US to build two secret underground plutonium production labs: Analyst Press TV, 24 Dec 13 The United States is planning to build two new underground plutonium production labs that will expand plutonium production for the next decades, an analyst says.
“The Senate two days ago voted to authorize the creation of two new huge secret underground plutonium production labs that will expand plutonium production for the next 150 years,” Brian Becker, national coordinator of the A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition, told Press TV on Saturday.
“That is a very important fact and I think the world is not yet learning about it or just learning about it,” he added.
Becker also said the location of the new labs is in Los Alamos. “This was going to be in Los Alamos, the nuclear facility in New Mexico and the US government has just announced in spite of environmental impact statements, in spite of everything, to rush forward for the creation of two new plutonium factories, modules that will be producing plutonium for as decades and decades to come,” the analyst said.
“That is to enrich and enhance nuclear weapons. The United States is moving nuclear weapons into outer space that is one of the big projects. They see nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons possession as a form of creating dominance. It is not keeping the world safe,” he explained.
Becker pointed out to President Barack Obama’s plans for the US nuclear weapons complex that will cost the country about $355 billion over the next decade….http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/12/22/341316/us-building-secret-labs-to-enhance-nukes/
serious questions were raised last year after Walter Tamosaitis, one of the scientific chiefs of the project, disclosed that the innovative technology for mixing the waste in processing tanks could cause dangerous buildups of explosive hydrogen gas and might allow plutonium clumps to form.
Doubts grow about plan to dispose of Hanford’s radioactive waste, LA Times 28 Nov 13 Experts raise concerns about the complex technology intended to turn 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge at the former Hanford nuclear facility into glass and prepare it for safe burial. By Ralph Vartabedian November 29, 2013, RICHLAND, Wash. — On a wind-swept plateau, underground steel tanks that hold the nation’s most deadly radioactive waste are slowly rotting. The soil deep under the desert brush is being fouled with plutonium, cesium and other material so toxic that it could deliver a lethal dose of radiation to a nearby person in minutes.
The aging tanks at the former Hanford nuclear weapons complex contain 56 million gallons of sludge, the byproduct of several decades of nuclear weapons production, and they represent one of the nation’s most treacherous environmental threats.
Energy Department officials have repeatedly assured the public that they have the advanced technology needed to safely dispose of the waste. An industrial city has been under development here for 24 years, designed to transform the sludge into solid glass and prepare it for permanent burial.
But with $13 billion already spent, there are serious doubts that the highly complex technology will even work or that the current plan can clean up all the waste. Alarmed at warnings raised by outside experts and some of the project’s own engineers, Department of Energy officials last year ordered a halt to construction on the most important parts of the waste treatment plant.
“They are missing one important target after another,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “It feels like we are going around in circles.”……….
Many of the problems stem from the decision to launch construction of the plant even before engineers had completed the design. The job of turning waste as thick as peanut butter into glass is at the leading edge of nuclear chemistry, a job made difficult by the complex mixture of wastes that were fed into the underground tanks by some of the nation’s largest industrial corporations under a cloak of government secrecy.
The basic plan is to pump the waste into a pre-treatment plant, a factory larger than a football field and 12 stories tall, that would filter and chemically separate the waste into two streams of high- and low-level radioactivity. Then, two other plants would “vitrify,” or glassify, the waste. One would produce highly radioactive glass destined for a future geological repository, and the other a lower radioactive glass that could be buried at Hanford.
But serious questions were raised last year after Walter Tamosaitis, one of the scientific chiefs of the project, disclosed that the innovative technology for mixing the waste in processing tanks could cause dangerous buildups of explosive hydrogen gas and might allow plutonium clumps to form……. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-hanford-nuclear-risks-20131130,0,5013027.story#axzz2m8Dynzbj
The immediate bottom line is that those fuel rods must somehow come safely out of the Unit Four fuel pool as soon as possible.
Spent fuel must somehow be kept under water. It’s clad in zirconium alloy which will spontaneously ignite when exposed to air.
Each uncovered rod emits enough radiation to kill someone standing nearby in a matter of minutes. A conflagration could force all personnel to flee the site and render electronic machinery unworkable.
Fukushima Radiation Leaks Totally Out of Control – Threatening Human Survival http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article42434.html Harvey Wasserman writes: We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis. 25 Sept 13
There is no excuse for not acting. All the resources our species can muster must be focussed on the fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4. Fukushima’s owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), says that within as few as 60 days it may begin trying to remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air. The pool rests on a badly damaged building that is tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own.
Some 400 tons of fuel in that pool could spew out more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released at Hiroshima.
The one thing certain about this crisis is that Tepco does not have the scientific, engineering or financial resources to handle it. Nor does the Japanese government. The situation demands a coordinated worldwide effort of the best scientists and engineers our species can muster.
Why is this so serious? Continue reading
But in this poisoned place, on a small patch of land near a few downtrodden trailers, there’s an unexpected hint of vitality: bright yellow sunflowers, clustered together near rows of corn, and a barn full of plump sheep. Here, scientists from Kazakhstan’s Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology, a governmental organization that studies the medical and biological interaction between radioactivity and the environment, have developed an experimental farm. Their goal is to measure the transference of radioactivity from contaminated soil into edible crops, and from those crops into the meat, milk, and eggs of the animals that eat them. Continue reading
A Secret Race for Abandoned Nuclear Material http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/world/asia/a-secret-race-for-abandoned-nuclear-material.html?_r=0 By ELLEN BARRY August 17, 2013 Working in top secret over a period of 17 years, Russian and American scientists collaborated to remove hundreds of pounds of plutonium and highly enriched uranium — enough to construct at least a dozen nuclear weapons — from a remote Soviet-era nuclear test site in Kazakhstan that had been overrun by impoverished metal scavengers, according to a report released last week by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard.
The report sheds light on a mysterious $150 million cleanup operation paid for in large part by the United States, whose nuclear scientists feared that terrorists would discover the fissile material and use it to build a dirty bomb.
Over the years, hints emerged that something extraordinarily dangerous had been left behind in a warren of underground tunnels — like the American aerial drones that circled over the site, looking for intruders, or the steel-reinforced concrete that was poured into tunnels and over stretches of earth.
Among the report’s new revelations is that the Soviet testers left behind components, including high-purity plutonium, that could have been used to build not just a dirty bomb but a “relatively sophisticated nuclear device,” an American official told the report’s authors. Continue reading
Plutonium from Sellafield in all children’s teeth Antony Barnett, public affairs editor The Guardian 30 November 2003 Government admits plant is the source of contamination but says risk is ‘minute’ Radioactive pollution from the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria has led to children’s teeth across Britain being contaminated with plutonium.
The Government has admitted for the first time that Sellafield ‘is a source of plutonium contamination’ across the country. Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson has revealed that a study funded by the Department of Health discovered that the closer a child lived to Sellafield, the higher the levels of plutonium found in their teeth. Continue reading
Hinkley’s hidden history Morning Star UK 21 July 2013 by David Lowry With the coalition government’s decision to back a third nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point on Somerset’s coast and the ongoing debate over Trident replacement, it’s interesting to take a look back at the origins of Britain’s nuclear programme.
The first public hint came with an MoD announcement in June 1958 on “the production of plutonium suitable for weapons in the new [nuclear] power stations programme as an insurance against future defence needs” at Britain’s first-generation Magnox reactor (named after the fuel type, magnesium oxide).
A week later in Parliament, Labour’s Roy Mason asked why the government had “decided to modify atomic power stations, primarily planned for peaceful purposes, to produce high-grade plutonium for war weapons.”
He was informed by paymaster general Reginald Maudling: “At the request of the government, the Central Electricity Generating Board has agreed to a small modification in the design of Hinkley Point and of the next two stations in its programme so as to enable plutonium suitable for military purposes to be extracted should the need arise.
“The modifications will not in any way impair the efficiency of the stations. As the initial capital cost and any additional operating costs that may be incurred will be borne by the government, the price of electricity will not be affected……….
the following month, the US and British governments signed a mutual defense – spelt with an “s” even in the official British version, so you can guess where it was authored – co-operation agreement on atomic energy matters.
The agreement was intended to circumvent the draconian restrictions of the 1954 Atomic Energy Act, which sought to retain all nuclear secrets within the US, even though many foreign nationals had worked collaboratively with US counterparts for six or more years on nuclear R&D.
The deal was reached after several months of congressional hearings in Washington DC, but no oversight whatsoever in the British Parliament.
As this formed the basis, within a mere five years, for Britain obtaining the Polaris nuclear WMD system from the US, and some 20-odd years later for Britain to buy US Trident nuclear WMD, the failure of Parliament to at least appraise the security merits of this key bilateral atomic arrangement was unconscionable…….
And so it may be seen that the Britain’s first civil nuclear programme was used as a source of nuclear explosive plutonium for the US military, with Hinkley Point A the prime provider.
The reason there was a swap between Britain and the US of weapons-suitable highly enriched uranium and plutonium was the US had huge surpluses of uranium, but wanted more plutonium than its nuclear production complex at Hanford could deliver, while the British first-generation “commercial” Magnoxes, which were scaled-up plutonium production factories, were perfect for producing military-suitable plutonium as they had online refuelling systems to optimise plutonium over electricity production.
They produced perfect plutonium in surplus, but Britain lacked sufficient highly enriched uranium, so an exchange deal was mutually beneficial.
Two decades later in 1984 Wales national daily the Western Mail reported that the largest Magnox reactor in Britain, at Wylfa on Anglesey, had also been used to provide plutonium for the military.
Plutonium from both reactors went into the British military stockpile of nuclear explosives, and could well still be part of the British Trident warhead stockpile today.
Subsequent research by the Scientists Against Nuclear Arms, published in the prestigious science weekly journal Nature and presented to the Sizewell B and Hinkley C public inquiries in the ’80s, has demonstrated that around 6,700kg of plutonium was shipped to the US under the military exchange agreement, which stipulates explicitly that the material must be used for military purposes by the recipient country.
To put this quantity into context, a nuclear warhead contains around 5kg of plutonium.
Is it any wonder the Atoms for Peace movement began to demand “safeguards” to deter diversion of civilian nuclear plants to military misuse?
After all, the US and Britain knew that such deadly diversion was possible – they had demonstrated it themselves.
The trouble is that safeguards are misleading. They are neither safe, nor do they guard. And what would Iran or North Korea make of this deliberate intermixing of civil and military nuclear programmes by one of the nuclear weapons superpowers – one which leads the criticisms of them for allegedly doing this very thing today. http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/135635
Nuclear waste: DC has ignored a cheaper way to dispose of plutonium — until now Sentinel.com, Douglas Birch & R. Jeffrey Smith The Center for Public Integrity, 7 July 13,
For the past decade, Washington has known how to dispose of excess U.S. plutonium at a cost estimated to be hundreds of millions of dollars less than what the Energy Department is spending on a South Carolina factory meant to transform plutonium into fuel for nuclear reactors.
Instead of burning the plutonium, the cheaper alternative mixes it with glass or ceramics and some other materials, so it can be buried deep underground. Continue reading
Nuclear waste: DC has ignored a cheaper way to dispose of plutonium — until now Sentinel.com, Douglas Birch & R. Jeffrey Smith The Center for Public Integrity, 7 July 13, “………Frank von Hippel, a White House science official in the early 1990’s who chaired a working group on Russia’s weapons plutonium, said he initially supported the MOX plant because the threat was high and MOX was the only solution Russia would support. But Russia’s decision since then to burn its new MOX fuel in reactors that can actually produce more plutonium was the last straw for von Hippel. As a result, he said, the MOX plant “[has] become from my point of view a pretty meaningless program” — one that’s cost billions of dollars so far.
Last May, von Hippel joined three other prominent scientists in a commentary published in Nature, entitled, “Time to Bury Plutonium,” in which they criticized Britain’s draft plans to dispose of its huge stockpile of surplus reactor plutonium by building a new MOX plant of its own. The four authors wrote that MOX programs worldwide have been plagued by extravagant expenses, technology breakdowns and design flaws.
In France, Areva’s recycling of plutonium from spent fuel for MOX adds about $750 million each year to the cost of electricity, according to a French study in 2000 cited by their article. Britain closed its Sellafield MOX plant in 2011, they pointed out, after it operated at just 1 percent of capacity for a decade.
The authors urged the country to “give plutonium immobilization another look … Although the technique has not been demonstrated at full scale, there is substantial literature on how to do it. Immobilization should be easier and cheaper than MOX production.” Von Hippel separately said that according to his calculations, it could be as much as seven times cheaper. Continue reading
Nuclear waste: DC has ignored a cheaper way to dispose of plutonium — until now Sentinel.com, Douglas Birch & R. Jeffrey Smith The Center for Public Integrity, 7 July 13, “………..Unrealized ambitions
Although the White House has not allocated any additional funding for the South Carolina plant after 2014, the Energy Department claims it remains in contention as a solution to the plutonium disposal problem. But already it’s clear that the original U.S. goal for the program — reducing the world’s supply of nuclear explosive material by 68 tons – will not be realized.
Washington compromised repeatedly with Russia to pursue a program that even for some of its initial supporters has long since ceased to be a top nonproliferation priority. Meanwhile, the price of the MOX fuel factory soared far beyond the Energy department’s estimates, making it one of many, multi-billion dollar, Energy Department programs accused of being poorly run.
“MOX is just a sample of a larger problem,” says Gene Aloise, a senior federal auditor who tracked nonproliferation projects for the Government Accountability Office from 1994 to 2012.
The result is that Washington has spent at least $3.7 billion on a plant to manufacture reactor fuel no U.S. utility is eager to buy, after rejecting alternatives that likely would have been cheaper.
“The government’s plutonium plan is a pluperfect disaster,” Sen. Edward Markey, a newly-elected Massachusetts Democrat, told the Center for Public Integrity in a statement. “And all to produce $2 billion worth of reactor fuel at a cost of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars and damage to our global non-proliferation efforts.” Markey was the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, has long been active on nuclear safety issues, and in 1986 chaired hearings on the Chernobyl disaster.
The factory’s fate might be decided next year, as the administration prefers, after another $320 million is spent on its construction. Or Congress might decide to take swifter and more decisive action in budget legislation this summer……..And after twenty years of negotiations, promises and plans, and billions in spending, the U.S. appears no closer — in its principal plutonium disposal efforts — to the goal of making the world safer from a nuclear disaster.http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/nationworld/report/070513_nuclear_waste/nuclear-waste-dc-has-ignored-cheaper-way-dispose-plutonium-until-now/
Mainichi: Japan’s secret promise with U.S. to burn plutonium — “It is abnormal for sure” — “Expected to stir up controversy” http://enenews.com/mainichi-japan-secretly-promised-to-burn-plutonium-it-is-abnormal-for-sure-expected-to-stir-up-controversy
Title: Japan made secret promise with U.S. to restart pluthermal nuclear program
Date: June 25, 2013
A Japanese prime ministerial envoy secretly promised to the United States that Japan would resume its controversial “pluthermal” program, using light-water reactors to burn plutonium, according to documents obtained by the Mainichi.
The secret promise was made by Hiroshi Ogushi, then parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office, to Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, during Ogushi’s visit to the United States on behalf of then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in September last year.
[...] The fact that a Japanese official promised to the U.S. to implement such a controversial project without a prior explanation to the Japanese public is expected to stir up controversy. [...]
“It is abnormal for sure,” said one official with the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy. [...]
See also: Plutonium-burning reactors to restart in Japan? — Gov’t forcing companies to use MOX fuel — Official: “We have no other choice”
Von Hippel last May joined three other scientists in advocating the burial alternative in a scientific journal article about Britain’s plutonium stocks. One co-author was Rodney Ewing, who Obama has since appointed to head a federal nuclear waste panel, and another was Allison MacFarlane, now chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The MOX plant, if it is completed, needs an NRC license……
Administration officials say the main purpose of their “strategic reassessment” is to reexamine the burial alternative. A DOE report in 2002 concluded it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars less than building the MOX plant.
Energy Department Nuclear Nonproliferation Program Plagued By Problems, HUFFINGTON POST , 24 June 13 A multibillion-dollar U.S.-led effort to stem the threat of a terrorist nuclear blast is slowly unraveling because of huge cost overruns at a federal installation in South Carolina and stubborn resistance in Moscow to fulfilling the program’s chief goal, according to U.S. officials and independent experts.
The 13-year old Energy Department program, authorized in agreements with Moscow spanning three presidents, is meant to transform excess plutonium taken from retired U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons into fuel for nuclear plants, so that it can’t be stolen and misused.
But that ambitious goal has been blocked by a tangle of technical, diplomatic and financial problems. The Obama administration is now considering cancelling the project, an idea that has provoked furious opposition from some Republican lawmakers who say it is vital to U.S. national security.
Its potential demise has provoked cheers from some leading arms control and nonproliferation experts, however. They say that as a result of little-noticed revisions to the underlying pact with Moscow on the plutonium’s disposal, the deal might actually wind up promoting Russia’s production of as much or more plutonium as it was supposed to eliminate. To keep its end of the bargain, the U.S. has spent more than a decade and $3.7 billion building a problem-plagued factory for making the plutonium-laced reactor fuel, located at the government’s Savannah River complex south of Aiken. Its construction and related costs have recently hit more than $680 million a year, but Congress is now considering a White House plan to shrink that spending substantially. Continue reading
Japan currently possesses 44 tons of plutonium, according to the Atomic Energy Commission. Nine tons, including the latest shipment, are in Japan, while the remaining tons are in Britain and France, where spent fuel from Japan has been reprocessed.
Storage pools for spent fuel are quickly reaching capacity at nuclear power plants across the nation. If Aomori Prefecture refuses to accept spent fuel, nuclear plants will be saddled with overflowing spent fuel pools and will be unable to continue operations.
Direct disposal, or burying spent fuel without reprocessing, was considered under the previous Democratic Party of Japan government. But discussions have gone nowhere after the Liberal Democratic Party took over government in December.
Plutonium problem lingers as mixed-oxide fuel comes to Japan June 25, 2013 THE ASAHI SHIMBUN A shipment of mixed-oxide fuel will arrive in Japan as early as June 27, part of the nation’s plutonium stockpile that is already equivalent to 5,000 Nagasaki-type atomic bombs.
The shipment, two years behind schedule due to the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, is expected to be used for plutonium-thermal (pluthermal) power generation, a key component of Japan’s nuclear fuel recycling program.
However, the fuel recycling program has been plagued by so many problems that the nation’s plutonium stockpile could increase further, heightening concerns in the international community about possible nuclear weapons proliferation. Continue reading
Energy Department Nuclear Nonproliferation Program Plagued By Problems Center For Public Integrity HUFFINGTON POST By Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrey Smith, 25 June 13 “…..For years, the plant has been kept alive by South Carolina’s mostly Republican congressional delegation, which includes many strident critics of federal spending, budget deficits, and mammoth public works projects – including Sen. Tim Scott (R.) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R.). On the issue of the MOX plant, which employs 2,100 workers, they have been hugely supportive.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), joined others on Capitol Hill in January in asserting that “the time has come for the President to face up to the need to control federal spending.” Since then, Graham has lectured DOE officials at hearings on the diplomatic and security disaster that would ensue if the Savannah River project was halted.
With three other Republican senators, Graham pledged in a joint statement last month to hold up nominations and use the budget process “to ensure the [MOX] program moves forward.”
Graham declined to comment for this article. According to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity of campaign donations and leadership committee receipts listed by the Center for Responsive Politics, Graham has received $46,500 since 2001 from three private firms with a stake in the MOX project. In total, the firms provided at least $437,000 in campaign funds during this period to members of the four congressional committees that decide the Energy Department’s annual budge
Rep. James Clyburn (D.-S.C.), who has long been a member of the House Democratic leadership and who has boasted about helping block Hobson’s challenge to the plant, collected $51,000 in political funding from the firms, whose lobbyists and officers also donated $40,000 to a golf charity he runs. Clyburn’s spokeswoman Hope Derrick said the congressman “is solely motivated by the best interests of the people and communities he serves in Congress.”
In the last three years alone, Areva and Shaw have spent a total of $6.3 million to lobby for their legislative interests, including efforts by at least four former congressmen and some former committee staffers that advocated spending on MOX and nuclear issues, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity……”.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/25/energy-department-nuclear-nonproliferation_n_
Energy Department Nuclear Nonproliferation Program Plagued By Problems HUFFINGTON POST Center For Public Integrity | By Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrey Smith, 25 June 13 ”….The government’s current estimate is that the plant will not begin operation before 2019, seven years late. Estimates of its operating costs over a 15 to 20 year period range from $8 billion to $12 billion, meaning that it could cost around $20 billion in total to create fuel rods from all 34 tons of the plutonium that Washington has promised to eliminate.
But even if the government finds buyers for the fuel – which seems doubtful – it will not recoup more than $2 billion of its expenses, according to the Congressional Research Service. At the current pricetag, eliminating each pound of plutonium at the U.S. plant may cost roughly $243,000, according to Matthew Bunn, a nuclear expert at Harvard.
So far, around $3.7 billion has been spent on the fuel factory, which could wind up an abandoned concrete shell in the middle of a pine forest. Another $700 million was used to design a related plutonium dismantlement facility that NNSA never built.
Those expenditures have helped make it the single most expensive U.S. nonproliferation project now under way, according to independent experts…..
New budget troubles arise
Austerity pressures in Washington have created new obstacles for the companies and their lobbyists, however. The Obama administration, after convening four high-level meetings about the MOX plant this spring, urged a 50 percent cut in its planned spending in fiscal year 2014, to just $320 million.
“Cost growth and fiscal pressure may make the project unaffordable,” the Energy Department said in its formal budget proposal to Congress. A spokesman for the department declined comment about the review now under way……..” .http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/25/energy-department-nuclear-nonproliferation_n_3498626.html
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