CBO: Nuclear arsenal to cost $348B over decade http://thehill.com/policy/defense/230520-cbo-nuclear-arsenal-to-cost-348b-next-decade By Martin Matishak – 01/23/15 1 The U.S. will need to spend $348 billion over the next decade to maintain its nuclear arsenal, according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released on Thursday.
The nonpartisan agency said that, while the estimated price tag is lower than a previous estimate of $355 billion in December 2013, the figure still amounts to 5percent-6 percent of the Obama administration’s national defense plan over the next 10 years
The updated estimate comes as the administration is set to unveil its fiscal 2016 budget on Feb. 2, and with sequester cuts set to resume, the timing could not be worse for the three legs of the U.S. nuclear “triad.” The land-, sea- and air-based platforms and the atomic weapons they carry “are reaching the end of their service lifetimes,” the CBO warns.
“Over the next two decades, the Congress will need to make decisions about the extent to which essentially all of the U.S. nuclear delivery systems and weapons will be modernized or replaced with new systems.”
Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, argues the cost of maintaining the arsenal could still top $1 trillion over the next 30 years. He cites a report from the National Defense Panel’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review that found refurbishing all three legs of the triad would cost roughly that amount.
Last year, the think tank released a report that said the U.S. could save around $70 billion by adjusting plans for new ballistic submarines and bombers, delaying or nixing the purchase of new delivery systems and taking a new approach to rebuilding warheads.
“CBO’s reports on the projected costs of nuclear forces have brought a much-needed dose of fiscal perspective to the debate about the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal,” Reif wrote.
“Whether one thinks the United States has too many or too few nuclear weapons, it is no longer possible to hide from their immense cost.”
Florida lawmaker wants repeal of laws allowing nuclear power companies to get “advance money” from customers
Lawmaker joins calls for repeal of nuclear advance fee with new bill, Tampa Bay Times, Ivan Penn, 23 Jan 15 State Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, this week filed legislation to repeal the so-called nuclear advance fee that allowed Duke Energy Florida and Florida Power & Light to collect money from their customers before new plants come online.
Ahern’s legislation is the third bill filed for the 2015 session aimed at ending the fee. The measure largely targets Duke Energy over its troubled nuclear operations detailed in reports by the Tampa Bay Times.
Duke used the advance fee to charge its Florida customers about $1.5 billion for the now-canceled Levy County nuclear project. In addition, the utility spent hundreds of millions of dollars more through the advance fee to increase power at the broken and now shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant. Neither Levy nor Crystal River will ever produce a kilowatt of electricity for the money.
“The consumers are being taken advantage of by utility providers,” Ahern said. “We need to take precautions to ensure that these types of events don’t happen again.”……..
The Murphy and Latvala bill would also require Duke Energy to refund all or most of the money collected from its customers through the advance fee.
Contact Ivan Penn at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2332. Follow @Consumers_Edge. http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/energy/lawmaker-joins-calls-for-repeal-of-nuclear-advance-fee-with-new-bill/2214873
Raising radiation limits draws citizens’ anger Bismarck Tribune January 21, 2015 By LeAnn Eckroth A state Health Department plan to track and dispose of radioactive waste from the oil patch drew nearly 130 people to a two-hour hearing Wednesday in Bismarck. A majority who testified said the plan had serious gaps in public safety.
Signs against higher levels of TENORM — technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material — at special landfill sites were taped to the walls of the Environmental Training Center and even hung over a few attendees’ necks.
Dakota Resource Council members and members of area tribes said the state Health Department had given inadequate notice and education about the plan to increase TENORM levels allowed at radioactive disposal sites from 5 picocuries per gram to 50. They demanded more hearings, saying the Feb. 6 deadline for comments was not enough time…..
Audience members challenged whether the state agency had enough staff and money to fully regulate TENORM disposal sites.
“You told me that the industry came and asked you for this. I know no North Dakota citizen came to you asking for an increase in radioactivity to poison themselves, their children or grandchildren,” said Joletta Birdbear, a member of the Mandan Hidatsa and Arikira tribe and a DRC member.
Gene Wirtz, a farmer from Underwood, said the levels shouldn’t be raised. He said county commissioners voted against a radioactive waste site near his home.
“I see this as an end run to get that dump back,” he said. “No amount of radiation is good. Anytime you raise the amount of radiation you are exposed to, you are going to raise the risk of cancer.”……..
A meeting was held Tuesday in Williston and a third was to be held Thursday at the Fargo Public Safety Building at 4630 15th Ave. N.
Radig said the state health officials will consider extending the public comment and education period on the draft regulations.
Cancer-stricken soldier denied disability claim over exposure to depleted uranium CTVNews.ca Staff , January 20, 2015 A cancer-stricken warrant officer who served with the Canadian military for nearly three decades is facing a long appeal process after Veterans Affairs denied his application for disability compensation.
Alain Vachon of Calgary spent 27 years in military service, which included deployments to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo, among other places. For the past two years, he has been battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer that affects the lymphatic system.
Vachon believes his exposure to depleted uranium at Camp Doha in Kuwait caused his illness. Although Canadians did not use depleted uranium, the American troops at the base did, Vachon said. There was an incident in which “their ammunition dump blew up,” he said in an interview with CTV Calgary………
The couple has a letter from the military admitting that Vachon was exposed to depleted uranium, pesticides and other unknown substances………. http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/cancer-stricken-soldier-denied-disability-claim-over-exposure-to-depleted-uranium-1.2198339#ixzz3PhSiGCYs
Then things started to fall apart.………
the story had shifted as Kerry boxed the Republicans into admitting their possible true intentions — and all Boehner was left with was a promise for a Netanyahu address at the time of the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in early March, by which point the administration has said it hoped to already have a framework for the deal.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu got his own rebuke as the White House revealed that it would not meet with him during that March trip. “We do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.
Ryan Grim and Ali Watkins contributed reporting.
This article has been updated to include comments from M http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/22/kerry-israel-boehner-_n_6527826.html
US govt takes 4 years to respond – and reject – petition to to close Fukushima-style nuclear reactors
Four years later, NRC rejects Beyond Nuclear and 10,000+ co-petitioners’ call to close Fukushima-style reactors Beyond Nuclear 23 jan 15 After nearly four years of behind closed doors deliberations, on January 15, 2015, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued its “Final Director’s Decision” rejecting the April 13, 2011emergency enforcement petition filed by Beyond Nuclear along with more than 10,000 co-petitioners from around the country. The public emergency enforcement petition called for the immediate suspension of the continued operation of the General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors in the U.S. that are identical to Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors units 1, 2 and 3 that exploded and melted down following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
The NRC makes its best case for dismissing the petition by arguing that “each of the Petitioner’s requests has been addressed through other actions.” We acknowledge that after four years a portion of the actions that we requested in April 2011 have been taken at some of these reactors. However, we strongly disagree with the NRC’s overall conclusion that each and every action request is addressed and that the public health and safety hazard is resolved such that the petition can be legitimately dismissed in total. We remain concerned that the agency is not capable of effective regulation and enforcement given the long standing nature of the Mark I reactor hazards and a recalcitrant nuclear industry that first considers its financial margins over public safety margins.
Regrettably, we recognize that under existing NRC provisions (Chapter 10 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulation Part 2.206) the public has absolutely no recourse to appeal a Director’s Decision to the Commission level or legally challenge Mark I design vulnerability and its operational hazards in a court of law. This denial of due process comes in spite of the fact that agency orders and industry corrective actions referenced in dismissing the petitioner are inadequate half measures that need not be fully implemented for years still to come, if ever. In critical safety areas for the Mark I, the proposed corrective actions credited in the Director’s Decision are not even conceptually finalized nor approved by the regulator as we approach the fourth anniversary of the nuclear catastrophe. Moreover, there are numerous agency staff non-concurrences on how to even proceed with post-Fukushima action plans………….
Any one of the hazards cited for suspension of the operating licenses in the April 2011 petition serves as ample reason for why the GE Mark I reactors need to be promptly and permanently shuttered. But a primary focus remains on the threat of catastrophic failure of the Mark I containment under severe accident conditions.
The petitioners remain concerned that because the GE Mark I containment system is only 1/6th the size by volume of a typical pressurized water reactor like Three Mile Island it will not reliably serve to “contain” the tremendous pressures, extreme heat, explosive hydrogen gas and highly radioactive releases associated with an accident involving reactor core damage. In fact, this was demonstrated by a 100% failure rate of the Mark I containment systems for Fukushima Daiichi Units 1, 2 and 3 which were operating at full power at the time of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The current action plan is a rehash of a 1989 “fix” to deliberately vent a nuclear accident to the environment by temporarily defeating the containment concept to save it from permanent rupture. Moreover, the current NRC order to improve the reliability of containment venting systems similar to those that failed Fukushima, need not be fully implemented by industry until 2019.
Ironically, when the NRC’s Japan Lessons Learned Task Force reviewed the nuclear catastrophe for recommending modifications to the U.S. Fukushima-style reactors, the staff concluded that what was really needed was not only an enhanced hardened containment vent for the controlled release of heat, pressure and explosive gas but requiring the re-institution of the defense-in-depth concept to more reliably contain the high-level radioactive releases that would also be generated by the nuclear accident. On November 29, 2012, the Japan Lessons Learned Task Force recommended that the Commission issue an Order to all GE Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactor operators to promptly install hardened containment vents with the engineered radiation filters as a “cost-benefited substantial safety enhancement.” The nuclear industry vigorously opposed the additional radiation filter concept on economic grounds and “unintended consequences” and successfully lobbied the five-member Commission by majority vote to reject the filter recommendation on containment vents. The Commission instructed the NRC staff to take up consideration of the installation of radiation filters in a proposed rulemaking and gather independent scientific expert experience as well as public and industry comments. However, in December 2014, the NRC rulemaking staff reversed course for considering the addition of external radiation filters and now seeks to abandon the rulemaking process effectively locking out public and independent expert input.
Our common struggle for real public safety, environmental protection and energy independence remains to permanently closing down an inherently dangerous atomic power industry.
Keep your eyes on the prize and hold on. http://www.beyondnuclear.org/freeze-our-fukushimas/2015/1/21/four-years-later-nrc-rejects-beyond-nuclear-and-10000-co-pet.h
22-Jan-2015 Source Newsroom: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory Newswise — Researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory are trying to find out why uranium persists in groundwater at former uranium ore processing sites despite remediation of contaminated surface materials two decades ago. They think buried organic material may be at fault, storing toxic uranium at levels that continue to pose risks to human health and the environment, and hope their study will pave the way for better long-term site management and protection of the public and environment.
The contaminated sites, on floodplains in the upper Colorado River basin, operated from the 1940s to the 1970s to produce “yellowcake,” a precursor of uranium fuel used in nuclear power plants and weapons. In the 1990s, site surfaces were cleaned up, and remaining uranium in the ground was expected to flush out over time due to natural groundwater flow across the sites.
Study: Fukushima plume spread worldwide, far exceeding the hundreds of miles mentioned previously — 100 Quadrillion becquerels of Cs-137 released tops Chernobyl
“Implicates radiological hazard at distances otherwise overlooked”
January 21st, 2015
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (pdf), University of Florida College of Medicine, Weill-Cornell Medical College, etc. (2014):
- The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant accident is an example of a contemporary nuclear plant accident with serious implications.
- The Fukushima NPP accident has had health implications due to the high levels of radiation released and vast area over which the radiation has disperse.
- The significant radiation release, as likened to Chernobyl, reflects the context and severity of the Fukushima accident.
- The level of 137Cs that was released is likened to Chernobyl levels, with 100,000 TBq released.
- Radioactive plume dispersion occurs worldwide, far exceeding 300 miles previously mentioned. This should implicate radiological hazard at distances otherwise overlooked.
Potassium Iodide Distribution
- Radioactive plumes from the Chernobyl accident containing 131I caused benign and malignant thyroid nodules to develop, especially in children within a 310 miles radius of the incident.
- The current recommendation is for KI [potassium iodide] availability to people 200 miles from a NPP. Plume radii for nuclear events have been shown to exceed 300 [miles]. Extension of KI availability to 300 miles only further underscores the inadequacy of current preparedness plans.
- In regard to KI prophylaxis, TEPCO utilized 17,500 KI tablets for 2,000 onsite workers… with one individual receiving and taking 85 tablets.
- Radiological plumes containing 131I cause benign and malignant thyroid nodules to develop within a 300 mile radius… This necessitates KI pre-distribution to all schools, hospitals and other of-interest sites extending 300 miles from any nuclear reactor. Evacuation or sequestering is impossible in congested urban areas… There is currently virtually no compliance with [the] 20 miles radius KI pre-distribution law, section 127 of the Bioterrorism Act of 2002. In fact, there is little compliance with the 10 miles Ki pre-distribution radius law in the United States.
