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Canadian activists push for a nuclear- free world, despite Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion

Activists want Canada to push for nuclear-free world despite Dion’s reticence  By: Mike Blanchfield The Canadian Press  Mar 30 2016

OTTAWA — Anti-nuclear campaigners who want Canada to push for a global ban on nuclear weapons are concerned that Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion is showing a definite lack of enthusiasm for that goal.

Dion said in a speech earlier this month that the current global security environment is simply not conducive to a ban on nuclear weapons because some states just won’t relinquish them.

Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of the peace group Project Ploughshares, says there’s never a perfect time to push for such a ban and the time to start is now.

Nuclear disarmament and security will be front and centre later this week as U.S. President Barack Obama hosts his final Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to attend the two-day meeting, which is focused on curbing nuclear terrorism by cracking down on the trafficking of materials needed to build such a weapon.

Obama announced the initiative in a landmark speech in Prague in 2009, in which he expressed his aspiration for a nuclear-free world, even if it didn’t come in his lifetime.

Earlier this month, Dion said in a speech in Geneva that any negotiations to ban nuclear weapons would have to include all countries that possess them. “Without the participation of the countries possessing nuclear weapons, a ban would not bring us any closer to our shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons,” Dion said on March 2. “Indeed, premature action risks undermining international stability by creating a false sense of security, without any reliable underpinnings.”

Dion’s remarks largely flew under the radar but anti-nuclear activists took note.

“The reality is that there will never be ideal international security conditions for nuclear disarmament,” Jarmillo said Monday. “Nuclear abolition will be a complex, multifaceted undertaking that will need to coexist with international security crises of varying gravity,” he added. “Nuclear disarmament measures must be started, implemented and concluded in geopolitical conditions that are predictably less than perfect.”

Paul Meyer, a retired diplomat who once served as Canada’s disarmament ambassador, said Dion should be pushing harder for a progress on broader disarmament in spite of the geopolitical obstacles. He cited Canada’s leadership in championing the anti-landmine treaty in the 1990s.

“Minister Dion should recall that if Canada had only been willing to consider ‘incremental’ progress on the disarmament of landmines back in 1997 we would still be in a world awash with these weapons,” Meyer wrote in a recent column in Ottawa’s Embassy newsweekly.

This week’s Washington summit on curbing the trafficking of nuclear components comes amid periodic reports of the theft of radioactive material that could be used to build a so-called “dirty bomb.”

Jaramillo said preventing nuclear terrorism is a worthy and urgent objective.

“But it cannot be understood in isolation from the broader multilateral dynamics related to nuclear disarmament and the slow pace of progress toward that goal,” he added. “It is still early in the Liberal government and it may still be formulating its stand on nuclear abolition. So far, however, there has been little change from the Conservative government concerning Canada’s core positions in this regard.”


March 30, 2016 Posted by | Canada, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The coming wave of shutdowns of old nuclear reactors in America

nukes-sad-One-Third Of US Nuclear Reactors Are Near Mandatory Retirement The Daily Caller,  ANDREW FOLLETT, 29 Mar 16     A 39-year-old nuclear plant in Ohio, which was only designed to operate for 40 years, was shut down Sunday for life-extending maintenance.

But the Ohio plant closing is only the beginning of the coming wave of nuclear retirements about to hit the country. Approximately one-third of America’s nuclear reactors are approaching the end of their operating licenses, meaning they are about to hit their mandatory retirement age.
Work crews will replace one-third of the Ohio reactor’s fuel rod assemblies and half of the motors which pump the reactors’ coolant to extend the plant’s life, according to a Monday article in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) voted in December to allow the Ohio reactor to keep operating for 20 more years past its original retirement date.

The Ohio reactor isn’t unique either. The average age for American nuclear reactors is 35, nearly obsolete by modern design standards and near the end of 40-year operating licenses. Sixteen American nuclear reactors are more than 42 years old, according to government data compiled and mapped last week by The Daily Caller News Foundation…….


March 30, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

India needs to come on itys nuclear security issues

safety-symbol-Smflag-indiaCome clean on nuclear security  THE HINDU, NARAYAN LAKSHMAN 29 Mar 16, 

If India is more open about discussing its nuclear weapons programme with a view to ultimately denuclearising the neighbourhood, it would be one of its most courageous contributions

This week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will touch down in Washington, DC for the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit, a biennial conference series initiated in 2010 by the Barack Obama administration. Mr. Modi will no doubt seek to showcase India’s nuclear regime as one that adheres to the highest standards of transparency and safety through rigorous regulation of nuclear products and institutions. Although that would be welcome, what Mr. Modi’s interlocutors in the U.S. may be hoping for is that he will break with India’s tradition of maintaining a masterful silence on two questions surrounding its nuclear policy. First, how can India address disquieting signals that have emerged in recent times, which point to growing concerns over the security of its nuclear materials? Second, at a time when India’s macro strategy of rapid economic development is premised on a climate of neighbourly peace and stability in the region, is it not appropriate that Mr. Modi call for an end to the nuclear arms race in Asia, and address environmental risks of India’s covert weapons plants?

Let us consider each of these questions in turn.

India’s nuclear security

First, the need for heightened nuclear security has now become urgent, especially with the emergence of global jihadi threats such as the Islamic State. In this context, three potential nuclear terrorist threats relate to extremists making or acquiring and exploding a nuclear bomb; the danger of radioactive material being fashioned into a “dirty bomb”; and the risk of nuclear reactor sabotage.

The first and second scenarios are vectors of imminent concern in Pakistan, with analysts citing as examples a series of terrorist attacks in 2007 on nuclear weapons facilities in that country, including a nuclear missile storage facility at Sargodha and a nuclear airbase at Kamra.

However, a paper published earlier this month by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government cautioned that U.S. officials ranked Indian nuclear security measures as “weaker than those of Pakistan and Russia”, and U.S. experts visiting the sensitive Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in 2008 described the security arrangements there as “extraordinarily low key”  Further, the Harvard report notes, there are concerns about threats within Indian nuclear facilities stemming in part from “significant insider corruption”, and what appears to be inconsistent strength of regulation. An example that the report cites relates to the 2014 case of Vijay Singh, head constable at the Madras Atomic Power Station at Kalpakkam, who shot and killed three people with his service rifle. According to the report, this event may have been avoided had the Central Industrial Security Force’s personnel reliability programme been able to detect Mr. Singh’s deteriorating mental health, which it failed to do “despite multiple red flags, including his telling colleagues that he was about to explode like a firecracker.” With a scarcity of data points on insider threats and the attendant concerns about sabotage and nuclear accidents, the unsurprising conclusion of the report was:  “Given the limited information available about India’s nuclear security measures, it is difficult to judge whether India’s nuclear security is capable of protecting against the threats it faces.”

Weapons development programme

This brings us to the second question, which relates to India’s clandestine weapons development programme.

Set within the broader context of nuclear deterrence vis-à-vis Pakistan and China, it has quietly steamed forward since the 1998 Pokhran-II tests. Recent evidence that this shadowy realm of government activity has been proceeding apace beyond the scrutiny of the media and public surfaced in June 2014when IHS Jane’s, a U.S.-based military intelligence think tank, discovered satellite imagery showing efforts underway to extend a Mysore nuclear centrifuge plant constructed in 1992 at the Rare Metals Plant at that location. According to Jane’s, the purpose behind this extension may have been the covert production of uranium hexafluoride, which could be channelled towards the manufacture of hydrogen bombs or naval reactors to power India’s nuclear submarine fleet.

One month later, another U.S. think tank, the Institute for Science and International Security, revealed additional satellite imagery suggesting that India was building a Special Material Enrichment Facility, including constructing an industrial-scale centrifuge complex in Chitradurga district in Karnataka. Some time during 2009 and 2010, approximately 10,000 acres of land were allegedly diverted at that site for various defence purposes, including 290 acres in Khudapura allocated to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for developing and testing drones.

A few years later, in December 2015, a study by the Centre for Public Integrity (CPI), reported in Foreign Policy magazine, confirmed that India’s under-radar ambition to acquire thermonuclear weapons at the Chitradurga site had advanced much further than many had suspected.

There are likely to be a number of other such walled-off weapons development zones across the breadth of the country, and this begs two critical questions. First, what are the broader implications of India’s covert nuclear programme for the triangular standoff vis-à-vis Pakistan and China? Second, while the Nuclear Liability Law protects its citizenry from the potentially catastrophic fallout of a nuclear accident in the civilian nuclear sector, what guarantees do we have that India’s nuclear black sites do not endanger the health of the people and the environment?

On the first question, India’s search for thermonuclear weapons certainly exacerbates the nuclear arms race with its neighbours, specifically by sparking dangerous games of tit-for-tat weaponisation, loose talk about tactical superiority and theatre nukes, and growing doubts about deterrence stability. The region is already a potential hothouse of nuclear posturing — a fact corroborated by the independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s estimates that India has something in the range 90-110 nuclear weapons, Pakistan has around 120, and China has close to 260.

Environmental impact

On the question of environmental impact, evidence suggests that the Chitradurga and Khudapura sites may be degrading the surrounding grassland ecosystems called kavals, which are habitats for critically endangered local species such as the Great Indian Bustard, the Lesser Florican and the Black Buck, not to mention the livelihoods source for thousands of pastoral communities.

In February 2014, NGOs in Karnataka including the Environment Support Group complained about government land acquisitions for DRDO and BARC in the Challakere in Chitradurga, and obtained a direction from the National Green Tribunal to halt construction activity that had commenced without securing permission from the Karnataka Forest Department and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Since then, it is unclear whether the government ever paused its weapons development activity to conduct proper environmental assessments, but the CPI study indicates otherwise, citing as evidence an October 2012 letter marked “Secret” from the Ministry to atomic energy officials which suggested approval of the Mysore site’s construction as “a project of strategic importance” that would cost nearly $100 million.

When he meets Mr. Obama at the end of this month, Mr. Modi may come laden with a “house gift” as a sign of India’s sustained commitment to nuclear security. If this could be an indication that India is willing be more open about discussing its nuclear weapons programme with a view to ultimately denuclearising the neighbourhood, it would by far be one of the most courageous contribution that India could make towards a lasting subcontinental security.

March 30, 2016 Posted by | India, safety | Leave a comment

Unexpected shutdown of Washington nuclear power station

Nuclear Power Plant in Washington Unexpectedly Shut Down, abc news, By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS RICHLAND, Wash. — Mar 29, 2016 Washington state’s only nuclear power plant has been shut down after operators received an indication that a system used to cool equipment wasn’t working. Officials said there was no release of radiation and no danger to the public.

The Columbia Generating Station near Richland was shut down about 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Energy Northwest spokesman John Dobken said.

Officials hope to restart the plant sometime this week, Dobken told The Associated Press early Tuesday.

The Tri-City Herald reported that the plant was shut down after operators were alerted to problems with the system that uses water to cool heat exchangers and pumps, including those that control the power level of the reactor.

Energy Northwest says it seems that a water system valve may not have been in the right position, but adds that an investigation is ongoing…….

March 30, 2016 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

$47 billion and counting – the cost of nuclear safety upgrades, post Fukushima

Money down holeNuclear safety upgrades post-Fukushima cost $47 billion, The Barrel, Platt’s, 20 Mar 16 Five years after the accident at Fukushima I in Japan resulted in three reactor meltdowns, the global nuclear industry is spending $47 billion on safety enhancements mandated after the accident revealed weaknesses in plant protection from earthquakes and flooding. This is according to a Platts review put together by Steven Dolley in DC, Benjamin Leveau in London, Yuzo Yamaguchi from Tokyo, as well as Platts correspondents in Sweden, South Korea and China.

Reactions to the March 11, 2011 accident ranged from pauses in new nuclear construction programs in China to Germany’s decision to gradually phase out nuclear generation.

But in the majority of countries with nuclear power, plans for new reactors have been scaled back, not just because of the Fukushima I accident but for economic reasons, as competing sources of power become less expensive, renewable energy grows in popularity and slow economic growth curbs demand.

Global nuclear regulators carried out reviews of the accident, and in most countries nuclear plant operators were required to install backup sources of electric power and cooling water along with additional protection from earthquakes and flooding. A record-setting earthquake triggered a tsunami that swamped backup emergency power generators and disabled on-site power distribution systems at Fukushima I, leading to a complete loss of cooling.

Those safety improvements have come at a high cost.

A Platts review found that in nine of the 13 countries with the largest nuclear fleets, costs to comply with post-Fukushima requirements will total more than $40 billion, mostly before 2020. Those countries accounted for 289, or two-thirds, of the power reactors in operation worldwide.

The median of the costs was $46.9 million/reactor.

If the remaining reactors not covered in the Platts survey spent the median amount to meet post-Fukushima regulatory requirements, the global cost to make post-Fukushima enhancements would be $47.2 billion. The greatest cost per country was in Japan, where operators may spend $640 million per reactor to enhance safety.

The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency released a five-year status report on the Fukushima I accident, concluding that actions implemented by member countries had improved the overall safety of the world’s nuclear fleet, but that enhancing safety remains “a long-term process.”……..

Anti-nuclear groups have said the regulatory and industry response following the Fukushima I accident has been insufficient. Regulators in the US have “capitulated” to industry by failing to order vent filters, the group Beyond Nuclear said in a March 10 statement.

Measures to protect nuclear plants from earthquakes and flooding have left unaddressed vulnerabilities in areas such as plant security, the group said.

The biggest problem facing US nuclear plant operators recently has been economic. Low natural gas prices and an abundance of cheap renewable electricity in some markets have created financial problems for nuclear plants in competitive electricity markets. Entergy in late 2015 said it would permanently shut two stations, the 849 MW FitzPatrick in New York state and 728 MW Pilgrim in Massachusetts.

Japan’s nuclear reactors were all shut following the Fukushima I accident, and only two have met regulatory requirements and restarted.

The country’s nuclear industry has budgeted about Yen 3.1 trillion ($27.5 billion) for earthquake and tsunami protection following the accident………

March 30, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, safety | Leave a comment