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A new arms race underway, as USA, then Russia, modernise their nuclear weapons

Special Report: In modernizing nuclear arsenal, U.S. stokes new arms raceScot Paltrow  WASHINGTON (Reuters), 21 Nov 17  – President Barack Obama rode into office in 2009 with promises to work toward a nuclear-free world. His vow helped win him the Nobel Peace Prize that year.

The next year, while warning that Washington would retain the ability to retaliate against a nuclear strike, he promised that America would develop no new types of atomic weapons. Within 16 months of his inauguration, the United States and Russia negotiated the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as New START, meant to build trust and cut the risk of nuclear war. It limited each side to what the treaty counts as 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads.

By the time Obama left office in January 2017, the risk of Armageddon hadn’t receded. Instead, Washington was well along in a modernization program that is making nearly all of its nuclear weapons more accurate and deadly.

And Russia was doing the same: Its weapons badly degraded from neglect after the Cold War, Moscow had begun its own modernization years earlier under President Vladimir Putin. It built new, more powerful ICBMs, and developed a series of tactical nuclear weapons.

The United States under Obama transformed its main hydrogen bomb into a guided smart weapon, made its submarine-launched nuclear missiles five times more accurate, and gave its land-based long-range missiles so many added features that the Air Force in 2012 described them as “basically new.” To deliver these more lethal weapons, military contractors are building fleets of new heavy bombers and submarines.

President Donald Trump has worked hard to undo much of Obama’s legacy, but he has embraced the modernization program enthusiastically. Trump has ordered the Defense Department to complete a review of the U.S. nuclear arsenal by the end of this year.

Reuters reported in February that in a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump denounced the New START treaty and rejected Putin’s suggestion that talks begin about extending it once it expires in 2021.

Some former senior U.S. government officials, legislators and arms-control specialists – many of whom once backed a strong nuclear arsenal — are now warning that the modernization push poses grave dangers.

“REALLY DANGEROUS THINKING”

They argue that the upgrades contradict the rationales for New START – to ratchet down the level of mistrust and reduce risk of intentional or accidental nuclear war. The latest improvements, they say, make the U.S. and Russian arsenals both more destructive and more tempting to deploy. The United States, for instance, has a “dial down” bomb that can be adjusted to act like a tactical weapon, and others are planned.

“The idea that we could somehow fine tune a nuclear conflict is really dangerous thinking,” says Kingston Reif, director of disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based think tank.

One leader of this group, William Perry, who served as defense secretary under President Bill Clinton, said recently in a Q&A on YouTube that “the danger of a nuclear catastrophe today is greater than it was during the Cold War.”

Perry told Reuters that both the United States and Russia have upgraded their arsenals in ways that make the use of nuclear weapons likelier. The U.S. upgrade, he said, has occurred almost exclusively behind closed doors. “It is happening without any basic public discussion,” he said. “We’re just doing it.”

………. A BUDGET BUSTER?

The U.S. modernization effort is not coming cheap. This year the Congressional Budget Office estimated the program will cost at least $1.25 trillion over 30 years. The amount could grow significantly, as the Pentagon has a history of major cost overruns on large acquisition projects.

As defense secretary under Obama, Leon Panetta backed modernization. Now he questions the price tag.

“We are in a new chapter of the Cold War with Putin,” he told Reuters in an interview, blaming the struggle’s resumption on the Russian president. Panetta says he doubts the United States will be able to fund the modernization program. “We have defense, entitlements and taxes to deal with at the same time there are record deficits,” he said.

New START is leading to significant reductions in the two rival arsenals, a process that began with the disintegration of the USSR. But reduced numbers do not necessarily mean reduced danger……….. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-nuclear-modernize-specialreport/special-report-in-modernizing-nuclear-arsenal-u-s-stokes-new-arms-race-idUSKBN1DL1AH

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November 22, 2017 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Not in the Name of Climate, Not in Our Name! India’s Poor Resist Nuclear Power.

