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Fukushima trial should clarify why TEPCO execs didn’t act

protecting sea walls july 1 2017.jpgAn artist’s concept of seawalls to protect the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from tsunami


The first criminal trial over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster is now under way, drawing fresh attention to key questions concerning the devastating accident and its lasting reverberations.

The focus of public attention will be on whether the reams of evidence collected by public prosecutors, along with statements by those in charge, will provide a clearer picture of how the disaster unfolded.

Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operated the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, pleaded innocent June 30 in the first hearing held at the Tokyo District Court.

They are charged with professional negligence resulting in the deaths of 44 people who had to be evacuated from a hospital near the plant, and injuries of others.

While the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office twice decided not to press charges against the three, citing a lack of evidence, independent judicial panels of citizens voted for mandatory indictments against them.

The core question for the trial judge is whether it was possible for them to predict the towering tsunami that inundated the plant, triggering a triple meltdown, and take effective safety measures to prevent the catastrophe.

In his opening statement, the lawyer acting as a prosecutor asserted that the three former TEPCO executives had the “ultimate obligation and responsibility” to ensure the safety of the nuclear facility.

He cited a 2008 estimate by a TEPCO subsidiary involved in the operation of the Fukushima plant that pointed to the “shocking” possibility of the plant being struck by tsunami of up to 15.7 meters. The TEPCO officials proposed that measures be taken to protect the plant from such a tsunami, including the construction of a seawall, but the three executives decided to postpone taking such steps.

The defense team countered by reiterating its argument that it was merely one of many estimates and constitutes no reason to claim that the defendants were able to predict and avoid the accident.

In 2002, a government agency warned that a massive earthquake capable of generating huge tsunami could occur anywhere off the Pacific coast from the northern Sanriku region in Tohoku down to the Boso region in Chiba Prefecture.

The huge 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami caused damage to nuclear power facilities in India.

Japanese nuclear regulators at that time called for steps to enhance the safety of nuclear power plants.

Six years since the harrowing accident, there are still many questions that remain unanswered with regard to TEPCO’s responses to these warnings and developments. How seriously did the utility consider additional safety measures? What steps did the company actually take and fail to take? What are the reasons for its decisions?

There is no denying that most of the TEPCO people involved have done little to help clear up the facts. Their behavior has been marked by insincerity.

The three defendants were summoned by the Diet’s committee that looked into the accident as unsworn witnesses and answered various questions in public.

After that, however, they showed no willingness to offer their own accounts of what happened.

Like many other TEPCO executives, the three defendants have, to this day, refused to agree to their statements made in interviews by the government’s investigative committee to be made public.

Criminal trials are held to determine whether the defendants should be held criminally liable.

The rights of the defendants provided by the Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Law should, naturally, be respected. That means there is a limit to what a criminal court can do to clear up the truth.

While recognizing the limitations of what a criminal trial can achieve, we sincerely hope it will shed new light on the accident.

This hope is obviously shared by not just the survivors who have lost their families and hometowns in the accident but also countless others who were affected by the disaster.

The defendants have a duty to help disclose the truth.

In addition to determining whether or not the defendants are guilty of professional negligence, the trial offers an opportunity to reflect deeply on some key questions concerning nuclear power and the related roles of electric utilities and the government; for example, can the safety of nuclear plants be ensured and is there really a viable future for nuclear power generation in this earthquake-prone nation.


July 1, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , , | 1 Comment

16 Assemblies of Mox to be shipped to Japan from France



As a reminder a transport of 16 assemblies of MOX (between 8 and 10 tons) is being prepared.
This MOX is destined for the nuclear reactor of Takahama n ° 4.
The Pacific Egret and the Pacific Heron, “armed to the teeth” are on the departure of Barrow-In-Furness in England to come to Cherbourg.
The transfer of brand new trucks (equipped with shielding type protection) loaded with MOX will take place late on Tuesday evening.
The loading will take place on Wednesday 5th (as I had announced a few weeks ago at the meeting of the CLI Areva de La Hague) in the morning at the Quai des Mielles and the boats should leave the port of Cherbourg in the evening.
Source: Yannick Rousselet – Greenpeace France


July 1, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Tepco Prepares the Reactor 3 New Cover



It is a Japanese project. That’s what it will give, It’s not a sarcophagus, just a structure to carry the cranes that will empty the pool.



They have already tried ground construction in Iwaki





Credits to Pierre Fetet.




July 1, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | 1 Comment

Delegations from over 130 nations work to finalise “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”

Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Nearing Completion Analysis, by Tariq Rauf* 

VIENNA (IDN) – On June 27, the second draft of the “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” was released at the United Nations in New York. Delegations from more than 130 States will now work to finalize the treaty text by July 7, 2017.

The United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination has been meeting at the UN in New York on March 27–31 and June 15–7 July 7. Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica is the Conference President, who has done a masterful job in navigating through the competing and often contradictory positions of both States and civil society organizations (CSO) to produce a realistic and workable draft Treaty text.

Nuclear-armed and allied States Boycott The Conference is being boycotted by the five nuclear-weapon States (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States), as well as by four other countries possessing nuclear weapons (India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan); and by all NATO countries except for the Netherlands, and also by Australia,Japan and South Korea – all of whom rely on US nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Weapon Prohibition Treaty

The draft Nuclear Weapon Prohibition Treaty has 21 operational articles and 24 preambular paragraphs. The preambular paragraphs reflect the broad objectives including global concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons; the unacceptable risks for all humanity posed by the continued existence of nuclear weapons, including from any nuclear weapon detonation by accident, miscalculation or design; the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons that transcend national borders, pose grave implications for human survival and for the health of current and future generations, and have a disproportionate impact on women and girls, as well as on indigenous peoples; and any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular of international humanitarian law.

The draft Treaty preamble recognizes that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) serves as the cornerstone of the nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation regime. All countries in the world are members of the NPT except for India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan. It also affirms the vital importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and its verification regime as a core element of the nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation regime.

The CTBT has been signed by 183 countries, but its entry into force is held up by 8 countries: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and United States. And, the draft Treaty recognizes the key role of the five nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) treaties of Latin America and the Caribbean, South Pacific, Asia, Africa and Central Asia, which all together have some 110 member States.

The draft Treaty also reaffirms the inalienable right of all States to peaceful uses of nuclear energy – in common with the NPT. Prohibition of nuclear weapons is totally different from outlawing peaceful applications of nuclear energy for electricity generation, agriculture, medicine, science and other civilian uses. Nuclear applications are essential for meeting 8 of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) approved by the UN and in limiting global carbon emissions to below 2% growth.

Principal Legal Obligations

The principal legally binding obligations of the draft nuclear weapon prohibition Treaty are contained in its first four articles.

Article 1 contains the basic obligation for signatory States to never under any circumstances: (a) develop, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; (b) transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; (c) receive the transfer or control over nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices directly, or indirectly; (d) use nuclear weapons; (e) carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion; (f) assist, encourage, or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Treaty; and (g) seek or receive any assistance, in any way, from anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Treaty.

Also under Article 1, all signatory States undertake to prohibit and prevent in their territory or at any place under their jurisdiction or control: (a) any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and (b) any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.

These prohibitions on nuclear weapons and nuclear testing, including hosting or deploying nuclear weapons on a State party’s territory, are comprehensive and exhaustive. As such, nuclear weapons and related activities would be prohibited, including hosting or relying on foreign nuclear weapons by a State party. The Conference President is wise not to fall into the trap of defining the technical characteristics of a “nuclear weapon”, as that would be a contentious and fruitless exercise. For these reasons, neither the NPT nor the CTBT provide definitions of a nuclear weapon or a nuclear test explosion.

Article 2 calls on States parties to submit Declarations to the UN Secretary-General of the United Nations on: (a) whether they owned or possessed nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices and eliminated all such weapons or explosive devices prior to the entry into force of the Treaty; (b) whether all source or fissionable (nuclear) materials on their territory or under their jurisdiction or control are in peaceful use and under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

Article 3 requires all States parties to maintain safeguards obligations currently undertaken pursuant to international legally binding instruments such as the NPT and NWFZs, without prejudice to any higher level of standards that may be adopted in the future.

Article 4 on the total elimination of nuclear weapons requires any State party that owns, possesses or controls nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices to immediately remove from operational status its nuclear weapon systems and destroy as soon as possible any nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices it owns, possesses or controls.

Such State party shall submit a time-bound plan for the verified and irreversible destruction of its nuclear weapon programme to be negotiated with the States parties or with a competent authority [to be] designated by the States parties. And, each such State party shall submit annually to the UN Secretary-General a report on the progress made.

Upon the dismantlement of its nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, such State party shall: (a) bring into force an agreement with the IAEA for the purpose of verification of the fulfilment of its obligations assumed under the Treaty with a view to preventing the diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, request the IAEA to verify the correctness and completeness of its inventory of nuclear materials, and cooperate with the IAEA in this regard. A competent international authority could be designated in the future to verify the irreversible destruction of nuclear weapon programmes.

Again, the Conference President is wise to call upon the IAEA for verification of nuclear material only and not for verification of dismantlement or destruction of nuclear weapons or nuclear warheads as proposed by some. The IAEA has nearly 60 years of experience in verification of nuclear activities and nuclear materials in peaceful uses, but it has neither the expertise nor the experience for the verification of nuclear disarmament as this is not its principal mandate.

While the IAEA has worked on understanding certain nascent nuclear-weapon development related activities in Iran, Iraq and Libya, and verified South Africa’s nuclear material following destruction of its 6 nuclear weapons by South Africa itself; the IAEA has had no experience in nuclear disarmament verification of mature nuclear weapon programmes and deployed arsenals.

In fact, international verification of nuclear warhead disarmament is a bridge too far – even Russia and the US have no such experience; they only verify destruction of missiles and bombers as part of their arms reduction treaties. Efforts to devise a multilateral nuclear disarmament verification regime are unlikely to be successful and would end up as an exercise in vain.

Other articles of the draft Treaty concern assistance to victims of nuclear weapon use and testing programmes, unlimited duration of the treaty, and entry into force after 50 States have ratified – this is 10 more than what was required for the NPT.

The Way Forward

With only seven working days left before the conclusion of the UN Conference on prohibition of nuclear weapons on July 7, it is now up to all participating States and CSOs to reach for practical achievable results, to support the President’s draft Treaty and avoid introducing amendments or additional articles.

Sometimes “less is more” and this certainly is the case for the nuclear weapon prohibition treaty. Credit must be accorded to the Conference President and States such as AustriaIrelandSweden andSwitzerland for seeking a practical and realistic treaty. Countries of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), CSOs and others should rally behind the President and finalize the draft Treaty pretty much “as is” rather than strive for making the best the enemy of the good!

*Tariq Rauf was Head of Verification and Security Policy Coordination at the International Atomic Energy Agency from 2002-2011. Presently he is a consulting advisor with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization in Vienna. Only personal views are expressed here. [IDN-InDepthNews – 29 June 2017]

July 1, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Forest fire near Chernobyl Nuclear Plant

Ukrainian Firefighters Battle Forest Fire Near Chernobyl Nuclear Plant,   June 30, 2017   RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, Ukrainian firefighters are battling to contain a forest fire inside the irradiated exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant, officials say.

The fire erupted around midday on June 29 during tree cutting works at the Lubyanskoye Forestry and spread to an area of some 25 hectares by early June 30, the emergency services said.

