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7 years after, Fukushima still struggling to return to normal

March 5, 2018
Almost one year has passed since the evacuation order for four municipalities around the ruined Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was lifted to make it possible for local residents to return home.
But the harsh reality of life in towns and villages devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and the consequences are clearly visible to anyone who visits these areas.
These towns and villages lack many of the functions and facilities to meet the essential needs of people such as housing, shopping, health and nursing care, jobs and communities. This is the reason why many of the local residents have not returned home despite an end to forced evacuation. A survey of evacuees by one local government found nearly 50 percent of the residents have no plan to return.
But it is also true that many of the people who left their towns and villages in the wake of the catastrophic accident want to eventually return home or are of two minds.
It is the government’s important role to make things easier for evacuees to return to their former communities if they want to do so while supporting their current lives.
The government needs to review the measures that have been taken so far and, if necessary, adjust them to better suit the actual circumstances.
A myriad of challenges are threatening to thwart the efforts to rebuild towns and villages ravaged by the disaster. But progress is only possible through hard, tenacious work and constant adjustments for the better.
In Namie, a town located north of the nuclear plant, the newly built Namie Sosei elementary and junior high school, which is to open this spring, held a school enrollment briefing at the end of January.
“Each child receives more sufficient attention at a school with a small number of students, I believe,” says a father of two in his 30s who left Namie with his family following the disaster and now lives in Iwaki, a city in the prefecture farther from the nuclear plant. He has decided to return to Namie so that his children can attend the new school.
The opening of the school will be “an important step forward in the efforts to rebuild Namie back into a normal town where we can hear the voices of children,” says Kiichiro Hatakeyama, head of the municipal board of education.
But the number of such families is still small. Only about 10 students are expected to enter the elementary and junior high school in the first year.
Before the 2011 disaster, more than 20,000 people lived in the town. Only about 500 of them had returned by the end of January since the evacuation order was lifted.
Many evacuated residents have been discouraged from returning to the town by the slow progress in the restoration of the living environment.
There are convenience stores in the town but not a supermarket. Local residents have to drive dozens of minutes to shop at the nearest supermarket.
The municipal government is courting supermarket operators to open a store in the town, but the population is still too small to support this kind of business.
There are only clinics for surgery and internal medicine in Namie. Many of the residents who have returned are elderly people, and they are asking for dentists and eye doctors.
The situation is more or less similar in Tomioka and Iitate, two other municipalities where the evacuation order was called off at the same time with Namie. The government’s strategy aimed at encouraging evacuated residents of these communities to return home by stepping up the decontamination efforts has failed to work as expected.
As the living circumstances remain poor, evacuated residents don’t go back to their homes. As the population thus remains small, services necessary for daily life remain unavailable.
To break this never-ending cycle, the central and local governments need to come up with better ideas to improve the living environment.
As for medical and nursing care services, the Fukushima prefectural government and the administration need to work together with organizations involved to provide active support for the efforts to secure service providers instead of leaving the task entirely to the municipalities.
A system should be created to provide policy support for retailers, not just for their preparations to restart their businesses, but also for their actual operations for a certain period of time.
There are obviously limits to what individual municipal governments can do independently to regenerate their cities, towns and villages.
Cooperation among areas, such as joint efforts by multiple municipalities to restore necessary functions and facilities, is essential.
There have been troubling signs that the government’s policy to support the reconstruction of disaster-hit areas tends to focus on the building of new facilities.
Costly projects to build various facilities, such as research and development institutions in the areas of energy and robotics and large sports facilities, are under way in the region.
“Some local government chiefs are forging ahead with public works projects to build facilities in a rush to take advantage of the central government budget for post-disaster reconstruction while the money is available, but they are failing to think about the ongoing costs,” says a senior official at the municipal government of one affected town. “The central government is also acting in a somewhat senseless manner.”
The administration stresses the importance of helping rebuild the lives of local residents. But its priorities in allocating the financial and human resources seem to be messed up.
In disaster-stricken areas, the vital bonds between people have been totally destroyed by the effects of prolonged periods of living as evacuees. Local communities have also been hurt by conflict and division over such issues as the status of evacuees as to whether they can return home or how much compensation they have received.
Rebuilding the broken human ties is no easy task. But there are some encouraging signs as well.
In Naraha, where about 30 percent of the residents have returned since the evacuation order was lifted two and a half years ago, a small and casual Japanese restaurant named Yui no Hajimari, which opened in September last year, is thriving. At night, it is thronged with residents in the neighborhood and nuclear workers.
Kaori Furuya, the 33-year-old woman who runs the restaurant, used to work in the Tokyo metropolitan area but decided to start the business in the town after she became involved in a project to help people acquire the skills and abilities needed for the reconstruction of affected communities.
“I want to keep operating the restaurant as a place where local residents and people from outside the town develop contacts and enjoy spending time together naturally,” Furuya says.
Iitate will soon launch a program to expand ties and communication with other parts of the nation. The program, dubbed “Furusato Juminhyo” (hometown certificate of residence), will involve various attempts to convey information about Iitate to people outside who want to support the town and provide them with opportunities to mix with local residents, according to the municipal government.
“We will test various ideas designed to build a new village instead of trying to restore the village to its former state,” says Iitate Mayor Norio Kanno.
Seven years since the calamitous nuclear accident, people in Fukushima are still facing a grim reality and fighting an uphill battle to find a way to regain an environment that enables them to enjoy a peaceful and quiet daily life.
What must not be forgotten is the grave fact that the accident occurred in connection with the government’s long-running policy of promoting nuclear power generation.
Our society is facing a serious test of whether it can keep this in mind and commit itself as a whole to supporting the affected communities’ struggles to rebuild themselves.

