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The trouble with negative emissions 

climate-change  Kevin Anderson  Glen Peters
Science  14 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6309, pp. 182-183


In December 2015, member states of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted the Paris Agreement, which aims to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C. The Paris Agreement requires that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emission sources and sinks are balanced by the second half of this century. Because some nonzero sources are unavoidable, this leads to the abstract concept of “negative emissions,” the removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere through technical means. The Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) informing policy-makers assume the large-scale use of negative-emission technologies. If we rely on these and they are not deployed or are unsuccessful at removing CO2 from the atmosphere at the levels assumed, society will be locked into a high-temperature pathway.


November 4, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

US media ignores historic United Nations vote on convening nuclear disarmament meeting

media-propagandaThe UN makes history on a nuclear weapons ban. Does the US care?, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, JOE CIRINCIONE 2 NOVEMBER 2016  Joe Cirincione is president of Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation.
   If a treaty rises in the United Nations and US media don’t notice, does the treaty make a difference? This is the situation confronting proponents of the process begun October 27, when—by a vote of 123 for, 38 against, and 16 abstaining—the First Committee of the UN agreed “to convene in 2017 a United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.”

It was a historic moment. Despite dozens of nuclear crises and war scares, UN members have never in the 71-year history of the body voted for such a sweeping measure. Yet no major US paper covered the vote. Why not?……

The United States, however, adamantly opposed the resolution and, according to some observers, fiercely lobbied its allies, particularly those enclosed in the US “nuclear umbrella,” to vote against the new process. ….

There is hope for a more optimistic and safer view of nuclear threats to re-emerge. The treaty vote is one sign that many nations have lost patience with the barely discernable, “step-by-step” process that nuclear-armed nations have followed in regard to arms control and eventual nuclear disarmament. The alternative process the countries voting for the ban treaty have begun–encouraged and aided by civil society groups–is having an impact, and may spur the nuclear-armed states to move faster……..

November 4, 2016 Posted by | media, USA | Leave a comment

Japan’s nuclear hypocrisy

hypocrisy-scaleJapan’s hypocritical nuclear stance, Japan Times, NOV 3, 2016  Japan’s vote at the United Nations last week to oppose a resolution to start talks on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons is regrettable. It contradicts the nation’s long-standing call for the elimination of such weapons as the sole country to have suffered nuclear attacks. Tokyo’s latest move — which reflects the government’s reliance on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for the nation’s security — not only runs counter to the wishes of survivors of the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings but will weaken its voice in international efforts to rid the world of nuclear arms.

On Oct. 27, the First Committee of the U.N. General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security, adopted the resolution, with 123 nations voting in favor, 38 against it and 16 abstaining. Six nuclear powers — the United States, Russia, Britain, France and Israel — voted against it, backed by U.S. allies such as Japan, South Korea, Germany and Australia. Three nuclear powers — China, India and Pakistan — abstained. Surprisingly, North Korea, which recently carried out a fifth nuclear weapons test, voted in favor…..

It is clear, however, that the U.S. put pressure on its allies, including Japan, to oppose the resolution. The U.S. government reportedly sent a letter dated Oct. 17 to NATO member nations urging them to “vote against negotiations on a nuclear treaty ban, not to merely abstain” and “to refrain from” joining talks on such a treaty. The letter said such a treaty, if enforced, “could have a direct impact on the U.S. ability to meet its NATO and Asia/Pacific extended deterrence commitments and the ability of our allies and partners to engage in joint defense operations with the United States and other nuclear weapons states.” A government official has disclosed that Washington made similar representations to Japan.

It would be logical to assume that Japanese officials believed they cannot resist such pressures given Japan’s dependence on the U.S. nuclear umbrella. But did it not occur to them that opposing the resolution would deprive Japan of moral credibility in its repeated calls for creating a nuclear weapons-free world, or could they not at least have considered abstaining from the vote — just like the Netherlands, a NATO member, did — even merely as a gesture? It is absurd to think that the U.S. would not care about Japan’s unique and special position as the only country to have experienced nuclear attacks.

Japan submitted a resolution calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons for the 23rd time in a row this year and it was adopted the same day as the one to begin talks on the nuclear weapons ban treaty cleared the same U.N. committee — with 167 nations in favor, four countries — China, North Korea, Russia and Syria — voting against and 17 abstaining. The U.S., which abstained from the vote last year, joined in co-sponsoring the resolution. The development raises suspicions that Tokyo opposed the resolution for the nuclear weapons ban treaty as a quid pro quo for Washington’s support of Japan’s resolution.

Given its contradictory behavior, it will be extremely difficult for Japan to regain the trust of other nations in U.N. efforts to seek the elimination of nuclear weapons.

November 4, 2016 Posted by | Japan, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Eskom’s nuclear procurement plan raises more questions than it answers

scrutiny-on-costsflag-S.AfricaEskom’s nuclear energy offer doesn’t add up, Independent Online 3 November 2016, The power utility’s financial statements need scrutiny, writes Seán Mfundza Muller South Africa’s cabinet is to consider a proposal that a mooted nuclear power deal for the country be financed through the state-owned power utility Eskom. This is the latest twist in South Africa’s controversial efforts to expand its nuclear power capability by commissioning up to 9.6GW of energy from six nuclear power stations.

The decision has been mired in controversy and still hangs in the balance and the offer by Eskom to foot the bill raises more questions than it provides answers. Recent claims by Eskom’s management fail to adequately address any of the fundamental criticisms of the proposed nuclear programme. Statements that Eskom can “finance nuclear on its own” don’t add up and are misleading.

Changes in Eskom’s rationale for justifying nuclear procurement over the past two years call into question the merits of these arguments.

Its claims about financing also raise serious questions about the arguments it presented to Parliament last year to justify a R23 billion cash injection and write off a R60bn loan.

 The right decision would be for the cabinet to defer further consideration of the programme for at least two years. In addition, Eskom should account to Parliament on discrepancies in its statements about its financial situation.

The three main problems with the case for nuclear procurement are well established.

The actual power probably will not be needed. Trends in economic growth and electricity demand are much lower than the original forecasts on which the supposed need for nuclear power were based.

The programme is also likely to be very costly although there are still no credible, government cost estimates in the public domain. Many energy experts have argued that even if additional capacity was needed, other energy sources may be cheaper or more appropriate.

Finally, the combination of insufficient demand and costly supply means that nuclear poses a serious threat to the future stability of the country’s public finances and economic growth.

An indicator of problematic motives is the way in which the arguments made for it keep shifting. Last year Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe told Parliament that procurement of nuclear was “urgent” and feasible. Molefe argued that nuclear costs were lower than critics implied and financing concerns reflected a “pedestrian” attitude.

Subsequent to this, Eskom decided on a new line of attack: trying to limit procurement of power from independent renewable energy producers………

It should therefore be clear that the case for proceeding with the procurement of nuclear power is fundamentally flawed. The rational and responsible decision by cabinet would be to halt it.

If economic growth and energy demand increases significantly over the next few years, the matter could be revisited based on an appropriately updated Integrated Resource Plan that uses credible forecasts of future energy needs.

November 4, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Eskom boss Brian Molefe is not coping well with South Africa’s corruption scandal

corruption-1Eskom boss Brian Molefe bursts into tears over #StateCaptureReport. Has he been hung out to dry? Biz News, 2 Nov 16  Eskom boss Brian Molefe is not coping well with the stream of allegations that point to his role as a central figure in the capture of state entities by the Gupta family. He broke down in tears at a conference on Eskom’s latest financial reports when talk turned to the #StateCaptureReport compiled by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, which was released to the public this week. Molefe has been referred to as a friend of the Gupta family and is a key link in allegations that Eskom may have fraudulently given money to a Gupta-linked company to enable it to buy a coal mine. Molefe has also vigorously promoted the benefits of a nuclear build programme, which many believe will bankrupt the country while its beneficiaries reap the benefits of tapping into state contracts. Molefe’s prominent appearance in the #StateCaptureReport has evidently caught him by surprise. With an illustrious career in powerful roles, including as chief executive officer of the state’s Public Investment Corporation, and influential friends, perhaps he thought he was beyond reach? At the very least, it seems that Molefe’s friends forgot to let him know that he featured in the document, while alerting others – including co-operative governance minister Des van Rooyen and mines’ minister Mosebenzi Zwane, who made noises about going to court to stop the release of the #StateCaptureReport. It’s starting to look a bit like a case of  ‘every man for himself’ as the web of deceit around the Gupta and Zuma families unravels. – Jackie Cameron

By Gareth van Zyl  Johannesburg – Eskom CEO Brian Molefe has lashed out at former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s use of cellphone records to suggest he had numerous meetings with the controversial Gupta family.

The public protector’s report on state capture was released on Wednesday, highlighting links between the Guptas and government officials…….

November 4, 2016 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | 1 Comment

No safe way to move nuclear waste

Airplane dangerThere’s no safe way to move nuclear waste’: Scottish Politicians slam nuke flight that needed armed cop convoy Daily Record  18 SEP 2016   JIM LAWSON

Green MP John Finnie and Caithness MP Paul Monaghan among those to voice concerns about flying nuclear waste to the US. THE first flight believed to be carrying British nuclear waste to America took off from Wick Airport amid tight security yesterday.

Scots politicians and anti-nuclear campaigners have slammed the deal, brokered by David Cameron and Barack Obama, to move the waste.

The airport was closed from early morning as armed police patrolled the perimeter.

Twenty miles away in Thurso, more armed officers escorted a lorry from the Dounreay nuclear plant through the town. It was carrying two heavily reinforced containers……

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth, said: “There is no truly safe way to move this waste.”

Caithness MP Paul Monaghan said the deal was “morally reprehensible” and Green MP John Finnie said people would be stunned that nuclear waste was being transported by plane.

Nuclear expert John Large said: “The risk in transport by air is the fuel being engulfed in fire, the packages breaking down and the fuel igniting.”

The runways at Wick have been extended at a cost of £18million to take the US planes, and Highland Council have published an order allowing local roads to be closed for five hours at a time until March 2018.

Police refused to comment on yesterday’s operation for security reasons.The first flight believed to
be carrying British nuclear waste to America took off from Wick Airport amid tight security yesterday.

November 4, 2016 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

Top Nuclear Negotiators of US, China Meet in Beijing

Top Nuclear Negotiators of US, China Meet in Beijing  1 Nov 16The top nuclear negotiators of the U.S. and China met in Beijing on Monday to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry and sources in Beijing confirmed on Tuesday that China’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei met his U.S. counterpart Joseph Yun to exchange their views on North Korea and related issues.

The discussion is believed to have occurred to mediate Washington and Beijing’s positions regarding Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions before the South Korean and U.S. nuclear envoys meet in Seoul on Tuesday. Monday’s talks were meaningful in that it was the first official meeting between the top U.S. and Chinese nuclear negotiators since Yun’s appointment.

Yun has been accompanying U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken on his trip to Japan, South Korea and China. He is said to have met Wu at his last stop in Beijing to discuss sensitive issues such as the import ban of North Korean coal by China.

November 4, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Warning that a USA strike on North Korea would spark war with China

Atomic-Bomb-SmUS strike on North Korea would spark world war with China, think-tank warns
U.S. warned against nuking nutty North Korea because it risked war with neighbouring China
 BY PATRICK KNOX 1st November 2016, 

November 4, 2016 Posted by | China, North Korea, USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

USA and Russia bicker over nuclear issues

‘A Dangerous Situation’ As U.S.-Russia Tensions Spill Over To Nuclear Pacts October 31, 2016 Heard on Morning Edition DAVID WELNA  The U.S. and Russia are the world’s two mightiest nuclear powers, and yet over the years, they’ve made deals to reduce their respective arsenals.

Just like a marriage gone bad, though, things have soured between Washington and Moscow. Bickering over nuclear issues has increased markedly in recent months, with each side accusing the other of cheating.

And that war of words is being matched by actions:

Russia, in early October, moved a battery of nuclear-capable missile launchers within range of three Baltic states.

In September, three U.S. long-range bombers — the kind used to drop nuclear weapons — flew over Eastern Europe in NATO military exercises.

Russia, in late October, unveiled images of a new intercontinental ballistic missile dubbed the Satan 2, whose warhead, it claims, can destroy an area the size of Texas.

“I would have to say that, without question, this is the low point in U.S.-Russian relations since the end of the Cold War,” says Steven Pifer, an arms control expert at the Brookings Institution………

November 4, 2016 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA | Leave a comment

Humans, wildlife threatened by Navy’s Use of Depleted Uranium in USA Coastal Waters

depleted-uraniumThe Navy’s Use of Depleted Uranium in Our Coastal Waters Threatens Humans, Wildlife Monday, 31 October 2016 By Dahr JamailTruthout | Report
 Earlier this month, Truthout reported that the US Navy is knowingly introducingtoxic metals and chemicals into the environment during its war game exercises.

Sheila Murray with the Navy Region Northwest’s public affairs office, when asked what the Navy was doing to mitigate environmental contamination from the large numbers of Depleted Uranium (DU) rounds it left on the seabed off the Pacific Northwest Coast claimed current research “does not suggest short- or long-term effects” from the release of DU to the environment that could result in its uptake by marine organisms.”

She also said that DU rounds “are extremely stable in sea water and pose no greater threat than any other metal.”

In response to this, Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist and winner of the 2015 Rachel Carson Prize environmental award for her work on DU and heavy metal contamination, told Truthout, “The US Navy representative’s views exhibit an alarming level of amnesia.”

She said this because Murray’s statement has been one that has been recycled by the Navy for years. Reuters reported in January 2003 that the Navy confirmed its use of DU shells in arms tests off the Washington State coast, at which time the Navy claimed, “The DU rounds dissolve so slowly that they would not contribute to naturally occurring (radiation) levels … and do not pose a significant risk.”

Meanwhile, ample scientific reports — including Savabieasfahani’s own research — demonstrate the deleterious health impacts caused by DU.

“When those bullets and bombs explode, dangerous nanoparticles of metals, including uranium nanoparticles, are released into the environment,” she explained to Truthout. “Laboratory research has already established that exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of uranium has negative impacts on fish embryogenesis, and on the reproductive success of fish.”

Naval documents show that as much as 34 tons of DU could be present on the seabed just 12 miles from the outer coast of Washington State.

Even more distressing, the Navy’s own documents reveal that the extent of its use of DU off the coast of the US is far more pervasive than it admits to the public.

And results of a Freedom of Information Act filing provided to Truthout show that the Navy, which claims in its environmental impact statements it has not used DU since 2008, has actually shipped it from a Puget Sound munitions area as recently as 2011.

A Bogus Study

The Navy’s public affairs officer, Murray, also told Truthout that a “recent study” of an area off the south coast of England that was used for test firing DU rounds “did not show presence of DU in sample of intertidal and ocean bottom sediments, seaweed, mussels, and locally caught lobster and scallops. (Toque, 2006).”

However, the study Murray cites — and which the Navy consistently cites when arguing that DU is not harmful — is heavily disputed.

Carol Van Strum, an Oregon-based environmental advocate who has researched DU for years, told Truthout that Murray’s statement is “an out-and-out lie.”

Van Strum, who has read the Toque study closely and knows it well, pointed out that, for starters, the study’s author works for a British military contractor. She went on to point out two very serious flaws in the study.

“While the study relied on ‘locally caught’ lobster and scallops as samples for testing for depleted uranium, the samples were never ‘caught’ but rather bought in a local market, and thus could have come from anywhere,” Van Strum explained. “Second, and most worrisome … the actual study reports depleted uranium contamination in nearly all of the samples.”

The Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the matter claims “the survey results show no evidence of DU being present in any marine environmental sample collected in the year 2004.”

But Van Strum called their claim “incontrovertibly false” because the study itself stated it had found DU contamination in the soil in many areas where the military was operating cannons, in the soil where ordnance had been fired, and in the soil, sea water and marine life where the ordnance they had fired had landed.

“The study’s methodology would not pass muster for even a high school science project,” Van Strum said. Karen Sullivan, a retired endangered species biologist who co-founded the website West Coast Action Alliance that acts as a watchdog of Naval activities in the Pacific Northwest, questioned why the Navy would open itself up to accusations of bias by relying on only a single study done by someone who works for a group affiliated with the British military.

“Why would the Navy rely on such a flawed and obviously biased study to ‘prove’ that DU in seawater poses no threat greater than any other metal?” Sullivan, who worked at the US Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 15 years and who is an expert in the bureaucratic procedures the Navy is supposed to be following, asked in an interview with Truthout. “Probably because the enormous body of properly conducted and unbiased science completely refutes it.”

Van Strum went on to point out additional significant problems with the study, including the almost laughable procurement and use of the samples……..

Human Health Impacts of DU “Quite Relevant” to Naval Exercises

“Navy exercises in the waters of the Pacific Northwest will release contaminants into the marine environment, with an undeniable potential to harm human health,” Savabieasfahani said, noting that this would apply even to low-level amounts of DU being introduced into the oceans. “It is long established that explosives can contaminate soil, sediment and water and thereby impact environmental and human health.”

She explained that the human and environmental impacts of the Navy’s use of DU in past exercises is “quite relevant,” and cited a report that showed how DU exposure has been linked to lower cognitive ability in adults.

“This leads us to expect much worse impacts on growing children, newborns and infants — to say nothing of unborn babies,” Savabieasfahani added. “Furthermore, epidemiological evidence is also consistent with an increased risk of birth defects in the children of people exposed to DU.”

She also heavily emphasized the fact that the internalization of uranium in any form will result in both chemical and radiation exposure. “Once inside a living body, DU and uranium’s effects are virtually the same,” Savabieasfahani explained. “This is a point worth repeating.”

Moreover, Savabieasfahani emphasized that it’s dangerous to guesstimate “safe” levels of DU, whether or not it reaches levels determined to be “toxic.”

“Our knowledge of the human health impacts of DU is consistent with laboratory studies of other mammals,” she said. “DU exposure affects neurogenesis during prenatal and postnatal brain development by disrupting patterns of cell proliferation and cell death. Even sub-toxic levels of DU have been shown to alter brain function.”

She also took issue with Murray’s argument, which Savabieasfahani described as, essentially, “the solution to pollution is dilution.” This is the nuclear industry’s default argument about radiation and other forms of pollution, and has been for decades, despite the fact that this logic was “decisively rejected” more than 40 years ago. Savabieasfahani pointed out that even Richard Nixon’s EPA administrator, William Ruckelshaus, rejected the dilution argument in a 1972 Congressional testimony regarding the Clean Water Act.

Savabieasfahani noted that any upcoming Naval exercises that introduce heavy metals and other pollutants, regardless of whether they use DU, will increase the environmental “background burden” of DU and other pollutants.

“Increasing that burden is simply irresponsible,” Savabieasfahani said. “Seabed pollutants have already found their way into our bodies. Those pollutants will continue to impact the most vulnerable populations — infants, newborns and growing children — most profoundly, and their imprint will be found in the baby teeth of our children.”

Other Instances of DU

Problems with DU in the Pacific Northwest are not limited to the Navy…….

November 4, 2016 Posted by | depleted uranium, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

Just like any other house – but it’s got a SOLAR ROOF

No One Saw Tesla’s Solar Roof Coming Elon Musk just showed us the grand unification of Tesla: Fast cars, big batteries, and a stunning solar rooftop. Bloomberg,  Tom Randall October 31, 2016  “…….. This is the future of solar, Musk proclaimed. “You’ll want to call your neighbors over and say ‘check out the sweet roof.’ It’s not a phrase you hear often.”

The roof tiles are actually made of textured glass. From most viewing angles, they look just like ordinary shingles, but they allow light to pass through from above onto a standard flat solar cell. The plan is for Panasonic to produce the solar cells and for Tesla to put together the glass tiles and everything that goes along with them. That’s all predicated on shareholders approving the $2.2 billion acquisition of SolarCity, the biggest U.S. rooftop installer, on Nov. 17.


Tesla says the tempered glass is “tough as steel,” and can weather a lifetime of abuse from the elements. It can also be fitted with heating elements to melt snow in colder climates. “It’s never going to wear out,” Musk said, “It’s made of quartz. It has a quasi-infinite lifetime.”

In a Q&A with reporters after the presentation, Musk said the tiles are comparable to competing high-efficiency solar panels. The current prototypes that Tesla engineers are working with reduce the efficiency of the underlying solar cell by just 2 percent. With further refinement, Musk said he hopes the microscopic louvers responsible for making the tiles appear opaque can be used to actually boost the efficiency of standard photovoltaic cells.

Putting the pieces together

The vision presented at Universal Studios in Los Angeles is the grand unification of Musk’s clean-energy ambitions. The audience was able to step into a future powered entirely by Tesla: a house topped with sculpted Tuscan solar tiles, where night-time electricity is stored in two sleek wall-hung Powerwall batteries, and where a Model 3 prototype electric car sits parked out front within reach of the home’s car charger.

Attracting less attention on Wisteria Lane was Tesla’s Powerwall 2, a major upgrade of its home battery for electricity storage. …Version 2 is a much different product. It packs more than twice the capacity—14 kilowatt hours versus 6.4 kilowatt hours—for a cheaper price after installation. 1 It includes a built-in Tesla-brand inverter and comes with a ten year, infinite-cycle warranty. ……

November 4, 2016 Posted by | decentralised, USA | Leave a comment

Retreating will be necessary – to adapt to climate change

sea_levels_risingTo Adapt to Climate Change, Retreat Is Necessary Four years after Hurricane Sandy, many coastal communities recognize that rising oceans mean relocating their residents. But there is no consensus on how to do so. The Nation By Alexandra Tempus OCTOBER 31, 2016 “…… After Sandy made landfall in 2012, it destroyed or damaged roughly 305,000 homes in New York, killing 53 people and leaving the state with $42 billion in damages. Since then, more than 700 home-owning New York families alone have relocated as a result of the storm. Renters or public-housing tenants who have relocated are harder to track, but at least 2,000 were displaced to hotel rooms after Sandy and almost as many registered for affordable housing within six months of Sandy. Across the globe, growing numbers of people are being permanently displaced by climate-change impacts—the 1,000-year floods and megadroughts and superstorms generated by rising temperatures. By now experts have established that the damage Sandy wrought was made worse by rising sea levels, linking it indisputably to climate change.

November 4, 2016 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Energy rights group blasts Cuomo plan to bail out nuke plants  Re “Nuclear plant bailout burdens New Yorkers, NYPIRG writes,” Oct. 24  Community View: Nancy S. Vann, president of Safe Energy Rights Group. 

It’s not surprising that the Cuomo administration’s decision to burden New Yorkers with a nuclear bailout was shrouded in secrecy. Behind closed doors, it was decided that our electric bills would be raised by $7.6 billion to bail out old, failing nuclear power plants in upstate New York.

Here in Westchester, our ConEdison rates could go up by $705.8 million to sustain these unprofitable, dangerous plants. These plants are losing money and were slated to be shut down until this administration partnered with the owner of the plants, Exelon, to make them profitable on the taxpayers’ dime. If the state is forced to add the failing Indian Point plant to the list, the costs could be even higher.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo should scrap this huge rate hike and instead develop a new plan — one that focuses on keeping rates low and invests in affordable 21st century clean energy technology that creates jobs, improves our communities and protects the environment. New Yorkers deserve investments that work for them, not irresponsible bailouts for dying industries.

November 4, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

A new tool for law enforcement agencies to identify criminal nuclear activity

Nuclear CSI: Noninvasive procedure could identify criminal nuclear activity,   November 1, 2016 by Molly Peterson Determining if an individual has handled nuclear materials, such as uranium or plutonium, is a challenge national defense agencies currently face. The standard protocol to detect uranium exposure is through a urine sample; however, urine is able to only identify those who have been exposed recently. Now, scientists at the University of Missouri have developed procedures that will better identify individuals exposed to uranium within one year. Scientists and homeland security experts believe this noninvasive procedure could identify individuals who may be smuggling nuclear materials for criminal purposes.
“We are working to develop a tool that  agencies in nuclear proliferation or smuggling investigations can use to identify individuals who have handled special nuclear material,” said John Brockman, associate professor of research in the MU Research Reactor Center. “The goal of our research was to determine if hair, fingernail clippings and  could be used to better detect uranium exposure.”

Brockman collected hair, fingernail and toenail clippings from workers in nuclear research facilities from around the country. Testing procedures developed by Brockman and his team were able to identify exposure to both natural and manmade sources of uranium.

According to the World Nuclear Association, naturally occurring uranium is a mixture of three isotopes, including uranium-238 (U-238), U-235 and traces of U-234. U-238 accounts for over 99 percent of the isotopes found in nature; U-235 is the isotope necessary to create nuclear weapons or power a nuclear reactor. U-235 is considered a fissile isotope, meaning the atom has the ability to split, yielding a large amount of energy. Uranium that has been used as fuel in a  also contains the manmade isotope, U-236.

“Our technique was not only able to determine uranium exposure, but also the specific isotopes the individual has handled within the last year,” Brockman said. “We were able to identify exposure to enriched uranium, which is used to make both nuclear fuel and weapons, and U-236 which is suggestive of nuclear fuel reprocessing.”

With this discovery, law enforcement official could use specialized equipment and identify individuals who have been exposed to special nuclear material within 48 hours. Brockman is looking to expand his analysis with the national human radiobiological tissue repository (NHRTR) to further provide insight on how hair and nail samples could be used to monitor exposure to special nuclear material.

The MU Research Reactor has been a crucial component to research at the university for more than 40 years. Operating 6.5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, scientists from across the campus use the 10-megawatt facility to not only provide crucial radioisotopes for clinical settings globally, but also to carbon date artifacts, improve medical diagnostic tools and prevent illness.

November 4, 2016 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

‘Substantial weaknesses’ in TVA safety culture at new nuclear plant

NRC inspection finds ‘substantial weaknesses’ in TVA safety culture at new nuclear plant, Times Free Press, November 1st, 2016 by Dave Flessner   The Tennessee Valley Authority has improved the environment for workers to raise safety concerns at its newest nuclear plant, but a new regulatory review of TVA’s work environment at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant concludes the utility still is not maintaining an adequate safety culture.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission met with 136 workers in 17 focus groups at Watts Bar this summer after concluding in March that TVA had “a chilled work environment” at the Spring City, Tenn., plant that could discourage employees or contractors from raising safety concerns.

“Focus groups within and outside of the operations department indicated the existence of broader, previously unrecognized challenges to the maintenance of a positive safety culture, which continued to challenge the safety conscious work environment,” Alan Blamey, branch chief of reactor projects in the Atlanta office of the NRC, said in a letter to TVA last week. “The (NRC inspection) team identified substantial weaknesses in various attributes which were found to be pervasive across various work units.”

Blamey said nearly half of those interviewed by the NRC at Watts Bar “believed retaliation was a potential outcome for raising concerns.”

“In addition, most employees did not believe that concerns were promptly reviewed or appropriately resolved, either by their management or via the corrective action program,” Blamey told the TVA……….

November 4, 2016 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment