The nuclear money pit, The Economist Does America really need a new plutonium production line? Dec 15th 2014 | LOS ANGELES THE RECENT sabre rattling by Vladimir Putin may have unwittingly done what the United States Congress has failed to do for decades: refocus attention—and billions of additional dollars—on overhauling America’s nuclear arsenal. The $585 billion defence bill for the next fiscal year sailed through the House of Representatives last week with broad bipartisan support, and then did the same in the Senate on December 12th, despite all the fractious squabbling over the $1.1 trillion government funding measure.
More pertinently, the $11.7 billion request for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a branch of the Department of Energy that oversees nuclear weapons, naval reactors and nonproliferation activities on behalf of the military, represents a 4% increase over the previous year. The biggest chunk of that—covering work on modernising the country’s nuclear weapons—is to increase by 7%. All this at a time when mandated “sequestration” cuts are supposed to be reducing military spending.
All told, the federal government intends allocating up to $1 trillion to upgrade the country’s missiles, bombers and submarines over the coming decades. Continue reading
SWR (German public television broadcaster), 2013 (emphasis added):
- 25:00 in — The dumping of nuclear waste in the sea was banned worldwide in 1993, yet the nuclear industry has come up with other ways. They no longer dump the barrels at sea; they build kilometers of underwater pipes through which the radioactive effluent now flows freely into the sea. One of these pipes is situated in Normandy [near] the French reprocessing plant in La Hague… The advantage for the nuclear industry? No more bad press… disposal via waste pipes remains hidden from the public eye, quite literally.
- 28:30 in — 400 km from La Hague [as well as] Holland [and] Germany… we find iodine… 5-fold higher tritium value than [reported] by the operator Areva. It’s now obvious why citizens take their own measurements.
- 30:15 in — Molecular Biologist: “The radioactive toxins accumulate in the food chain. This little worm can contain 2,000-3,000 times more radioactivity than its environment. It is then eaten by the next biggest creature and so on, at the end of the food chain we discovered damage to the reproductive cells of crabs… These genetic defects are inherited from one generation to the next… Cells in humans and animals are the same.”
- 32:00 in — The 2nd disposal pipe for Europe’s nuclear waste is located in the north of England… Radioactive pollution comes in from the sea. Their houses are full of plutonium dust… The pipe from Sellafield is clearly visible only from the air… nuclear waste is still being dumped into the sea. Operators argue this is land-based disposal… It has been approved by the authorities.
- 35:45 in — Plutonium can be found here on a daily basis, the toxic waste returns from the sea… it leaches out, it dries, and is left lying on the beach. The people here have long since guessed that the danger is greater than those responsible care to admit… Every day a smallexcavator removes plutonium from the beach… In recent decadesthe operator at Sellafield has tossed more than 500 kg of plutonium into the sea.
- 42:00 in — We take a soil sample… The result turns out to be alarming. The amount of plutonium is up to 10 times higher than the permissible limit.
Yahoo News, Dec 5, 2014: All this radiation from the [Fukushima] disaster has definitely not been isolated to just Japan. Researchers monitoring the Pacific Ocean, in which much of the radiation spilled into, have detected radioactive isotopes this past November just 160 km [100 miles] off the coast of California. So this story will continue to unfold for many years to come.
Japan had a dual use nuclear program. The public program was to develop and provide unlimited energy for the country. But there was also a secret component, an undeclared nuclear weapons program that would allow Japan to amass enough nuclear material and technology to become a major nuclear power on short notice.
That secret effort was hidden in a nuclear power program that by March 11, 2011– the day the earthquake and tsunami overwhelmed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant – had amassed 70 metric tons of plutonium. Like its use of civilian nuclear power to hide a secret bomb program, Japan used peaceful space exploration as a cover for developing sophisticated nuclear weapons delivery systems.
The United States deliberately allowed Japan access to the United States’ most secret nuclear weapons facilities while it transferred tens of billions of dollars worth of American tax paid research that has allowed Japan to amass 70 tons of weapons grade plutonium since the 1980s, a National Security News Service investigation reveals. These activities repeatedly violated U.S. laws regarding controls of sensitive nuclear materials that could be diverted to weapons programs in Japan. The NSNS investigation found that the United States has known about a secret nuclear weapons program in Japan since the 1960s, according to CIA reports. Continue reading
Japan’s plutonium stockpile jumped to 47 tons in 2013 KYODOHTTP://WWW.JAPANTIMES.CO.JP/NEWS/2014/09/17/NATIONAL/JAPANS-PLUTONIUM-STOCKPILE-ROSE-47-TONS-2013/#.VBTITPRDUNL SEP 17, 2014 Japan had about 47.1 tons of plutonium in and outside the country at the end of 2013, about 2.9 tons more than the year before, the Cabinet Office said on Tuesday. Newly added were 2.3 tons generated through spent fuel reprocessing outsourced to Britain and 640 kg not reported to the global watchdog in 2012 and 2013. The 640 kg is part of mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel stored in a reactor that was offline during that time.
Revelations of the unreported 640 kg stoked controversy in June, though the Japan Atomic Energy Commission had said it was exempt from International Atomic Energy Agency reporting requirements, insisting at that time that fuel inside reactors is considered “being used.”
Under Japan’s nuclear fuel recycling policy, plutonium extracted by reprocessing conventional uranium fuel is consumed by existing reactors in the form of MOX fuel. But this policy is jeopardized by public concerns about nuclear power amid the Fukushima crisis.
A further increase in plutonium could raise concerns in the international community about its possible diversion to nuclear weapons.
The earlier unreported 640 kg of plutonium was contained in MOX fuel loaded in March 2011 into reactor 3 of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear plant in Saga Prefecture during its regular checkup, but has been left there unused as the reactor could not restart in light of the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 complex.
Plutonium found in city nearly 30 miles from US nuclear site — Newspaper: Explosion ‘melted through’ container causing radioactive release — More Pu-241 went airborne than all other types of plutonium combined, yet not included in test results http://enenews.com/plutonium-detected-city-30-miles-nuclear-site-explosion-melted-container-released-four-types-plutonium-officials-testing-pu-241-leaked-all-others-combined?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29
Carlsbad Current-Argus, Sept. 9, 2014: DOE will provide WIPP update next week — It appears the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is far from reopening… According to photographic evidence made public by the DOE, it appears a chemical reaction caused an explosion inside one of the waste drums. The explosion melted through portions of the drum, and the incident triggered a small release of americium and plutonium into the outside air about half a mile from the facility.
“Plutonium… about half a mile from the facility”? Recently published air monitoring data from the state of New Mexico indicates that soon after the WIPP radioactive release 3 types of plutonium were found nearly 30 miles away in Carlsbad, the state’s 10th largest city. The levels were similar to those found within the nuclear site’s boundary:
- WIPP NW Border, 2/21-2/28: Plutonium-238 = 0.015 pCi/sample (Lab minimum detectable activity [MDA] = 0.0082)
- WIPP site, 2/21-2/28: Plutonium-239/240 = 0.0092 pCi/sample (MDA = 0.0062)
- WIPP site, 2/28-3/11: Plutonium-238 = 0.027 pCi/sample (MDA = 0.024)
- Carlsbad, 25+ mi. away, 2/28-3/11: Plutonium-238 = 0.016 pCi/sample (MDA = 0.0074)
- Carlsbad, 25+ mi. away, 2/28-3/11: Plutonium-239/240 = 0.022 pCi/sample (MDA = 0.0074)
More Plutonium-241 was released from WIPP than all other plutonium isotopes combined, yet officials have not included it in any publicly available test results:
- Plutonium-241 = 15,900 dpm
- Plutonium-239/240 = 11,600 dpm
- Plutonium-238 = 514 dpm
Gov’t Expert: Plutonium is certainly being discharged into Pacific Ocean from Fukushima plant; Flowing out of ruptured containments — TV: Reactor water turns into ‘yellowish, fizzing liquid’ from damaged fuel rods… “It actually vibrates” (PHOTO & VIDEO) http://enenews.com/study-plutonium-being-discharged-fukushima-pacific-ocean-flowing-ruptured-containment-vessels-tv-reactor-water-becomes-yellowish-fizzing-liquid-damaged-fuel-rods-actually-vibrates-video?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29
P. Bossew, German Federal Office for Radiation Protection, PLUTONIUM EMISSION FROM THE FUKUSHIMA ACCIDENT (pdf), 2013 (emphasis added): While much has since been published on environmental contamination and exposure to radio-iodine and radio-caesium, little is known about releases of plutonium […] The inability to cool the fuel led to melting of parts of the reactor cores (which parts exactly, is not yet well known) […] [Causes of the containment] ruptures and leaks […] are not entirely clarified […] explosion seems to have produced further structural damage in the containments, at the one hand, and on the other hand released large amounts of radionuclides into the environment. […] the fraction of Pu released into the environment can be expected to be higher [than] atmospheric releases only. Certainly some Pu has been released with liquid effluents and discharged into the ocean. […] The liquid discharges certainly also contained Pu. […]
‘Modern Marvels‘ History Channel (at 19:45 in): It is now 28 hours since the accident at Three Mile Island began. The men in the control room have no way of looking into the reactor…. it now seems clear some of the 36,000 slendertubes holding the uranium fuel have cracked, this is allowing radioactivity to escape into the reactor coolant water. It is imperative operators know how much radioactivity is now in the coolant. Too much, and the nuclear chain reaction could restart… Foreman Ed Hauser agrees to risk his life to take the readings. This is allowing radioactivity to enter the coolant water. He is in for an even greater scare when he draws the coolant water sample. The water from the reactor should be clear; instead he stares at a yellowish, fizzing liquid… It actually vibrates in his hand.
See also: Study: Water helps dissolve Fukushima’s melted nuclear cores, accelerates corrosion — Plutonium concentrates on outer edge of fuel — Poses “a much longer environmental threat” than initial releases — Transport of nuclear material into environment to continue for many years if not isolated
Study: Fukushima plutonium in playground 60 km from nuclear plant — “Proves that indeed Plutonium has been emitted by the accident” — Some “in the form of fuel fragments”? — Up to 14 Billion Bq of Pu-239 and-240 released (MAP) http://enenews.com/study-fukushima-plutonium-in-playground-60-km-from-nuclear-plant-proves-that-indeed-plutonium-has-been-emitted-by-the-accident-some-may-be-in-
P. Bossew, German Federal Office for Radiation Protection, PLUTONIUM EMISSION FROM THE FUKUSHIMA ACCIDENT (pdf), 2013 (emphasis added): […] Apparently no explosive fuel fragmentation occurred, so that little, if any of the release happened in the form of fuel fragments. […] Only scattered data are available from the farther surroundings. It can be assumed that continuous and frequent monitoring of environmental media for Pu from locations more distant than a few km was deemed unnecessary […] Given two different sources (global and Fukushima fallout) with different, but known 238Pu : 239+240Pu ratios, the contributions of the both in a sample which is a mixture of both can be calculated […] we estimated a median 2.28 (95% conf. interval 1.98 –2.58),  and 2.19 ± 0.48 (1 ), , for Fukushima emissions. […] The background Pu ratio in global fallout has been reported 0.035 ± 0.008 […] a map of the 238Pu : 239+240Pu ratio in the region around the NPP […] The “trace” towards NW from the NPP, in which the Pu ratio deviates strongly from the background […] This proves that indeed Pu has been emitted by the accident […] For 238Pu, the Fukushima contribution is much higher than the global one in many places (as detectable at all) because the Pu ratio is much higher in Fukushima (~2.19) than in global fallout (~0.035). […] Keeping with [the total 137Cs release of] 15 PBq given by NISA […] we find an atmospheric emission of 239+240Pu equal 4.2 GBq. Using the upper estimate of released 137Cs, 50 PBq, a release of 14 GBq is found. [NISA 239+240Pu estimate = 6.4 GBq; Zheng et al. 239+240Pu estimate = 1.0 to 2.4 GBq] […] It should be stressed that the evidence of Pu from Fukushima does not pose any radiological concern […]
P. Bossew, German Federal Office for Radiation Protection, Hirosaki University, Anthropogenic Radionuclides in Environmental Samples from Fukushima Prefecture (pdf), 2013: Three samples [all taken approx. 60 km from FDNPP, 1 from a parking area in Koriyama city and 2 from a playground in Fukushima city] were measured twice […] Sample 4 was too small for a meaningful analysis. […] The result found in this study is consistent with a Pu/ Cs ratio reported by Imanaka et al. (2012) for a highly contaminated place in the Fukushima zone as below 1 E-6 […] Zheng et al. 2011 found 239+240 Pu/137Cs in soil, close to the NPP, as (3.6 ± 1.1) E-7 (only samples with 241Pu>0 considered, and Fukushima contribution 87% to the sample J-village, surface soil , as suggested by the authors), which is in good agreement with the results of this study.
See also: Scientists: Plutonium released from Fukushima “is of radiological concern”; Reactor must be source, not spent fuel pool — Study: Plutonium found 120 km from plant; “Pu and non-natural uranium certainly increased in environment”
Main plutonium facility might “collapse” in earthquake unless repairs are completed; scope of work needed still unknown
Board says full re-start of LANL plutonium facility premature; nuclear criticality accidents not ruled out
On May 16, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB, Board), cautioned Congress about the structural integrity of the main plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in the event of an earthquake similar to those which have rocked the site in recent millenia. The building in question, “PF-4,” was built in 1978 to earlier, less stringent earthquake standards.
The Board was established by Congress in 1988 to advise the Department of Energy (DOE) on the safety of DOE’s nuclear facilities.
Also on the 16th, DNFSB Chairman Peter Winokur wrote National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Frank Klotz about the Board’s concerns regarding LANL’s planned re-start of higher-hazard plutonium operations in PF-4 without first evaluating the potential of those operations to result in nuclear criticality accidents. Such accidents, were they to occur as a result of human error, mechanical failure or any other cause, would invariably involve very high levels of radiation and have often been fatal to surrounding workers. Such accidents have happened before at LANL and at other nuclear facilities in the U.S. and abroad. (See for example this LANL review.)
Regarding the first issue DNFSB writes in its “Report to Congress on the Status of Significant Safety Issues Concerning the Design and Construction of DOE’s Defense Nuclear Facilities” that:
..the Board remains concerned that PF-4 is vulnerable to seismic collapse. The large plutonium inventory of PF-4, coupled with the facility’s proximity to the public, creates the potential for high off-site radiological consequences. DOE is pursuing actions to address the collapse vulnerability, but maintains that PF-4 is safe to operate in the interim and complies with DOE standards for seismic performance. The Board communicated to DOE in a letter dated July 17, 2013, that it does not agree… -: http://lasg.org/press/2014/press_release_20May2014.html#sthash.cCZ6igPz.VLFKX1CD.dpuf
Covert mission: Plutonium source might be Canada Questions being asked about mystery cargo BY IAN MACLEOD, OTTAWA CITIZEN MARCH 30, 2014 The nuclear fuel carrier Pacific Egret slipped into the harbour at Charleston, South Carolina, on March 19 and unloaded a top-secret cargo at the port’s Naval Weapons Station.
Fitted with naval guns, cannons and extensive hidden means of repelling a terrorist assault, the three-year-old British vessel was purpose-built to transport plutonium, highly enriched uranium (HEU) and mixed-oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel on the high seas.
Its previous publicly reported position had been exiting the Mediterranean at the Strait of Gibraltar almost two weeks earlier on March 7, carrying a delicate nuclear cargo loaded at the La Spezia naval base in northern Italy.
As the vessel entered the North Atlantic that day, its tracking image vanished from an online marine traffic monitoring system. The ship the size of a football field became all but invisible to unauthorized eyes.
Questions are now being raised about whether the sensitive cargo included recycled plutonium that originated here in Canada.
The clandestine business of transporting shiploads of fissile nuclear materials between nations rarely comes into public view. An eight-kilogram piece of plutonium-239 the size of a grapefruit could obliterate much of Ottawa in seconds — as it did to Nagasaki in August 1945. It’s aptly named after the ancient Greek god of the underworld……… Continue reading
A Botched Plan to Turn Nuclear Warheads Into Fuel Bloomberg, By Matthew Philips April 24, 2014 As the Soviet Union was unraveling and the Cold War was winding down in the early 1990s, negotiators in Washington and Moscow began talking about how best to dispose of the plutonium inside thousands of nuclear warheads the two nations had agreed to dismantle. The cheapest and easiest method was to immobilize the radioactive material by encasing it in molten glass and burying it. But the Russians balked at that, likening it to flushing gold down the toilet. Ultimately, it was decided that the plutonium would be converted into fuel for nuclear power plants. In September 2000, the U.S. and Russia signed an agreement under which each side would turn 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium into mixed-oxide fuel, or MOX, that could be combined with uranium for use in commercial reactors.
In the U.S., that huge task would take place at an aging plutonium factory in South Carolina called the Savannah River Site. From the 1950s to the 1980s, the 310-square-mile facility had churned out about 36 tons of weapons-grade plutonium for nuclear warheads. Now, the plant would turn those same warheads into fuel rods. The Department of Energy initially estimated it would cost about $1 billion to convert the plant. Construction began in August 2007, with an expected completion date of 2016.
The U.S. government even had a ready customer for the rods. Charlotte-based Duke Energy (DUK), one of the largest nuclear power companies in the U.S., signed on as a buyer. From 2005 to 2008, the company ran tests of MOX fuel the Department of Energy got from France. The fuel worked fine. Everything was going according to plan.
Almost seven years after construction began, the MOX plant is now 60 percent built. But it’s looking increasingly likely that it won’t ever be completed….The MOX plant in South Carolina requires 85 miles of pipe, 23,000 instruments, and 3.6 million linear feet of power cables. The project is vastly over budget: The Department of Energy has sunk about $5 billion into it so far and estimates it will cost an additional $6 billion to $7 billion to finish the plant, plus an additional $20 billion or so to turn the plutonium into fuel over 15 years. In its 2015 budget request released in March, the Department of Energy announced it will place the MOX project on “cold standby,” effectively mothballing the project for the foreseeable future. “It’s a major fiasco,” says Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted. It’s a classic boondoggle.”
The MOX plant is the latest blunder for the Department of Energy, which has a reputation for mismanaging big, complicated projects, particularly those related to nuclear energy. Costs for a nuclear waste treatment plant in Washington State have nearly tripled to $13 billion. A uranium processing facility in Tennessee once estimated to cost around $1 billion is now tipping the scales at around $11 billion, according to an Army Corps of Engineers study. It’s also running about 20 years behind schedule. A Department of Energy spokesman declined to comment for this article…….http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-04-24/u-dot-s-dot-botches-plan-to-turn-nuclear-warheads-into-fuel
Arak nuclear reactor resolved says Iran http://www.skynews.com.au/world/article.aspx?id=969168 April 20, 2014 Iran and six world powers have resolved their differences over the country’s plutonium-producing Arak reactor, Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi says.
The reactor, which has yet to be completed, has been a main point of contention at the ongoing talks aimed at ending the stand-off over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The governments of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany – the so-called P5+1 – have expressed concern that Iran could use the plutonium produced at the facility in the western city of Arak to build nuclear weapons.
‘We have suggested that we will produce only one-fifth of the originally planned plutonium, and this was welcomed by the P5+1,’ said Salehi.
The world powers have called for Arak’s closure or for technical changes so that it no longer turns out plutonium.
Salehi said Arak would not be shuttered because Iran needs it to produce medical isotopes for civilian use, but that reducing its plutonium production capacity alleviates negotiators’ concerns.
The heavy water reactor uses natural uranium as its fuel and will generate plutonium as a by-product.
Iran and the sextet agreed in an interim deal in November on a limited suspension of sanctions in return for some nuclear concessions from Tehran, including suspending construction of the Arak reactor and scaling back uranium enrichment.
Under the broader agreement that both sides are aiming to conclude by July, Iran is expected to accept additional nuclear curbs while the world powers have promised to permanently lift all sanctions and to help Iran build new reactors.
Tehran insists that it has no plans to build nuclear weapons.
Iran and the P5+1 will hold expert-level nuclear talks May 5-9 in New York, said Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, according to Press TV.
Japan reaffirms its plan to produce plutonium, Center for Public Integrity
The Abe government’s new energy plan calls for completing the Rokkasho plutonium fuel factory despite U.S. concern it poses terrorism risks By Douglas BirchemailJake Adelstein 12 April 14
Just weeks after Japan pledged to return hundreds of pounds of plutonium to the United States for disposal, the Japanese government on April 11 formally endorsed the completion of a factory designed to produce as much as eight tons of the nuclear explosive annually.
The plant is among the key elements of a long-range energy plan approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet, reversing the previous government’s efforts to phase out nuclear power in the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster. The move is generally viewed in Japan as unpopular with the public but has been welcomed by Japan’s utilities, which are struggling with massive debts.
The mammoth plant in the village of Rokkasho, scheduled to be completed in October, is meant to extract plutonium from spent commercial reactor fuel so it can be used in fresh fuel to be burned in the country’s reactors. “With safety first in mind always, Japan will promote…the completion of Rokkasho,” the energy plan states.
Publicly, the Obama administration has said little about Rokkasho, located on the Pacific Coast about 1,000 miles north of Tokyo. But privately, U.S. officials and experts say they are worried that Japan’s operation of the $22 billion facility – in the wake of the country’s closure of most of its nuclear power plants — will add unnecessarily to its existing stockpile of 44 tons of plutonium, some of which is stored in Japan and some in Europe.
U.S. officials have complained to their Japanese counterparts that the plant lacks an adequate security force, making it a potential target for terrorists. They have also urged Japan to subject the plants’ workers to stringent background checks, a move the Japanese see as being at odds with privacy traditions. U.S. experts also have expressed concern that the plant’s operation will encourage other countries, including South Korea, to constructsimilar plutonium factories.
Japan’s stockpile of plutonium today ranks fifth in the world, behind four nuclear-weapons states. The Chinese government in recent weeks has repeatedly expressed concern about Japan’s plans to produce plutonium “far exceeding its normal needs.”
Tokyo’s decision to proceed follows a joint announcement on March 24 by Abe and President Obama and Abe, at the Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands, that Japan would return hundreds of pounds of plutonium and weapons-grade uranium it received under the U.S. Atoms for Peace program in the 1960s and 1970s.
The two leaders said the transfer would further “our mutual goal” of keeping global stocks of nuclear explosive materials to a minimum, to keep them out of the hands of terrorists.
But critics say Rokkasho’s operation would violate that goal……..
Many communities in Japan are dependent on a stream of payments by the federal government to promote the siting of nuclear power plants, but a few have recently expressed concerns about the burning of plutonium-laced reactor fuels.
In early April, the city of Hakodate sued to halt work on a reactor that would be the first to burn such fuel. Hakodate’s Mayor Toshiki Kudo told reporters in Tokyo Thursday that the government and utility had ignored a plea from the municipality to suspend work on the Ohma plant and made “a unilateral announcement that it would go ahead with construction.”
Kudo called the plant “a terrorist target,” and said it could pose a greater safety risk than reactors fueled in other ways.
Angela Erika Kubo contributed to this article from Tokyo. http://www.publicintegrity.org/2014/04/11/14582/japan-reaffirms-its-plan-produce-plutonium
After spending tens of billions of dollars and decades on breeder-related programs, Tom Cochran said, countries find it hard to pull the plug.
“You have an entrenched bureaucracy and an entrenched research and development community and commercial interests invested in breeder technology, and these guys don’t go away,” Cochran said. “They’re believers … and they’re not going to give up. The really true believers don’t give up.”……..
“Stealing a weapon is too hard,” Cochran said. “But there is no big risk in fuel assemblies, or in taking things from a bulk handling facility that can be used to make weapons.” In this view, Rokkasho is a kind of big-box store for would-be nuclear terrorists.
A Washington-based physicist and nuclear contrarian, Cochran helped kill a vast plutonium-based nuclear industrial complex back in the 1970s, and now he’s at it again — lecturing at symposia, standing up at official meetings, and confronting nuclear industry representatives with warnings about how commercializing plutonium will put the public at enormous risk.
Where the story ends isn’t clear. But the stakes are large. Continue reading
A World Awash in a Nuclear Explosive? TruthOut, 19 March 2014 12:24 By Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrey Smith, Center for Public Integrity | Report Washington “……..Just a Few Pounds Worth of Plutonium? There’s been a ghoulish debate between officials and independent scientists about how much plutonium is needed to fuel a clandestine bomb. But both agree it’s not much.
The U.S. bomb that destroyed half of Nagasaki in 1945 had 6.2 kilograms of plutonium in it, or 13.6 pounds. But experts say it was over-engineered — only one kilogram fissioned, they concluded later.
The International Atomic Energy Agency nonetheless decided years ago that eight kilograms of plutonium, or 17.6 pounds, are needed to make a bomb and so that’s the quantity its monitoring is geared to stop from getting loose.
Cochran and his NRDC colleague Christopher Paine challenged the IAEA standard in 1995 with a study concluding that only 3 kilograms — 6.6 pounds — would be needed to fashion a “very respectable” bomb with the explosive power of a kiloton, or 1,000 tons of TNT. But no matter who is right, Rokkasho’s annual plutonium production would be enough for 1,000 weapons or more. Continue reading
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