The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Donald Trump alienates America’s allies – thus increasing the likelihood of nuclear weapons proliferation

Trump triggers talk of Australia going nuclear , SMH, By Peter Hartcher, 

Three former deputy secretaries of Australia’s Defence Department – strategists Hugh White, Paul Dibb and Richard Brabin-Smith – have mooted the idea in the past year. Till these most recent months, it’s been something of a taboo topic in respectable circles.

One big reason? Australia already has the protection of the United States nuclear umbrella. Under this system, the US pledges that if anyone should launch a nuclear strike on one of its allies, Washington would retaliate against the aggressor.

So to suggest that Australia now needs its own atomic arsenal is to suggest that there has been a fundamental breakdown in trust. In short, that the US alliance is dead.

But hold on. Why now? Isn’t this exactly the wrong time to be laying such plans? Doesn’t this week demonstrate that the US can act to deal with a hostile nuclear state? Didn’t Donald Trump’s summit with Kim Jong-un just reduce a threat for the US allies in the region, including Australia, which falls within reach of Kim’s long-range missiles?

There are two key points here. First, the text of the brief document that the leaders signed does say that North Korea “commits to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”. But this is neither new nor convincing.

A former US nuclear negotiator with the North Koreans, Republican David Asher, who led the North Korean activities group in the White House of George W. Bush, says: “For the President to say that the nuclear threat has been eliminated is, I think, unwise. If he’s wrong, it’ll be on him.”

Asher, a scholar at the Centre for New American Security, says: “I have hope, but after dealing with the North Koreans for 25 years, it’s not a promise I personally can have great faith in.” Asher has a litany of first-person examples of Kim Dynasty duplicity……….

the first point is that no one can yet know whether Trump has actually de-fanged a dangerous enemy. But the second point is what everyone does know now – that Trump is prepared to trade away the interests of an ally if he thinks it will help him get a deal with an enemy.

Trump announced that he had promised Kim he would stop the big military exercises that the US conducts with South Korea twice a year.

………The problem? The cancellation was news to South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-In. It was news to another keenly interested US ally, Japan’s Shinzo Abe. And it was news to Trump’s own military commanders, who were in the middle of preparations for the next exercises, two months away.

And in announcing the end to the manoeuvres, Trump adopted the language of the North Korean propagandists. Pyongyang has long railed against the exercises as “provocative war games”. The US has never called them war games nor described them as provocative; Trump did both.

It seems that Kim put the demand to Trump in the negotiating room and Trump agreed on the spot. He agreed to a demand by an enemy without consulting his ally. “It is urgent to make bold decision,” Kim told the US leader, in the words of the North Korean official news agency, and Trump bought it.

This was greeted with delighted incredulity in Beijing. Because this is precisely what the Chinese Communist Party has sought for many years. Professor Shi Yinhong, of the People’s University in Beijing, said that Trump’s pledge to halt military manoeuvres was almost “too good to be true” from China’s point of view.

Why does China care? Because one of its greatest strategic aims is to separate the US from its allies. One of America’s greatest assets is that it sits at the centre of a global alliance system embracing more than 40 nations, including most of the world’s major economies. China, by contrast, has a only couple of rather unimpressive allies, Pakistan and North Korea.

Shi drew the connection: If US troops in South Korea were to stop the military exercises, it could cause allies to lose confidence in Washington and undermine the entire US military presence in Asia, he told America’s National Public Radio. For China, this is victory on every level.

“We see a clear pattern of Donald Trump turning against his allies,” says a close student of Trump foreign policy, Tom Wright, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “He’s generally hung his allies out to dry.”

Just in the last two weeks he has harmed US alliances with Britain, France, Germany and Canada, putting punitive tariffs on their exports and insulting Canada’s Justin Trudeau on top, calling him weak and dishonest.

He upset his allies at the annual G7 summit by proposing that Russia be restored to the group’s meetings, when the G7 is supposed to be ostracising Putin for invading Ukraine.

Trump has inflicted so much political damage to America’s European and Canadian alliances that “the community of North American and European nations forming the nucleus of the alliance that won the Cold War for the West is closer to breaking up now than at any time since the 1940s” in the assessment of Walter Russell Mead, an American scholar.

“And,” says Wright, “he completely sidelined Japan” with this week’s Kim summit. It seems that there was only one US ally who had been able to persuade Trump decisively to change US policy, and even that has turned sour, says Wright.

South Korea’s Moon was the one who persuaded Trump to try directly negotiating with Kim, yet in those very negotiations Trump ended up trading away a South Korean interest. “Moon thought he could ride the tiger, control where he went, but didn’t realise the tiger goes where the tiger wants to go,” as Wright puts it. “He brought Trump into this but then lost control.”

Why does Trump consistently act against the interests of his allies? Wright, who predicted just this  pattern of behaviour before Trump was elected, explains: “In his 30-year history of talking and writing about this stuff, Trump has always been more aggravated by America’s friends than its enemies.

“He has been consistent about this for 30 years. It’s not sophisticated or complex, but he is much more ideological than people think: interdependence is a bad deal for America.” Trading partners will cheat America; allies will free ride on America’s military budget.

Australia has been unscathed so far; Wright says that this will likely change only if some disagreement emerges. Trump isn’t so systematic to work down a list of allies he must alienate, but he will “react to what’s in front of him. It’s possible to sneak on by.”

The only time he will turn against a US rival is if he thinks that rival is directly threatening the US with attack, according to Wright. Otherwise, he’s happy to deal with America’s enemies: “He’s open to deals, he worries about commitments.”

Which is how he manages to make concessions to North Korea while sidelining the interests of South Korea. Trump went further, saying that he wanted one day to withdraw the 28,000 US troops that provide an American “trip wire” across the Demilitarised Zone separating North from South.

If the North should invade, the US forces will be engaged automatically, the wire tripped, guaranteeing America will come to Seoul’s defence. Trump said this was a matter for the future; South Korea’s Moon wishes he hadn’t raised it at all.

If Trump’s North Korean gambit works, he will have a serious achievement. If it fails? Says Asher: “The irony of the North Korean denuclearisation deal could be that everybody else decides to go nuclear. If it fails and Kim remains in power and countries doubt our commitment, then what’s to stop Japan or South Korea or Australia going nuclear?”

It could lead to “mass nuclearisation – it’s a very bad position, 20 countries in the region with nukes, like 20 people in a room all pointing guns at each other”.

These are, of course, imponderables, possible futures that no one hopes for but governments need to plan for. Hendy and White and Dibb and Brabim-Smith may be tending towards alarmism, but they want Australians to think about the world after the American-led alliance system has passed into history.

An American journalist, Jeffrey Goldberg, writes in The Atlantic this week that he asked a number of unnamed White House officials whether there is a Trump doctrine in foreign policy. One, described as a senior official with direct access to the President and his thinking, replied that there is. And it is: “We’re America, bitch.” History is in the making.



June 15, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international | Leave a comment

Hopes for peace following the Trump-Kim summit are likely to be short-lived

The scary truths about Trump’s nuclear summit In which Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un compared the size of their nuclear buttons. Violet Blue@violetblue   

In the first summit meeting between the leaders of the United States and North Korea, Donald Trump met with Kim Jong-un, on June 12, 2018, in Singapore. The two leaders smiled warmly, posed for cameras as friends, shook hands, and Trump spoke in glowing terms of admiration about Kim at the news conference.

The summit came after a year and a half of both men terrorizing the world with open threats of thermonuclear annihilation and childish public insults. Trump derisively nicknamed the North Korean dictator “Rocket Man” and called him “fat and short,” while Kim Jong-un called Trump “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” This week’s historic meeting was nearly scrapped by Trump in a threatening, yet passive-aggressive letter to Jong-un that tried to make the cancellation look like it was North Korea’s idea.

On behalf of the United States, Trump conceded to Kim the discontinuation of joint military exercises with South Korea and to withdraw troops stationed there; he also gave Jong-un international standing and lavished him with compliments. He echoed North Korean rhetoric, which characterizes the military exercises as “very provocative.”

In response to accusations about giving away the farm for a handful of rocks and rusty Nuka Cola bottle caps, USA Today reported that other than agreeing to a meeting, Trump said “I gave up nothing.”

In return, we got a crazy-vague joint statement wrapped in a PR stunt. All North Korea gave us was a meeting. The signed agreement had no specificsabout denuclearization. The 1 1/2 page document ignored North Korea’s existing stockpile of nuclear weapons, had no verification provisions whatsoever, and failed to address ongoing issues of its attacks, kidnappings, and physical threats on Japan and South Korea.

North Korea has historically avoided true nuclear disarmament, preferring to qualify any agreements instead as denuclearization of the peninsula. “That has always been interpreted as a call for the United States to remove its “nuclear umbrella” protecting South Korea and Japan,” wrote Reuters. The country has promised denuclearization since the 1990s and has repeatedly ignored that promise as a rule.

Emerging from the summit as a victorious bringer of peace on Earth, Trump tweeted that “everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

It was a stunning concession when Trump announced, “We will stop the war games which will save us a tremendous amount of money.” It shocked and baffled South Korea and other allies, the Pentagon, US military officials, and members of the Republican Party. This came hot on the heels of Trump saying it would be better if South Korea and Japan protect themselves.

South Korea and Japan are not feeling the same love in the air as Trump and Jong-un. “His announcement was a surprise even to President Moon Jae-in’s government in Seoul,” wrote Reuters. “One South Korean official said he initially thought Trump had misspoken.” South Korea’s largest newspaper Chosun Ilbo openly worried that the North will keep its nuclear weapons program permanently as a result of Trump’s concessions, describing the summit as “dumbfounding and nonsensical.”

You see, we’ve allied ourselves to help protect South Korea for some pretty big reasons. If, like Trump, you’re encountering a North Korea-US summit with no prep whatsoever, here’s a quick bit of background.

North and South Korea have been divided since 1945; for a short period Russia occupied the North while the US occupied the south; during the war, China aided the north and the US aided the south (we lost 54,246 lives and 7,704 American soldiers are still unaccounted for). The Korean War ended with an armistice agreement but no peace settlement, so technically the war has never ended. American military remains in the South as part of a mutual defense treaty.

Fast forward to 1963 and the world finds out that the North has begun building a nuclear reactor. Then a nuclear weapons program in the 1980s. The first time North Korea committed to denuclearization was 1992’s Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula — though historically, nuclear inspectors have been barred from surveying North Korean facilities.

Earlier this year, a team of Stanford University experts — one who visited North Korean nuclear facilities multiple times — formulated a detailed planfor the dismantlement of the North Korean program with a 10- to 15-year estimate. In statements surrounding the summit, Trump — who has no science advisor — said “I think whoever wrote that [estimate] is wrong.”

Before going into the summit Trump bragged about his lack of preparation and said that he “will know, just [by] my touch, my feel” how to assess Kim Jong-un’s nuclear plan.
Trump, who coasted into the White House on his sole qualification as a dealmaker, came straight to the North Korean denuclearization summit after failing to make a deal about milk with Canada. That was at the G-7 summit in Quebec, to which he arrived late and left early and wholly tanked by withdrawing the US from the signed trade declaration, all while somehow managing to piss off the one country known as the world’s friendliest. He spent the weekend petulantly talking smack about the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, whom he called “very dishonest and weak.”

He ran from G-7 straight into the arms of Kim Jong-un, with whom he seemed genuinely pleased. As a token, Trump commissioned a gift for North Korea’s leader in the form of a fake Hollywood movie trailer about the two of them, starring together, bringing peace and happiness to the world. It included lines like “featuring President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un … in a meeting to remake history.” He played it on an iPad for the dictator in their private meeting. Washington Post reported that when it aired in the press room, journalists assumed the video was North Korean propaganda.

Reuters explained that prior to Trump’s elevation of Kim, he “was an international pariah accused of ordering the killing of his uncle, a half-brother and hundreds of officials suspected of disloyalty.” They added, “The North Korean leader had been isolated, his country accused by rights groups of widespread human rights abuses and under U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”

The Washington Post noted the UN’s report “described the country as a ruthless police state where as many as 120,000 people are kept in political gulags under horrific conditions; other prisons, effectively labor camps, hold people for ordinary crimes. Telephone calls are monitored and citizens are punished for watching or listening to foreign broadcasts.”

Now put that in the context of nuclearization. According to U.S. military intelligence, defense experts and North “watchers” (cited in Newsweek), in 2017 it was estimated that North Korea has “enough plutonium stored up to create a minimum of six nuclear weapons, but other estimates were as high as 10 to 16 nuclear weapons.”

So if Kim is a dictator with nukes and very aggressive hackers, there’s no reason to doubt that both Kim and Trump are fine with holding the world hostage under threat of nuclear annihilation for whatever their real endgames really are. Last August Trump warned that any North Korean attack “will be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

For North Korea’s grand finale to its founder’s 105th birthday party in April 2017, it celebrated with a propaganda video showing missiles being launched.

“Eventually the nukes found their target, San Francisco, and exploded in massive fiery eruptions, engulfing the city in flames. The audience appeared to applaud San Francisco’s destruction,” wrote nervous Bay Area press. “The image of flickering flames overlaid shots of an American flag and a military cemetery.”

Let’s just hope they stick to comparing the size of their buttons.

June 15, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Leaked UN draft report – world is on track to exceed 1.5C of warming

Guardian 15th June 2018 The world is on track to exceed 1.5C of warming unless countries rapidly implement “far-reaching” actions to reduce carbon emissions, according to a draft UN report leaked to Reuters. The final draft report from the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) was due for publication in
October. It is the guiding scientific document for what countries must do to combat climate change.

Human-induced warming would exceed 1.5C by about 2040 if emissions continued at their present rate, the report found, but countries could keep warming below that level if they made “rapid and far reaching” changes.

Under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, almost 200 countries signed up to limit global temperature rises to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C. Climate scientist and Climate Analytics director Bill Hare said the draft report showed with greater clarity how much faster countries needed to move towards decarbonisation under various temperature situations and that the impacts of climate change greatly increased between 1.5C and 2C of warming.

Necessary actions include making the transition to renewable energy, powering the transport sector with zero carbon electricity, improving agricultural management and stopping deforestation.

June 15, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | 2 Comments

100 nuclear weapons is the “pragmatic limit” for any country to have in its arsenal.

This is how many nukes it would take to destroy society, By James Rogers, Fox News, June 15, 2018 New research argues that 100 nuclear weapons is the “pragmatic limit” for any country to have in its arsenal. Any aggressor nation unleashing more than 100 nuclear weapons could ultimately devastate its own society, scientists warn.

The study was published in the journal Safety on Thursday; it was co-authored by Michigan Technological University professor Joshua Pearce and David Denkenberger, assistant professor at Tennessee State University and director of Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters.

“The results found that 100 nuclear warheads is adequate for nuclear deterrence in the worst case scenario, while using more than 100 nuclear weapons by any aggressor nation (including the best positioned strategically to handle the unintended consequences) even with optimistic assumptions (including no retaliation) would cause unacceptable damage to their own society,” the scientists wrote.

There are approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons globally, according to the research, with the US and Russia accounting for nearly 90 percent of that total. With nine nuclear weaponized countries, the paper argues for a disarmament proposal that would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world to 900 or less.

“100 nuclear warheads is the pragmatic limit and use of government funds to maintain more than 100 nuclear weapons does not appear to be rational,” the paper argues.

The scientists discuss the devastating global environmental impact that would occur when a country deploys more than 100 nuclear weapons.

This “environmental blowback” would involve a significant drop in global temperatures as soot from nuclear blasts prevents sunlight from reaching Earth’s surface. This, combined with reduced precipitation, could severely impact food production, experts warn, potentially resulting in mass starvation.

“If the agricultural productivity reverts to preindustrial yields because of a nuclear strike, most countries would not be able to feed themselves,” the study says.

Researchers also cite conservative estimates that 34 million people would die if 100 nuclear bombs were unleashed on China, the world’s most populous nation.

June 15, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Why TEPCO should quickly close down Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant

Editorial: TEPCO should quickly decommission Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant,  (Mainichi Japan).  Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has finally announced that it will decommission its Fukushima No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant, more than seven years after the outbreak of the ongoing crisis at its tsunami-ravaged Fukushima No. 1 plant. If realized, all 10 nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture would be dismantled.

The presence of the No. 2 power station has offended Fukushima Prefecture residents, many of whom are still living as evacuees, and others who have suffered groundless rumors about radiation contamination. TEPCO needs to swiftly draw up a road map that will enable smooth decommissioning of the complex.

Like the No. 1 plant, the No. 2 complex was also hit by tsunami generated by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. However, some of its external power sources remained intact, averting meltdowns at the plant.

The No. 2 plant remains offline, but a massive amount of nuclear fuel remains in the complex. Since prefectural residents have deeply rooted concerns about the plant’s safety and its possible reactivation in the future, the prefectural government has urged TEPCO and the national government, which effectively has the largest stake in the utility, to decommission the plant at an early date.

Reactivation of a nuclear plant requires consent from the local municipalities hosting the complex. Therefore, the resumption of operations at the No. 2 power station has always been a politically unfeasible option.

Moreover, more than 30 years have passed since operation of its four reactors began.

To operate the reactors beyond the 40-year limit set under new rules introduced after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis, it is necessary to invest a vast amount of money for additional safety measures. That means there were no merits to keeping the power station open in terms of the utility’s finances.

Nevertheless, TEPCO had delayed the decision to decommission the complex.

Once a utility decides to decommission a nuclear reactor, the operator cannot regard the facility or the nuclear fuel inside it as part of the company’s assets, weakening its financial base. It appears TEPCO may have waited to make the decision until the company had restored its financial strength.

However, even considering the financial strain that TEPCO experienced after the March 2011 disaster, it deserves criticism for its lack of sincerity, failing to provide a sufficient explanation to the public about its plans for the reactors.

TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa, who notified Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori of the decision, has admitted that the No. 2 plant “has hindered disaster recovery.” If so, the utility should promptly begin preparations to decommission the complex.

The power company already faces the extremely difficult task of decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. In order to smoothly carry out the decommissioning of the No. 2 plant as well, the company must exercise wisdom in allocating its management resources, such as funds and personnel. We hope TEPCO will cooperate with the government in swiftly materializing its plan for decommissioning the No. 2 power station.

The decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 2 plant would leave the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture as TEPCO’s sole atomic power station. This means that TEPCO may step up its efforts to persuade the local municipalities hosting that power plant to accept its reactivation. However, the company must keep in mind that the main priority is to ensure safety at the plant and to obtain the understanding and acceptance of local communities.

June 15, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, politics | Leave a comment

Nuclear Industry Association still struggling with inconvenient truth that Brexit is bad for their industry

Industry body welcomes progress on international nuclear agreement as Brexit looms

But the Nuclear Industry Association says there remains a lot to do to secure Britain’s nuclear sector before it leaves Euratom. 

Progress on a voluntary agreement that will continue to allow officials to keep tabs on and inspect UK civil nuclear facilities including Sellafield post-Brexit, has been welcomed by an industry group.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of directors has approved the UK Voluntary Offer Agreement, which if ratified as expected later this summer, will see the UK continue to share information on its civil nuclear facilities and allow inspections by IAEA officials.

The IAEA works to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear energy and has safeguards in place with nuclear weapons states such as the UK. At present the sharing of information and inspections go through the European Commission and its agency Euratom.

The UK is set to leave Euratom in March 2019 at the same time it exits the European Union.

The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) has been pushing the Government to secure agreements with bodies including the IAEA, to ensure current agreements do not break down post-Brexit.

The NIA’s chief executive Tom Greatrex welcomed the IAEA’s approval of a replacement agreement as a “step in the process towards creating a domestic regime to replace current Euratom functions”.

He said: “It is the first in a series of international agreements which need to be negotiated, agreed and ratified with a number of third countries, and the practical arrangements relating to the UK’s safeguarding regime need to be finalised – including recruitment, training, systems and equipment.

“There has been significant progress over the last few months, but there remains a lot left to do.

“Industry continues to work with government to assist in this process, but it remains of critical importance that the government finalise negotiations on a transitional framework for the UK before it leaves the EU and Euratom in March 2019, to minimise the risk of future arrangements not being ready at the time the UK ceases to be part of Euratom.”

Concerns has also been expressed in Cumbria over the UK’s exist from Euratom.

Barrow and Furness MP, John Woodcock has been a long-standing critic of the move, which he says has potential to hurt the industry in the county.

Prime Minister Teresa May said she is keen to retain some links with Euratom post-Brexit.

In a speech last month Mrs May said she would “willingly” make a financial contribution to allow Britain’s to “fully associate” itself with Euratom’s R&D programme and Horizon Europe research and innovation programme – the successor to Horizon 2020.

June 15, 2018 Posted by | politics international, UK | Leave a comment

15th June Forum to discuss nuclear weapons travelling on A34 UK

A FORUM to discuss nuclear transportation and how councils can deliver low carbon energy instead will be held in Oxford today.

The Nuclear Free Local Authorities organisation will hold its summer seminar on nuclear transports – as nuclear weapons currently travel up and down the A34 – nuclear transparency and promoting low carbon energy.

The local government voice on nuclear issues wants authorities to adopt anti-nuclear policies and encourage them to be part of a mixed energy supply over the next 40 years.

Currently around 50 local councils – including Oxford City – support the organisation’s policies.

The city council’s NFLA representative, John Tanner, said: “I am thrilled that Nuclear Free Local Authorities are meeting in Oxford to discuss nuclear safety and local energy scheme.

“Lots of people don’t know that nuclear weapons regularly travel up and down the A34.”

He added: “It’s also important to remember that green energy, produced locally, can be a lot more economical than large-scale nuclear power.”

The forum will take place at Oxford Town Hall from 10.30am to 1pm.

June 15, 2018 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

Do Donald Trump and Rick Perry really know what they’re doing, with coal/nuclear bailout? It seems not

U.S. nuclear, coal plant bailout plan still being ‘fleshed out’: Perry, Reuters Staff  BARILOCHE, Argentina (Reuters) 15 June 18 – A plan requested by U.S. President Donald Trump to prevent struggling nuclear and coal power plants from shutting is still being “fleshed out” by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the White House, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Friday.

Trump on June 1 directed Perry to take emergency steps to keep nuclear and coal plants running, in what would amount to an unprecedented intervention in U.S. power markets that has drawn backlash from environmentalists as well as oil, gas and renewable energy companies. ….He did not respond to questions on when the plan would be announced or its details.

June 15, 2018 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Robots the hope for cleaning up the world’s riskiest and massive nuclear waste storage pool, at Sellafield, UK.

Above – Sellafield’s massive Magnox nuclear waste storage pool

Only Cthulhu can solve Sellafield’s sludgy nuclear waste problem, Wired,    , 14 June 18 

Cleaning up Sellafield’s nuclear waste costs £1.9 billion a year. To help with the toxic task, robots are evolving fast.  Sellafield has been called the most dangerous place in the UK, the most hazardous place in Europe and the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site. At its heart is a giant pond full of radioactive sludge, strewn with broken metal, dead animals and deadly nuclear rods. The solution to clearing up Sellafield’s nuclear waste and retrieving the missing nuclear fuel? Robots, of course. And to tackle this mammoth task, the robots are being forced to evolve.

Sellafield’s First-Generation Magnox Storage Pond is a giant outdoor body of water that’s the same size as two Olympic swimming pools. It was built in the 1960s to store used fuel rods from the early Magnox reactors – which had magnesium alloy cladding on the fuel rods – as part of Britain’s booming nuclear program. In 1974, there was a delay in reprocessing; fuel rods started corroding and the pond became murky. The pool was active for 26 years until 1992 and is now finally being decommissioned as part of the £1.9 billion spent each year on Sellafield’s mammoth cleanup operation.

The pond contains about six metres of radioactive water and half a metre of sludge, composed of wind-blown dirt, bird droppings and algae – the usual debris that builds up in any open body of water. Unlike other mud, it conceals everything from dropped tools and bird carcasses to corroded Magnox cladding and the remains of uranium fuel rods.

A number of robotic creations have bee used to get to the bottom of the pool’s sludge but struggle to break through the hostile environment. Tethered swimming robots do not have the sensors to find objects in the fine mud, and lack the leverage to lift chunks of metal. Experience at Fukushima has shown robots that are not well adapted to the environment are a waste of time.

Enter Cthulhu, a tracked robot that can drive along the pond bed, feeling its way with tactile sensors and sonar. The robot, which is currently in development, is approaching Sellafield’s problem differently. The robot will be able to identify nuclear rods and then pick them up. “Rather than trying to mimic a human, we’re building a robot that can do things humans can’t do with senses that humans don’t have,” says Bob Hicks of QinetiQ, which is leading the project.

The name stands for ‘Collaborative Technology Hardened for Underwater and Littoral Hazardous Environment,’ but it’s also a nod to Cthulhu, the godlike alien created by HP Lovecraft: both are amphibious, dwell in strange surroundings, and have sensory feelers. “Much like a walrus detecting molluscs, we hope to be able to detect and identify objects in the sludge with the whiskers,” says Plamen Angelov of Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications.

QinetiQ is supplying the tracked body, originally from a bomb disposal robot, and Bristol Maritime Robotics is developing the tactile sensors, while Angelov’s team is providing the neural network AI. It is planned the robot will use deep learning to fuse tactile and sonar data into a single picture of the world. Existing neural networks can handle video data, and ‘image classifiers’ to distinguish objects are well-established. But nobody has tried to fuse data from different types of sensor before.

Cthulhu’s classifier will learn to divide objects into ‘fuel rods’ and ‘everything else’………

The work at Sellafield is due to take several decades to complete fully. Nuclear waste is spread through several buildings in a variety of silos and pools. Each has its own challenges for cleaning-up. For the First Generation Magnox Pond, documents from the government show all the bulk fuel should be removed by the early 2030s.

June 15, 2018 Posted by | Reference, technology, wastes | Leave a comment

U.S. Navy Will Retest Hunters Point Shipyard for Radiation

Navy Releases Plan to Retest Hunters Point Shipyard for Radiation

Officials encourage members of the public to comment on the first of its work plans to collect new radiological data at the shipyard. NBC Bay Area  By Liz Wagner and Rachel Witte, 16 June 18 

The Navy released the first of its work plans on Friday to retest the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard for radiation after it found workers from Tetra Tech, the contractor it hired to identify and remediate contamination, likely falsified part of the cleanup.

Earlier this year Navy officials determined they needed to redo Tetra Tech’s radiological work to be sure the shipyard is clean.

…….. San Francisco supervisor Malia Cohen announced Friday morning that the Navy has also agreed to test another parcel at Hunters Point, Parcel A, for hazardous material. Parcel A is a section of the shipyard where people are already living in new condos……….

Two former Tetra Tech employees were sentenced to prison last month for falsifying radiation data. The company acknowledged the falsification of those records, but stands by its work at the shipyard before and since that time. ……

Absent from any oversight plans are local community members. For years the environmental justice group Greenaction has been calling on a comprehensive community engaged cleanup. While the Navy plans to continue to hold community meetings on the status of the shipyard cleanup, officials said they have no plans for a community oversight board.

The Navy is encouraging members of the public to review and comment on the Parcel G work plan until August 14. The document is available to view online here, or in person at the San Francisco Main Library on the 5th Floor Government Center at 100 Larkin Street or at The Shipyard Site Trailer at 690 Hudson Avenue. Written comments can be emailed to Derek Robinson at derek.j.robinson1@navy.mil

June 15, 2018 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

The Financial Times launching a new guide to the “energy transition

FT 15th June 2018 , The Financial Times has launched a new guide to the “energy transition” –
the long-term restructuring of the energy system away from fossil fuels and
towards renewables. In the first of six instalments, the FT delves into the
role of the energy producers, examining “how new technologies and
environmental concerns are transforming the energy mix across the world’.
The guide includes articles on how coal is fading in the developed world
but is far from dead in Asia, why renewables and high costs are challenging
the case for nuclear power, and how natural gas is vying for a big role in
the shift to low-carbon economy. The next instalment, on the role of
citizens, will be published on 31 July.

June 15, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, ENERGY | Leave a comment

Accelerating Sea Level Rise is Being Driven by Rapidly Increasing Melt From Greenland and Antarctica


From 1993 to the present day, global sea level rise has accelerated by 50 percent. And the primary cause, according to recent research, is that land glaciers such as the massive ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are melting far faster than they have in the past.

(Assessment of factors involved in the presently increasing rate of global sea level rise.)

Antarctica, in particular, is melting much more rapidly — with melt rates tripling in just the last ten years.

The primary factors contributing to global sea level rise include thermally expanding oceans and the melting of ice on land. During the decade of 1993 to 2004, the World Meteorological Organization notes that oceans rose by 2.7 mm per year. During this time, land ice sheets amounted to 47 percent of that rise — or about 1.35 mm. The same report found that from 2004 to 2015, oceans…

View original post 224 more words

June 15, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Arctic Sea Ice at 4th Lowest Extent on Record


Warmer than normal conditions, abnormal wide areas of open water, large wildfires burning near Arctic Ocean shores, and Arctic sea ice extents at 4th lowest on record. That’s the present reality of a human-warmed Arctic environment.

(An assessment of present Arctic conditions)

With Arctic temperatures hovering around 1.6 degrees Celsius above average and focusing on a rather hot zone near Central Siberia, Arctic sea ice on the Siberian side is experiencing widespread melt ponding. In addition, a large area of open water is expanding through the Laptev Sea due to warm southerly winds and much warmer than normal temperatures.

Overall, temperatures in this Central Siberian zone will range as high as 25 degrees Celsius (45 F) above average today. With some areas hitting has high as 85-90 (F). Near these much warmer than normal temperatures, a series of large wildfires are burning. Fires so far north are historically…

View original post 112 more words

June 15, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June 15 Energy News



¶ “NRDC, 19 Other Groups Challenge EU’s Mistaken Climate Decision” • EU policymakers agreed on a new Renewable Energy Directive that failed to fix Europe’s broken bioenergy policies. The decision to continue to label the indiscriminate burning of wood as “carbon neutral” undercuts the EU’s climate targets. [Natural Resources Defense Council]

Clearcut forest (MO Stevens, Wikimedia Commons)

¶ “Nuclear Power Won’t Survive Without A Government Handout” • Once upon a time, if you were an American who didn’t like nuclear energy, you had to stage sit-ins and marches and chain yourself to various inanimate objects in hopes of closing the nation’s nuclear power plants. Today, all you have to do is sit back and wait. [FiveThirtyEight]

Science and Technology:

¶ The world’s system for allocating fish stocks is being outpaced by the movement of fish species in response to climate change, according to a…

View original post 736 more words

June 15, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists hopes for some SUBSTANCE and scientific expertise in USA- North Korea nuclear negotiations

Now, it’s time to deliver A Bulletin editorial  

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists favors all dialogue aimed at reducing nuclear risks, and it therefore supports US President Donald Trump’s decision to engage with North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

But media pomp and video symbolism cannot substitute for arms control substance. The high-level goals listed in the joint statement Trump and Kim issued after their meeting are extremely vague, but concrete steps are required, if the nuclear risk that North Korea poses to the United States and the international community is to be reduced. The vagueness of the joint statement creates a distinct possibility that it will quickly evaporate, with regrettable—and possibly catastrophic—results for the region and the world.

The Bulletin is deeply concerned the United States has already committed to cease large-scale military exercises in Northeast Asia without, apparently, first consulting its South Korean allies. This move is part of a deeply problematic pattern, in which the Trump administration aligns with dictators at the expense of longtime US allies and important multinational agreements. It is a pattern that must end, if negotiations with North Korea are to have any chance of succeeding.

As a next step, the United States and North Korea need to agree in specific terms on the characteristics of a “freeze” in activities that would continue during negotiations that could well take years to complete. The United States should insist that the North formally agree to cease all nuclear weapons tests, missile launches, and fissile material production while talks continue. Without such an agreement, talks could drag on fruitlessly for years, perhaps even acting as a cover for continued development of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

The Bulletin encourages the United States and North Korea to seek assistance from a wider range of scientific and policy experts, within and outside their governments, during negotiations. Such technical advice is absolutely necessary, if North Korea’s nuclear program is to be dismantled in a verifiable way that serves the security interests of both countries and, just as important, the interests of South Korea and Japan, longstanding US allies who are vital to securing peace in Northeast Asia.

Notwithstanding the gauzy verbiage of the Singapore joint statement, we think it unlikely that negotiations will soon achieve the complete denuclearization of North Korea (if that goal is ever reached). But the nuclear risk that North Korea poses to the world can be reduced and managed, if negotiations follow a concrete, verifiable, step-by-step roadmap. Frankly, that roadmap should have been drawn long before the Singapore meeting occurred. It should be drawn now.

We are hopeful that Tuesday’s meeting in Singapore was a first step toward a safer Korean Peninsula, but we remain doubtful about prospects for progress in this regard, given the Trump administration’s erratic approach to international affairs. When top-level scientific experts from the US national laboratories and elsewhere are brought into the North Korean talks—as they were for the Iran nuclear deal that President Trump has tried so hard to sabotage—we will know his administration is as serious about the substance of addressing North Korea’s nuclear program as it is about the styling of grand public relations events.

June 15, 2018 Posted by | general | Leave a comment