More than 100 firefighters and scores of trucks and aircraft were dispatched to the area, a statement said.

It is not the first wildfire to break out near the site of the 1986 reactor explosion and fire, the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster. In 2015 alone, fires engulfed some 400 hectares of forests in the exclusion zone.

July 1, 2017 Posted by | climate change, safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Where will climate refugees find shelter and food?

Climate refugees will search hard for homes, June 30, 2017, by Tim Radford, Where can the climate refugees go, if 2 billion are driven away by rising tides, and the interior available becomes ever more inhospitable?

By 2060, around 1.4 bn people could be climate refugees, driven from low-lying coastal cities by sea level rise. By 2100, as the global population may have reached 11bn, there could be 2bn climate refugees.

To feed those 9 to 11 bn people expected in the second half of the century, farmers will have to grow as much food in 40 years as they have grown in the last 8,000 or so.

And in a world of accelerating sea level rise and climate change, in which farmland is being degraded and turned to desert, in which ever more land is set aside for carbon storage in the form of forest, and in which the strains of survival increase social divisions and social conflict, there is a new challenge: where will the 2bn climate refugees find new homes?

“The colliding forces of human fertility, submerging coastal zones, residential retreat, and impediments to inland resettlement are a huge problem,” said Charles Geisler, professor emeritus of development sociology at Cornell University, in New York state.

“We offer preliminary estimates of the lands unlikely to support new waves of climate refugees due to the residues of war, exhausted natural resources, declining net primary productivity, desertification, urban sprawl, land concentration, ‘paving the planet’ with roads, and greenhouse gas storage zones offsetting permafrost melt.”

Although reclaiming land from oceans has been an important human project for millennia, it seems that oceans are now ‘reclaiming’ the land”

In any concerted attempts to contain climate change and limit global warming, climate scientists have to consider two big things. One is: how to drastically reduce fossil fuel use. The other is: how to use the land surface so that it takes up atmospheric carbon dioxide most efficiently.

Professor Geisler and his co-author Ben Currens, an earth and environmental scientist at the University of Kentucky, look at the big picture of land use in the long term.

They report in the journal Land Use Policy that they considered the implications of an ever faster rate of global sea level rise, as atmospheric temperatures warm and glaciers melt.

A study in Nature Climate Change has just confirmed that the seas that in the last century were rising by on average 2.2mm a year are now rising by 3.3mm a year. “Although reclaiming land from oceans has been an important human project for millennia,” write Geisler and Currens in their study, “it seems that oceans are now ‘reclaiming’ the land.”

They start from the premise that global mean sea level rise will continue beyond 2100, and from the prediction that for every 1°C of climate warming, humans should expect an eventual 2.3 metre rise in sea levels.

Losing land

In 2000, around 630 million people lived in low-lying coastal zones. By 2060, this number could have risen to 1.4bn. In the worst case scenario, the two scientists reason, almost all who dwell on the low-lying coasts will become climate refugees.

But the land that could be used to resettle those refugees is dwindling: between 1981 and 2003, around 35 million square kilometres of the planet became “degraded” and now make up almost one fourth of the world’s drylands.

Permafrost, described in the study as “a vast and cost-free warehouse” for greenhouse gases, is thawing: as it melts, it could double the current levels of atmospheric carbon and feed back into ever-faster climate change.

Were global forests to be planted in a bid to absorb this extra carbon, they would take up more than 42 million sq km or 28% of the planet’s land surface.

No entry

The two scientists then considered the barriers that climate refugees could face as they moved from the coasts. They defined what they called depletion zones – drylands, thawing permafrost and degraded land – that would be unlikely to support human existence. They identified what they call “win-lose” zones that because of urban sprawl, landfill needs and mushrooming roadways could help in some ways but not in others.

And they listed a set of what they call “no trespass zones”, from which refugees would be excluded either legally, or by violence, or by the risk of landmines or radioactive pollution.

They considered case studies, in China and in Florida in the US, where state officials have begun to plan for weather-induced population shifts.

And, although President Trump has declared climate change a hoax and is to take the US out of the Paris Agreement of 2015 in which the world’s nations undertook to reduce fossil fuel use and contain global warming to less than 2°C, the two authors think there is no other answer.

“The pressure is on us to contain greenhouse gas emissions at present levels. It’s the best ‘future proofing’ against climate change, sea level rise and the catastrophic consequences likely to play out on coasts, as well as inland, in the future,” said Professor Geisler. – Climate News Network

July 1, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

USA nuclear warhead testing is delayed by safety problems at Los Alamos National Laboratory

A separate Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board report in February detailed the magnitude of the shortfall:

Los Alamos’ dangerous work, it said, demands 27 fully qualified criticality safety engineers.

The lab has 10

Safety problems at a Los Alamos laboratory delay U.S. nuclear warhead testing and production A facility that handles the cores of U.S. nuclear weapons has been mostly closed since 2013 over its inability to control worker safety risks, Science,  By The Center for Public IntegrityR. Jeffrey SmithPatrick MalonJun. 30, 2017 

In mid-2013, four federal nuclear safety experts brought an alarming message to the top official in charge of America’s warhead production: Los Alamos National Laboratory, the nation’s sole site for making and testing a key nuclear bomb part, wasn’t taking needed safety precautions. The lab, they said, was ill-prepared to prevent an accident that could kill lab workers, and potentially others nearby.

Some safety infractions had already occurred at the lab that year. But Neile Miller, who was then the acting head of the National Nuclear Security Administration in Washington, says those experts specifically told her that Los Alamos didn’t have enough personnel who knew how to handle plutonium so it didn’t accidentally go “critical” and start an uncontrolled chain reaction.

