Exelon and Entergy see sustainable energy solutions—renewable energy, efficiency, conservation, etc.—as a long-term threat to
their profits. This is not because of excessive regulations or safety requirements on nuclear power: the industry has not had to implement a single safety upgrade due to the Fukushima meltdowns and faces less regulatory enforcement than it did twenty years ago. The closure of a record number of reactors since 2013 has exposed fundamental economic problems facing the industry, and a growing number of nuclear plants simply cannot compete with modern, efficient, cost-effective
The hurdles to this deal emanate from Japan’s insistence that no reprocessing of spent fuel would be done in India, and that in the event of a nuclear test by India, the components supplied would be immediately returned to Japan.
The nuclear thorn in India-Japan ties http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/the-nuclear-thorn-in-indiajapan-ties/article6383865.ece?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication BHASKAR BALAKRISHNAN 5 SEPT 14 The recent visit to Japan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brought into focus the ongoing India-Japan negotiations on a civil nuclear agreement. This remains an item of unfinished business, though both sides have declared that it would be pursued with greater vigour. Exactly how important is this agreement in the context of India’s nuclear programme? What factors underlie the Japanese position? Continue reading
Malignant Effects: depleted uranium as a carcinogen and genotoxin http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/malignant-effects
A PDF version of Malignant Effects is available to download at the end of this article.
What is depleted uranium?
Depleted uranium (DU) is a by-product of the uranium enrichment process. It is used by a number of states in armour-piercing tank shells and bullets.
The use of DU weapons is controversial because DU is radioactive and chemically toxic. Its use can generate particles that can be inhaled or ingested. DU creates large quantities of contaminated wreckage and hotspots of persistent contamination that present a hazard to civilians long after conflict ends. Continue reading
Better Market Your Uranium Someplace Else, Japan Appetite No Longer Huge as Before – Former PM Tells Australia Queensland Premier Campbell Newman International Business Times, By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | August 28,
“……….In the research made by Kenichi Oshima, environmental economics professor at Ritsumeikan University, and Masafumi Yokemoto, professor of environment policy at Osaka City University, they said the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant tragedy will cost 11.08 trillion yen ($105 billion). The figure ballooned to include radiation clean-up and compensation to residents.
Specifically, the expenses will include
- 4.91 trillion yen ($47 billion) for compensation to residents in the affected area of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant
- 2.48 trillion yen ($23 billion) will be involved in the radiation cleanup of the territories
- 2.17 trillion yen to scrap the disaster-hit plant
- 1.06 trillion yen for the temporal storage of radioactive soil
Nevertheless, the researchers noted the amount still exclude costs for the final disposal of radioactive substances, compensation and plant decommissioning.
Oshima and Yokemoto said the cost will be shouldered by the Japanese people through taxes and utility bills.http://au.ibtimes.com/articles/564339/20140828/uranium-japan-appetite-kan-australia-queensland-newman.htm#.VADXudJdUnk
Media Propaganda and the Ukraine Crises Paul Rogov, 25 Aug 14 “………..Coverage of the Ukrainian plight is cynical, if not insensitive. Many corporate journalists are simply uninformed about the region. Many of these journalists believe the war in the Ukraine will lead to “WWIII” and that it began with ousted former President Victor Yanukovych, when he fled on February 22nd. But this is incorrect.
The Ukrainian crises, an ethnic war of Slavic subjectivity, which began prior to the inception of the Soviet Union, extended through not one, but two World Wars, the collapse of a superpower and chaos of post-Soviet economies. In fact, it goes back to medieval times.
U.S. military analysts know, as NATO knows, that the entire Ukraine could be taken by Russian armed forces rather quickly. While the Ukraine conscripts its soldiers and security forces deteriorates in the Eastern region, the Ukrainian military are weak yet somehow mysterious “victorious” too—disembodied, yet possessing a well-guided singularity of purpose.
According to one article released on May 4th Fars News headlined “S. Arabia Relocating Takfiri Fighters from Syria to Ukraine.” Saudi Arabia sent extremist militants against Eastern Ukrainian freedom fighters. An unidentified Arab security official told Fars News that:
“A large number of terrorist Takfiri fighters in Syria, who bear Saudi and Chechnian nationalities and receive financial and military backup from the Saudi intelligence agency, have been transferred to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on several planes to help the Ukrainian army in its fight against the pro-Russian population. The forces have been immediately dispatched to Kramatosk city in Eastern Ukraine, and are now fighting beside the Ukrainian army forces against the pro-Russians under the name of militias who support the government.”
On top of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the Ukraine (which no Western journalist talks about), Western corporate media bungled what happened in Odessa. There is no disputing that a Ukrainian extremist, right-wing group called Right Sector set the fires in Odessa of Trade Union buildings that senselessly burned alive and killed innocent people, while the U.S. State Department issued no statement that the deaths were due to Ukrainian fascists.
The Western corporate media is a collective failure as it constantly fails to realize that the Ukraine has never been a true European country. The same Western corporate media always presumes the Ukraine wants to be in all of its articles, where Ukrainian independence is concerned. Just pick up any major U.S. periodical or rather read off the Internet the presupposed rhetoric the Western corporate media utilizes.
The only time the Ukraine was tied “gloriously” to Europe in any concrete way was by its collaboration with Nazi Germany.
Russia, not too long ago, proclaimed that Ukraine’s assault in Slovyansk ended the chance for peace. Heads of State, Putin and Obama, as well as journalists are issuing statements and journalists are not citing their sources. This brings us to the issue of how the mainstream media is going to spin us right into a world war.
The questions that should be asked are numerous, but some examples would be: Who broke the story first that the Ukraine was heading for war? Who shot who first? Who burned alive who first? Isn’t it convenient how a right-wing coup occurred after “a democratically elected election”? Any form of slaughter in this case (and the prospects of U.S. or NATO involvement) is ridiculous and evil. How many more photos does one need to see of corpses for us to understand that the U.S. is in the shadows?
The Western corporate media have managed to evade talk of the money and the resources necessary for the Ukraine to even be considered a member of the E.U. and have totally hopped over the fact that the Ukraine’s ousted President Viktor Yanukovich secured “a $15 billion bailout from Russia in December 17th, 2013, offering respite for an economy heading ever closer to default but also drawing accusations he has sold his country out to its former Soviet master.”
The Ukrainian government is just as corrupt as its Russian counterpart, yet the U.S. government and the mainstream media does not seem to understand that the political and economic weakness of Ukraine itself. The Ukraine’s inability to put its house in order is a result of inner tensions within the political climate of the Ukraine……http://paulrogov.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/media-propaganda-and-the-ukraine-crises/
The presence of openly Nazi militias attacking ethnic Russians in Ukraine creates extreme anger in Russia
“The Russian Aggression Prevention Act” (RAPA): A Direct Path to Nuclear War with Russia The Russian Aggression Prevention Act”, introduced to Congress by U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), will set the US on a path towards direct military conflict with Russia in Ukraine. Global Research, By Steven Starr , Senior Scientist, Physicians for Social Responsibility August 22, 2014
“……………RAPA intensifies support for ethnic cleansing in Eastern Ukraine In Russia, Putin now is under intense domestic political pressure to send Russian forces into Eastern Ukraine, in order to stop the attacks by the Ukrainian military on the cities there, which were once part of the Soviet Union.These attacks have created an absolute humanitarian catastrophe.
On August 5, 2014, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that740,000 Eastern Ukrainians had fled to Russia. They go there because Russia is close, and because most of the refugees are ethnic Russians, a fact that explains why the Russophobes in Kiev have been quite willing to indiscriminately bombard their cities.
What is taking place in Eastern Ukraine amounts to “ethnic cleansing,” the forced removal of ethnic Russians from Eastern Ukraine. This is a process that is fully supported by the US; RAPA would greatly enhance this support.
Ukrainian military forces have surrounded Donetsk – a city of almost one million people – and have for weeks conducted daily attacks against it using inaccurate multiple-launch rockets, heavy artillery fire, ballistic missiles carrying warheads with up to 1000 pounds of high explosive, and aerial bombardments. Water supplies, power plants, train stations, airports, bridges, highways, and schools have all been targeted, along with the general population. In Lugansk, a city of more than 440,000 people, a humanitarian crisis has been declared by its mayor, because the siege of the city has left it with little medicine, no fuel,intermittent power, and no water since August 3 (three weeks at the time of this writing).
After the separatists of Eastern Ukraine demanded autonomy from Kiev, and then reunion with Russia, the government in Kiev branded them as “terrorists”, and sent its military forces against them in what they euphemistically call an “anti-terrorist operation.” Framing the conflict this way makes it politically acceptable to refuse to negotiate with the separatists, and easier to justify in the US and Europe, which have grown accustomed to “the War on Terrorism.” However, the thousands of Ukrainians being killed and hundreds of thousands of being driven from their homes are just ordinary people, trying to live ordinary lives.
The New York Times reports the Ukrainian military strategy has been to bombard separatist-held cities and then send paramilitary forces to carry out “chaotic, violent assaults” against them. Many of the Ukrainian paramilitary forces were recruited from ultra-nationalist, neo-Nazi political parties; theAzov battalion flies the “Wolfs Hook” flag of Hitler’s SS divisions. Considering that more than 20 million Russians died fighting the Nazis during World War II, the presence of openly Nazi militias attacking ethnic Russians in Ukraine creates extreme anger in Russia……….http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-russian-aggression-prevention-act-rapa-a-direct-path-to-nuclear-war-with-russia/5397171
The health issue came to the attention of the High Court earlier this year after pictures of Jadugora’s deformed children appeared in the Indian press. The court in February ordered Uranium Corp. to produce documents that might shed light on the health issues. The court noted then that children living near the mines in Jadugora are “born with swollen heads, blood disorders and skeletal distortions.”
India Court Orders Uranium Corp. to Probe Deformities Near Mines Bloomberg By Rakteem Katakey and Tom Lasseter Aug 20, 2014 India’s sole uranium mining company is being ordered by a regional court to disclose radiation levels and the presence of any heavy metals in soil and water in a cluster of villages with reports of unusual numbers of deformed and sick children.
The order by the Jharkhand High Court also mandates thatUranium Corp. of India Ltd.explain how it ensures the safety of nearby civilian populations who may be exposed to its 193-acre (78-hectare) radioactive waste dump near the village of Jadugora in eastern India.
The move comes about a month after a Bloomberg News story chronicled the plight of parents living near the Uranium Corp. mines who are seeking answers to what’s sickening and killing so many of their kids. The story also reported that local residents routinely wander the unfenced dump sites and fish and bathe in a river that receives water flowing from the dumps, known as tailings ponds. The Bloomberg article was submitted to the judges of the High Court by Ananda Sen, the lawyer appointed by the court to review the case.
Uranium Corp. has denied its mining operations have anything to do with village health issues. In 2007, a survey of more than 2,100 households by an Indian physicians group found mothers in villages 1.5 miles from the mines reported congenital deformities more than 80 percent higher than the rates just 20 miles (32 kilometers) away, with reported child death rates from such abnormalities more than five times as high.
It’s anybody’s guess how long Thorium, with its “peacenik” aura, will take to get traction in corridors well-trodden by the US nuclear energy lobby, who have singularly shown zero interest in the blandishments of Thorium.
Thorium lobby thunder intent on hijacking rare earths’ coattails Investor Intel August 12, 2014 by Christopher Ecclestone Anyone in the Rare Earths space knows that Thorium frequently appears as an unwanted guest at the party. Explorers have worked on various ways to get around the issue. However there is a small group out there who we would call the “deniers”. They absolutely love Thorium. They are like Swedes liberated from the sauna in the dead of winter and would roll around in the stuff naked, if they could, to prove their commitment. While greater love hath no man to a chemical element than the Thorium crowd to their object of desire, the more measured amongst us realize that the mineral has been stuck for decades like a racehorse suffering a starting-gate malfunction.
What are we talking of here Continue reading
Report: New Nuclear Power Technology Would Siphon Resources Away From Renewable Energy, PROGRESS ILLINOIS Ellyn Fortino Friday August 8th, 2014, “…….one nuclear financing expert argues in a new report that SMRs, which have yet to be built in the United States, would be no cheaper than their larger counterparts. Mark Cooper, a senior fellow for economic analysis at theInstitute for Energy and the Environment at the Vermont Law School, also warns that SMR development would suck up funding that could otherwise be used for what he says are more attractive energy options like wind and solar.
“Large reactors have never been economically competitive and there is no reason to believe that smaller reactors will fare any better,” Cooper said. “Giving nuclear power a central role in climate change policy would not only drain away resources from the more promising alternatives, it would undermine the effort to create the physical and institutional infrastructure needed to support the emerging electricity systems based on renewables, distributed generation and intensive system and demand management.”………
Although SMRs would be smaller in size, “creating an assembly line for SMR technology would require a massive financial commitment,” Cooper writes in his report, “The Economic Failure of Nuclear Power and the Development of a Low-Carbon Electricity Future: Why Small Modular Reactors Are Part of the Problem, Not the Solution.”
He projects it would cost between $72 billion and $90 billion by 2020 to fund the development of just two SMR designs and assembly lines.
The estimated price tag to invest in SMRs is roughly equivalent to 75 percent of the total projected investment in U.S. electricity generation over the same time period, the report noted. It is also “substantially more” than what is expected to be spent on renewables, Cooper said.
“This massive commitment reinforces the traditional concern that nuclear power will crowd out the alternatives,” he added.
SMRs themselves would also cost more, not less, than larger reactors, according to the report.
“The higher costs result from: lost economies of scale in containment structures, dedicated systems for control, management and emergency response, and the cost of licensing and security; operating costs between one-fifth and one-quarter higher; and decommissioning costs between two and three times as high,” Cooper noted.
SMRs are up against greater challenges than previous technologies because they are “a radical new technology that its advocates would like to have treated in a very different way with respect to safety and licensing,” Cooper explained.
“They would like to deploy lots of reactors close to population centers. That’s the way they can make their economics work,” he continued. “And they need to relax safety … They’ve asked for a number of changes in safety to try to drive down the cost, and even then they cannot compete on costs.”……
the industry’s hype around SMRs is now fizzling, Cooper explained. The “unproven” SMR technology has already experienced setbacks in the marketplace, he said, pointing to recent announcements from Babcock & Wilcox and Westinghouse Electric Co., another small-reactor industry leader developing a 225-megawatt SMR.
Babcock & Wilcox said last month that it is slowing the development of and funding for its mPower technology because the company cannot find major investors for the effort. Westinghouse — after being passed up twice by the DOE for SMR cost-sharing agreements — announced in February that it is shifting its attention away from small-reactor technology because it does not have a customer base for SMRs.
“They are cutting back for simple reasons: They can’t find customers. They can’t find investors,” Cooper said. “In a market economy like ours, that is a death knell, and so they have slashed their commitment to small modular reactors……….”http://progressillinois.com/quick-hits/content/2014/05/18/report-new-nuclear-power-technology-would-siphon-resources-away-renewa
Report: New Nuclear Power Technology Would Siphon Resources Away From Renewable Energy, PROGRESS ILLINOIS Ellyn Fortino Friday August 8th, 2014 “………With the industry currently unable to garner enough customer and investor interest around SMRs, it is trying to save nuclear power by making a “desperate attempt to undermine the alternatives, which are succeeding,” Cooper added.
The nuclear energy industry “says, ‘Look, just get rid of their subsides. Gerry-rig the market so that we can stay in business. Avoid policies that will let (alternatives) stay in business … and then we’ll have a level playing field.’ But of course it doesn’t look anything like a level playing field,” he said.
Over the past 60 years, the nuclear energy industry has collected 10 times more subsidies than what renewables have received, Cooper said. Government funding for SMR research and development currently represents the smallest subsidy out of many received by the nuclear power industry, he added.
He said the U.S. nuclear energy industry is grappling with a “fundamental conflict.” After failing to bring online 90 percent of new reactors as part of a “nuclear renaissance” suggested by nuclear power advocates in the early 2000s, the hope was that SMR technology would rescue the industry. And since that has yet to happen, the industry is “now struggling to save the aging reactors… simply because they cannot compete against the alternatives available.”
“The death of the small modular reactor hype really is emblematic of the fundamental conflict that’s going on in the industry,” he said. “The near term will decide, not just the fate of nuclear power, but the fundamental approach that we take to addressing the challenge of climate change.”
Looking ahead, Cooper said he questions nuclear power’s place in the emerging “integrated, two-way electricity system based on decentralized alternatives.” In such a system, an “inflexible source of supply like nuclear does not have value,” he said, adding that nuclear power “becomes a burden on the flexible system rather than a benefit.”
Nuclear power, Cooper said, is not a smart “economic proposition” or “portfolio asset” for a low-carbon electricity future.
“And looking carefully at the urgency of dealing with climate change, it’s also the most costly, most risky approach to climate change,” he stressed. http://progressillinois.com/quick-hits/content/2014/05/18/report-new-nuclear-power-technology-would-siphon-resources-away-renewa
Small Modular Reactors Huffington Post, Dr Helen Caldicott 08/07/2014 Now that the “nuclear renaissance” is dead following the Fukushima catastrophe, when one sixth of the world’s nuclear reactors closed, the nuclear corporations — Toshiba, Nu-Scale, Babcock and Wilcox, GE Hitachi, General Atomics, and the Tennessee Valley Authority — will not accept defeat.
Their new strategy is to develop small modular reactors (SMRs), allegedly free of the dangers inherent in large reactors: safety issues, high cost, proliferation risks and radioactive waste.
But these claims are fallacious, for the reasons outlined below.
Basically, there are three types of SMRs, which generate less than 300 megawatts of electricity compared with current 1,000-megawatt reactors.
1. Light-water reactors
These will be smaller versions of present-day pressurized water reactors, using water as the moderator and coolant, but with the same attendant problems as Fukushima and Three Mile Island. Built underground, they will be difficult to access in the event of an accident or malfunction.
Because they’re mass-produced (turnkey production), large numbers must be sold yearly to make a profit. This is an unlikely prospect, because major markets — China and India — will not buy U.S. reactors when they can make their own.
If safety problems arise, they all must be shut down, which will interfere substantially with electricity supply.
SMRs will be expensive because the cost per unit capacity increases with a decrease in reactor size. Billions of dollars of government subsidies will be required because Wall Street is allergic to nuclear power. To alleviate costs, it is suggested that safety rules be relaxed, including reducing security requirements, and reducing the 10-mile emergency planning zone to 1,000 feet.
2. Non-light-water designs
These include high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs) or pebble-bed reactors. Five billion tiny fuel kernels consisting of high-enriched uranium or plutonium will be encased in tennis-ball-sized graphite spheres that must be made without cracks or imperfections — or they could lead to an accident. A total of 450,000 such spheres will slowly and continuously be released from a fuel silo, passing through the reactor core, and then recirculated 10 times. These reactors will be cooled by helium gas operating at high very temperatures (900 degrees C).
A reactor complex consisting of four HTGR modules will be located underground, to be run by just two operators in a central control room. Claims are that HTGRs will be so safe that a containment building will be unnecessary and operators can even leave the site (“walk-away-safe” reactors).
However, should temperatures unexpectedly exceed 1,600 degrees C, the carbon coating will release dangerous radioactive isotopes into the helium gas, and at 2,000 degrees C the carbon would ignite, creating a fierce, Chernobyl-type graphite fire.
If a crack develops in the piping or building, radioactive helium would escape, and air would rush in, also igniting the graphite.
Although HTGRs produce small amounts of low-level waste, they create larger volumes of high-level waste than conventional reactors.
Despite these obvious safety problems, and despite the fact that South Africa has abandoned plans for HTGRs, the U.S. Department of Energy has unwisely chosen the HTGR as the “next-generation nuclear plant.”
3. Liquid-metal fast reactors (PRISM)
It is claimed by proponents that fast reactors will be safe, economically competitive, proliferation-resistant, and sustainable.
They are fueled by plutonium or highly enriched uranium and cooled by either liquid sodium or a lead-bismuth molten coolant. Liquid sodium burns or explodes when exposed to air or water, and lead-bismuth is extremely corrosive, producing very volatile radioactive elements when irradiated.
Should a crack occur in the reactor complex, liquid sodium would escape, burning or exploding. Without coolant, the plutonium fuel could reach critical mass, triggering a massive nuclear explosion, scattering plutonium to the four winds. One millionth of a gram of plutonium induces cancer, and it lasts for 500,000 years. Extraordinarily, they claim that fast reactors will be so safe that they will require no emergency sirens, and that emergency planning zones can be decreased from 10 miles to 1,300 feet.
There are two types of fast reactors: a simple, plutonium-fueled reactor and a “breeder,” in which the plutonium-reactor core is surrounded by a blanket of uranium 238, which captures neutrons and converts to plutonium.
The plutonium fuel, obtained from spent reactor fuel, will be fissioned and converted to shorter-lived isotopes, cesium and strontium, which last 600 years instead of 500,000. The industry claims that this process, called “transmutation,” is an excellent way to get rid of plutonium waste. But this is fallacious, because only 10 percent fissions, leaving 90 percent of the plutonium for bomb making, etc.
Then there’s construction. Three small plutonium fast reactors will be grouped together to form a module, and three of these modules will be buried underground. All nine reactors will then be connected to a fully automated central control room operated by only three operators. Potentially, then, one operator could face a catastrophic situation triggered by loss of off-site power to one unit at full power, another shut down for refueling and one in startup mode. There are to be no emergency core cooling systems.
Fast reactors require a massive infrastructure, including a reprocessing plant to dissolve radioactive waste fuel rods in nitric acid, chemically removing the plutonium, and a fuel fabrication facility to create new fuel rods. A total of 15 to 25 tons of plutonium are required to operate a fuel cycle at a fast reactor, and just five pounds is fuel for a nuclear weapon.
Thus fast reactors and breeders will provide extraordinary long-term medical dangers and the perfect situation for nuclear-weapons proliferation. Despite this, the industry plans to market them to many countries.
Study may help explain link between uranium exposure and skin cancer http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-08-link-uranium-exposure-skin-cancer.html After years of delving deep into DNA and researching ways in which metal damage may lead to cancer, a team of researchers is taking a step back to look at the surface where one answer may have been all along. The varying health risks from exposure to natural uranium are well established, but Diane Stearns, professor of biochemistry at Northern Arizona University, and her team have been trying to determine if there is a link between uranium exposure and skin cancer, stating that skin may have been overlooked in the past.
In a recent article published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, the NAU team shared results from a study that explored photoactivation of uranium as a means to increase its toxicity and ability to damage DNA.
“Our hypothesis is that if uranium is photoactivated by UV radiation it could be more harmful to skin than either exposure alone,” Stearns said.
Through the study, the team found that once uranium was present in the skin, exposure to UV radiation or sunlight could be chemically toxic and lead to cancerous lesions. The team members recommend that future risk assessments regarding cancer caused by uranium exposure include the possibility of photoactivation in skin.
They also propose that photoactivated uranium exposure could be even more harmful in cells that can’t repair the damage on their own. Stearns explained such cases are found in individuals with Xeroderma Pigmentosum or XP, a disease that causes extreme sensitivity to sunlight.
Through research into the XP cell lines, the team discovered regional relevance for the study. The disease is prevalent on the Navajo Nation, a site of historically high levels ofuranium mining and processing in the Southwest. The 2012 documentary Sun Kissed further piqued the researchers’ curiosity. The film cites the incidence of XP in the general population as one in 1 million, yet cases increase significantly to one in 30,000 in the Navajo population.
Stearns believes there may be implications that should be taken into consideration for a population like the Navajo community with carriers of XP mutations and relatively high exposure to uranium and the sun.
“We just want to make people aware that uranium exposure could contribute to skin cancer and could also be exacerbating XP,” Stearns said.
Stearns said as she looks to the future, she hopes to fine-tune her understanding of the photoactivation mechanism and how it is damaging DNA. “We have predicted the link but now we would like to study it step by step to establish an even stronger connection.”
Together with her Navajo students at NAU, she also hopes to determine whether the old uranium mines might explain the increase in cancer and what is being called a sudden emergence of XP on the Navajo Nation.
“I’ve had several Navajo students come to me because they found out I was doing uranium research and they had a relative who died of cancer and always wondered if it was uranium,” Stearns said. “It’s been a really personal way for them to see the value in scientific research because it can directly relate to their community.”
Y-12: Poster child for a dysfunctional nuclear weapons complex Robert Alvarez, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 6 Aug 14 “……The United States halted production of new nuclear weapons in 1989, with the end of the Cold War. But the US nuclear weapons complex—composed of eight key facilities that have an annual budget exceeding $8 billion—has stumbled on, in the form of a massive, decaying empire that in many cases does its work poorly or dangerously, or both. The Y-12 National Security Complex is the poster child for much of what ails the weapons complex. Although Y-12 has not produced weapons for some 25 years, its annual budgets have increased by nearly 50 percent since 1997, to more than $1 billion a year.
For decades, the Energy Department—which manages the weapons complex through the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA)—has not been able to reconcile competing objectives at the 811-acre Y-12 site, whether they involve storage areas for HEU and other fissile materials, the restarting of old weapons facilities, environmental cleanup, the building of new weapons facilities, or the downsizing of the site. As a result, costs have significantly increased, and long-standing problems have continued, unresolved, for years that have run into decades. For every dollar spent to maintain and modernize the US nuclear weapons stockpile, nearly three dollars is spent “to provide the underlying infrastructure” for maintenance and modernization at Y-12.
Long-term secrecy and isolation have created a dangerous form of hoarding at Y-12; a panoply of severe hazards continues to build up, constantly awaiting ever more costly mitigation in the future. But the stark reality is that there are no more cans to kick down the road. Y-12 has inexorably caught up with its future. Its environmental and security problems are too threatening to leave unaddressed, and questions about its mission will have to be answered definitively in an age of budgetary austerity and relatively little need for new nuclear weapons…….
During its heyday, Y-12 produced some 1,000 CSAs per year. Now, its annual production capacity has dwindled to less than 100. Though the NNSA declares that Y-12 has multiple missions, including non-proliferation efforts that involve the downblending of HEU and the provision of fuel for the Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines, nearly 99 percent of its budget comes from funds dedicated to maintain the US nuclear weapons stockpile. More than anything, Y-12 serves to stockpile thousands of CSAs from discarded nuclear weapons, as well as depleted uranium, lithium, and other hazardous chemicals…….. the Government Accountability Office finds that “NNSA’s decision to retain many CSAs … poses significant challenges to Y-12’s ability to plan its disassembly workload.” Although exact numbers have been classified since the 1990s, there are likely several thousand excess CSAs, containing hundreds of tons of HEU, awaiting dismantlement at Y-12. ……
Around New Year’s Eve of 1996, a long-awaited vulnerability assessment of HEU storage at Energy Department sites was released. Y-12 had the most significant problems. Even though fires posed the greatest danger of radiation and chemical exposure to workers and the public, buildings, mostly constructed in the 1940’s, had deteriorated and had insufficient or non-existent fire-protection systems, despite the very real possibility of a truly catastrophic fire and resulting release of radiation. It wasn’t until 14 years later that a replacement facility for the aged wooden structure serving as the main HEU storage warehouse was opened; it cost five times the original construction estimate. That facility gained notoriety in August 2012, after nonviolent peace protestors, including an 84-year-old nun, penetrated its security barriers……..
From 1997 to 2006, there were 21 fires and explosions at Y-12 involving electrical equipment, glove boxes, pumps, waste containers, and nuclear and hazardous chemicals. Several resulted in worker injuries and destruction of property. ……….. In March 2014, a large portion of a concrete ceiling collapsedin a building that was once part of the weapons operation. It was a near miss: Foot-long concrete pieces bounced onto walkways and an area where welders had been working just a day before. …..
In April 2014, the NNSA released a “red team” report, led by the director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, on the troubled UPF. The team’s most significant recommendation was to rethink a basic, “big-box” approach that would create a UPF to serve multiple functions in one structure. Instead, to hold the line at an estimated $6.5 billion for design and construction costs, the team recommended going back to the drawing board to effectively reduce the size and scope of the project. Meanwhile, in recognition of the growing hazards associated with a deteriorating infrastructure for storing “materials at risk,” the team recommended that greater emphasis should be given to safe consolidated storage of materials, deferred maintenance, and safety upgrading……….
Regardless of the wisdom of or need for an asteroid-protection program, the future of Y-12 should be focused on earthly realities: cleaning up the environment, decontamination and decommissioning of facilities, stabilizing nuclear and other hazardous materials, and the dismantlement of a large excess stockpile of weapons components. There is a very real need to replace the collapsing infrastructure at Y-12 with facilities that can accomplish these goals.
Protecting the planet from asteroids is a poor rationale for failing to deal with the environmental, safety, financial, and health challenges the Y-12 site poses to the people who live in the area, and to the country as a whole. http://thebulletin.org/y-12-poster-child-dysfunctional-nuclear-weapons-complex7361
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