- Japan did not utilize KI for prophylaxis of the general public, acknowledging it was not prepared to act accordingly.
Monday, January 19, 2015
Marine defaunation: Animal loss in the global ocean.
Science 16 January 2015: Vol. 347 no. 6219
DOI: 10.1126/science.1255641 Review
[excerpted] Wildlife populations in the oceans have been badly damaged by human activity…. Human dependency on marine wildlife and the linked fate of marine and terrestrial fauna necessitate that we act quickly to slow the advance of marine defaunation….
Three lessons emerge when comparing the marine and terrestrial defaunation experiences:
- today’s low rates of marine extinction may be the prelude to a major extinction pulse, similar to that observed on land during the industrial revolution, as the footprint of human ocean use widens;
- effectively slowing ocean defaunation requires both protected areas and careful management of the intervening ocean matrix; and
- the terrestrial experience and current trends in ocean use suggest that habitat destruction is likely to become an increasingly dominant threat to ocean wildlife over the next 150 years.[end excerpt]
[Majia writes] Consensus holds that Fukushima constitutes the greatest radiological release into the ocean ever to occur. According to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, levels of radioactive cesium reached more than 100,000 becquerels per cubic meter in early April of 2011.[i] The World Nuclear Association suggests that 169 Petabecquerels of Iodine-131 equivalent were releases into the ocean from Cesium-137, Cesium-134, and Iodine-131from March 26 to September 30th.[ii] This figure does not include March releases into the atmosphere, which the World Nuclear Association calculates at 1020 petabecquerels from March 12 to March 31, 011. The French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) described Fukushima as the world’s worst nuclear contamination event ever for the ocean,[iii] reporting that from March 21st to mid-July 27, 27.1 petabecquerels of cesium-137 contaminated the ocean. One peta becquerel is equivalent to a million billion becquerels, or 10^15. [iv]
Atmospheric and direct ocean releases occurring as contaminated water spilled from reactors into the ocean caused radionuclide levels to spike offshore. Woods Hole scientist Ken Buessler revealed (12/12/2011) that Fukushima cesium-137 radiation in the sea near the plant peaked in April 2011 at 50 million times above normal levels (http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2011/12/12/fukushima-ocean-radiation-was-50-million-times-above-normal-but-no-threat-scientists/).
In a separate interview with Straight on October 28, 2011, Ken Buesseler stated that Fukushima was by far the greatest accidental release of radiation into ocean waters, the magnitude of which in April 2011 was over one hundred times Chernobyl’s contamination of the Black Sea.[v]
These comments reflect concerns based on ocean emissions during the first few months of the disaster. Ocean contamination did not however end in the first months of the disaster. The releases of radioactive water from the plant into the ocean have been, in this writer’s opinion, ongoing because of the need for continuous cooling of melted reactor corium and the inability to effectively de-contaminate cooling water.
Reactors 1 through 3 have been continuously cooled since March of 2011 with water injections. The World Nuclear Association reports that by the end of March 2011 all water storage tanks – the condenser units and condensate tanks – around units 1 through 4 were full of contaminated water pumped from the buildings.[vi] Tepco built a wastewater treatment facility to decontaminate the water but has struggled with decontamination and storage given the volume of water being pumped into the reactor buildings and the level of contamination. During the summer of 2011 Tepco installed concrete panels designed to seal water intakes of units 1 through 4 in order to prevent contaminated water from reaching the ocean. In October 2011, Tepco installed a steel water shield wall between the units and the ocean.[vii]
Yet, despite these efforts ocean contamination has continued because the site is literally saturated from the ongoing water injections. In 2012, Tepco reported water injections as follows: five tons per hour at Unit 1reactor; seven tons per hour at unit 2; seven tons per hour at unit 3.[viii] No information was provided about any water injections into unit 4 or the common spent fuel pool. At 456 tons a day of water going into the units, we can expect substantial ongoing leakage into the ocean. In November of 2011,Tepco admitted that its filtration system at the plant dumped more 11,000 tons of water contaminated with cesium 134, 137, and Iodine 131 into the sea.[ix] Tepco stated that it had been spraying about 70 tons of water around the Daiichi compound a day since early October and that water in some trenches measured at 10,000 millisieverts an hour, which is 10 sieverts an hour, a fatal dose.[x]
Ken Buesseler speaking in March 2012, described the data from his international research cruise off Japan that took place in June 2011:
Despite the announcement in December that operators of the power plant had achieved cold shut down, we know they are still using tons of water to cool the reactors and that not all the water has been collected or treated. As a result, the ground around the site is like a dirty sponge, saturated with contaminated water that is leaking into the ocean. He noted that other scientists had confirmed his 2011 findings of radiation levels 400 miles offshore Japan. He pointed out that little was known about radiation levels at seafloor levels but evidence exists that marine sediments are collecting radioactive contamination at higher concentrations than in the water. He said that little information was available about the radiation levels of groundwater.
He tells the public that information about the extent of releases of contaminated water are lacking:
Other measurements show trends that are more worrisome. Levels of radioactivity found in fish are not decreasing and there appear to be hot spots on the seafloor that are not well mapped. There is also little agreement on exactly how much radioactivity was released or even whether the fires and explosions at the power plant resulted in more radioactive fallout to the ocean than did direct releases of radioactivity caused by dumping water on the reactors to keep them cool.[xi] The Mainichi reported on April 3, 2012 that “Cesium up to 100 times levels before disaster found in plankton far off nuke plant” and that the “high concentration of cesium, which is believed to derive from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, suggests that radioactive substances that have leaked from the complex are spreading extensively in the sea.” http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120403p2a00m0na009000c.html
Cesium-134 deposits in marine snow gathered 2000 kilomters away from the plant at depths of 5000 meters measuring 1,200 Becquerels per kilogram indicate that radiation contamination from Fukushima spread far and wide.
Lack of certainty about the extent of initial and ongoing atmospheric and ocean releases of radiation from the plant complicates extrapolations of effects. Tepco has provided no concrete information about the extent of damage to the nuclear fuel in the reactors and pools. Mr. Yastel Yamada, a retired engineer and founder of the volunteer Fukushima Skilled Veterans Corps commented that the fuel from the reactors may possibly be in powder form.[xii]
The radiation contamination of the Pacific will be an ongoing problem. One study that modeled dilution declines of Cesium-137 published in Environmental Research Letters predicted that after seven years the “total peak radioactivity levels would still be about twice the pre-Fukushima values” off the coastal waters of North America”[xiii]. That study did not factor in ongoing contamination.
The risks from contaminated ocean water are not restricted to marine and coastal life. Long-lasting radioactive isotopes, such as Cesium-137 and Plutonium-239, will bio-accumulate in marine life in the same fashion that mercury bio-accumulates currently. Marine animals at the top of the food chain and birds that feed on marine life will become highly contaminated radioactively. The Canadian Museum of Nature notes that orcas are often considered toxic waste when they die based on their high toxicity.[xiv]
Furthermore, contaminants in the ocean do not necessarily stay in the ocean….
The Pacific Ocean was imperiled before Fukushima: what have we wrought?
Pacific Ocean tipping points? http://majiasblog.blogspot.com/2014/11/pacific-ocean-tipping-points.html
[i] Cited Hiroko Tabuchi. Fears Accompany Fishermen in Japanese Disaster Region The New York Times (2012, June 25): http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/26/world/asia/fears-accompany-fishermen-in-japanese-disaster-region.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120626
[ii] World Nuclear Association Fukushima Accident (2012, September last update), http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/fukushima_accident_inf129.html
[iii] Fukushima nuclear pollution in sea was world’s worst: French institute. Japan Today Oct. 28, 2011 – http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/fukushima-nuclear-pollution-in-sea-was-worlds-worst-french-institute
[iv] “Fukushima Disaster Produces World’s Worst Nuclear Sea Pollution. The Maritime Excective (2011, October 28) http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/fukushima-disaster-produces-world-s-worst-nuclear-sea-pollution.
[vi] World Nuclear Association Fukushima Accident (2012, September last update), http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/fukushima_accident_inf129.html
[vii] World Nuclear Association Fukushima Accident (2012, September last update), http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/fukushima_accident_inf129.html
[viii] Sep 1 2012 TEPCO reports drop in water injection rate at N-plant. Yomiuri (2012, Sep 1), http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120831004812.htm
[ix] Robert Mackey and Ravi Somaiya (November 1, 2011) 14 Japanese Official Drinks Water From Fukushima Reactor Buildings. The New York Times By ROBERT MACKEY and RAVI SOMAIYA http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/01/japanese-official-drinks-water-from-fukushima-reactor-buildings/
[x] Robert Mackey and Ravi Somaiya (November 1, 2011) 14 Japanese Official Drinks Water From Fukushima Reactor Buildings. The New York Times By ROBERT MACKEY and RAVI SOMAIYA http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/01/japanese-official-drinks-water-from-fukushima-reactor-buildings/
[xi] Ken Buessler What Fukushima accident did to the ocean By Ken Buesseler, Special to CNN March 11, 2012 http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/10/opinion/buesseler-fukushima-ocean/index.html
[xii] “I Don’t Know What Would Happen”: Fuel from Fukushima reactors may be powder — If so, work almost impossible (AUDIO). Enenews (2012, ) http://enenews.com/dont-happen-future-fuel-fukushima-reactors-be-powder-work-almost-impossible-video/comment-page-1#comment-291586Mr. Yastel Yamada, a retired engineer and founder of the Fukushima Skilled Veterans Corps
Uploaded by: OccupyUkiah Filmed: July 30, 2012 Uploaded on: Sept. 27, 2012
[xiii] Erik Behrens1, Franziska U Schwarzkopf1, Joke F Lübbecke2 and Claus W Böning1 Model simulations on the long-term dispersal of 137Cs released into the Pacific Ocean off Fukushima Erik Behrens et al 2012 Environ. Res. Lett. 7 034004
Source: Majia’s Blog
Rebranding the nuclear weapons complex won’t reform it, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Robert Alvarez, 18 Jan 15 “…….Although it is also technically under the aegis of the Energy Department, the US nuclear weapons complex has operated for decades on an entirely different philosophy. Called “least interference,” it is a philosophy based on an “undocumented policy of blind faith in its contractors’ performance,” in the words of a 1996 Government Accountability Office report. Despite several attempts at reform, the Energy Department’s management of the weapons complex was widely conceded to be an extraordinary and expensive mess.
In late November of last year, with little fanfare, the latest in a long line of advisory panels recommended ways to fix the dysfunctional administration of the nuclear weapons research and production complex, which commands more than 40 percent of the Energy Department’s budget. The Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise calls for elimination of the semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Agency, which Congress established within the Energy Department in 1999, and for the nuclear weapons program to be placed under the direct control of a rebranded Energy Department, henceforth to be known as theDepartment of Energy and Nuclear Security.
Given that the panel was dominated by members with ties to weapons contractors, it comes as no surprise that the panel’s report advocates a reduction in federal oversight of contractors that run the complex, in effect doubling-down on the least-interference policy that is at the heart of so many weapons complex problems.
And by focusing on branding and protection of contractors, this latest panel to examine the US nuclear weapons complex diverts attention from the thorny problem repeatedly raised by other expert panels: The nuclear weapons production and laboratory system created during the Cold War is simply far too large for the current military situation and needs drastic consolidation that includes the closing of labs and other facilities.
NNSA: A failed management fix. Wide latitude granted to nuclear weapons contractors, bolstered by national security secrecy, have enabled widespread problems in the handling and disposal of radioactive materials—problems that now constitute the largest and most expensive environmental mess in the United States. There were regular and frightening nuclear safety and safeguard lapses. Efforts to fix old weapons facilities and to build new ones became all-but-endless money-devouring boondoggles.
In response to these problems, Congress established the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) in 1999, giving it semi-autonomous status within the Energy Department and a bureaucracy separate from the department’s. Within this new structure, the NNSA was expected to improve oversight of a variety of activities associated with the weapons complex, including maintenance and modernization of the US nuclear warhead stockpile; operation of national research laboratories; and direction of nuclear and non-nuclear weapons production sites. It was also tasked with carrying out nuclear non-proliferation activities and housing—but not interfering with—the Office of Naval Reactors. “The new organization should focus on reducing bureaucratic red tape to free scientists to spend more time with experiments and less time filling out forms,” said then-Sen. Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican who led the effort to create the NNSA.
Under the NNSA, however, management problems in the weapons complex not only continued but worsened. By November 2011, the Energy Department inspector general recommended elimination of “duplicative, redundant National Nuclear Security Administration functions” while calling for a process to downsize the Energy Department’s national laboratory complex.
To counteract this threat, the NNSA, its contractors, and Congressional supporters set into motion an effort to gain unfettered authority. By June of 2012, the House of Representatives passed a defense spending bill that, over the objection of the White House, granted unprecedented oversight of budgets to lab contractors and eliminated the Energy Department’s oversight and enforcement of health, safety, security, and financial standards. But the NNSA’s effort was punctured in late July, when three peace activists, one an 82-year-old Catholic nun, penetrated several security barriers to stage a non-violent protest at the nation’s largest nuclear explosive storage facility, inside the Y-12 plant in Tennessee.
Apparent conflicts of interest. After this embarrassing episode, a compromise was reached in Congress, establishing an advisory committee that would make recommendations about the fate of the NNSA. The Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise was charged with recommending options for the “appropriate governance structure” of the nuclear weapons complex.
Congressional leaders appeared to pay little attention to appearances of conflict-of-interest as they appointed panel members who had remarkable connections to contractors that run the sites overseen by the NNSA—the agency whose leadership the panel was to review. The panel appointees with questionable connections include:…………..http://thebulletin.org/rebranding-nuclear-weapons-complex-wont-reform-it7935
Budget Busters: The USA’s SBIRS-High Missile Warning Satellites https://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/despite-problems-sbirs-high-moves-ahead-with-3rd-satellite-award-05467/ Jan 19, 2015 by Defense Industry Daily staff SBIRS early warning satellite: As part of its effort to institute cost reforms, the U.S. Air Force will weaken requirements for the space-based infrared system (SIBRS), among others. The Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS)-High satellite program is a key component of the USA’s future missile alert system, designed to give maximum warning and monitoring of ballistic missile launches anywhere in the world. The new satellites will replace the existing Defense Support Program (DSP) fleet. Their infrared sensors have 3x the sensitivity of DSP and 2x the revisit rate, while providing better persistent coverage.
Unfortunately, the program has been beset by massive cost overruns on the order of 400%, technical challenges that continue to present problems, and uncertainties about performance. Despite these problems, the U.S. Air Force is proceeding with the program, and has terminated potential alternatives and supplements. However, as part of a January 2015 effort to institute cost reforms, the Air Force will weaken requirements for the program, and at least three other major procurement programs.
Record-setting year for Canadian wind industry http://www.renewableenergyfocus.com/view/41133/record-setting-year-for-canadian-wind-industry/19 January 2015
1,871 MW of wind energy capacity was installed in five provinces in Canada in 2014.
For the second consecutive year, Canada has set a record for the installation of new wind energy capacity. According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), a total of 1,871 MW of wind energy capacity was installed in five provinces in Canada in 2014, with most growth centred in Ontario (999 MW), Quebec (460 MW) and Alberta (350 MW).
Canada ended 2014 with nearly 9,700 MW of installed wind energy capacity, producing enough electricity to meet the needs of more than 3 million average Canadian homes every year.
- Rebranding the nuclear weapons complex won’t reform it, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Robert Alvarez, 18 Jan 15
“…………Lab overcapacity, in particular, contributes to an inflated weapons complex cost structure, within which the average full time employee is two to three times as expensive as in the private sector. Since 2006, when management of the weapons labs was transferred from the nonprofit University of California to for-profit entities,administrative fees have jumped by 650 percent at Los Alamos. The bloat in the weapons complex is hardly limited to the national labs; the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee has excess capacity that is comparable, in size, to two auto assembly plants.
The Obama administration should establish a commission—one, this time, that is not dominated by the very contractors that run the nuclear weapons complex—to analyze and downsize the redundant elements of that complex. The Defense Department accomplished such a downsizing over the past 20 years; it’s long past time for the Energy Department to begin shedding its surplus capacity. Given that weapons facilities dominate the wage and benefit structures of large areas in several states, such streamlining will no doubt meet stiff congressional resistance. Still, the downsizing sword could eliminate redundant facilities and free up funding to rebuild those that are truly needed.
- Too big to succeed. Perhaps the most significant aspect of management reform in the nuclear weapons complex is coming to terms with its size. From the start, this newest review panel was directed to place the thorny problem of downsizing the weapons complex—an issue raised by several expert panels over some 20 years—off the table. By focusing on organizational boxes, Congress made sure that the panel would not tackle a most obvious problem: The nuclear weapons production and laboratory system is simply too large for the nation’s current needs.
- Finally, the most recent study of the weapons complex raises a fundamental question: Could it be that the “orphan” status of nuclear weapons in the United States reflects not presidential and congressional inattention, but changing priorities in the real world of international security? When the president spoke last year of “reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our security strategy,” he seemed to unequivocally answer this question.
- By rebranding the Energy Department in a way that gives nuclear weapons production equal status with the whole of US energy policy, the congressional panel has tried to impose on the government a Cold War urgency that does not reflect the actual relevance of nuclear weaponry in the 21st century. Some estimates have puta trillion-dollar price tag on replacing our decaying nuclear deterrent. With the stakes so high, is it really in the nation’s interest to rely on a panel dominated by the interests of weapons contractors for advice on managing the problems of the weapons complex? http://thebulletin.org/rebranding-nuclear-weapons-complex-wont-reform-it7935
- Rebranding the nuclear weapons complex won’t reform it, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Robert Alvarez, 18 Jan 15“………..The NNSA was removed from its transuranic waste management responsibilities at Los Alamos and, in an unusual “management alert,” the Energy Department’s inspector general warned that contractors at the lab—the source of the compromised waste drum—“failed to ensure that changes to waste treatment procedures were properly documented, reviewed, and approved, and that they incorporated all environmental requirements.” Recently, the State of New Mexico levied a fine of more than $54 million against the contractor running Los Alamos, which the Energy Department is contesting. At the same time, the Energy Department has cut the Los Alamos contractor’s award fee by $57 million, a 90 percent reduction.
About a month after the accident at WIPP, the advisory panel informed Congress in its interim report that the NNSA had to go. http://thebulletin.org/rebranding-nuclear-weapons-complex-wont-reform-it7935
- The WIPP leak: Another embarrassment. In February 2014, in the midst of the panel’s deliberations, another major mishap involving NNSA and its contractor at the Los Alamos National Laboratory occurred. At least one drum containing a potentially explosive mixture of plutonium waste burst open at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) geologic repository in New Mexico. The wastes shot up about a half-mile through the ventilation system to the surface, contaminating 22 workers. The Energy Department estimates it may take years before it can restore operation at the nation’s only operating high-hazard radioactive waste geological disposal site, at an expense of more than $550 million……. http://thebulletin.org/rebranding-nuclear-weapons-complex-wont-reform-it7935
Critics: Turkey Point Sucking Us Dry MIAMI (CBSMiami) Gary Nelson, 13 Jan 15 – The Turkey Point nuclear power plant was busy splitting atoms by Biscayne Bay Wednesday, and just down the street a Nuclear Regulatory Commission appeals Board was hearing a challenge to the cooling system at Turkey point.
Water to cool the nuclear reactors is hot, as hot as 104 degrees at times. The nuclear regulatory commission has granted FPL a waiver, allowing the water to be hotter then regulations would normally allow.
Still, to keep the water even at the 104 degree limit, FPL has been allowed to pull as much as 100 million gallons of water a day from Everglades canals to cool the plant’s overheated cooling water.
Opponents say FPL, already sucking water from the aquifer-and now canals-is threatening environmental ruin. Click here to watch Gary Nelson’s report.
“The waters going to get more saline, it’s going to get denser, and it’s going to sink, and it’s going to further displace freshwater,” said Mayor Phillip Stoddard of South Miami. “It will mess up the Everglades and threaten the drinking water supply for Florida Keys residence.”
Miami-Dade farmer Mike Hatcher is among those battling FPL’s increased thirst. “It’s the water that we drink, it’s the water that I and my fellow farmers use to grow the crops,” Hatcher said. “It’s the water that we use for recreation.”……
Barry White of the group Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, said citizens have reason to be worried. “Eventually, they’ll pay for it in higher water bills and in the quality of life here,” White said. “There is not enough water and land to support so much.”
It is considered unlikely that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s appeals panel will overturn the agencies earlier decision. In any event, opponents vow to fight on. A decision from the panel is expected within a few weeks. http://miami.cbslocal.com/2015/01/14/critics-turkey-point-sucking-us-dry/
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