Such chain reactions generate intense bursts of deadly radiation, and over the last half-century have claimed nearly two dozen lives. The precise consequences, Miller said in a recent interview, “did not need an explanation. You don’t want an accident involving criticality and plutonium.” Indeed, Miller said, criticality “is one of those trigger words” that immediately gets the attention of those responsible for preventing a nuclear weapons disaster.

With two of the four experts remaining in her Washington office overlooking the national mall, Miller picked up the phone and called the lab’s director, Charles McMillan, at his own office on the idyllic Los Alamos campus in the New Mexico mountains, where nuclear weapons work is financed by a federal payment exceeding $2 billion a year. She recommended that a sensitive facility conducting plutonium operations — inside a building known as PF-4 — be shut down, immediately, while the safety deficiencies were fixed.

McMillan, a nuclear physicist and weapons designer with government-funded compensation exceeding a million dollars a year, responded that he had believed the problems could be solved while that lab kept operating. He was “reluctant” to shut it down, Miller recalled. But as the call proceeded, he became open to her view that the risks were too high, she added. So on McMillan’s order, the facility was shut within a day, with little public notice.

In the secrecy-shrouded world of America’s nuclear weapons work, that decision had far-reaching consequences. Continue reading

July 1, 2017 Posted by | investigative journalism, Reference, safety, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Trump wants to withdraw from 1987 Treaty on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces – for anew arms race?

US Talk of Exit From Nuclear Treaty With Russia Could Blow Up in New Arms Race, Sputnik News, 30 June 17,  Last week, US media reported that the Trump administration was considering withdrawing from the 1987 Treaty on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, citing alleged non-compliance by Moscow. White House officials have denied that the US is considering withdrawing. Russian experts explain why doing so would be a major lose-lose scenario for both powers.

Last week, Politico reported that leading Republican congressmen were urging the Trump administration to withdraw from the INF Treaty, a document signed by Moscow and Washington in 1987 which prohibits the development, deployment and testing of ground-launched nuclear ballistic and cruise missiles which have a range of between 500-5,500 km.

The Senators claimed that Russia was in “material breach of the treaty,” something Moscow has vehemently denied. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly said that Russia is in full compliance with the treaty, adding that Moscow has its own concerns about US compliance. Moscow has also called on Washington to engage in discussions on the points of contention regarding the arms control agreement’s implementation.

Although Trump administration special assistant on counterproliferation Christopher Ford has since clarified to Sputnik that the White House does not want to withdraw from the INF Treaty, continued murmurings about Washington’s possible unilateral disengagement have sparked fears of a new nuclear arms race. The Russian Foreign Ministry has said that it could not rule out a unilateral US withdrawal, while experts have warned that such a step would lead to heightened military tensions in Europe…….

July 1, 2017 Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Yet another marketing strategy by Russia: Vietnam

Rosatom to build Nuclear Technology Centre in Vietnam 29.06.2017 Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation and the Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam will create a Center of Nuclear Science and Technology in Vietnam, as it follows from documentation published on the Kremlin’s website.

“The Memorandum of understanding between Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation and the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on a plan of the implementation of a project for construction Nuclear Science and Technologies Center in Vietnam”, the document reads.

The announcement came following a meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of Vietnam Tran Dai Quang.

July 1, 2017 Posted by | marketing, Russia, Vietnam | 1 Comment

Angela Merkel stands up to Donald Trump: European Union will strengthen Paris climate accord

Angela Merkel promises to tackle Donald Trump on climate change at G20 summit, We cannot wait to act until the science has convinced every last doubter’, The Independent, Samuel Osborne @SamuelOsborne93   30 June 17, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU is “more determined than ever” to make the Paris accord against climate change a success following the US decision to withdraw from the agreement, and insisted she would not “overlook tensions” with America on Donald Trump’s first attendance at the G20.

Ms Merkel stressed in a speech to the German parliament that the EU stands fully behind its commitment to the agreement.

“We cannot expect easy discussions on climate change at the G20 summit,” she said. “Our differences with the US are clear.””

She added that “the Paris agreement is irreversible and it is not negotiable.” The German Chancellor will host the summit of leaders of the Group of 20 economic powers in Hamburg on 7 and 8 July.

Ahead of that summit, she is hosting a meeting of the European leaders who will take part in the summit later on Thursday at the chancellery in Berlin.

“We are convinced that climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity, an existential challenge,” she told the German parliament. “We cannot wait to act until the science has convinced every last doubter.”

She said she had agreed a plan with France’s newly elected President Emmanuel Macron to deepen cooperation in the European Union and the Eurozone, adding that the EU needed to take on more responsibility for tackling security concerns it faced, including a threat from “terrorism”.

The bloc’s remaining members would remain united in their negotiations with Britain over its planned departure from the EU, she added in Thursday’s speech to lawmakers……

July 1, 2017 Posted by | climate change, EUROPE | Leave a comment

NASA funding project for nuclear-powered travel to Mars

NASA Seeks Nuclear Power for Mars  After a half-century hiatus, the agency is reviving its reactor development with a test later this summer, Scientific American By Irene Klotz, on June 30, 2017, As NASA makes plans to one day send humans to Mars, one of the key technical gaps the agency is working to fill is how to provide enough power on the Red Planet’s surface for fuel production, habitats and other equipment. One option: small nuclear fission reactors, which work by splitting uranium atoms to generate heat, which is then converted into electric power.

NASA’s technology development branch has been funding a project called Kilopower for three years, with the aim of demonstrating the system at the Nevada National Security Site near Las Vegas. Testing is due to start in September and end in January 2018.

The last time NASA tested a fission reactor was during the 1960s’ Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary Power, or SNAP, program, which developed two types of nuclear power systems. The first system — radioisotope thermoelectric generators, or RTGs — taps heat released from the natural decay of a radioactive element, such as plutonium. RTGs have powered dozens of space probes over the years, including the Curiosity rover currently exploring Mars. [Nuclear Generators Power NASA Deep Space Probes (Infographic)]

The second technology developed under SNAP was an atom-splitting fission reactor. SNAP-10A was the first — and so far, only — U.S. nuclear power plant to operate in space. Launched on April 3, 1965, SNAP-10A operated for 43 days, producing 500 watts of electrical power, before an unrelated equipment failure ended the demonstration. The spacecraft remains in Earth orbit.

Russia has been far more active developing and flying spacecraft powered by small fission reactors, including 30 Radar Ocean Reconnaissance Satellites, or RORSAT, which flew between 1967 and 1988, and higher-powered TOPAZ systems. TOPAZ is an acronym for Thermionic Experiment with Conversion in Active Zone.


NASA has funded several nuclear power technology efforts in the 50 years since SNAP, but financial, political and technical issues stymied development. Three years ago, the agency’s Game Changing Developmentprogram backed Kilopower, with the goal of building and testing a small fission reactor by Sept. 30, 2017, the end of the current fiscal year. The project is costing about $15 million…….

NASA engineers figure human expeditions to Mars will require a system capable of generating about 40 kilowatts of power, which is about what is needed for “about eight houses on Earth,” according to the agency. Curiosity’s RTG was designed to supply about 125 watts — less energy than what is needed to power a microwave oven — though power levels fall as the radioactive plutonium decays. [How Will a Human Mars Base Work? NASA’s Vision in Images]

Solar power is another option, but that would restrict power generation to regions that are exposed to enough sunlight to charge batteries. Inside the moon’s Shackleton Crater, for example — a prime candidate for lunar sorties due to its water resources — it is completely dark. The sunniest spots on Mars receive only about one-third the amount of sunlight as Earth does.

“If you want to land anywhere, surface fission power is a key strategy for that,” Michelle Rucker, an engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said during a presentation in December to NASA’s Future In-Space Operations working group.

Fission reactors also can continue working in adverse weather conditions, such as Mars’ ubiquitous dust storms. ……

Partners in the Kilopower project include NASA’s Glenn Research Center, the Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Lab and the Y12 National Security Complex, which supplies the reactor’s uranium.

Irene Klotz can be reached on Twitter at @free_space. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com

July 1, 2017 Posted by | technology, USA | 2 Comments

Listing the financial institutions that provided 344 billion available to 27 nuclear weapon producing companies

Don’t Bank On The Bomb  Dec 2016 Briefing Paper.

United States 226 Financial Institutions made an estimated USD$ 344 billion available to 27 nuclear weapon producing companies since January 2013.

 Introduction This document contains country specific information from the 2016 Don’t Bank on the Bomb update. Hall of Fame and Runners-up include financial institutions with headquarters in the country that have published policies banning or limiting investment in nuclear weapons producers. Hall of Shame are the financial institutions that have significant financing relationships with one or more of the nuclear weapons producers identified in the report. There is also a brief summary of the nuclear weapons related work of each of the identified producers. For more detail, see the full report or go to the website.

This briefing paper includes:


1 Hall of Shame, lists 266 organisations ………………………………………………….

Nuclear weapon producing Companies 

The financial institutions identified include banks, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies and asset managers. They have provided various types of financial services to nuclear weapon companies including loans, investment banking and asset management.

All sources of financing provided since 1 January 2013 to the companies listed were analysed from annual reports, financial databases and other sources. The financial institutions which are most significantly involved in the financing of one or more nuclear weapon companies are shown here. See the full report for both a summary and full description of all financial institutions which are found to have the most significant financing relationships with one or more of the selected nuclear weapon companies, by means of participating in bank loans, by underwriting share or bond issues and/or by share- or bondholdings (above a threshold of 0.5% of all outstanding shares or bonds).

Figures presented are rounded up/down to the nearest dollar at the filing date. Commas (,) indicate thousands separators while periods (.) used as decimal points. For more information on loans, investment banking, and asset management, please refer to the website.

Hall of Shame

This section contains the results of our research into which financial institutions are financially involved with the nuclear weapon producing companies identified in the report. For the full methodology, see the website.


Each section provides the following information for each financial institution:

  • The types of financial relations which the financial institution has with one or more nuclear weapon companies (loans, investment banking and asset management).


Financial institution.    Amount in USD millions ……… [ list covers 5 pages] …….


 1.Academy Securities (United States) Academy Securities (United States) has made an estimated US$ 30 million available to the nuclear weapons companies selected for this research project since January 2013. Academy Securities (United States) underwrote bond issuances for an estimated amount of US$ 30 million to the nuclear weapon companies since January 2013 (see table below [on original] ). ..

  1. Adage Capital Management (United States) Adage Capital Management (United States) has made an estimated US$ 482 million available to the nuclear weapons companies selected for this research project since January 2013. Adage Capital Management (United States) owns or manages shares of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 482 million (see table below). Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding shares at the most recent available filing date are included.  [table on original]
  2. Affiliated Managers Group (United States) Affiliated Managers Group (United States) has made an estimated US$ 1,426 million available to the nuclear weapons companies selected for this research project since January 2013.


  1. Affiliated Managers Group (United States) owns or manages shares of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 1,426 million (see table below). Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding shares at the most recent available filing date are included.  [table on original]


  1. AJO (United States) AJO (United States) has made an estimated US$ 351 million available to the nuclear weapons companies selected for this research project since January 2013.

AJO (United States) owns or manages shares of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 351 million (see table below). Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding shares at the most recent available filing date are included.  [table]


 6 Alyeska Investment Group (United States) Alyeska Investment Group (United States) has made an estimated US$ 143 million available to the nuclear weapons companies selected for this research project since January 2013.


Alyeska Investment Group (United States) owns or manages shares of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 143 million (see table below, on original). Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding shares at the most recent available filing date are included.


  1. Amalgamated Bank of Chicago (United States) Amalgamated Bank of Chicago (United States) has made an estimated US$ 29 million available to the nuclear weapons companies selected for this research project since January 2013. Amalgamated Bank of Chicago (United States) provided loans for an estimated amount of US$ 29 million to the nuclear weapon companies (see table below on original ). The table shows all loans closed since January 2013 or maturing after August 2016


  1. American Automobile Association (United States) American Automobile Association (United States) has made an estimated US$ 4 million available to the nuclear weapons companies selected for this research project since January 2013. American Automobile Association (United States) owns or manages bonds of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 4 million (see table below, on original). Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding bonds at the most recent available filing date are included.


  1. American Century Investments (United States) ……
  2. American Equity Investment Life Holding (United States)  …….
  3. American Family (United States) ……
  4. American Financial Group (United States)……
  5. American Financial Group (United States)………
  6. American National Insurance (United States)
  7. American United Mutual Insurance (United States)
  8. Ameriprise Financial (United States)
  9. Analytic Investors (United States)
  10. Anchor Bolt Capital (United States)
  11. Anthem (United States)
  12. Apto Partners (United States)
  13. AQR Capital Management (United States)
  14. Aristotle Capital Management (United States)
  15. Arrowstreet Capital (United States)
  16. Artisan Partners (United States)
  17. Associated Banc-Corp (United States)
  18. Assurant (United States)
  19. Auto-Owners Insurance (United States)
  20. Baird (United States)
  21. BancPlus (United States)
  22. Bank of America (United States) – funds a staggering number of weapons makers……
  23. Bank of New York Mellon (United States)
  24. Banner Bank (United States)
  25. BB&T (United States)
  26. Beck, Mack & Oliver (United States)
  27. Becker Capital Management (United States)
  28. Bessemer Group (United States)
  29. BlackRock (United States)
  30. Blaylock Beal Van (United States)
  31. Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (United States)
  32. Blue Harbour Group (United States)
  33. Boston Private (United States)
  34. Cacti Asset Management (United States)
  35. California First National Bancorp (United States)
  36. Cantor Fitzgerald (United States)
  37. Capital Group (United States)
  38. Capital One Financial (United States)
  39. Carlson Capital (United States)
  40. Carlyle Group (United States)
  41. Cascade Bancorp (United States)
  42. CastleOak Securities (United States)
  43. CAVU Securities (United States)
  44. Central Mutual Insurance (United States)
  45. Central Pacific Financial Corporation (United States)
  46. Charles Schwab (United States)
  47. Chesapeake Partners Management (United States)
  48. Cigna (United States)
  49. Citadel (United States)
  50. Citigroup (United States) – huge no of weapons makers funded
  51. Citizens Bank & Trust (United States)
  52. Citizens Financial Group (United States)
  53. City National Corporation (United States)
  54. CL King & Associates (United States)
  55. CNO Financial Group (United States
  56. Comerica (United States)
  57. Cooper Creek Partners Management (United States)
  58. Corsair Capital Management (United States)
  59. Cuna Mutual Group (United States)
  60. D.E. Shaw & Co. (United States)
  61. Dimensional Fund Advisors (United States)


and so on………… to No. 226. Zeo Capital Advisors (United States)


Nuclear weapon producing Companies This report identifies 27 companies operating in France, India, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States that are significantly involved in maintaining and modernising the nuclear arsenals of France, India, the United Kingdom and the United States. This is not an exhaustive list. These companies are providing necessary components and infrastructure to develop, test, maintain and modernise nuclear weapons. The contracts these companies have with nuclear armed countries are for materials and services to keep nuclear weapons in their arsenals. In other nuclear-armed countries –Russia, China, Pakistan and North Korea – the maintenance and modernization of nuclear forces is carried out primarily or exclusively by government agencies.  –   report goes on to list companies and their activities. …….

July 1, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The factors that bring us closer to nuclear war

What factors make nuclear war more likely? We know that the risk of nuclear war is not zero. Humans are not capable of creating foolproof systems. Nuclear weapons systems are particularly problematic since the possession of nuclear weapons carries an implicit threat of use under certain circumstances. In accord with nuclear deterrence theory, a country threatens to use nuclear weapons, believing that it will prevent the use of nuclear weapons against it.

Nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons are currently under the control of nine countries. Each has a complex system of command and control with many possibilities for error, accident or intentional use.

Error could be the result of human or technological factors, or some combination of human and technological interaction. During the more than seven decades of the Nuclear Age, there have been many accidents and close calls that could have resulted in nuclear disaster. The world narrowly escaped a nuclear war between the United States and Soviet Union during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Human factors include miscommunications, misinterpretations and psychological issues. Some leaders believe that threatening behavior makes nuclear deterrence more effective, but it could also result in a preventive first-strike launch by the side being threatened. Psychological pathologies among those in control of nuclear weapons could also play a role. Hubris, or extreme arrogance, is another factor of concern.

Technological factors include computer errors that wrongfully show a country is under nuclear attack. Such false warnings have occurred on numerous occasions but, fortunately, human interactions (often against policy and/or orders) have so far kept a false warning from resulting in a mistaken “retaliatory” attack. In times of severe tensions, a technological error could compound the risks, and human actors might decide to initiate a first strike.

There are many other factors that affect the risk of nuclear war. These include an increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons and a greater number of nuclear weapons in each country’s nuclear arsenal. Both of these factors increase complexity and make the risk greater. Additionally, the higher the alert status of a country’s nuclear arsenal, the shorter the decision time to launch and the greater the risk of nuclear war. The risks are compounded when tension levels increase between nuclear-armed countries, increasing the likelihood of false assumptions and precipitous action.