March 5, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | 1 Comment

SEVEN YEARS AFTER: Radioactive debris piling up at Fukushima interim facility

March 5, 2018
feb 17 2018.jpg
Bags containing radioactive soil and other waste are piled up high at an interim storage facility in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on Feb. 17.
FUTABA, Fukushima Prefecture–Stacks of soil and other waste contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster continue to grow at an interim storage facility here.
Black bags filled with radioactive debris collected during decontamination work in various locations in the prefecture have been brought to the facility since October, when operations started.
Heavy machinery is used to stack the bags, and green sheets now cover some of the piles.
The town of Futaba co-hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The interim facility is expected to eventually cover about 1,600 hectares of land in Futaba and Okuma, the other co-host of the plant.
The government has acquired 801 hectares as of Jan. 29, and 70 percent of that space is already covered with contaminated debris.
Negotiations between the government and landowners are continuing for the remaining hectares.
The government plans to move the contaminated debris to a final disposal site outside the prefecture by March 2045. However, it has had difficulties finding local governments willing to accept the waste.

March 5, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Former students return to school 7 years after nuclear disaster

March 4, 2018
okuma school return 4 march 2018.jpg
Yuki Kokatsu, left, smiles as she finds her Japanese dictionary in Ono Elementary School in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 2. She was a second-grader of the school at the time of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture–Seven years after being forced to leave her belongings behind, Yuki Kokatsu returned to her second-grade elementary school classroom here for the first time.
Yuki, now 15, spotted her melodica instrument on the floor, and said, “I found it.”
The third-year junior high school student also found 30 other items she had left when her family was forced to evacuate due to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, including a Japanese dictionary and a jump rope. She put them all into her cloth bag to take home.
“I feel that I was able to recover my lost possessions. I will keep and treasure them,” said Yuki, who had evacuated to Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture.
Yuki and other former Ono Elementary School students at the time of the disaster returned to their school on March 2 to retrieve their belongings.
After the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011, which was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, all the residents of Okuma town evacuated to other areas.
Ono Elementary School is located in an area that remains designated as a difficult-to-return zone. However, the radiation level around the school has been lowered due to decontamination work. Because of that, former students and related people have asked the Okuma town government to allow them to enter the school building.
According to the Okuma town government, six groups visited Ono Elementary School on March 2. A total of 39 groups are expected to do so through March 4.


March 5, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima looks to ease blanket radiation checks on rice starting in 2020

Normalisation of the health risks, the Japanese government continues is denial policy.
Rice is checked for radiation in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, in October 2016.
March 3, 2018
FUKUSHIMA – Fukushima Prefecture will begin scaling back its blanket radiation checks on rice as early as 2020 amid growing signs the safety fears sparked by the March 2011 nuclear crisis are disappearing, it has been learned.
All rice will remain subject to checks for the time being in 12 municipalities where evacuation orders were issued following the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, but other areas will switch to random checks. All locally grown rice has been subject to the checks since 2012.
Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori told the prefectural assembly that checks will become random if no excessive radiation is detected for five years.
All local rice grown between 2015 and 2017 came in below the safety limit of 100 becquerels per kilogram. If the 2018 and 2019 harvests are also found to be within the standards, the checks will go random starting in 2020 in areas outside the 12 evacuated municipalities.
Some have criticized the blanket checks as too costly.
The manager of the Fukushima No. 1 plant is Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

March 5, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Unites States – the blank check for nuclear war

When It Comes to War, “The Blank Check Just Got Bigger”  By: Mandy Smithberger, Director, CDI Straus Military Reform Project, March 1, 2018 

Congress’s failure to debate and vote on our current wars has led to a total abdication of its duties to declare war. As a result, many Americans are unclear about our objectives, and the 2001 authorization following 9/11 has been used to justify military operations in 14 different countries at least 37 times. Questions surrounding U.S. actions in Yemen—currently being challenged in Congress by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT)—are raising additional questions about how the White House and the Department of Defense are using that authorization for endless war. “The blank check just got bigger,” Center for Defense Information Military Advisory Board Member and Defense Priorities Senior Fellow Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, USA (Ret.) recently told Members of Congress.

Leadership in both parties have continually resisted calls to hold a vote on our current wars. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the need to revise the authority for our current wars—known as the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF)—last year, but there’s been no similar debate in House. So for the first time that I can remember the Progressive Caucus and the Liberty Caucus, led by Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Justin Amash (R-MI) respectively, held a joint ad-hoc hearing on whether the 2001 AUMF needs to repealed or revised.

Lt. Col. Davis was deployed into combat zones four times in his career, beginning with Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and then to Iraq in 2009 and Afghanistan twice (2005, 2011). In 2012 he published a report showing that military leaders were misleading Congress and the American public about conditions on the ground in Afghanistan. His testimony about the need for Congress to have the integrity to do their job and vote on our current wars is compelling, and I hope you’ll watch it in full below.

Davis, opening remarks 27 February 2018 before members of Congress

March 5, 2018 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

US nuclear posturing has adversaries gearing up, not standing down

March 5, 2018 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

South Korea hopes to open nuclear talks, sends national security chief to Pyongyang

Seoul sends envoy to North Korea in hope of opening nuclear talks, Telegraph UK , Nicola Smith, taipei 4 MARCH 2018 

South Korea is to send its national security chief to Pyongyang on Monday to discuss how to resume dialogue between the US and North Korea over its nuclear and weapons programme.

President Moon Jae-in announced on Sunday that Chung Eui-yong, head of the National Security Office, and his intelligence chief Suh Hoon, would lead a ten member delegation on a two day trip to the North.

The envoys will deliver a letter from Mr Moon to North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, although it is still uncertain if they will meet with him personally. It would be the first time for Kim to meet with a South Korean official since he came to power in 2011.

The delegation is expected to hold talks that would pave the way for a possible summit meeting between the leaders of South and North Korea after Kim Jong-un last month invited Mr Moon to visit Pyongyang.

The envoys are “expected to hold talks with North Korea’s high level officials to discuss ways to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula and develop the South-North Korea relationship,” presidential chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan said.


March 5, 2018 Posted by | politics international, South Korea | Leave a comment

Huge costs to American taxpayers, as Pentagon waives $billions in prioritising weapons sales abroad over requirements to reimburse

Audit Finds Pentagon Waived Requirement to Repay Taxpayers $16 Billion to Advance Foreign Military Sales  By: Mandy Smithberger, Director, CDI Straus Military Reform Project February 28, 2018 

Under the law, when a foreign government buys U.S. weapon systems through the Department of Defense those governments are required to reimburse the Department for research, development, and other one-time costs for those systems. A recent audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the Department has waived $16 billion it could have recovered for taxpayers on $250 billion worth of weapons sold under the Foreign Military Sales program from 2012 to 2017.

Under the law, foreign governments can request a waiver from repaying these costs, which the Department can grant for factors like interoperability or to avoid the loss of a sale. Defense contractors argued this requirement for foreign governments to repay the U.S. taxpayers raises the price of our weapon systems, making it more difficult to complete a sale. When the Department waives these repayments, that usually gives a competitive edge that defense contractors benefit from enormously.

The contractors invest very little of their own money in research and development—those costs are generally paid by the taxpayers as part of the original acquisition process. The contractors are then able to sell these weapons, developed at taxpayer expense, to foreign governments at a significant profit and only a minimal corporate investment. Allowing foreign governments to skate on the legally required repayments is little more than welfare for defense contractors, and this audit makes a compelling case for why Congress should close this loophole.

Under the Arms Export Control Act the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the Pentagon’s “point person” for all foreign military sales, evaluates waivers. As Bill Hartung, the Director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy explains, that office has perverse financial incentives to prioritize sales over what’s best for taxpayers or U.S. national security:

In a typical sale, the US government is involved every step of the way. The Pentagon often does assessments of an allied nation’s armed forces in order to tell them what they “need”—and of course what they always need is billions of dollars in new US-supplied equipment. Then the Pentagon helps negotiate the terms of the deal, notifies Congress of its details, and collects the funds from the foreign buyer, which it then gives to the US supplier in the form of a defense contract. In most deals, the Pentagon is also the point of contact for maintenance and spare parts for any US-supplied system. The bureaucracy that helps make all of this happen, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, is funded from a 3.5 percent surcharge on the deals it negotiates. This gives it all the more incentive to sell, sell, sell.

Given DSCA’s incentives to promote foreign military sales, it’s unsurprising DSCA approved 810 of the 813 waivers it reviewed from 2012 to 2017—an approval rate of 99 percent. When it came to waivers for loss of sale, the GAO found “none included any additional information on competing offers or spending limits” as evidence that the sale would be lost if the payment wasn’t waived. As Hartung notes, the Obama Administration brokered more weapons sales than any other administration since World War II.

For most of the duration of the GAO’s audit, the head of DSCA was Vice Admiral Joseph Rixey. Before he left that position, The Intercept reported he was the guest of honor at a reception co-hosted by the Senate Aerospace Caucus and the Aerospace Industries Association, the latter representing contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon. “Thank you admiral for all that you do…in helping us to sell our products,” Lockheed Martin CEO Marilyn Hewson said at the event. Perhaps unsurprisingly, shortly after his retirement Rixey joined Lockheed Martin as Vice President for International Program Support for Lockheed Government Affairs.

The Trump Administration may be on track to increasing foreign military sales even more. The Security Assistance Monitor found that foreign military sales in the first year of the Trump Administration slightly surpassed sales in the last year of the Obama Administration. Waivers cost taxpayers approximately $1.3 billion in 2016 and $6 billion in 2017.

Costs to taxpayers may increase further without more oversight. In January Reutersreported plans to increase the role of diplomats and military attaches to promote U.S. weapons sales. As part of that effort the State Department sent Ambassador Tina Kaidanow, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs and the top diplomat for overseeing arms sales, to the Singapore Airshow to promote U.S. weapons, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Congress shares plenty of blame for betraying taxpayers, as well, by continually revising the Arms Export Control Act to further subsidize weapon sales. For instance, the law didn’t always allow loss-of-sale waivers from recouping research and development costs. But in 1996—at the urging of the Aerospace Industries Association—the law was changed to allow such waivers if not recouping those costs could result in the loss of a sale. The Project On Government Oversight fought the change and other efforts to get rid of recoupment payments, calling it “corporate welfare at its worst.” The GAO found that change alone resulted in substantial losses for taxpayers, since 338 loss-of-sale waivers totaling almost $9.2 billion were given under that authority between 2012 and 2017.

In POGO’s 2017 Baker’s Dozen of recommendations to Congress we noted more must be done to make the Pentagon financially accountable. Reimbursing taxpayers must be part of the equation. Taxpayers invest a lot of money in the research and development of weapon systems—the Pentagon’s most recent budget request asks for $92.4 billion for research, development, test, and evaluation—and they deserve a fair return on their investment. It’s time to revise the Arms Export Control Act to get rid of this multi-billion crony-capitalism loophole.

March 5, 2018 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

France: Police battle protesters over nuclear waste storage plans

Police used tear gas during clashes with anti-nuclear protesters at a waste site in northeastern France on Saturday. by David Chater    4 Mar 18 Police in France have used tear gas on environmentalists protesting against plans to store nuclear waste near a town in the northeast.

The two groups clashed in a field near the proposed site.

Protesters are upset by plans to place nuclear waste 500 metres below the ground.

Al Jazeera’s David Chater reports from Lorraine.

March 5, 2018 Posted by | France, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

Thorium ‒ a better fuel for nuclear technology? 

  Thorium ‒ a better fuel for nuclear technology? Nuclear Monitor,   by Dr. Rainer Moormann  1 March 2018 An important, detailed critique of thorium by Dr. Rainer Moormann, translated from the original German by Jan Haverkamp. Dr. Moormann concludes:

The use of technology based on thorium would not be able to solve any of the known problems of current nuclear techniques, but it would require an enormous development effort and wide introduction of breeder and reprocessing technology. For those reasons, thorium technology is a dead end.”

Author: Dr. Rainer Moormann, Aachen (r.moormann@gmx.deThorium is currently described by several nuclear proponents as a better alternative to uranium fuel.

Thorium itself is, however, not a fissile material. It can only be transformed into fissile uranium-233 using breeder and reprocessing technology. It is 3 to 4 times more abundant than uranium.

Concerning safety and waste disposal there are no convincing arguments in comparison to uranium fuel. A severe disadvantage is that uranium-233 bred from thorium can be used by terror organisations for the construction of simple but high-impact nuclear explosives. Thus development of a thorium fuel cycle without effective denaturation of bredfissile materials is irresponsible.


Thorium Introduction 

Thorium (Th) is a heavy metal of atomic number 90

(uranium has 92). It belongs to the group of actinides, is

around 3 to 4 times more abundant than uranium and is

radioactive (half-life of Th-232 as starter of the thorium

decay-chain is 14 billion years with alpha-decay). There

are currently hardly any technical applications. Distinctive

is the highly penetrating gamma radiation from its decaychain

(thallium-208 (Tl-208): 2.6 MeV; compared to

gamma radiation from Cs-137: 0.66 MeV). Over the past

decade, a group of globally active nuclear proponents is

recommending thorium as fuel for a safe and affordable

nuclear power technology without larger waste and

proliferation problems. These claims should be submitted

to a scientific fact check. For that reason, we examine

here the claims of thorium proponents.

Dispelling Claim 1: The use of thorium expands the

availability of nuclear fuel by a factor 400  

Thorium ‒ a better fuel for nuclear technology? Nuclear Monitor,   by Dr. Rainer Moormann  1 March 2018

Thorium itself is not a fissile material. It can, however, be

transformed in breeder reactors into fissile uranium-233

(U-233), just like non-fissile U-238 (99.3% of natural

uranium) can be transformed in a breeder reactor to fissile

plutonium. (A breeder reactor is a reactor in which more

fissile material can be harvested from spent nuclear fuel

than present in the original fresh fuel elements. It may be

sometimes confusing that in the nuclear vocabulary every

conventional reactor breeds, but less than it uses (and

therefore it is not called a breeder reactor).)

For that reason, the use of thorium presupposes the use

of breeder and reprocessing technology. Because these

technologies have almost globally fallen into disrepute, it

cannot be excluded that the more neutral term thorium is

currently also used to disguise an intended reintroduction

of these problematic techniques.

The claimed factor 400: A factor of 100 is due to the

breeder technology. It is also achievable in the uraniumplutonium

cycle. Only a factor of 3 to 4 is specific to

thorium, just because it is more abundant than uranium

by this factor…….

March 5, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, ENERGY, Reference, thorium | Leave a comment

Iran calls on US, Europe to scrap nuclear arms, missiles

CNBC 4 Mar 18 

  • Iran will not negotiate over its ballistic missiles until the United States and Europe dismantle their nuclear weapons, a top Iranian military official said on Saturday.
  • While Iran has accepted curbs on its nuclear work — which it says is for purely peaceful purposes — it has repeatedly refused to discuss its missile program.
  • Iran says its nuclear program is defensive because of its deterrent nature.
…….. European powers and Iran have started talks over Tehran’s role in the Middle East and will meet again this month in Italy as part of efforts to prove to U.S. President Donald Trump that they are meeting his concerns over the 2015 nuclear deal.

March 5, 2018 Posted by | Iran, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

It’s a myth that thorium nuclear reactors were ever commercially viable

Dispelling Claim 2: Thorium did not get a chance in the  nuclear energy development because it is not  usable for military purposes   Thorium ‒ a better fuel for nuclear technology? Nuclear Monitor,   by Dr. Rainer Moormann  1 March 2018

In the early stages of nuclear technology in the USA (from 1944 to the early 1950s), reprocessing technology was not yet well developed. Better developed were graphite moderated reactors that used natural uranium and bred plutonium.

For the use of thorium (which, other than uranium, does not contain fissile components), enriched uranium or possibly plutonium would have been indispensable.

Initially, neither pathway for thorium development was chosen because it would have automatically reduced the still limited capacity for military fissile materials production. (Thorium has a higher capture cross section for thermal (that means slow) neutrons than U-238. For that reason, it needs as fertile material in reactors a higher fissile density than U-238.)

Only when the US enrichment capacity at about 1950 delivered sufficient enriched uranium, the military and later civil entry into thorium technology started: in 1955 a bomb with U-233 from thorium was exploded, and a strategic U-233 reserve of around 2 metric tons was created. The large head-start of the plutonium bomb could not be overtaken any more, and plutonium remained globally the leading military fission material (although, according to unconfirmed sources, Indian nuclear weapons contain U-233).

The US military research concluded in 1966 that U-233 is a very potent nuclear weapon material, but that it offers hardly any advantages over the already established plutonium. Because light water reactors with low-enriched uranium (LEU) were already too far developed, thorium use remained marginal also in civil nuclear engineering: for instance, the German “thorium reactor” THTR-300 in Hamm operated only for a short time, and in reality it was a uranium reactor (fuel: 10% weapon-grade 93% enriched U-235 and 90% thorium) because the amount of energy produced by thorium did not exceed 25%.


March 5, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, Reference, spinbuster, thorium | Leave a comment

Middle East gets closer to being a hub of nuclear weapons


The Middle East’s nuclear technology clock is ticking as nations pursue peaceful capabilities that potentially leave the door open to future military options.

Concern about a nuclear arms race is fuelled by uncertainty over the future of Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement, a seeming US willingness to weaken its strict export safeguards in pursuit of economic advantage, and a willingness by suppliers such as Russia and China to ignore risks involved in weaker controls.

The Trump administration was mulling loosening controls to facilitate a possible deal with Saudi Arabia as Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu prepared, in an address this week to a powerful Israeli lobby group in Washington, to urge US President Donald J. Trump to scrap the Iranian nuclear deal unless the Islamic republic agrees to further military restrictions and makes additional political concessions.

Israel has an undeclared nuclear arsenal of its own and fears that the technological clock is working against its long-standing military advantage. The US has signaled that it may be willing to accede to Saudi demands in a bid to ensure that US companies, with Westinghouse in the lead, have a stake in the kingdom’s plan to build by 2032 16 reactors that would have 17.6 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity.

In putting forward demands for parity with Iran by getting the right to controlled enrichment of uranium and the reprocessing of spent fuel into plutonium, potential building blocks for nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia was backing away from a 2009 memorandum of understanding with the United States in which it pledged to acquire nuclear fuel from international markets.

“The trouble with flexibility regarding these critical technologies is that it leaves the door open to production of nuclear explosives,” warned nuclear experts Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski in an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

While Israeli opinion is divided on how the US should respond to the Saudi demands, Messrs Trump and Netanyahu’s opposition to the Iranian nuclear accord has already produced results that would serve Saudi interests……

March 5, 2018 Posted by | MIDDLE EAST, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The weapons proliferation risks of thorium nuclear reactors

Dispelling Claim 3: Thorium use has hardly any proliferation risk   Thorium ‒ a better fuel for nuclear technology? Nuclear Monitor,   by Dr. Rainer Moormann  1 March 2018

The proliferation problem of Th / U-233 needs a  differentiated analysis ‒ general answers are easily misleading. First of all, one has to assess the weapon capability of U-233. Criteria for good suitability are a low critical mass and a low rate of spontaneous fission. The critical mass of U-233 is only 40% of that of U-235, the critical mass of plutonium-239 is around 15% smaller than for U-233. A relatively easy to construct nuclear explosive needs around 20 to 25 kg U-233.

The spontaneous fission rate is important, because the neutrons from spontaneous fission act as a starter of the chain reaction; for an efficient nuclear explosion, the fissile material needs to have a super-criticality of at least 2.5 (criticality is the amount of new fissions produced by the neutrons of each fission.)

When, because of spontaneous fissions, a noticeable chain reaction already starts during the initial conventional explosion trigger mechanism in the criticality phase between 1 and 2.5, undesired weak nuclear explosions would end the super-criticality before a significant part of the fissile material has reacted. This largely depends on how fast the criticality phase of 1 to 2.5 is passed. Weapon plutonium (largely Pu-239) and moreover reactor plutonium have – different from the mentioned uranium fission materials U-235 and U-233 – a high spontaneous fission rate, which excludes their use in easy to build bombs.

More specifically, plutonium cannot be caused to explode in a so-called gun-type fission weapon, but both uranium isotopes can. Plutonium needs the far more complex implosion bomb design, which we will not go into further here. A gun-type fission weapon was used in Hiroshima – a cannon barrel set-up, in which a fission projectile is shot into a fission block of a suitable form so that they together form a highly super-critical arrangement.   Here, the criticality phase from 1 to 2.5 is in the order of magnitude of milliseconds – a relatively long time, in which a plutonium explosive would destroy itself with weak nuclear explosions caused by spontaneous fission.

One cannot find such uranium gun-type fission weapons in modern weapon arsenals any longer (South Africa’s apartheid regime built 7 gun-type fission weapons using uranium-235): their efficiency (at most a few percent) is rather low, they are bulky (the Hiroshima bomb: 3.6 metric tons, 3.2 meters long), inflexible, and not really suitable for carriers like intercontinental rockets.

On the other hand, gun-type designs are highly reliable and relatively easy to build. Also, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reckons that larger terror groups would be capable of constructing a nuclear explosive on the basis of the gun-type fission design provided they got hold of a sufficient amount of suitable fissile material.1

Bombs with a force of at most 2 to 2.5 times that of the Hiroshima bomb (13 kt TNT) are conceivable. For that reason, the USA and Russia have tried intensively for decades to repatriate their world-wide delivered highly enriched uranium (HEU).

A draw-back of U-233 in weapon technology is that – when it is produced only for energy generation purposes – it is contaminated with maximally 250 parts per million (ppm) U-232 (half-life 70 years).2 That does not impair the nuclear explosion capability, but the uranium-232 turns in the thorium decay chain, which means ‒ as mentioned above ‒ emission of the highly penetrating radiation of Tl-208. A strongly radiating bomb is undesirable in a military environment – from the point of view of handling, and because the radiation intervenes with the bomb’s electronics.

In the USA, there exists a limit of 50 ppm U-232 above which U-233 is no longer considered suitable for weapons.

Nevertheless, U-232 does not really diminish all proliferation problems around U-233. First of all, simple gun-type designs do not need any electronics; furthermore, radiation safety arguments during bomb construction will hardly play a role for terrorist organisations that use suicide bombers.

Besides that, Tl-208 only appears in the end of the decay chain of U-232: freshly produced or purified U-233/U-232 will radiate little for weeks and is easier to handle.2 It is also possible to suppress the build-up of uranium-232 to a large extent, when during the breeding process of U-233 fast neutrons with energies larger than 0.5 MeV are filtered out (for instance by arranging the thorium in the reactor behind a moderating layer) and thorium is used from ore that contains as little uranium as possible.

A very elegant way to harvest highly pure U-233 is offered by the proposed molten salt reactors with integrated reprocessing (MSR): During the breeding of U-233 from thorium, the intermediate protactinium-233 (Pa-233) is produced, which has a half-life of around one month. When this intermediate is isolated – as is intended in some molten salt reactors – and let decay outside the reactor, pure U-233 is obtained that is optimally suited for nuclear weapons.

An advantage of U-233 in comparison with Pu-239 in military use is that under neutron irradiation during the production in the reactor, it tends to turn a lot less into nuclides that negatively influence the explosion capability. U-233 can (like U-235) be made unsuitable for use in weapons by adding U-238: When depleted uranium is already mixed with thorium during the feed-in into the reactor, the resulting mix of nuclides is virtually unusable for weapons.

However, for MSRs with integrated reprocessing this is not a sufficient remedy. One would have to prevent separation of protactinium-233.9

The conclusion has to be that the use of thorium contains severe proliferation risks. These are less in the risk that highly developed states would find it easier to lay their hands on high-tech weapons, than that the bar for the construction of simple but highly effective nuclear explosives for terror organisations or unstable states will be a lot lower.


March 5, 2018 Posted by | Reference, spinbuster, thorium, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Keeping a tally of the dry storage of San Onofre’s spent nuclear fuel rods

How much nuclear waste has gone into dry storage at San Onofre? Here are the latest numbers,  Orange County Register,  4 Mar 18,  After “safely and successfully” loading the first multi-purpose spent fuel canister into its new home inside a concrete monolith at San Onofre in early February, Southern California Edison continues to move spent fuel into containers just a short distance from where surfers take on waves at the world-famous surf break. 

The most recent fuel tally as of Feb. 20 shows that:

  • The reactor known as Unit 2 had 1,207 fuel assemblies in its spent fuel pool. Three canisters, containing 111 fuel assemblies, had been moved to dry storage.
  • Unit 3 had 1,350 fuel assemblies in its pool, with none yet moved to dry storage.

Dry storage is far safer than pools, nuclear experts say. All of the spent fuel is slated to be moved into the “concrete bunker” that is the Holtec HI-STORM UMAX dry storage system by the middle of 2019, Edison said.

Opponents fear it will remain there for decades and pose grave danger to people and the environment.

The most recent fuel tally as of Feb. 20 shows that:

  • The reactor known as Unit 2 had 1,207 fuel assemblies in its spent fuel pool. Three canisters, containing 111 fuel assemblies, had been moved to dry storage.
  • Unit 3 had 1,350 fuel assemblies in its pool, with none yet moved to dry storage.

Dry storage is far safer than pools, nuclear experts say. All of the spent fuel is slated to be moved into the “concrete bunker” that is the Holtec HI-STORM UMAX dry storage system by the middle of 2019, Edison said.

Opponents fear it will remain there for decades and pose grave danger to people and the environment……… 

The most recent fuel tally as of Feb. 20 shows that:

  • The reactor known as Unit 2 had 1,207 fuel assemblies in its spent fuel pool. Three canisters, containing 111 fuel assemblies, had been moved to dry storage.
  • Unit 3 had 1,350 fuel assemblies in its pool, with none yet moved to dry storage.

Dry storage is far safer than pools, nuclear experts say. All of the spent fuel is slated to be moved into the “concrete bunker” that is the Holtec HI-STORM UMAX dry storage system by the middle of 2019, Edison said.

Opponents fear it will remain there for decades and pose grave danger to people and the environment………

March 5, 2018 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment