineers have been tinkering with developing nuclear warheads since 1970 but have been frustrated by U.S. insistence that the South abide by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which the South signed under U.S. pressure in 1975.  The most they can do, under a deal reached with the U.S. last year, is to enrich uranium up to 20% — way above the 4% level for nuclear energy but far below the level for nuclear warheads……..

Calls for South Korea to develop a nuclear arsenal are heard in public, in the media and in political gatherings. The conservative Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s biggest-selling newspaper, articulated the argument in an editorial reflecting the widespread view that China will do nothing to stop North Korea from exploding more warheads and firing more missiles – and that sanctions against the North will be weak and ineffective……..

At the same time, South Korea would have to abrogate the agreement signed by both Koreas in 1991 for denuclearizing the Korean peninsula – a deal that the North violated from the outset.

‘The U.S. has passed the buck for taming North Korea to China,’ said Chosun Ilbo. “China is doing nothing. Seoul now faces a real need for public discussion of the development of its own nuclear weapons.”

GlobalSecurity.org, a website that specializes in such issues, traced South Korea’s recurring interest in developing its own nukes back to the presidency of Park Chung-hee, father of the current president, Park Geun-hye……..

The current President Park has said her government will abide by the 1991 denuclearization agreement, but she faces rising demands at least for a review of longstanding policy……http://www.forbes.com/sites/donaldkirk/2016/02/04/pressure-mounts-in-south-korea-for-its-own-nukes-to-combat-north-koreas-nuclear-arsenal/#3e42677c345f

February 5, 2016 Posted by | politics, South Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

South Africa: CORRUPTION GOES NUCLEAR – Jacob Zuma, the Guptas and the Russians

13a47-corruptionflag-S.Africa

Zuma’s 9 600MW nuclear procurement programme and its accompanying contracts are tainted with alleged vested interests of the most deplorable kind.
If the country has any hope of having a rational, legal, and transparent evaluation of the need for nuclear energy, the procurement process has to start afresh.
This however can only occur under new leadership, which places the country’s interests ahead of its own.

If this does not occur, the future of South Africa will consist of a dark and discontented nuclear winter.

Zuma, the Guptas and the Russians — the inside story
Part 1: In pursuit of satisfying his insatiable greed — Jacob Zuma will liberate us from our constitutional democracy, and destroy the chance of a ‘better life for all’ 
Zuma, the Guptas and the Russians — the inside story RAND DAILY MAIL LILY GOSAM 02 FEBRUARY 2016

“……..PART 1: CORRUPTION GOES NUCLEAR

I wish to make it clear from the outset that this piece is not about arguing the merits or demerits of nuclear energy. It is whether Zuma’s decision for nuclear energy is based on sound economic principles for the good of the country, or for some other purpose.

Zuma’s (rabid) pet project

On 9 of December 2015 (and hours before Nene was fired), Zuma’s cabinet approved the 9 600 MW nuclear procurement programme (nuclear programme). This paves the way for nuclear vendors to present proposals in March 2016 to build 6 to 8 nuclear reactors, at an estimated cost of between R800-billion and R1.6-trillion ($50-billion to $100 billion)[5] [6] [7.

The nuclear programme, however, glows with controversy. According to Peter Attard Montalto (an emerging market economist at Nomura), the nuclear programme is Zuma’s “pet project”, and is highly interwoven with politics and the succession issue[8]. His analysis is supported by a Mail and Guardian [M&G] source who said that the programme was regarded as one of Zuma’s “presidential legacy projects” [9]. Professor William Gumede, of Democracy Works, added that the programme is being implemented essentially from a purely patronage point of view[10]. While Andrew Feinstein, executive director of Corruption Watch UK (and former ANC MP), said simply, “I fear that the corruption in this deal might dwarf the arms deal” (News24)[11].

A nuclear procurement process in a constitutional democracy should be transparent, logical, considered, legal, participatory, and unbiased.

Yet Zuma has assumed personal control of the nuclear programme, and it has been characterised by: secret meetings; undisclosed documents and classified financial reports; deceit; aggressive campaigning; damage control exercises; illegality; use of apartheid (‘national key-point’) legislation[12]; sidestepping of Eskom’s technical and financial oversight; destruction of oversight organs of state; disregarding of industry experts; refusal of public consultation; ignoring of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) and ANC resolutions; and the removal of any government opponents, the most notable of whom was Nene…………

Below exposes the reasons why Zuma is so hell bent on forcing the Russian 9 600 MW programme through, irrespective of: the evidence against it (from independent and government sources); the laws that stand in his way; the people that advise against it; and the grave concerns of his own party.

Radioactive plant-feed

Nuclear reactors require uranium to function, in particular low-enriched uranium (LEU). But first one must mine the uranium, and for South Africa’s 9 600MW nuclear programme, plus the existing Koeberg Nuclear Plant, the demand for uranium would steadily increase as the nuclear power plants come online. Luckily South Africa is said to have 6% of global identified resources of uranium (or 970 000 tons), the seventh highest share in the world [OECD-NEA, 2013][62].

With a 9 600MW nuclear deal, local uranium reactor demand would grow from the current 290 tons of Uranium (Ut) per year, to eventually 3300 Ut per year, once all the reactors are operational [OECD- Nuclear Energy Agency, 2014][63]. That’s a dramatic 11 times increase in local demand for uranium.

And as it just so happens, in 2010 the Guptas (a family well-known for their backing of Zuma), along with Zuma’s son, Duduzane, emerged as buyers of a South African uranium mine — the Dominion Rietkuil Uranium Project — amid claims that Zuma intervened to ease state funding for the project (according to amaBhungane – M&G’s investigative arm)[64].

[For summaries of the Guptas’ influence with Zuma and his family, read Verashni Pillay’s 2013 M&G article, or Franz Wild’s 2015 Bloomberg article. There are also excellent standalone articles on the Guptas dealings with the state, such as the Sunday Times piece by Sabelo Skiti on how Eskom allegedly went to extraordinary lengths to make sure the Gupta family landed a R4-billion coal deal, or M&G’s amaBhungane articles on a former Gupta associate allegedly involved in R835-million Transnet kickbacks]

All mine

Uranium One Incorporated (Uranium One) — a public company in Canada — owned a number of uranium mines around the world, including a uranium and gold mine in the North West province, South Africa[65] [66]. The local mine was called the Dominion Rietkuil Uranium project, which proved to be a disappointment to the company and so it was mothballed in late 2008.

Uranium One’s global uranium holdings attracted the attention of Rosatom, which from 2009 onwards began buying up the company’s shares through one of its many wholly-owned subsidiaries. (Rosatom would eventually indirectly secure 51% ownership of Uranium One in 2010, and 100% in 2013, after which it was delisted[67])[68].

As Rosatom (through its subsidiary) was buying into Uranium One, the company sold the South African Dominion Rietkuil Uranium project. Reporters picked up on Uranium One’s “low-key announcement” in April 2010 of the sale of the mine to an undisclosed party[69] [70]. The mine was sold for $37.3-million, at a loss to the company of $242-million (based on the company’s interim financial statements)[71]. Thus the mine was sold for about 14% of its reported value.

One month later, in May 2010, the media got wind that the mine — which would come to be known as Shiva Uranium — was bought by Oakbay Resources and Energy Limited (a Gupta-controlled company) together with minority shareholders, which consist of companies within companies (like a Russian nesting doll), including indirectly the ANC’s MK war veterans and its women’s group[72], and the black economic empowerment group Mabengela Investments (Mabengela).

Mabengela is headed by Zuma’s son Duduzane and Rajesh “Tony” Gupta (the youngest of three Gupta brothers). 45% of Mabengela is owned by Duduzane Zuma; 25% by Rajesh “Tony” Gupta (the youngest of the three Gupta brothers); 20% by an array of Gupta employees, former business partners and friends; and the last 10% is owned by an obscure offshore company, with its sole owner a Dubai resident with discernible traces in South Africa[73] [M&G]. The M&G wrote that Mabengela appears to be the vehicle for the Zuma family’s empowerment by the Gupta family[74].

(The North West province — where the mine is situated — is governed by Supra Mahumapelo, the province’s premier, and he is said to be a member of the so-called “premier league”, which consists of premiers loyal to Zuma. The other premier-league provinces are the Free State and Mpumalanga[75]. For the 2014/15 period, the auditor-general found the number of “clean audits” — that is, financial statements that present a fair and accurate picture and comply with accepted accounting principles — for the departments and public entities in Mpumalanga and the North West came to 24% and 4% respectively, while 32% of the Free State’s audits were deemed clean[76] [77]. This excludes financial statements by departments not submitted on time, or at all[78].

amaBhungane and the Sunday Times uncovered that the Guptas had expected the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to facilitate funding for the Uranium mine purchase. (The state-owned PIC is the country’s largest institutional investor, with more than R750-billion — as at 2010 – in civil servants’ pensions under its management[79]).

……….At the time of the purchase of the Dominion Rietkuil Uranium mine, journalist Brendan Ryan [Fin24] pondered, “Who in their right mind would buy one of the most notorious dogs in the entire South African mining sector — the failed Dominion Uranium mine — and do it at a time when uranium prices are still depressed? That’s the $64 000 question following news that the Gupta family — the ultimate controlling shareholder in Shiva Uranium — has bought Dominion for $37.3-million. It’s either the steal of the century — given that developers Uranium One wrote off an investment of $1.8-billion when they shut Dominion down in October 2008 — or it’s a classic case of throwing good money after bad.”[93]

Unbeknownst to Ryan, at the time, was that Zuma and his benefactors had set the course for a large-scale nuclear programme.

Atomic timeline: 2000 to 2010

In the early 2000’s, Zuma — then South African deputy president — met the Guptas for the first time, as a guest at a business function held by a Gupta company, Sahara Computers[94].

In 2005, during the power struggle between Zuma and Thabo Mbeki for the presidency, the Guptas were said to have sided with Zuma, even after he had been fired as deputy president. The Guptas had tried to court Mbeki, but did not get far. (The Guptas claim that they were friends with Mbeki as much as they are friends with Zuma). The Guptas don’t mind telling whoever cares to listen that they were there for Zuma when his days were dark [Business Day][95].

Early in 2007, Eskom approved a plan to expand South Africa’s overall electricity capacity by the year 2025. The plan included the construction of 20 000 MW of new nuclear capacity, consisting of up to 12 nuclear reactors. France’s Areva and the United States’ Westinghouse were contenders[96].

In December 2007, Zuma was elected as ANC president[97].

Six month’s later, in June 2008, Duduzile and Duduzane, Zuma’s daughter and son joined the board of the Gupta-controlled company, Sahara Computers[98] [99]. (Duduzile resigned from the position in 2010[100]. Duduzane and Gupta family members are directors of at least 11 of the same companies, as at December 2015 [Timeslive][101].)

In September 2008, Mbeki resigned as South African president.

In December 2008, Eskom abandoned the 20 000MW nuclear plan for being unaffordable in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis and the renewed appreciation for coal production[102] [103] [104][Professor J. van Wyk of Political Sciences]

Zuma was inaugurated as South African president in May 2009. In November 2009, the Guptas’ formed a new company, which would come to be known as Oakbay Resources and Energy Limited[105](Oakbay).

One month later, in December 2009, Zuma declared at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen that South Africa was going to reduce its carbon emissions by 34% by 2020[106]. His announcement took both local and international commentators by surprise, but it revealed Zuma’s nuclear ambitions.

Four months after that, in April 2010, the Guptas, Duduzane Zuma, and other investors bought the mine — soon to be called Shiva Uranium — with Zuma allegedly ensuring state assistance. The Guptas and Duduzane then jumped into action, refurbishing the uranium and gold plant “very aggressively”[107] to make the plant operational for production. They also possessed due diligence studies and a comprehensive bankable feasibility study (a document required to raise capital)[108] [109]……..

In August 2010, Zuma met with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, during his first official visit to Russia. Zuma was accompanied by 11 cabinet ministers and more than 100 South African business people[112].

During the trip, Zuma concluded a deal with Medvedev for Rosatom to supply 40% of Koeberg’s enriched uranium needs until 2017 to 2018[113] [114]. The Head of Rosatom told reporters that the company hoped to eventually control 45% of the low-enriched uranium (LEU) market in South Africa[115].”Our share of the market in South Africa will rise,” he said…………….

Gupta and Gupta-linked companies involved in mining – including Shiva Uranium – have several times run into trouble with regulatory requirements, as well as those on environmental compliance[226] [227][TimesLive]. Due to changes in environmental and mining legislation, Zwane is in charge of enforcing those regulations[228] [229]………..

South Africa has become one of the leading destinations for renewable energy investment, so said a 2015 research report by the Energy Research Centre UCT. The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Project (REIPPP) is a joint private-public initiative for renewable energy generation, mainly from wind, solar PV and concentrated solar power. Since its inception, the REIPPP has been hailed an unprecedented success. The programme is unique in that for projects to qualify, developers must contribute to the reduction of socio-economic inequity, through community ownership and economic development benefits[237].

As of October 2015, 92 projects had been selected as part of the REIPPP, mobilising private investment of R193-billion, and with a combined capacity of 6 327MW. In addition, 37 out of the 92 projects had been completed by then and they contributed 1 827MW of power to the national electricity grid (this is equivalent to one Koeberg nuclear power station), while also providing social upliftment[238] [239] [240][241]. In June 2015, the energy department issued a determination to procure a further 6 300 MW for the project[242]. The national treasury expected the REIPPP to eventually contribute 17 000 MW of electricity capacity to the grid by 2022[243].

Yet, in October 2015, just when bidding by renewable power producers was set to start for the additional capacity[244], Brian Molefe — now CEO of Eskom — halted the process, with the non-issuance of budget quotes for the programme. He said it was a temporary measure taken to protect the financial sustainability of Eskom. Effectively, he was saying Eskom could not afford to support new REIPPP connections as well as energy purchases. He added that, “very soon a lasting solution will be found to address this matter” [Fin24][245] [246] [247]. (As of writing, no reports on Eskom’s future commitment to the REIPPP could be located.)

On Wednesday, 9 of December 2015, Zuma held a cabinet meeting to discuss key government programmes and decisions. Amongst them was the nuclear procurement programme for 9 600 MW, which was then approved by cabinet (but excluded the then Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Gordhan, who was off sick) [Carol Paton of Business Day uncovered cabinet’s decision][248].

Just hours after the meeting, and to the cabinet’s great consternation and surprise (according to Jeff Radebe, who is a cabinet member, an ANC NEC member, and minister of the presidency)[249], they heard along with the rest of the public that Zuma had fired Nene, and replaced him with a parliamentary backbencher, David van Rooyen. The move was met with shock and disbelief in all sectors at home and abroad[250].

Two days later, on Friday, 11 of December 2015, the post-cabinet media briefing by Radebe and accompanying press statement made no mention of the fact that the 9 600MW nuclear deal had been approved[251] [252] [253]. It was only on Monday, 14 December 2015, after Gordhan had taken the helm of treasury that cabinet’s decision was publically confirmed by him.

Uranium enrichment

“Global uranium demand is predominantly driven by its use in nuclear power generation plants,”[254]declared Oakbay, the majority shareholder in Shiva Uranium. But uranium cannot be used as fuel to run nuclear reactors until it has been converted into low enriched uranium (LEU)[255] [256].

The World Nuclear Organisation states that Eskom procures its conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication services from world markets, and that nearly half of its enrichment is from Russia. However, historically, South Africa has sought self-sufficiency in its fuel cycle[257].

In the 1970s the Apartheid government established a uranium enrichment company, which later, in 1999, was restructured to become Necsa (currently under the management of Zuma’s “lynchpins” Seekoe and CEO Tshelane). But actual enrichment operations ceased in 1995, and the only two conversion plants were both demolished. Much of the high-enriched uranium (HEU) is still stored away. (Some say there’s a 250kg cache[258]).

With the prospect of 9 600MW of nuclear power, local enrichment operations are again a priority. ………

Uranium is not the only commodity with dubious links to the nuclear programme.

In July 2013, John Helmer (a provocative American journalist who focuses on the Russian business sector) flagged a strange deal with a company Nemascore which had links to Zuma’s associates ……….

Stacked deck 

Overall, the tendering process for the 9 600MW nuclear build programme will include 80%  South African sourced construction companies, engineers, waste management system suppliers, security systems providers, cabling, cement, steel, finance, transport, IT firms, mining, and more[286] [287].
Which on the face of it sounds wonderful, but not when one considers it is for a nuclear programme that has already been declared by government and independent studies to be unnecessary and unaffordable, will ultimately result in 10 to 50 times higher electricity costs than we are paying now, and already exhibits alarming signs of fixed tendering through devious means[288]……..

Zuma is the bomb

Besides LEU, enrichment plants can also produce high enriched uranium (HEU), which is used in nuclear weaponry.

In March 2012, at a Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Zuma stated on the subject of HEU, “…South Africa has adopted a policy on the benefication of our mineral resources, including uranium.”[293] What Zuma meant by “benefication” was that SA has a policy of enriching Uranium and does not want to limit its options by foreswearing the production or use of HEU [IOL]. Officials further explained that Zuma was not only keeping SA’s options open for producing HEU in the future, but also defended its decision to hold on to its existing stock of HEU from the nuclear weapons programme of the Apartheid government [IOL]………..

Conclusion

Zuma’s 9 600MW nuclear procurement programme and its accompanying contracts are tainted with alleged vested interests of the most deplorable kind.
If the country has any hope of having a rational, legal, and transparent evaluation of the need for nuclear energy, the procurement process has to start afresh.
This however can only occur under new leadership, which places the country’s interests ahead of its own.

If this does not occur, the future of South Africa will consist of a dark and discontented nuclear winter.  http://www.rdm.co.za/politics/2016/02/02/zuma-the-guptas-and-the-russians–the-inside-story

February 3, 2016 Posted by | politics, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa, Uranium | Leave a comment

South Africa’s Zuma and the get rich plan about uranium

uranium-enrichmentflag-S.Africa Zuma, the Guptas and the Russians — the inside story RAND DAILY MAIL LILY GOSAM 02 FEBRUARY 2016 “……..Below exposes the reasons why Zuma is so hell bent on forcing the Russian 9 600 MW programme through, irrespective of: the evidence against it (from independent and government sources); the laws that stand in his way; the people that advise against it; and the grave concerns of his own party.

Radioactive plant-feed Continue reading

February 3, 2016 Posted by | politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa, Uranium | Leave a comment

USA govt funds “new nukes’

emperor new clothes

Energy Department Funds Two Advanced Nuclear Programs MIT Technology Review, 21 Jan 16,  In the latest sign of the U.S. government’s determination to help push nuclear power technology beyond conventional reactors, the Department of Energy is providing $80 million in funding to two advanced reactor programs. At $40 million each in matching funds over the next five years, the grants will go to X-energy, a little-known Maryland-based startup that is developing a new version of a pebble-bed reactor, and to Southern Company, the Atlanta-based utility that is working with TerraPower on molten-salt reactors.   ……https://www.technologyreview.com/s/545586/energy-department-funds-two-advanced-nuclear-programs/

February 3, 2016 Posted by | politics, technology, USA | Leave a comment

New doubts hang over future of Britain’s Hinkley Nuclear Plan

text Hinkley cancelledflag-UKNew threat to Hinkley nuclear plant cash,Sunday Times, Danny Fortson 31 January 2016  BRITAIN could withdraw financial support for the controversial £18bn nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, Somerset, if a similar plant being built by France’s EDF is not running by 2020, The Sunday Times can reveal.

The condition, attached to a Treasury loan guarantee, raises fresh questions about the future of Britain’s first new atomic power plant in a generation.

Last week EDF, which is 84% owned by the French state, postponed a board meeting in Paris to approve Hinkley Point, amid concerns about the heavily indebted company’s ability to fund the project. The plant will be financed by EDF and its Chinese partner CGN, with the backing of a 35-year contract to sell power to households at above-market rates.

The arrangement hinges on a Treasury agreement to guarantee up to 17 billion pounds in loans…. (registered readers only)  http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/business/energy_and_environment/article1662807.ece?CMP=OTH-gnws-standard-2016_01_30

 

February 1, 2016 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Will the government listen to 92,000 Petitioners against Great Lakes Nuclear Dump?

Group opposed to nuclear waste facility presents petition containing
92,000 signatures, January 31, 2016 By Jim Bloch, The Voice, Ontario  As a single individual, it’s often hard to imagine that you can affect national events. But if you join together with 92,000 others, your impact can grow.

That’s the hope of Beverly Fernandez, founder of Stop the text-relevant, the nonprofit organization dedicated to derailing the plans of Ontario Power Generation to bury 200,000 cubic yards of low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste in a 2,200-foot-deep repository in Kincardine, Ontario, within a mile of Lake Huron.

On Jan. 19, Fernandez, on behalf of STGLND, delivered a petition containing more than 92,000 signatures and more than 31,000 comments to new Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna.

“The signatures and comments send a very clear message to the Canadian government,” Fernandez said. “OPG’s nuclear waste burial and abandonment plan poses unacceptable risks to the drinking water of 40 million Canadians, Americans and Indigenous Peoples and must be rejected.”

McKenna is scheduled to make a decision about the proposal by March 1.   ……….

 STGLND opposes burying nuclear waste anywhere in the Great Lakes Basin.

“This petition stands alongside the more than 22 million people represented by 184 resolutions opposed to OPG’s plans to bury and abandon nuclear waste, some of which will stay toxic for 100,000 years,” said the letter to McKenna.

Resolutions opposing the nuclear waste facility have been passed by nearly every city, township and county in the Blue Water Area, as well as the Michigan Senate. Continue reading

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Canada, politics | 1 Comment

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