Nuclear policies of the nuclear-armed countries can also raise the risk level of nuclear war. Policies of first use of nuclear weapons may make an opponent more likely to initiate a first strike and thus make a nuclear war more likely. First use is generally a default policy, if a country does not specifically pledge a policy of no first use, as have China and India. Policies of launch-on-warning cut into decision time for leaders to decide whether or not to launch a “retaliatory” strike to what may be a false warning The deployment of land-based missiles also raises the risk level due to the “use them or lose them” nature of these stationary targets.

In addition to identifiable risks of nuclear war, there are also unknown risks — those that cannot be identified in advance. Unknown risks include little-understood possibilities for cyber-attacks on nuclear weapons systems, attacks that could potentially either activate or deactivate nuclear-armed missile launches.

Given the catastrophic consequences of nuclear war, including destruction of civilization and human extinction, identifying and eliminating the factors making nuclear war likely or even possible is imperative. There are simply too many possibilities for failure in such a complex system of interactions.

This leads to the conclusion that the risks are untenable, and all nations should move rapidly to negotiate the elimination of all nuclear arms. While doing so, nations would be well served to adopt and declare policies of no first use and no launch-on-warning, and to eliminate vulnerable land-based missiles from their arsenals.

David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He is the author of Zero: The Case for Nuclear Weapons Abolition.

July 1, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Problems at Los Alamos National Plutonium Facility-4 (PF-4) – dangerous plutonium pits

Safety problems at a Los Alamos laboratory delay U.S. nuclear warhead testing and production A facility that handles the cores of U.S. nuclear weapons has been mostly closed since 2013 over its inability to control worker safety risks, Science,  By The Center for Public IntegrityR. Jeffrey SmithPatrick Malon Jun. 30, 2017 “……..A unique task, unfulfilled for the past four years

Before the work was halted in 2013, those overseeing the U.S. nuclear arsenal typically pulled six or seven warheads from bombers or missiles every year for dismantlement and invasive diagnostic testing. One reason is that the unstable metals that act as spark plugs for the bombs — plutonium and highly-enriched uranium — bathe themselves and nearby electrical components in radiation, with sometimes unpredictable consequences; another is that all the bombs’ metallic components are subject to normal, sometimes fitful corrosion.

Plutonium also slowly decays, with some of its isotopes becoming uranium. And the special high explosives fabricated by nuclear scientists to compress the plutonium cores in a deliberate detonation also have an unstable molecular structure.

Invasive testing provides details vital to the computer modeling and scientifically simulated plutonium behavior that has replaced nuclear testing, said DOE consultant David Overskei. He compared the pit — so named because it is spherical and positioned near the center of a warhead — to the heart of a human being, explaining that destructive testing is like taking a blood sample capable of exposing harmful maladies.

The aim, as Vice President Joe Biden said in a 2010 National Defense University speech, has been to “anticipate potential problems and reduce their impact on our arsenal.” Weapons designers say it’s what anyone would do if they were storing a car for years while still expecting the engine to start and the vehicle to speed down the road at the sudden turn of a key.

Typically, warheads selected for testing are first sent to the Energy Department’s Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas. Technicians there gently separate their components — such as the detonators — at that site; they also send the pits — used in a primary nuclear explosion — to Los Alamos, and the highly-enriched uranium — used in a secondary explosion — to Oak Ridge, Tenn. The arming, fusing, and firing mechanisms are tested by Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque and other locations.

At Los Alamos, the pits are brought to Plutonium Facility-4 (PF-4), a boxy, two-story, concrete building with a footprint the size of two city blocks.  Inside are hundreds of special “glove boxes” for working with plutonium, a series of individual laboratories, and a special vault, in which containers hold plutonium on racks meant to ensure that escaping neutrons don’t collide too often with other atoms, provoking them to fission uncontrollably. Only a small portion of the building is normally used for pit surveillance, while about a fifth is used for pit fabrication, and another seven percent for analytical chemistry and pit certification. Budget documents indicate that annual federal spending for the work centered there is nearly $200 million.

“The Los Alamos Plutonium Facility is a unique and essential national security capability,” McMillan, the lab’s director, said last September during a visit by then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who watched as technicians — attempting to restart their work after the lengthy hiatus — used pressing machines and other equipment to fabricate a mock pit, rather than a usable one.

The building lies in the middle of a 40-acre campus in the mountains above Santa Fe hastily built during World War II to coordinate the construction of the two nuclear bombs used in Japan. Los Alamos is still considered the foremost U.S. nuclear weapons facility — where six of the nine warheads currently in the U.S. arsenal were designed, and where plutonium-based power supplies for most of the nation’s deep-space probes are fabricated. Hundreds of nuclear physicists work there.

Unfortunately, it also has an active seismic zone beneath the PF-4 building, producing persistent worries among the staff and members of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a congressionally-chartered oversight group, that if it experienced a rare, large earthquake, the roof could collapse and toss chunks of plutonium so closely together a chain reaction would ensue, spewing radioactive, cancer-causing plutonium particles throughout nearby residential communities.

Millions of dollars have already been spent to diminish this risk, which until recently exceeded federal guidelines, and the Trump administration last month proposed spending $14 million in 2018 alone to strengthen the building’s firewalls and sprinkler systems. The government has also sunk more than $450 million into preparations for construction of a modern and more seismically durable pit production facility at Los Alamos, projected to have a total price tag between $1.5 billion and $3 billion.

Making new pits involves melting, casting, and machining the plutonium, while assessing how well or poorly the pits are aging requires using various instruments to withdraw small pieces for detailed chemical and material analysis. These operations are typically done in the glove boxes, by specialists whose hands are inserted into gloves attached to the side of sealed containers meant to keep the plutonium particles from escaping. But the work is messy, requiring constant vigilance to be certain that too much of the metal doesn’t pile up in a compact space. The byproducts include “chunks, shards, and grains of plutonium metal,” all of it radioactive and unstable, according to a 2015 Congressional Research Service report.

Notably, a 2013 Los Alamos study depicted leaks of glove boxes at PF-4 as frequent — averaging nearly three a month — and said they were often caused by avoidable errors such as inattention, improper maintenance, collisions with rolling storage carts, complacency and degradation from the heat that plutonium constantly emits. It said that sometimes those operating or supervising the equipment “accepted risk” or took a chance, rushed to meet a deadline, or otherwise succumbed to workplace production pressures.

“Operations always wants it yesterday,” the lab’s current criticality safety chief and the lone NNSA expert assigned to that issue in the agency’s Los Alamos oversight office warned in a private briefing for their colleagues at Sandia labs last month. Managers “must shield analysts from demands” from production personnel, they said.

Besides posing a serious health risk to those in PF-4, glove box releases of radioactive material each cost the government $23,000 to clean up, on average, the Los Alamos study said.

An acute shortage of criticality experts

Calculating exactly “how much material can come together before there’s an explosion” — as the Nobel laureate physicist Richard Feynman once put it — is a complex task. While visiting the production site for highly-enriched uranium in

Oak Ridge, Tenn., during the 1940’s, for example, Feynman was surprised to see stocks of that fissionable material deliberately stored in separate rooms, but on an adjoining wall that posed no barrier to collisions involving atoms of uranium and escaping neutrons on both sides. “It was very dangerous and they had not paid any attention to the safety at all,” Feynman wrote years later.

Plutonium work is so fraught with risk that the total mass of that metal allowed to be present in PF-4 is strictly limited. A decade ago, the limit was increased without an appropriate understanding of the risks, according to an NNSA technical bulletin in February. But with pieces of it strewn and stored throughout the normally busy building, partly because the vault is typically full, its managers have labored for years to systematically track down and remove excess stocks. They had some success last year, when they got rid of nearly a quarter of the plutonium on the building’s “main floor,” according to recent budget documents.

Criticality specialists are employed not only to help set these overall mass limits but to guide technicians so they don’t inadvertently trigger chain reactions in their daily work; those specialists are also supposed to be the first-responders when too much dangerous material is found in one place.

“The weird thing about criticality safety is that it’s not intuitive,” Don Nichols, a former chief for defense nuclear safety at the NNSA, said in an interview. He cited an instance in which someone operating a stirring machine noticed that fissionable liquids were forming a “critical” mass, so the operator shut the stirrer off, not immediately realizing that doing so made the problem worse. In other instances, analysts had judged a plutonium operation was safe, but then more workers — whose bodies reflect and slow neutrons — wound up being present nearby, creating unanticipated risks.

Those doing the weapons disassemblies and invasive pit studies are typically under “a big level pressure” to complete a certain number every year, Nichols added. They are expected to do “so many of these in this amount of time,” to allow the labs to certify to the president that the stockpile is viable. Meanwhile, the calculations involved in avoiding criticality — which depend on the shape, size, form, quantity, and geometric configuration of material being used in more than a dozen different industrial operations — are so complex that it takes a year and a half of training for an engineer to become qualified and as many as five years to become proficient, experts say.

“It’s difficult to find people who want to do this job,” particularly at the remote Los Alamos site, said McConnell, the NNSA safety chief. With plutonium use mostly confined to creating the world’s most powerful explosives, “there are…very few public-sector opportunities for people to develop these skills,” he added. As a result, he said, many NNSA sites lack the desired number of experts, which slows down production.

At the time of the 2013 shutdown, after numerous internal warnings about the consequences of its mismanagement, Los Alamos had only “a single junior qualified criticality safety engineer” still in place, according to the February NNSA technical bulletin. Nichols, who was then the NNSA’s associate administrator for safety and health, said McMillan didn’t “realize how serious it was until we took notice and helped him take notice.”

Without having adequate staff on hand to guide their operations safely, technicians at PF-4 were unable to carry out a scheduled destructive surveillance in 2014 of a refurbished plutonium pit meant for a warhead to be fit atop American submarine-launched ballistic missiles. It’s been modernized at a cost of $946 million since 2014, with total expenses predicted to exceed $3.7 billion. Generally, up to 10 of the first pits produced for a new warhead type are set aside for surveillance to assure they’re safely constructed and potent before they’re deployed. But the planned disassembly was cancelled and the NNSA hasn’t scheduled another yet, because of the shutdown.

The lab also hasn’t been able to complete planned invasive studies of the aging of plutonium used in a warhead for an aircraft-delivered nuclear bomb, now being modernized at an estimated cost of $7.4 billion to $10 billion.

Former deputy NNSA director Madelyn Creedon told an industry conference in March that if new funds are given to the agency in President Trump’s new budget, she knows where she’d advise it be spent. “One of the things that doesn’t take a huge amount of money but it’s one that has been cut back over the last couple of years, is surveillance — enhanced surveillance” of existing warheads, Creedon said……..

July 1, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, employment, Reference | Leave a comment

Tunnel at Hanford radioactive waste site at risk of collapsing again

High risk for 2nd tunnel collapse at nuclear waste site By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS, ASSOCIATED PRESS SPOKANE, Wash. — Jun 30, 2017The U.S. Department of Energy says there is a high risk that a second tunnel filled with radioactive waste might collapse at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state.

A tunnel partially collapsed on May 9, forcing some 3,000 workers to seek shelter for a few hours.

There were no injuries.

The Energy Department said Friday it had completed an evaluation of a second tunnel on the former nuclear weapons production site and determined there is a high potential for that 53-year-old tunnel to collapse. The agency says it has an Aug. 1 deadline to develop plans to prevent that.

Hanford is located in south-central Washington state and for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons. The site is now engaged in cleaning up a massive inventory of nuclear waste.

July 1, 2017 Posted by | safety | Leave a comment