The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

July 15 Energy News



¶ “From Global Temps to Clean Energy, Broken Records Define the Climate Crisis” • We’re living in a time of records. More renewable energy came on stream in 2015 than ever, 147 GW, equal to Africa’s entire generating capacity. Other records were broken. But are the good records enough to help us deal with the bad? [AlterNet]

Image credit: Antonio-BanderAS / Shutterstock Image credit: Antonio-BanderAS / Shutterstock


¶ The UK’s government has axed the Department of Energy and Climate Change in a major departmental shake-up. The brief will be folded into an expanded Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy under Greg Clark. Ed Miliband, the former energy and climate secretary under Labor, called the move “plain stupid.” [BBC]

¶ New figures from the US Energy Information Administration show that energy intensity continued its twenty-five year decline in 2015 in nearly every world region. According to the EIA, global…

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July 15, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

July 14 Energy News



¶ Work on a hydroelectric turbine at Otley Weir in Yorkshire began last November but was seriously hampered by high river levels and the Boxing Day floods. Now, the project is back on track, as two Archimedes screw turbines, each the length of a single-decker bus and nearly twice as wide, have been lifted into place. [Wharfedale Observer]

One of the two huge Archimedes screws being installed at Otley Weir. One of the two huge Archimedes screws being installed at Otley Weir.

¶ Beothuk Energy Inc is proposing six offshore wind farms in Atlantic Canada with a combined 4,000 MW of clean, green, renewable power. It has signed a memorandum of understanding with Iron and Earth, a worker-led group with a mandate to provide oil and gas workers with the training for jobs in the clean energy sector. [Western Star]

¶ Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration approved an assessment for developing offshore wind energy. The government has pledged…

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July 15, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016 launched in Tokyo

Schneider, DeWit & Katsuta: Global Launch of “The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016”

book World Status ReportThe World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016 — Global Launch in Tokyo, 13 July 2016  The year 2016, marking the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe and the 5th year since the Fukushima disaster started unfolding, strangely might go down in history as the period when the notion of risk of nuclear power plants turned into the perception of nuclear power plants at risk. Indeed, an increasing number of reactors is threatened by premature closure due to the unfavorable economic environment. Increasing operating and backfitting costs of aging power plants, decreasing bulk market prices and aggressive competitors.

The development started out in the U.S., when in May 2013 Kewaunee was shut down although its operator, Dominion, had upgraded the plant and in February 2011 had obtained an operating license renewal valid until 2033. Two reactors at San Onofre followed, when replacement steam generators turned out faulty. Then Vermont Yankee shut down at the end of 2014. Early shutdown decisions have also hit Pilgrim and Fitzpatrick, likely to close before the end of 2017 and 2019. Utility Exelon, largest nuclear operator in the U.S., has announced on 2 June 2016 that it was retiring its Clinton (1065 MW) and Quad Cities (2 x 940 MW) nuclear facilities in 2017 as they have been losing money for several years. Only days later, PG&E in California announced that they would close the two Diablo Canyon units by 2025, replacing the capacity by energy efficiency and renewables, making the sixth largest economy in the world (having overtaken France in 2016) nuclear-free. Still in the same month of June 2016, the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) Board voted unanimously to shut down the Fort Calhoun reactor by the end of the year—in the words on one board member, “simply an economic decision”. Nuclear Energy Institute President Marv Fertel stated in May 2016 that “if things don’t change, we have somewhere between 10 and 20 plants at risk”.

“Nuclear plants at risk”; the expression has become a common phrase in the news world, not only in the U.S. In Germany, the Grafenrheinfeld reactor was taken off the grid in 2015, six months earlier than required by law, because refueling was not worthwhile anymore. In Sweden, after two years of work and spending of several hundred million euros, upgrading was halted on Oskarshamn-2 in 2015 and the reactor was permanently closed. Oskarshamn-1 will follow in 2017 and Ringhals-1 and -2 will close in 2020 and 2019 respectively. Ringhals operator Vattenfall stated: “Sweden’s nuclear power industry is going through what is probably the most serious financial crisis since the first commercial reactors were brought into operation in the 1970s.” Even in Asia, nuclear plants are coming under economic pressure. The two Indian units Tarapur-1 and -2 are likely to be closed in the short term because they are not competitive under current market prices. “We are pouring in money into the reactors rather than making income from them”, Sekhar Basu, secretary at the Department of Atomic Energy stated.