Published on 21 Nov 2017

Kumar Sunderam of DiaNuke.org, India, launches his book, “Not in the Name of Climate, Not in Our Name! India’s Poor Resist Nuclear Power,” and leads the following discussion: India is one of the very few countries that are expanding atomic power in the post-Fukushima world, providing a lucrative market for the global nuclear lobbies.

In doing so, the government is overlooking safety and environmental norms and also brutally repressing grassroots protests. All this is being justified in the name of providing electricity to the poor and responding to climate change. What is the truth?

November 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

What will it take for the U.S. to go to the negotiating table with North Korea amid continuing nuclear threats?

Perhaps a normalised Korean peninsula which would benefit China’s economic plans, are what the U.S. and its allies fear most, and so they are starting fires to revivify a military containment policy.

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Originally published: ‘ADAM BROINOWSKI. Picking up the pieces amid the U.S.–North Korea nuclear stand-off’, https://johnmenadue.com/adam-broinowski-picking-up-the-pieces-amid-the-u-s-north-korea-nuclear-stand-off/

North Korea is often righteously condemned for being the only nation to have conducted five nuclear tests and a barrage of missile tests in the 21st century. Led by a young chubby dictator with a bad haircut, we have long been told that the paranoid hermit kingdom known for its undeniably bombastic, intensely patriotic and anachronistic rhetoric is evil, unhinged and dangerous.

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November 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

US conversion plant suspends UF6 production

“If either one of those [conversion] facilities were to go down, even though the conversion markets are on aggregate oversupplied, it would have a tremendous impact,”

Honeywell is temporarily to suspend uranium hexafluoride (UF6) production at its Metropolis, Illinois plant pending an improvement in business conditions, the company announced yesterday. The USA’s only uranium conversion plant has been in a scheduled outage since October.

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/UF-US-conversion-plant-suspends-UF6-production-2111177.html

The company said its decision to suspend production was a result of “significant challenges” faced by the nuclear industry, including a situation with a current worldwide oversupply of UF6. In particular, it said, the decrease in demand from Japan and Germany following the Fukushima accident of 2011 has had a significant impact, and continues to create an oversupplied market for the uranium fuel cycle and a downward trend in uranium markets.

The company cited analysis from Energy Resources International, which found that, since Fukushima, global demand for nuclear fuel has dropped 15%. It is not anticipated to rise before 2020.

“As a result of this business outlook, Honeywell plans to temporarily idle production of UF6 at its Metropolis site, while maintaining minimal operations to support a future restart as business conditions improve,” a company spokesman said. “Honeywell intends to restart once business conditions improve and will keep the plant in a state of readiness and continue to support minimal on-site operations to ensure a successful restart. In the interim, the company has made alternative plans to meet all customer contractual commitments.”

The plant has been in a routine annual outage since October. “This action means we will not restart production as originally scheduled,” Honeywell told World Nuclear News.

The maximum output of the Metropolis plant had already been reduced to align with demand.

Uranium must be converted from uranium oxide – the “yellowcake” that is shipped from uranium mines and mills – to gaseous UF6 before it can be enriched in fissile uranium-235 for use in nuclear fuel. In addition to Metropolis, commercial conversion plants are also in operation in Canada, China, France and Russia. According to the latest edition of World Nuclear Association’s biennial report on the nuclear fuel market, The Nuclear Fuel Report: Global Scenarios for Demand and Supply Availability 2017-2035, published in September, conversion and enrichment capacity should be sufficient to meet demand under Reference scenario assumptions until 2030.

Speaking at the Association’s annual symposium in September, Tenam Corporation President Fletcher Newton, who chaired the working group responsible for drafting the report, said the segmented nature of the markets, with production centred on a limited number of plants, presented a challenge.

“If either one of those [conversion] facilities were to go down, even though the conversion markets are on aggregate oversupplied, it would have a tremendous impact,” he said at that time.

Metropolis was built in the 1950s to meet military conversion requirements, and began providing UF6 for civilian use in the late 1960s. The plant’s output is exclusively marketed by ConverDyn.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

November 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Energy efficiency key to transforming global energy system: expert

Manfred Fischedick highlights the importance of energy efficiency in transformation of global energy system in a speech in Taipei on Tuesday; photo courtesy of CNA

Taipei, Nov. 21 (CNA) A visiting German energy expert on Tuesday stressed the importance of energy efficiency in the transformation of energy systems, adding that about two-thirds of primary energy is wasted globally.

Energy efficiency plays a very important role in energy transition strategy, Manfred Fischedick, vice president and director of Future Energy and Mobility Structures at German’s Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, Energy told a forum hosed by the Chinese-language Economic Daily News.

The potential of energy efficiency is largely ignored as the global primary energy system works “a little bit like a bathtub with a leak,” Fischedick said.

“We put a lot of energy into the bathtub and at the end there are a lot of losses. We can use one third of the energy but two-thirds is lost,” he added.

In a keynote speech entitled “Current status and challenges of global energy development,” Fischedick said that moving towards sustainable energy is “a complex but promising task” and he proposed two major solutions — renewable energies and energy efficiency.

Faced with growing energy demand and dependency on the use of fossil fuels that contribute to climate change, many counties have begun the energy transition process.

Germany and Taiwan have a responsibility to start the energy transition process as they have comparably high per capita energy consumption, Fischedick said.

In that context, Fischedick said he found Taiwan’s plan for a future energy industry “very impressive,” referring to the government’s proposal to eliminate nuclear power generation by 2025 and switch to 50 percent natural gas, 30 percent coal and 20 percent renewable energy resources.

Interviewed by CNA after his speech, Fischedick said he was impressed with the plan because Taiwan knows where its business opportunities are and how to use technology and market deployment strategies to transform its energy system in line with the targets it has set to phase out nuclear power in a very short time period.

Germany also decided to shut down its nuclear power plants by 2022 in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan in 2011.

Fischedick pointed out in his speech that there are many similarities between Germany and Taiwan. Both are highly dependent on imported energy and look for more green industry while ensuring that renewable projects do not harm ecosystems and create business opportunities, he said.

On renewable energies, Fischedick said that there is not much difference between what Germany and Taiwan have been doing.

Asked by CNA how Taiwan can learn from Germany’s experience, Fischedick said that one area of difference is that Germany highlights not only renewable energy but also “energy efficiency.”

“Because we do have so many efficient technologies available that can help reduce energy consumption and save money at the same time,” he said.

When presenting Germany’s case in energy transition to the audience, Fischedick said it’s very important to note that Germany was able to “decouple economic growth and primary energy consumption.”

“In the last couple of decades, we have seen slightly decreasing primary energy demand over time starting in 1990, while at the same time the economy grew substantially. Decoupling energy consumption and economic growth was a very important development in the last decade in Germany,” he said.

Looking to the future, he said the major challenges regarding the implementation of a complex transition strategy are the technological and societal aspects of the process.

On societal challenges, Fischedick said that public perception and societal acceptance of renewable energies are very important because energy transformation can take as long as 30 years.

Fischedick suggested that public participation can be fostered by inviting people to invest money in renewable energy or creating associations so more people can take part in changing the energy system.

More discussions can also be held to increase the number of people taking part in the debate on how to shape sustainable energy in the future, Fischedick said.

http://www.ocac.gov.tw/OCAC/Eng/Pages/Detail.aspx?nodeid=329&pid=573495

November 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Breaking – U.K. nuclear safety regulations place too low a value on human life

A new report from Prof, Philip Thomas claiming that residents should have not been moved from contaminated areas of Fukushima. The study has some problems and is relevant to this article..  https://phys.org/news/2017-11-homes-abandoned-big-nuclear-accident.html#jCp

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“It is difficult to see how any safety case presented from now on that relies in any way upon the UKVPF, whether on the roads, the railways or in the nuclear industry, such as the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, could stand up to test in court.  More modern and accurate methods exist, but the regulators are not using them.”

Published 13 February 2017

UK Nuclear power plants 20 April 2015.JPG

New research has shown that the benchmark used by the U.K. Office for Nuclear Regulation for judging how much should be spent on nuclear safety has no basis in evidence and places insufficient value on human life. The review suggests it may need to be ten times higher — between £16 million and £22 million per life saved.

New research has shown that the benchmark used by the U.K. Office for Nuclear Regulation for judging how much should be spent on…

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November 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Resistance to Resilience: ISO/RTO Response to DOE’s NOPR

…Fukushima illustrates the folly of nuclear resiliency in the face of earthquakes and tsunamis. Cyberattacks are similarly agnostic as to fuel type, having targeted both coal and nuclear power plants in the U.S. as well as abroad. Therefore, the premise that baseload units with on-site fuel supply contributes to resiliency is fundamentally flawed….  …   … Stripping away the ill-defined concept of resiliency, it is clear that the DOE NOPR simply represents a desire to provide out-of-market support to uneconomic coal and nuclear plants. The ISOs/RTOs have responded accordingly, laying out the arguments required to protect the competitive electricity markets they operate and set the stage for future legal action to protect state rights. It will be a short wait to see whether they make any progress in this first round….

11/21/2017
http://www.elp.com/Electric-Light-Power-Newsletter/articles/2017/11/resistance-to-resilience-iso-rto-response-to-doe-s-nopr.html

Department of Energy, 18CFR Part 35, Docket No. RM17-3-000

At the end of September, the Department of Energy issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) that would direct the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to incorporate the value of resiliency into wholesale electricity prices under its authority to ensure “just and reasonable rates.”  Comments were submitted within four weeks and FERC is expected to act on the proposal by December 11.  While coal and nuclear plant owners generally are supportive, submissions by independent system operators (ISOs) and regional transmission operators (RTOs) reflect a consensus that the proposal should be rejected. Their reasoning is summarized below.

Variance in Resilience

The ISOs/RTOs unanimously agree that there is no single definition of resilience that can be applied to all regions.  Nearly all criticized DOE’s attempt at a definition—that is, “the ability to reduce the magnitude or duration of a disruptive event”—as being amorphous, vague and unworkable.  This lack of a fundamental definitional starting point creates a quandary for FERC which will either have to: (1) refine the definition to include a level of detail that can be enforced; or (2) assign the task of definition, measurement and timing to market participants.

If FERC attempts to create a single definition, it will find that the “one-size fits all” approach is untenable given regional differences.  As highlighted in the comments, distinctions extend beyond an evolving generation mix that varies by market to variation in the types of “disruptive event” that can occur; California has fires while New England has ice. Many of the ISOs/RTOs posit that they should decide which resources are necessary and incentivize for reliability and resiliency given the characteristics of their region.

Insignificance of Resilience

Every ISO/RTO claimed that increased planning efforts and investments in transmission and distributed resources are more beneficial to ensuring grid resilience compared to fuel assurance.  For example, the polar vortex in New England and PJM resulted in frozen coal piles, making the resiliency value of a 90-day fuel supply worthless.  Similarly, California’s forest fires and Texas hurricane flooding disable generating units in their path regardless of the fuel type. Fukushima illustrates the folly of nuclear resiliency in the face of earthquakes and tsunamis. Cyberattacks are similarly agnostic as to fuel type, having targeted both coal and nuclear power plants in the U.S. as well as abroad. Therefore, the premise that baseload units with on-site fuel supply contributes to resiliency is fundamentally flawed.

Resiliency Redundancy

Many noted that current market designs already value resources for their reliability and resiliency attributes, augmenting revenues through transmission planning, performance pay programs, long-term capacity markets, and reliability evaluations. Baseload generators already are compensated for their reliability and availability under FERC-approved market rules. Furthermore, additional price formation initiatives already are underway given anticipated changes in economics, policy and generation mix.

Inefficient or Resilient

Nearly all ISOs/RTOs argue that the NOPR will negatively affect wholesale market design and price formation. Compensation for cost-of-service will need to take place outside of the market, without impacting real-time or day-ahead prices—a task easier said than done as many ISOs/RTOs already are navigating the impact of state policies on competitive markets. In addition, cost-of-service payments fail to create performance incentives or place any obligations on baseload generators, creating an inherent inconsistency with resiliency goals. Compliance with DOE’s proposal also could conflict with regional and state environmental goals.

No Urgency for Resiliency

The NOPR requires a rulemaking within 60 days of posting and would require competitive wholesale markets to be in compliance within thirty days after FERC’s ruling. The ISOs/RTOs unanimously agreed that the proposed timeline is unreasonable and may lead to unintended consequences. More pointedly, the NOPR fails to show any evidence that the hastened timeline will help with resilience. The DOE report notes that there currently is not a problem, but that it could become an issue over the longer term. With plenty of time to engage in the formal stakeholder processes required by the market rules, the ISO/RTO comments unanimously request that the deadlines listed in the DOE’s NOPR be postponed.

Stripping away the ill-defined concept of resiliency, it is clear that the DOE NOPR simply represents a desire to provide out-of-market support to uneconomic coal and nuclear plants. The ISOs/RTOs have responded accordingly, laying out the arguments required to protect the competitive electricity markets they operate and set the stage for future legal action to protect state rights. It will be a short wait to see whether they make any progress in this first round.

About the author: Tanya Bodell is the Executive Director of Energyzt, a global collaboration of energy experts who create value for investors in energy through actionable insights

 

November 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

THE MOST EXPENSIVE BOMB EVER – USA’s new B61 nuclear hydrogen bomb

Special Report: In modernizing nuclear arsenal, U.S. stokes new arms raceScot Paltrow, WASHINGTON (Reuters), 21 Nov 17  “………..One example of an old weapon transformed into a more dangerous new one is America’s main hydrogen bomb. The Air Force has deployed the B61 bomb on heavy bombers since the mid-1960s. Until recently, the B61 was an old-fashioned gravity bomb, dropped by a plane and free-falling to its target.

THE MOST EXPENSIVE BOMB EVER

Now, the Air Force has transformed it into a controllable smart bomb. The new model has adjustable tail fins and a guidance system which lets bomber crews direct it to its target. Recent models of the bomb had already incorporated a unique “dial-down capacity”: The Air Force can adjust the explosion. The bomb can be set to use against enemy troops, with a 0.3 kiloton detonation, a tiny fraction of the Hiroshima bomb, or it can level cities with a 340-kiloton blast with 23 times the force of Hiroshima’s. Similar controls are planned for new cruise missiles.

The new B61 is the most expensive bomb ever built. At $20.8 million per bomb, each costs nearly one-third more than its weight in 24 karat gold. The estimated price of the planned total of 480 bombs is almost $10 billion.

……… RUSSIA‘S DIRTY DRONE

Russia, too, is hard at work making deadlier strategic weapons. Ploughshares estimates that both sides are working on at least two dozen new or enhanced strategic weapons.

……… A Russian military official in 2015 disclosed a sort of doomsday weapon, taking the idea of a “dirty bomb” to a new level. Many U.S. analysts believe the disclosure was a bluff; others say they believe the weapon has been deployed.

The purported device is an unmanned submarine drone, able to cruise at a fast 56 knots and travel 6,200 miles. The concept of a dirty bomb, never used to date, is that terrorists would spread harmful radioactive material by detonating a conventional explosive such as dynamite. In the case of the Russian drone, a big amount of deadly radioactive material would be dispersed by a nuclear bomb.

The bomb would be heavily “salted” with radioactive cobalt, which emits deadly gamma rays for years. The explosion and wind would spread the cobalt for hundreds of miles, making much of the U.S. East Coast uninhabitable.

A documentary shown on Russian state TV said the drone is meant to create “areas of wide radioactive contamination that would be unsuitable for military, economic, or other activity for long periods of time.”

Reif of the Arms Control Association says that even if the concept is only on the drawing board, the device represents “really outlandish thinking” by the Russian government. “It makes no sense strategically,” he said, “and reflects a really egregiously twisted conception about what’s necessary for nuclear deterrence.” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-nuclear-modernize-specialreport/special-report-in-modernizing-nuclear-arsenal-u-s-stokes-new-arms-race-idUSKBN1DL1AH

November 22, 2017 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Radioactive waste data removed from Tennessee state website

http://www.sunherald.com/news/business/article185800093.html

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has removed data from its website about the amount of low-level radioactive waste going into landfills.

The information had been open to the public for years before the department said it is confidential, The Tennessean reports .

A 2007 state law cites the Atomic Energy Act and an agreement with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission on what information to keep confidential, department spokesman Eric Ward said. However, commission spokesman David McIntyre said he knows of no law or rule that makes confidential the location and quantity of waste.

Ward said in a Friday email the department “is working toward a solution,” and it intends “to have the authority to soon begin providing that information again.”

Low-level radioactive waste includes contaminated materials from commercial reactors, such as lab supplies, machine parts, power plant equipment and debris from decommissioned nuclear plants.

Tennessee has more radioactive waste processors than any other state in the nation, according the department. The processors can treat radioactive waste before it is disposed in landfills as low-level waste.

The waste deposited in landfills does not pose a danger to public health or the environment, according to the department.

More than 5 million pounds (2 million kilograms) of low-level radioactive waste has been released into state landfills between 2014 and 2016, according to information the department no longer publishes but was accessed through cached versions of its website.

“The transparency is not there and the public is being left in the dark,” Tennessee Environmental Council board member Don Safer said. “Low level does not mean low risk.”

November 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

San Onofre Utility regulators used private lawyers to challenge probe

A report says California Public Utilities Commission lawyers sought to suppress court-approved search warrants after utility regulators promised they would cooperate with a state criminal investigation.

The San Diego Union-Tribune cites court documents unsealed Monday that show commission lawyers opposed providing records to investigators as required by three different warrants approved in 2015 and 2016.

The warrants were issued after judges found probable cause that ratepayers were illegally hit with billions of dollars in costs related to the San Onofre nuclear plant failure six years ago.

The newspaper says commission lawyers argued that prosecutors failed to properly serve the warrants — even though they agreed to the process in advance.

November 21, 2017 11:25 AM

http://www.sacbee.com/news/business/article185825503.html

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November 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UK made ‘grave strategic errors’ in Hinkley Point nuclear project

MPs say consumers were ‘dealt a bad hand’ and warn against more nuclear power stations

“No part of government was really championing the consumer interest.”

More information can be found here.
https://www.ft.com/content/cd7227ca-cec5-11e7-b781-794ce08b24dc

an hour ago Andrew Ward, Energy Editor

British MPs have urged the UK government to rethink the economic case for new nuclear power stations after making “grave strategic errors” in the Hinkley Point project. In a report published on Wednesday, the Commons public accounts committee accused the government of neglecting consumer interests and failing to push for a better deal with the French and Chinese investors who are building the £20bn nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The committee said consumers had been “dealt a bad hand” by the government’s agreement to lock UK households into buying expensive electricity from Hinkley for 35 years. “Its blinkered determination to agree the Hinkley deal, regardless of changing circumstances, means that for years to come energy consumers will face costs running to many times the original estimate,” said Meg Hillier, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, which is often called parliament’s spending watchdog. Hinkley is intended to be the first in a series of new nuclear plants in the UK, as part of efforts to replace large amount of old generating capacity due to be decommissioned in coming years. However, the cross-party public accounts committee urged the government to “re-evaluate and publish its strategic case for supporting nuclear power before agreeing any further deals”.

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November 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment