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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

South Korea rejects idea of redeploying US nuclear weapons on peninsula

S. Korea rejects idea of redeploying US nuclear weapons on peninsula, https://www.stripes.com/news/s-korea-rejects-idea-of-redeploying-us-nuclear-weapons-on-peninsula-1.487109#.Wbh2a_MjHGh 12 Sept 17 SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea said Monday that it’s not reviewing its policy on the redeployment of U.S. nuclear weapons after Sen. John McCain said the idea should be “seriously considered” as a way to counter the growing threat from the North.

McCain’s comments were made Sunday on CNN as he called for the United States to increase its presence in the region and warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that his country could face “extinction” if it “acts in an aggressive fashion.”

North Korea, in turn, vowed the U.S. will pay a harsh price if harsher sanctions are approved by the U.N. Security Council on Monday as Washington and its allies pressed for an oil embargo following the communist state’s sixth nuclear test.

McCain said the U.S. needs to increase its missile defense and other capabilities in South Korea and do more to pressure China to help. He also raised the once-unthinkable idea of redeploying U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea.

 “The Korean defense minister just a few days ago called for nuclear weapons to be redeployed,” the Arizona Republican said on the “State of the Union” program. “It ought to be seriously considered.”

He was referring to remarks by Defense Minister Song Young-moo during an appearance at the National Assembly last week.

The U.S. brought the weapons to the South in the years following the 1950-53 Korean War but withdrew them in 1991 after the two Koreas agreed to denuclearize the peninsula.

President Moon Jae-in’s office has consistently rejected the idea of redeploying the warheads in response to mounting opposition calls to do so.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha reiterated that the issue was not on the table at the moment, although she acknowledged “that the public opinion is swinging in that direction.”

“We are currently not reviewing the issue of tactical nuclear weapons,” she said Monday during a press conference at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents’ Club. “Our policy remains a complete commitment to denuclearization.”

Kang, who was addressing reporters before traveling with Moon to New York for the U.N. General Assembly later this month, said any U.S. decision on the issue must be made in close coordination with Seoul.

She also insisted that North Korea’s “provocations” must be met with increased pressure to force them to engage in talks.

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September 13, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The world’s nuclear weapons today

Worldwide deployments of nuclear weapons, 2017, Bulletin of the Atomic ScientistsHans M. Kristensen &Robert S. Norris, Pages 289-297, 31 Aug 2017

The authors estimate that as of mid-2017, there are nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, located at some 107 sites in 14 countries. Roughly, 9400 of these weapons are in military arsenals; the remaining weapons are retired and awaiting dismantlement. Nearly 4000 are operationally available, and some 1800 are on high alert and ready for use on short notice. This article reviews the locations of nuclear weapons in all nine nuclear-armed states, as well as those of US weapons deployed outside the United States.

Russia

We estimate that Russia stores nuclear weapons at 48 locations, by far the largest number of any nuclear-armed state. This is a significant reduction from the 100 sites it was using in the late 1990s, 250 in the mid-1990s, and 500 in 1991………

United States

The United States today stores nuclear weapons at 18 sites, including 12 sites in 11 US states and another six sites in five European countries……

Britain and France

London and Paris have reduced the size of their arsenals and limited where their weapons are deployed. Britain only has one type of nuclear weapon, the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). The missiles and associated warheads are located at two facilities in Scotland, although warheads are also serviced at two factories southwest of London.1010. For an overview of British nuclear forces, see Kristensen and Norris (2011Kristensen, H. M., and R. S.Norris2011. “British Nuclear Forces, 2011.” Bulletin of the Atomic ScientistsSeptember.http://bos.sagepub.com/content/67/5/89.full.pdf+html [Google Scholar]).View all notes

France has retained two types of nuclear weapons: SLBMs at a submarine base in Bretagne and air-to-surface missiles for land- and carrier-based aircraft. France also has a warhead production and maintenance complex at Valduc. We estimate that the French warheads are spread over seven locations.

China

Researching Chinese nuclear weapons storage is difficult given the almost complete official secrecy that surrounds China’s nuclear forces.1212. For an overview of Chinese nuclear forces, see Kristensen and Norris (2016bKristensen, H. M., and R. S.Norris2016b. “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2016.” Bulletin of the Atomic ScientistsJuly. doi:10.1080/00963402.2016.1194054?needAccess=true.[Crossref][PubMed][Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]).View all notesMoreover, as is the case with other nuclear-armed states, Western governments say very little about what they know……..

We cautiously estimate that China may have nuclear warheads at 12 facilities. Nearly all of China’s 270 nuclear warheads are concentrated in the central nuclear weapons storage site, known as 22 Base and located in the western part of Shaanxi province in central China.

Pakistan

Islamabad is quantitatively and qualitatively increasing its arsenal and deploying weapons at more sites, yet the locations are difficult to pinpoint. …..Pakistan has a rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal of 130–140 warheads and an increasing portfolio of delivery systems……..

India

As with Pakistan, we have found little reliable information that indicates where India’s 120–130 nuclear warheads are stored.1515. For an overview of India’s nuclear arsenal, see Kristensen and Norris (2017bKristensen, H. M., and R. S.Norris2017b. “Indian Nuclear Forces, 2017.” Bulletin of the Atomic ScientistsJuly. doi:10.1080/00963402.2017.1337998?needAccess=true.[Crossref][Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]).View all notes Based on available unclassified sources and satellite imagery, we cautiously estimate that India stores nuclear weapons at at least five locations…….

Israel

Israel is a wild card because of the opacity of its nuclear weapons program. Like other nuclear-armed states, however, Israel has been modernizing its arsenal and probably also its storage facilities. …….http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00963402.2017.1363995

September 13, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Renewable energy has priced out Hinkley nuclear power for Britain

Hinkley nuclear power is being priced out by renewables https://www.theguardian.com/environment/nils-pratley-on-finance/2017/sep/11/hinkley-nuclear-power-no-match-for-renewables, Nils Pratley
The UK should concentrate on wind- and gas-fired stations, and involve nuclear only if it can vaguely compete on price  Reuters  12 September 2017  

Hinkley Point C nuclear power station was conceived in the days when offshore wind cost £150 per megawatt hour and a few misguided souls, some of them government ministers, thought a barrel of oil was heading towards $200.

Successive governments swallowed the line that Hinkley represented a plausible answer to the UK’s threefold energy conundrum – keeping the lights on, reducing carbon emissions and producing the juice at affordable prices for consumers and business.

Hinkley still scores on reliability and low carbon (if one ignores the effect of spoiling the Somerset countryside with so much concrete), but the extent to which its costs are obscene is now plainer than ever. In Monday’s capacity auction, two big offshore wind farms came in at £57.50 per megawatt hour and a third at £74.75. These “strike prices” – a guaranteed price for the electricity generated – are expressed in 2012 figures, as is Hinkley’s £92.50 so the comparison is fair.

The dramatic improvement in offshore wind’s competitiveness is easy to explain because it was predicted. The turbines have become bigger and more efficient, installation costs have fallen and operators are able to use existing infrastructure. Even the post-Brexit fall in sterling has not altered the script because more of the equipment is produced in the UK these days.

By contrast, nuclear – a technology that has been around for half a century – seems to only become more expensive in a world of tighter safety regulation. Hinkley Point’s construction tripled between conception and contract, remember.

As for the argument that we must pay up for reliable baseload supplies, there ought to be limits to how far it can be pushed. A nuclear premium of some level might be justified, but Hinkley lives in a financial world of its own, even before battery technology (possibly) shifts the economics further in favour of renewables. A credible energy strategy would concentrate on wind- and gas-fired stations, and invite nuclear to the game only if it can vaguely compete on price.

The government should draw the obvious conclusion from Monday’s successful auction. One Hinkley is bad enough; a series of follow-on white elephants would be a disgrace.

September 13, 2017 Posted by | renewable, UK | Leave a comment

Kazakhstan’s international low-enriched uranium bank will NOT make the world a safer place

Banking on Uranium Makes the World Less Safe https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/08/banking-on-uranium-makes-the-world-less-safe/  There is a curious fallacy that continues to persist among arms control groups rightly concerned with reducing the threat of the use of nuclear weapons. It is that encouraging the use of nuclear energy will achieve this goal.

This illogical notion is enshrined in Article IV of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which rewards signatories who do not yet have nuclear weapons with the “inalienable right” to “develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

Now comes the international low-enriched uranium bank, which opened on August 29 in Kazakhstan, to expedite this right. It further reinforces the Article IV doctrine— that the spread of nuclear power will diminish the capability and the desire to manufacture nuclear weapons.

The uranium bank will purchase and store low-enriched uranium, fuel for civilian reactors, ostensibly guaranteeing a ready supply in case of market disruptions. But it is also positioned as a response to the Iran conundrum, a country whose uranium enrichment program cast suspicion over whether its real agenda was to continue enriching its uranium supply to weapons-grade level.

The bank will be run by the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose remit is “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy.” Evidently the IAEA has been quite successful in this promotional endeavor since the agency boasts that “dozens of countries today are interested in pursuing nuclear energy.”

A caveat here, borne out by the evidence of nuclear energy’s declining global share of the electricity market, is that far more countries are “interested” than are actually pursuing nuclear energy. The IAEA numbers are more aspiration than reality.

Superficially at least, the bank idea sounds sensible enough. There will be no need to worry that countries considering a nuclear power program might secretly shift to nuclear weapons production. In addition to a proliferation barrier, the bank will serve as a huge cost savings, sparing countries the expense of investing in their own uranium enrichment facilities.

The problem with this premise is that, rather than make the planet safer, it actually adds to the risks we already face. News reports pointed to the bank’s advantages for developing countries. But developing nations would be much better off implementing cheaper, safer renewable energy, far more suited to countries that lack major infrastructure and widespread electrical grid penetration.

Instead, the IAEA will use its uranium bank to provide a financial incentive to poorer countries in good standing with the agency to choose nuclear energy over renewables. For developing countries already struggling with poverty and the effects of climate change, this creates the added risk of a catastrophic nuclear accident, the financial burden of building nuclear power plants in the first place, and of course an unsolved radioactive waste problem.

No country needs nuclear energy. Renewable energy is soaring worldwide, is far cheaper than nuclear, and obviously a whole lot safer. No country has to worry about another’s potential misuse of the sun or wind as a deadly weapon. There is no solar non-proliferation treaty. We should be talking countries out of developing dangerous and expensive nuclear energy, not paving the way for them.

There is zero logic for a country like Saudi Arabia, also mentioned during the uranium bank’s unveiling, to choose nuclear over solar or wind energy. As Senator Markey (D-MA) once unforgettably pointed out: “Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Arabia of solar.” But the uranium bank could be just the carrot that sunny country needs to abandon renewables in favor of uranium.

This is precisely the problem with the NPT Article IV. Why “reward” non-nuclear weapons countries with dangerous nuclear energy? If they really need electricity, and the UN wants to be helpful, why not support a major investment in renewables? It all goes back to the Bomb, of course, and the Gordian knot of nuclear power and nuclear weapons that the uranium bank just pulled even tighter.

Will the uranium bank be too big to fail? Or will it even be big at all? With nuclear energy in steep decline worldwide, unable to compete with renewables and natural gas; and with major nuclear corporations, including Areva and Westinghouse, going bankrupt, will there even be enough customers?

Clothed in wooly non-proliferation rhetoric, the uranium bank is nothing more than a lupine marketing enterprise to support a struggling nuclear industry desperate to remain relevant as more and more plants close and new construction plans are canceled. The IAEA and its uranium bank just made its prospects a whole lot brighter and a safer future for our planet a whole lot dimmer.

September 13, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Kazakhstan, politics international, Reference | Leave a comment