In addition to the usual, global overview of status and trends in reactor building and operating, as well as the traditional comparison between deployment trend in the nuclear power and renewable energy sectors, the 2016 edition of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR) provides an assessment of the trends of the economic health of some of the major players in the industry. Special chapters are devoted to the aftermath of the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.

July 15, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs | Leave a comment

Teresa May and the nuclear “Letter of Last Resort.”

apocalypseflag-UKThe Grim Task Awaiting Theresa May: Preparing for Nuclear Armageddon In her first hours as Britain’s new prime minister, May will take part in a time-honored tradition: Handwriting what’s known as a “Letter of Last Resort.”Politico Magazine By Garrett M. Graff July 14, 2016 If tradition holds, in her first hours as the United Kingdom’s new prime minister, Theresa May will meet with the British defense leadership and receive an eye-opening briefing about the nation’s nuclear plans.

Sir Nicholas Houghton, the 61-year-old chief of the Defence Staff who is due to retire this month to become the constable of the Tower of London, will, as one of his final acts, walk Prime Minister May through the country’s nuclear plans and the damage that could result in the event of nuclear attack on her country.

Then, amidst the all the public pomp and circumstance of assuming her office and determining a course of action for the country following the world-changing “Brexit” vote, one of the first things May will be tasked with doing in her new office is perhaps the most grim duty of any head government official in the world: Handwriting what’s known as a “Letter of Last Resort”—the secret instructions, to be remain sealed until after Armageddon, about what the nation’s submarine commanders should do with the UK’s nuclear weapons, housed on their subs, if the country has been destroyed. Actually, she’ll write four of them—all identical—one to each sub commander in the U.K. fleet.

Throughout the Cold War, each nuclear power struggled to figure out how it would approach Armageddon. The Soviet Union ultimately built a rocket that could beam launch orders to Soviet silos even after the human chain of command had been destroyed, a “Dead Hand” machine ultimately uncovered by nuclear historian Bruce Blair in 1993 and made famous by journalist David Hoffman’s eponymous 2009 book. The United States, meanwhile, built a complex network of planes, trains, ships, communication networks and bunkers that could ensure control over the nation’s nuclear systems even amidst a devastating attack.

The British approached a nuclear holocaust differently, and in an appropriately British fashion. Rather than rely on high-tech gadgetry, their prime ministers handwrote “Letters of Last Resort,” and then locked those letters inside of a safe inside of another safe, and placed them in the control rooms of the nation’s nuclear submarines. The safes will only be accessible to the sub’s commander and deputy, who must decide together when Britain has been entirely destroyed.

Britain has long charted its own course when it comes to nuclear weapons, so much so that the secrets of one prime minister often surprise the next………

as the scale of nuclear devastation began to boggle the imagination, Britain faced a unique threat among the nuclear superpowers: Its comparatively tiny island—and its heavily concentrated population and government centers—could be easily obliterated by the power of later generations of atomic and hydrogen bombs. Whereas even a relatively large attack might have left much of the United States or the Soviet Union untouched and allow enough survivors to reconstitute the so-called “National Command Authority,” the military and civilian leaders who can order a nuclear launch, and plan a retaliatory strike, even a small-scale surprise attack from the Soviet Union would have likely destroyed all remnants of Whitehall and the British command chain. Plus, given its geographic proximity to the Soviet Union, Soviet subs, bombers and ICBMs could strike quickly, with little warning and little time to evacuate the nation’s leadership to protective bunkers readied in the English countryside.

And thus was born the tradition of the “Letter of Last Resort.”

It has become a moment when British leaders must wrestle personally with the awesome new responsibilities embodied in their nuclear control………

one might draw some clues from her legislative agenda in the weeks ahead: She’s said she’s eager to push ahead with replacing the aging Vanguard submarines, which will be obsolete in the middle of the next decade. Maintaining the nation’s nuclear deterrence will likely to cost north of $250 billion, but she’s said it’s critical to Britain’s international role post-Brexit.

July 15, 2016 Posted by | politics, Reference, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

How to warn future society about nuclear wastes – 100,000 years on?

waste warning Archbishops

all nuclear agencies have a duty to try to prevent radioactive sites from being disturbed by future civilisations, who may decide to excavate an area in ignorance or even in the misguided hope of finding some kind of treasure buried underground. To this end, they are trying to find a way to communicate with the distant future, in order to warn its inhabitants about what will happen if they become too curious, and also to encourage them to look out for any technical problems at the site. This is not just a moral obligation. In the US, for example, there is a legal obligation to try to keep the “memory” of the site alive so that it can be managed “in perpetuity”.


This is a mind-bending task. About 100,000 years ago Europe was populated by a different species of human, Homo neanderthalensis. We know they had heavy, ape-like facial features, and used basic hunting tools, but we have no knowledge of the language they used. We have no idea what will happen in the next hundred thousand years, and what kinds of societies will populate the planet, let alone how we might communicate with them.

Nuclear waste: keep out for 100,000 years, Michael Stothard, 14 July 16   Nuclear agencies are searching for the signs, language and solutions that will warn our descendants to stay away We are in a red metal cage bumping slowly down a mineshaft to our destination, half a kilometre under the ground near the small town of Bure in eastern France. Above us are yellow fields of oilseed rape. Below is the maze of reinforced concrete tunnels that, if it wins final approval from the French government, will from 2025 be the last resting place for the most destructive and indestructible waste in history. This is the €25bn deep geological storage facility for France’s high and medium-level radioactive waste, the residue of more than half a century of nuclear power. When the work here is finally finished, no one must ever take this journey again or, at least, not for 100,000 years.

France is the world’s largest exporter of electricity and the world’s most committed nuclear nation, with 58 reactors producing 75 per cent of the country’s power. As a result, it also produces enough toxic radioactive waste every year to fill 120 double-decker buses (about 13,000 cubic metres worth, or 2kg a year for every French person). The challenge at Bure is not only to build a massive dump for radioactive trash but also to guard it from human intervention for an impossible amount of time — more than 4,000 human generations.

Our cage stutters and almost comes to a halt. The French workers dangling with me continue chatting about their shifts, but I quickly check the emergency oxygen tank on my belt. When we finally reach the cavern floor, we are at the start of a 1.6km network of winding laboratory tunnels. The air is thick and dusty; dozens of men in blue and grey overalls drill into the walls with car-sized machines. Others walk around checking the scientific equipment embedded in the rock. Above us, the curved grey ceilings are covered by a dense thicket of wires and tubes sending data back to technicians on the surface.

The waste, which will be placed in a quarter of a million sealed containers slotted into horizontal tunnels more than 100m long, is the byproduct of burning uranium in the nuclear reactors and includes some of the most deadly and long-lasting radionuclides in the world. Chlorine-36 has a half-life of 300,000 years and neptunium-237 a half-life of 2 million years. People do not often come into direct contact with such materials, aside from in a nuclear accident, but those that do meet a horrific end. In 1987, thieves in Brazil stole a source of high-level radiation from an old abandoned hospital. It was sold, its lead case broken open. After three days, four people who were handling it began to suffer internal bleeding in their limbs, eyes and digestive tracts, according to doctors. Then their hair fell out. Within weeks, they were dead……..

nuclear agencies have two problems, however, as they try to devise schemes that will win regulatory approval for deep geological repositories. The first is to design a site that can last for ever, even as tectonic plates shift and a new ice age — which scientists expect to occur within 100,000 years — radically erodes the soil above. The nightmare scenario is that the radioactive elements will seep out into the groundwater, gradually, silently poisoning wildlife and humans. In Germany the Asse former salt mine, where 126,000 drums of nuclear waste were buried in the 1970s, is already collapsing, forcing the authorities to dig up the dangerous material to place it elsewhere.

The second issue is that all nuclear agencies have a duty to try to prevent radioactive sites from being disturbed by future civilisations, who may decide to excavate an area in ignorance or even in the misguided hope of finding some kind of treasure buried underground. To this end, they are trying to find a way to communicate with the distant future, in order to warn its inhabitants about what will happen if they become too curious, and also to encourage them to look out for any technical problems at the site. This is not just a moral obligation. In the US, for example, there is a legal obligation to try to keep the “memory” of the site alive so that it can be managed “in perpetuity”.

This is a mind-bending task. About 100,000 years ago Europe was populated by a different species of human, Homo neanderthalensis. We know they had heavy, ape-like facial features, and used basic hunting tools, but we have no knowledge of the language they used. We have no idea what will happen in the next hundred thousand years, and what kinds of societies will populate the planet, let alone how we might communicate with them. Will they even understand our language? A large part of the written Mayan language, used until the 17th century in Central America, is indecipherable to us today……..

Today, a fragile new consensus is evolving around the world. Under the umbrella of the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) in Paris, 17 organisations from 13 countries came together in 2011 to form the RK&M initiative, or Preservation of Records, Knowledge and Memory across Generations. At a landmark conference in 2014 in Verdun, France, it was agreed there should be some form of marker for a nuclear waste site to warn future generations. On the marker should be basic information about what is buried, not just emotive messages to keep out, and this information should also be archived around the world to maximise the chance that it will not be forgotten.

But there is still no consensus at all on what should be written and what the markers should be……..

July 15, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, France, wastes | Leave a comment

Nuclear whistleblowers punished in USA

whistleblowerFlag-USAReport: Department of Energy fails to protect nuclear whistleblowers

Department of Energy took little action against contractors, federal report says

‘They are eventually going to terminate anyone who files a concern with DOE,’ one employee told investigators

Two largest facilities didn’t implement pilot program to boost whistleblower protections


When Sandra Black’s colleagues came to her to report unsafe, illegal or wasteful practices at the Savannah River nuclear facility in South Carolina, she assured them that the U.S. Department of Energy would not tolerate retaliation against them.

“Now I know that wasn’t true,” said Black, of Martinez, Georgia.

As head of the site’s employee complaints program, Black’s job required her to evaluate such concerns and protect employees who raised them.

Then she herself was fired, allegedly because she cooperated with government auditors who were investigating retaliation against whistleblowers, according to a highly critical Government Accountability Office report released on Thursday.

The report found that the DOE’s nuclear program almost never holds its civilian contractors accountable for unlawful retaliation against whistleblowers.

The Department of Energy relies more heavily on contractors than any other civilian federal agency. Ninety percent of the DOE’s budget is spent on contracts and large capital asset projects.

And yet the agency has taken little or no action against contractors responsible for creating chilled work environments at nuclear sites across the country, and has failed to create effective policies for doing so, the report says.

Only two violation notices have been issued against contractors in the past 20 years, according to the report.

“All the words that the (U.S. Department of Energy) proclaims about wanting to have a strong ‘safety culture,’ a ‘safety conscious work environment,’ and that it has ‘zero tolerance for retaliation are a pretense,” Black said at a press conference on Capitol Hill, her voice shaking with emotion.

“It is impossible to explain how devastated I am,” she said. “I did nothing wrong.”

The report was released at a news conference Thursday held by three Democratic senators who requested the investigation more than two years ago: Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts.

The senators initially had asked the GAO to get to the bottom of persistent incidents of retaliation against whistleblowers reported at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state. The scope of the GAO’s review soon broadened to the handling of 87 contractor employee complaint files at 10 of the DOE’s largest nuclear facilities, including Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C

“The three of us have been doing this a while and I think it would be fair to say we thought that we had seen it all,” Wyden said. “Today, however, it seems that there’s a whole new precedent. We’re talking about a contractor who was retaliated against for actually helping government auditors investigate retaliation against whistleblowers.”

Black’s firing was a new low, Wyden said. “Auditors couldn’t identify a single instance where someone providing information to them had ever been dealt with in this way,” he said.

“It’s clear that DOE contractors are going to go to amazing lengths to send the message to their employees that when you blow the whistle it’s going to be the end of your career,” he said.

McCaskill said the report confirmed her fears that the DOE is not taking the problem seriously enough.

“I know we have heard the Secretary of Energy and his predecessors saying that things will get better, but based on the findings of this report released today, it’s clear that things are not getting better,” she said.

The report verified that contract employees at DOE’s nuclear sites “are working in an environment that is not open, not safety conscious and hostile to whistleblowers,” she said.

One particular point of concern, McCaskill said, is the report’s finding the DOE hasn’t been making full use of a pilot program she helped put in place to enhance whistleblower protection for contract employees.

The report said the DOE has not taken steps to evaluate the pilot program’s merits and could not even tell investigators which contractors had adopted it and when.

Two of the DOE’s largest nuclear facilities, Savannah River Site and Hanford, “had not bothered to implement the program” at all, McCaskill said………

Above all, said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, the nuclear weapons contractors should be barred from using unlimited taxpayer’s money against whistleblowers in legal proceedings.

“The GAO’s findings of abysmal whistleblower protection at the Department of Energy is not by accident or coincidence,” Coughlan said. “DOE whistleblower retaliation is historic, systemic and by design, seeking to suppress public knowledge of the inside secrets of the dirty nuclear weapons business.”

Investigators say in the GAO report that Black was fired allegedly for cooperating with the agency, a claim Black made in a federal whistleblower complaint against site contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.

Black said she was pressured by her superiors to alter or close some investigative reports. She also was pressured to disclose the identities of employees who brought up questions, Black said.

In one case, a senior SRNS official told her he wanted to know the name of the “rat’’ who’d prompted an investigation of hazardous gas cylinder releases, but Black refused. She said it was vital to maintain a whistleblower’s confidentiality.

Black said she was fired in January 2015 after she talked with the GAO. Even though Black had never been disciplined in three decades of working at SRS – in fact, she had been promoted and rewarded with bonuses – human resource representatives told her she was being fired for an unsatisfactory job performance, her labor department complaint says.

Black said Thursday that her very public termination has had a “chilling effect” on other workers at the SRS, an assertion echoed in the report’s findings.

One SRS employee told auditors, “They fired (Sandra Black). What do you think they’re going to do to me?”

Others said, “They will make an example of anyone who challenges them” and, “There are eventually going to terminate anyone who files a concern with DOE.”

Those who do come forward face ostracization and long, expensive legal battles.

Walt Tamosaitis, who was fired after raising safety concerns about the handling of radioactive waste at Hanford Reservation in Washington state, spoke at Thursday’s press conference about his sense of profound alienation the day he was fired as manager of research and technology at Hanford’s waste vitrification plant.

“I was told to hand over my phone, Blackberry, badge, keys and leave the site,” he recalled. “I was escorted to the door and told not to come back. I was not given any reason for it. It was the loneliest day of my life.”

After a five year legal battle, Hanford subcontractor URS settled a lawsuit Tamosaitis had brought for $4.1 million.

July 15, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

UK Parliament prepares to deliberate on whether to ban the bomb

text politicsflag-UKThe nuclear option. Parliament prepares to deliberate on whether to ban the bomb , The Economist 16 July 16 NINE countries are believed to have nuclear weapons. On July 18th Britain will decide whether it wants to remain in that club, when its MPs debate whether to renew the country’s Trident nuclear deterrent. Theresa May, the new prime minister, has said it would be “sheer madness” to give it up, and the vote is expected to pass easily. Perhaps 150 of Labour’s 230 MPs will vote in favour of the plan, rebelling against their leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The House of Commons approved in principle the retention of a nuclear deterrent in 2007. A review in 2013 reaffirmed that “like-for-like” replacement of the four submarines that carry the missiles represented the best and most cost-effective way to do it. Parliament will now decide whether to approve the spending of £31 billion ($41 billion) over 20 years to replace the four Vanguard-class subs, which will wear out within a decade.
missile-moneyTrident’s detractors argue that a lot has changed since the programme was approved in 2007. For one thing money is tighter. Around one-quarter of defence spending on new equipment procurement will be on submarine and deterrent systems by 2021-22. There has also been a surge in support for independence in Scotland, where the submarines are based. It is unlikely that the government would choose to site the capability north of the border if the renewal process began again now, says William Walker of St Andrew’s University. The Scottish government opposes the plan; almost all of the 59 Scottish MPs at Westminster are expected to vote against it (though polls suggest that public opinion in Scotland is more mixed). If Scotland were to become independent—now more likely because of Brexit—Britain could well have to relocate its subs, at further expense.
Critics also say Trident relies too much on a single naval platform (America has air, land and sea options), and that improved ballistic-missile defences and the future use of underwater drones and cyber warfare could threaten the subs’ security. Yet land-based ballistic missiles are vulnerable to attack, and arming aircraft with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles permanently aloft carries a significant danger of nuclear accident and is much more expensive. …..

July 15, 2016 Posted by | politics, UK, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Birmingham protest against the trucking of nuclear weapons through their city

radiation-truckflag-UKWarning over nuclear weapons being shipped past Birmingham, Birmingham Mail, 14 JUL 2016 BY Warheads from Britain’s nuclear weapons system Trident are shipped past the city on the M6   Campaigners say Birmingham is being put at risk by nuclear weapons being driven past the city six times a year

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) will host a public meeting in Birmingham on July 23 to raise awareness of the fact that nuclear weapons are routinely driven past the city.

Warheads from Britain’s nuclear weapons system Trident are shipped past the city on the M6 from their base in Scotland to be refurbished in Berkshire.
The Ministry of Defence said the strictest safety measures were taken to move the weapons – and no incidents had occurred in 50 years.

The Ministry of Defence said the strictest safety measures were taken to move the weapons – and no incidents had occurred in 50 years.

Matt Hawkins, project officer at ICAN-UK, said the weapons travel in lorries past schools, hospitals, and homes.

He said: “The Government has a duty to protect its citizens but, by possessing nuclear weapons and driving them past our towns and cities, they are needlessly putting us in great danger.

“Our aim with this meeting in Birmingham is to let people know that nuclear weapons are driven so close to their doors – we think it is their democratic right to know this. “We then want to give the people of Birmingham the chance to raise their concerns with the politicians who are supposed to be protecting us all from danger, not putting our lives at risk.”

The meetings come as MPs face a vote on renewing the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system……..

July 15, 2016 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, UK | Leave a comment

Nuclear chicken games between USA and Russia

United States “playing nuclear chicken with Russia”, “Helen Caldicott, the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, has warned about the danger related to the decisions made during a recent NATO summit. SOURCE: SPUTNIK TUESDAY, JULY 12, 2016 “The decisions reached at NATO are hardly believable considering current world politics and the state of play between Russia and the United States, both heavily armed nuclear nations… as they practice nuclear war exercises and ‘games’ adjacent to their respective borders,” she told Sputnik.

The two-day summit in Warsaw on Friday and Saturday approved the deployment of four battalions on Russian borders, made up of about 4,000 troops.

“Surely, the politicians and military personnel in Washington must realize that they are playing nuclear chicken with Russia,” said Caldicott, founding president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and added:

“Large increases in NATO troops and equipment in countries once an integral part of the Soviet Union (and) anti-missile bases in Romania, Poland, Turkey and Spain, are extremely provocative to Russia which is clearly concerned for good reason.”

Sputnik noted in its report that Caldicott is the author of numerous books, including “The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s Military Industrial Complex,” and that the Smithsonian Institution named her “one of the most influential women of the 20th century.”

July 15, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

A nuclear-armed space plane for Russia?

exclamation-Smflag_RussiaRussia Is Building a Nuclear Space Bomber, The Daily Beast, DAVID AXE, 14 JULY 16  Kremlin claims about a spacecraft that could fire weapons anywhere on Earth within two hours may have just kick-started a nuclear arms race in space. The Russian military claims it’s making progress on a space plane similar to the U.S. Air Force’s secretive X-37B robotic mini-shuttle.

That in itself isn’t terribly surprising or even, for the United States, particularly worrisome. Lots of governments and even private companies are working on space planesthat can launch from rockets or runways, boost into orbit for a period of time then return to Earth for quick refurbishment and re-use.

The tech is pretty basic. But alone among space-plane developers, the Kremlin is proposing to arm its space plane. With nukes. That’s not only a gross violation of international law, it represents a fairly profound act of hypocrisy on Russia’s part. It wasn’t long ago that the Russian government accused the United States of weaponizing space by sending aloft the nimble, versatile X-37B, basically a quarter-size, remote-controlled version of the Space Shuttle that could, in theory, carry weapons—but does not.


To be clear, a nuclear-armed space plane would be dangerously destabilizing, as it would totally upset the current, tenuous balance of power between the United States and Russia. The Pentagon could respond to a Russian orbital nuke bomber by quickly deploying a space bomber of its own. In other words, an atomic arms race… in space—a development no one should welcome.

Lt. Col. Aleksei Solodovnikov, a rocketry instructor at the Russian Strategic Missile Forces Academy in St. Petersburg who is overseeing the space plane’s development, said the orbital bomber would be flight-ready by 2020. It’s unclear how much money the Kremlin is investing in the project, and how serious senior officers are about actually deploying the space plane, if and when Solodovnikov and his team finish it.

In any event, the military space plane could give Russia a potentially history-altering nuclear first-strike capability.

“The idea is that the bomber will take off from a normal home airfield to patrol Russian airspace,” Solodovnikov said, according to Sputnik, a government-owned news site. “Upon command, it will ascend into outer space, strike a target with nuclear warheads and then return to its home base.”

Thanks to its orbital capability, the bomber would be able to nuke any target on Earth no longer than two hours after taking off, Solodovnikov claimed.

 In operational concept, the space-bomber is somewhat different from the X-37B, which launches into orbit atop a rocket like a satellite does and spends a year or more maneuvering around low orbit, reportedly conducting science experiments.

The Russian craft could be closer to Virgin’s family of reusable space planes—the experimental SpaceShipOne and the larger SpaceShipTwo, which is designed to carry paying tourists to the edge of space……..

In 1967, the United States and Russia and 102 other countries signed the Outer Space Treaty, which bans the explicit militarization of space. “States parties to the treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner,” the treaty reads.

Forty-nine years later, the United States, Russia, and China between them operate hundreds of military satellites. A few have inherently aggressive design features, such as the ability to maneuver close to other spacecraft and potentially disable them by way of extendable claw arms.

But none are solely and strictly offensive weapons. And certainly none pack city-destroying nuclear weapons that can rain down just an hour or so after the command is given. Earth’s surface teems with weaponry, but the world has, so far, managed to keep Earth’s orbit pretty much arms-free.

After the U.S. Air Force launched the X-37B—for scientific purposes, officials claimed—for the first time in April 2010, Russian experts accused the Americans of possibly sneaking a weapon into orbit. The X-37B could “strike global blows on surface targets,” warned Konstantin Sivkov from the Academy for Geopolitical Problems.…….

But the Kremlin’s space-bomber would be a weapon—unambiguously so—and would shatter a half-century of mostly-peaceful space exploration, undoubtedly sparking a terrible diplomatic row and potentially driving the United States and Russia closer to open conflict… on Earth’s surface.

July 15, 2016 Posted by | Reference, Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Iran and West both compliant on nuclear deal – but cautious

diplomacy-not-bombsOne Year After Iran Nuclear Deal, Sides Remain Compliant but Wary, Voice of America, Chris Hannas July 14, 2016 WASHINGTON— One year ago, exhausted diplomats from Iran and a group of six world powers emerged from a meeting at a luxury hotel in Vienna, Austria with what they had been seeking for nearly two years: a comprehensive agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting harsh economic sanctions.

Today, the pact is in effect with clear results on its major components, but there are lingering suspicions on both sides that the other may take advantage and not live up to its responsibilities.

“We need to continue to work and we will continue to work and we have a specially designated ambassador whose day-to-day effort is leading a team to make sure that this deal continues to be lived up to, that we continue to be able to resolve any problems,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday.

President Barack Obama called the pact a success, saying, “All of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon remain closed.” He said the deal, implemented in January, has pushed the time frame for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon if it violated the agreement from two or three months to “about a year.”

But U.S. opponents of the deal a year ago have not changed their view, that it would not force to Iran to end its military activities in the Mideast or ultimately block it from developing a nuclear weapon………


EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini praised the agreement as a path to “a new chapter in international relations” that uses diplomacy to overcome decades of tensions.  Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that while the pact was not perfect, it was an important achievement and represented a foundation for a new diplomatic beginning.

Iran removed thousands of centrifuges that had been used to enrich uranium and shipped out the majority of its existing stockpile. World powers lifted their sanctions, unlocking billions of dollars for Iran and paving the way for new business opportunities there. Last month, U.S. aerospace giant Boeing announced a tentative deal to sell 100 jets to Iran’s state-owned airline.

Throughout the past 12 months, however, officials on both sides, particularly from Iran and the U.S., have spoken about the deal with comments that range from suspicion to outright rejection.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that if the world powers fail to meet their responsibilities, then Iran stands ready to restore its nuclear program. Meanwhile, some members of the U.S. Congress want to ban the United States from purchasing nuclear-related material from Iran, accuse the Obama administration of giving up too much too soon in the negotiations, and are wary about how Iran is spending its newly unlocked money.

Iran has complained that despite the lifting of sanctions that once barred financial institutions from doing business with the country, foreign banks remain reluctant to be involved in transactions…….

July 15, 2016 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

Nuclear weapons should be returned to the countries that own them – call from Russian diplomat

nuclear-weapons-3Russian diplomat calls for returning nuclear weapons to producer countries July 11, 20:16    Barack Obama plans to use his final six months in office for putting forward a number of nuclear arms control initiatives, possibly offering Russia to extend the New Start Treaty for another 5 years MOSCOW, July 11 /TASS/. Return of all nuclear weapons to the territories of countries where they have been produced would be a vital contribution to world security, Russia’s Permanent Representative to NATO Alexander Grushko said in an interview aired by the Rossiya 24 television news channel on Monday.

“It would be a contribution to international security if all nuclear charges were returned to the territories of countries, which possess them. This is exactly what Russia did,” Grushko said commenting the US authorities’ intention to offer Russia to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) for another five years.

“It is necessary to bear in mind that as major nuclear players, including Russia and the United States, the role of nuclear potentials possessed by other countries will increase. Therefore, the approach will be totally different: it should be an integrated approach,” Grushko said.

According to the Washington Post electronic version, US President Barack Obama plans to use his final six months in office for putting forward a number of nuclear arms control initiatives, including, possibly, to offer Russia to extend the New Start Treaty for another five years. The publication said that the US National Security Council had discussed the topic at its meetings twice over the past two weeks.

July 15, 2016 Posted by | politics international, Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Reject nuclear weapons – say Scottish bishops

church-&-radScottish bishops urge Britain to reject nuclear weapons, Crux, Simon Caldwell  July 14, 2016 

All eight bishops issued a joint statement calling for nuclear disarmament ahead of a July 18 vote in Parliament on whether to renew the Trident submarine-based nuclear weapons system.

The bishops also suggested the $272 billion cost of replacing the aging arsenal of nuclear weapons could not be morally justified.

“The bishops of Scotland have, for a long time, pointed out the immorality of the use of strategic nuclear weapons due to the indiscriminate destruction of innocent human life that their use would cause,” they said.

“Lives are being lost now because money that could be spent on the needy and the poor is tied up in nuclear arsenals,” the bishops said, adding that they endorsed the words of Pope Francis that “spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations.”……..

Theresa May, the incoming prime minister and leader of the ruling Conservative Party, is keen to retain a nuclear capacity, but the Labor Party leadership and the Scottish National Party want to scrap the warheads.

The intervention by the Scottish bishops represents the second time in a decade and the third in 35 years that they have called on Britain to rid itself of nuclear weapons.

The statement comes less than a year after Pope Francis marked the 70th anniversary of the day the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, by inviting humanity to reject war and to “ban nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction.”

It also comes as the Washington Post reported that U.S. President Barack Obama will use his final six months in office to push for a radical reduction of nuclear weapons globally, in the hope that the policy might lead to eventual abolition.MANCHESTER, England – The British government must take “decisive and courageous steps” toward ridding the country of nuclear weapons, the Catholic bishops of Scotland have said.

They said Britain had an obligation under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty “to work toward the disposing and elimination of all nuclear weapons.”

“Britain should take more decisive and courageous steps to revive that aspect of the treaty and not seek to prolong the status quo,” the bishops said in the July 12 statement.



July 15, 2016 Posted by | Religion and ethics, UK | Leave a comment

ICBUW: European Parliament urges EU governments to support UN depleted uranium resolution

depleted-uranium European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs sends report to European Council calling for progress on DU at this October’s UN General Assembly.  13 July 2016. This October, the UN General Assembly will consider its sixth biennial resolution on DU weapons since 2007. The resolutions have attracted widespread support over the years with fewer and fewer countries abstaining and just the US, UK, France and Israel consistently voting against them. They are non-binding but are helping to establish soft norms on the use and post-conflict management of DU weapons, highlighting issues such as transparency, assistance, precaution and the health risks they pose. They also serve as a regular reminder to DU users that the majority of the world views the weapons as unacceptable.

July 15, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, depleted uranium | Leave a comment

World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016 shows nuclear build at zero so far this year

book World Status ReportNew nuclear reactor builds fall to zero in H1 2016: report Construction starts for new nuclear reactors fell to zero globally in the first half of 2016 as the atomic industry struggles against falling costs for renewables and a slowdown in Chinese building, a report on the industry showed on Wednesday.

The last time there were no new reactors started over a full year was in 1995, according to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016. The number of reactors under construction is in decline for a third year, with 58 being built by the end of June, down from 67 reactors at the end of 2013, the report said.

The latest figures highlight the struggles the nuclear sector is facing after the Fukushima atomic disaster in Japan five years ago, as higher costs and delays take their toll while other sources of energy become cheaper.

The nuclear industry faces a risk it “will not be easily protected from: the economic and financial risks from nuclear power being irreversibly out-competed by renewable power,” Tomas Kaberger, energy and environment professor at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, wrote in a forward in the report.

Kaberger is also a member of the board of state-owned Swedish utility Vattenfall, which owns 10 nuclear reactors, according to its website.

Construction started on six reactors in China in 2015, three times more than the rest of the world, while eight went into operation there last year, out of 10 globally, underlining how the world’s biggest energy user is a bright spot for the nuclear industry.

Three reactors have started up this year in China, with one in South Korea and another in the U.S., Watts Bar 2, which took 43 years to build, according to the report.

But even in China, renewables investment and capacity additions are outstripping nuclear, the report said. Renewables investments totaled $100 billion in China last year, more than five times the amount for new reactors, which was $18 billion.

Wind energy output totaled 185 terawatt hours (TWh) last year in China, compared with 161 TWh for nuclear. Solar power output totaled 39 TWh in 2015, up from 23 TWh the year before.

The report’s lead authors are industry analysts Mycle Schneider, based in Paris, and London-based Antony Froggatt. Both have advised European government bodies on energy and nuclear policy.

The report is available in full at:   here

(Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

July 15, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs | Leave a comment