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UK government waits for nuclear test veterans to die, covers up research on genetic effects

Tory Defence Secretary breaks promise and refuses study on nuclear test guinea pigs’ families https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tories-break-promise-refuse-tests-13876749

Gavin Williamson has been accused of betrayal just six months after promising campaigners he’d help, By Susie Boniface,19 JAN 2019, The Tories have refused to order a study into genetic ­damage suffered by children of servicemen in the British nuclear tests.

Defence Secretary Gavin ­Wil­­liamson’s decision came days after his department finally admitted it never warned the men used in Cold War radiation experiments that their families might have been harmed.

Children of the 1950s veterans report 10 times the normal rate of birth defects. But six months after he met campaigners and ­promised to help, Williamson has been accused of betrayal.

Shirley Denson, 84, who told the minister her ­hus­­band Eric was ordered to fly through the mushroom cloud of a massive H-bomb, said: “I’m disgusted the man who seemed to lis­­ten so carefully has let us down so badly.

“A fifth of the children and grandchildren Eric and I had have de­­­formities, including missing and extra teeth. Our family is just one of thousands and Williamson knows this.”

Eric killed himself after years of crippling headaches, and Shirley later uncovered proof he had been exposed to 165 years’ worth of background radiation to his brain in just 6 minutes.

Campaigners and cross-party MPs had asked for research into all the children’s health problems, but instead Williamson has spent a six-figure sum on repeating an old study into the veterans’ cancer rates.

It is expected to take a year to report back, and in the meantime veterans, who are mostly in their 80s, are dying at the rate of one a week.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, who is backing the vets’ campaign for justice, said: “The earlier study failed to note the miscarriages, ill health, infant mortality and childhood illness which so many veteran families experienced. As a result it showed few problems, when the veterans’ experience was very different.

“By raising their hopes then dashing them with science de­­­signed to fail, the Defence Secretary has shown scant regard for the survivors, widows and children he promised to help.”

The announcement followed an admission in Parliament the MoD had never warned the men that exposure to radiation might damage their DNA.

Junior minister Tobias Ellwood confessed after a search of the archives that he was “unable to locate” any proof servicemen were made aware of the dangers.

Yet there are documents showing those in charge knew of the risks.

The Medical Research Council reported in 1947 that “even the smallest doses of radiation produce a genetic effect.”

A 1953 memo stated chiefs of staff wanted to “discover the detailed effect of various types of explosion on equipment, stores and men, with and without various types of protection”.

Another states Downing Street considered how “to limit the genetic hazards”.

And a No10 letter discovered in the archives proves that in 1955, when warned about the genetic dangers, PM Anthony Eden responded: “A pity, but we cannot help it.”

When he met campaigners Mr Williamson also promised them a speedy review into a medal for the veterans’ exceptional service.

But 6 months later, a medal review committee has yet to be formed and neither the MoD nor Cabinet Office, which is in charge of honours, can give a timescale for when it will meet to hear the veterans’ evidence.

Just before Christmas, thousands of bomb test documents were removed from the National Archives without explanation.

Some had been scheduled for immediate release under Freedom of Information requests by campaigners.

 

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January 21, 2019 Posted by | health, secrets,lies and civil liberties, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Kim Jong Un continuing to play to the vanity of Donald Trump?

While Kim plays to Trump’s ego, he builds his nuclear arsenal, CNN, By Samantha Vinograd,  January 20, 2019  “……..When President Donald Trump met Kim Jong Un in June 2018, they came to a vague agreement that North Korea would work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But, as Vice President Mike Pence stated last week, North Korea has failed to take concrete steps toward giving up its nuclear weapons, and it still represents a serious nuclear threat.

January 21, 2019 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | 1 Comment

The threat to millions of people, as glaciers in Central Asia melt

Melting glaciers spell trouble for millions in Asia, SMH, By Henry Fountain,19 January 2019  On a summer day in the mountains high above Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, the Tuyuksu glacier is melting like mad. Rivulets of water stream down the glacier’s thin leading edge.

In Central Asia, a warming climate is shrinking many glaciers. The Tuyuksu is losing ice every year. Around the world, vanishing glaciers will mean less water for people and crops in the future. Here, the people need to prepare sooner.

As she has for nearly two decades, Maria Shahgedanova, a glaciologist at the University of Reading in England, has come here to check on the Tuyuksu. As one of the longest-studied glaciers anywhere, the Tuyuksu helps gauge the effect of climate change on the world’s ice.

Glaciers represent the snows of centuries, compressed over time into slowly flowing rivers of ice, up to about 300 metres thick here in the Tien Shan range of Central Asia and even thicker elsewhere. They are never static, accumulating snow in winter and losing ice to melting in summer.

But in a warming climate melting outstrips accumulation, resulting in a net loss of ice. That is what is happening in Kazakhstan and all over the globe.

The world’s roughly 150,000 glaciers, not including the large ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, cover about 500,000 square kilometres of the Earth’s surface. During the last four decades they have lost the equivalent of a layer of ice 20 metres thick.

Most are getting shorter, too. Small ones in places like the Rockies and Andes have disappeared. And researchers say that even if greenhouse gas emissions were sharply curtailed immediately, there has already been enough warming to continue shrinking glaciers around the world.

This great global melting contributes to sea level rise. It affects production of hydroelectricity. It leads to disasters like rapid, catastrophic floods and debris flows. It alters rivers and ecosystems, affecting the organisms that inhabit them.

But here in the Tien Shan, the biggest effect may be on the supply of water for people and agriculture. ……..The researchers analyse samples from streams to determine the mix of water sources, which is important for forecasting how the rivers will fare over time. A melting glacier can at first increase stream flow, but eventually the glacier reaches a tipping point, called peak flow, and meltwater begins to taper.

“At some point they cannot produce the water they are providing right now,” said Matthias Huss, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. “It’s really important for water managers to know when this tipping point is reached.”

Glaciers elsewhere in Central Asia – in China to the east, and Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the south – will eventually decline as well. But the biggest effect will be further south, where countless glaciers feed the great river basins of Asia.

Across the Tibetan Plateau and in the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges, the glaciers number in the thousands and the people who rely on them in the hundreds of millions, along rivers like the Indus in Pakistan, the Ganges and Brahmaputra in India, the Yellow and Yangtze in China and the Mekong in south-east Asia……… https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/melting-glaciers-spell-trouble-for-millions-in-asia-20190118-p50sb6.html 

January 21, 2019 Posted by | ASIA, climate change | Leave a comment

Increasing rate of melting in North American glaciers

North American glaciers melting much faster than 10 years ago – study
Satellite images show glaciers in US and Canada, excluding Alaska, are shrinking four times faster than in previous decade ,
Guardian, Emily Holden in Washington, Sat 19 Jan 2019

Glaciers in western North America, excluding Alaska, are melting four times faster than in the previous decade, with changes in the jet stream exacerbating the longer-term effects of climate change, according to a new study.

The retreat hasn’t been equal in the US and Canada. The famous alpine ice masses in the Cascade Mountains in the north-west US have largely been spared from the trend.

“The losses we would expect were reduced because we got a lot of additional snow,” said David Shean, a co-author at the University of Washington. “Moving forward we may not be so lucky.” The jet stream – the currents of fast-flowing air in the atmosphere that affect weather – has shifted, causing more snow in the north-western US and less in south-western Canada, according to the study released in Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Changes in the northern hemisphere jet stream are increasingly firmly linked to global warming.

That warming from humans burning fossil fuels is also expected to continue to melt alpine glaciers, even under scenarios for more moderate greenhouse gas levels.

While some of the fourfold increase in the melting rate in western North America is related to manmade climate change, the researchers can’t say with certainty how much.

“We’re starting to understand these shorter cycles that have real impacts on how the glaciers are behaving and how much water is stored in the glaciers,” Shean explained.

Alaskan glaciers get much of the attention in North America because Alaska is warming faster than the continental US. Mount Hunter in Denali national park, is seeing 60 times more snow melt than it did 150 years ago.

The North American glaciers analyzed in the new study are far smaller than those in Alaska, Asia and elsewhere, so they won’t contribute much to sea-level rise as they melt. The authors say they offer critical lessons for water management, fisheries and flood prevention…….. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/18/north-america-glacier-melt-study-climate-change

January 21, 2019 Posted by | climate change, NORTH AMERICA | Leave a comment

The pitfalls of Direct Democracy- Taiwan’s referendum and the vote on nuclear power

How Direct Democracy Went Nuclear in Taiwan, A contentious vote on Taiwan’s nuclear future showed how the country’s public referendums went haywire. The Diplomat , By Nick Aspinwall, January 18, 2019 It only took one month for Huang Shih-hsiu, a 31-year-old nuclear energy advocate, to upend a core energy policy of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. The policy, prior to its downfall, stated that Taiwan would decommission its three active nuclear power plants by 2025.

It makes for an entangled web of policy which, ideally, a direct democracy would sort out through a patient and measured process of public debate, consultation with experts, and consensus-building to avoid polarization and finger-pointing. Everyone does seem to agree on one thing, however: This did not happen in Taiwan.

Will the World Learn From Taiwan?

Matt Qvortrup, a professor of political science at Coventry University and leading referendum expert, has watched referendums surge in popularity throughout Europe and, gradually, to corners of the world like Taiwan, whose large-scale plebiscites provided lessons for global democracies in what, or what not, to do.

Qvortrup is a believer in referendums, but with conditions. “Democracy is discussion and deliberation,” he says, and that does not happen when voters are rushed to the polls. “To have meaningful democracy,” he says, “you need to have time to debate things.” Taiwan’s CEC-sanctioned TV debates were held in a cramped three-week window – five public forums each for 10 referendum questions.

He noted that debate on the high-interest issue of same-sex marriage dominated much of Taiwan’s already congested pre-referendum discourse, drowning out interest in the intricacies of energy policy. “That’s bad, because people will be voting on things they haven’t had the opportunity to talk about,” Qvortrup says.

Chao of RSPRC agrees, saying there was far from enough time for voters to have an informed debate. Shortly after the referendum, his center published a study showing that voters were not informed on nuclear power – most were unaware of the details of Tsai’s phaseout proposal, and 44 percent believed nuclear power provides most of the island’s energy. (It produces just over 8 percent, far behind coal-fired power.)

“For democracy to work, it has to be limited to relatively few issues,” says Qvortrup. “If you have too many issues on the ballot, people just get saturated. They turn off, they can’t be bothered. You need to save up your civic reserves.”

Taiwan’s nuclear power plebiscite was not even the only energy-related measure on the ballot: Two separate measures, both successful, called for Taiwan to reduce thermal power and stop expansion of coal-fired power plants. A measure to maintain Taiwan’s ban on food imports from the Fukushima disaster area also passed, angering Japan.

The team at Cofacts, a collaborative social media fact-checking platform that monitored online discussion leading up to the referendums, says it observed a combination of disinformation and voter apathy ahead of the energy plebiscites. “In comparison to other issues, nuclear power was one of the less popular topics,” writes Rosalind, a Cofacts editor, in an open response to questions from The Diplomat. “Even when people talked about it, they were actually talking about air pollution, reducing thermal power generation plants, new alternative energy, and polluted foods.” This did not allow voters to consider the nuances of the issues, such as whether Taiwan does in fact face a looming electricity shortage, says Rosalind.

“The people wanted to be on the ‘winning’ side of these yes/no questions, even though most of them did not know the referendum topics until the day of the election,” says Cofacts founder Johnson Liang. He notes that online discussion on nuclear power paled in comparison to talk of the same-sex marriage referendums. “There were way too many topics to vote [on] within a timespan that is too short, and they did not have time to follow the television debates.”

It takes a resonant message to cut through an overload of information and mangled discourse, and Huang Shih-hsiu had one: Nuclear Mythbusters ran with the slogan “Nuclear energy is green energy,” sizing it up against a future coal-fired dystopia and dismissing the present-day viability of affordable renewables, all while cutting through the opposing stance that nuclear power is an environmental crisis waiting to happen.

This approach has always been effective, but it’s especially potent in the digital age, says Dion Curry, senior lecturer of public policy at Swansea University. Public figures with “little political power, but immense media power” – he cites Brexit’s Nigel Farage as an example – can strategically reach voters through targeted Facebook ads and participation in social media “echo chambers,” he says………. https://thediplomat.com/2019/01/how-direct-democracy-went-nuclear-in-taiwan/

January 21, 2019 Posted by | politics, Reference, Taiwan | 1 Comment

Japan’s plans to sell nuclear plants overseas have been derailed

Plans to sell nuclear plants overseas derailed, Japan Times, 20 Jan 19, With the decision by Hitachi Ltd. to “freeze” its plan to build two nuclear power reactors in the United Kingdom, all of the overseas nuclear power plant projects pursued by Japanese firms — with the backing of the government seeking to promote export of nuclear power technology as a key pillar of its efforts to boost infrastructure sales in overseas markets — have now effectively been derailed.

……… Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long taken the initiative to promote the overseas sale of Japanese nuclear power plants through top-level diplomacy. However, the nuclear power plant business cannot be a part of the nation’s growth strategy if its business feasibility is in doubt. The government and related industries need to face up to the situation surrounding the nuclear power business — which continues to face difficulties domestically as well — and reassess the way forward.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster, triggered by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, has radically changed the global nuclear power market landscape. The cost of nuclear power, which had been promoted as a relatively inexpensive and “clean” source of energy that does not emit carbon dioxide, spiked as additional safety investments inflated plant expenses.

The cost of Hitachi’s project to build the two reactors in Anglesey, Wales, which began in 2012, has ballooned from the initial estimate of ¥2 trillion to ¥3 trillion. Another project pursued by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to build four reactors in Turkey has also been hampered by the swelling cost — which reportedly shot up from an initially estimated ¥2.1 trillion to ¥5 trillion. Toshiba Corp. has pulled out from the overseas nuclear power business after the huge losses incurred by its subsidiary Westinghouse Electric Co. in its nuclear power plant projects in the United States.

Even with a spike in plant construction costs, the nuclear power business would make economic sense if the expected earnings surpass the investments. But Hitachi reportedly decided to halt the U.K. project after it became clear that even with public support from the British government it could not possibly realize profits………

Behind the government’s drive to promote the sale of nuclear power plants overseas has been the domestic market’s bleak business prospects. While the government and the power industry have pushed for restarting the nation’s nuclear power plants idled in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, once they have cleared the tightened plant safety standards, only nine reactors at five plants have been put back online. The additional costs of safety investments required under the new Nuclear Regulation Authority standards to make the plants more resilient to natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunami — estimated to range from ¥100 billion to ¥200 billion for each reactor — have prompted power companies to decide to decommission 23 aging reactors so far (including the six at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant).

As popular opposition in Japan remains strong against reactivating the idled plants, there is no prospect that the construction of new plants will be approved in the foreseeable future. The drive to promote the export of nuclear power plants may have been intended to make up for the loss of demand in the domestic market. But earlier plans for Japanese makers to build plants in Lithuania and Vietnam were canceled, while a civil nuclear cooperation pact signed with India in 2016 — which was aimed at paving the way for Japanese nuclear plant exports to the country — has not resulted in any deal. Along with Hitachi’s decision to halt the U.K. project, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is reportedly set to abandon its plan in Turkey.

Even without construction of new plants, there will be demand for maintaining Japan’s existing nuclear power plants, and for decommissioning its aging plants. What to do with the spent nuclear fuel and the high-level radioactive wastes from the plants will also be among the challenges that confront Japan’s nuclear power business. There will be plenty of work for the industry, and it will be crucial to develop and maintain the technology and manpower to deal with the tasks. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2019/01/20/editorials/plans-sell-nuclear-plants-overseas-derailed/#.XETUVtIzbGg

January 21, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, politics | Leave a comment

Renewable energy is the way to go for UK, not nuclear white elephants

Scrapping of nuclear plant should see UK renewables filling the void  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/18/scrapping-of-nuclear-plant-should-see-uk-renewables-filling-the-void Catherine Mitchell
Professor of energy policy, University of Exeter  19 Jan  19 

Readers respond to news that Hitachi has pulled out of the proposed Wylva nuclear power plant in Anglesey The pulling out of Hitachi from the proposed Wylva nuclear power plant is a good thing for energy policy – not a serious blow as said in the article (Hitachi scraps £16bn nuclear power station in Wales, 18 January). Nuclear power is now one of the most expensive form of electricity there is. But beyond the economics, it no longer fits with the digitalising world that we live in. The global energy system is undergoing change similar to that in telecoms and computers over the last few decades. The energy system is becoming smarter and more flexible and it is on the path to being operated in a completely different way than hitherto because of that.S

Nuclear – with its huge, inflexible output – is the equivalent of a giant boulder in the middle of a motorway. We, the energy customers of Britain, would have ended up paying way over the odds for Wylva, which would have also undermined the UK’s move to a smart and flexible system – which really is the future. We are already going to do that for Hinkley Point C.

Going down the nuclear route has been a wasted decade for UK energy policy. Exiting from the EU and the loss of flexibility we may end up with because of difficulties to do with interconnectors and market arrangements is a far greater threat to security than some phantom nuclear power plant from a previous age.

Stephen Psallidas   Everyone knows that nuclear power creates lethal waste which hundreds of future generations will have to manage, and, despite the risk being very low, can lead to accidents (or terrorist attacks) with enormous impacts. But Hitachi’s abandonment of the new Wylfa nuclear power station is more evidence, as if any were needed, that nuclear power is also fundamentally uneconomic.

Renewable energy is already cheaper than all fossil fuels and new nuclear. And yet, £16bn spent on grid-level energy storage in the UK would enable a further plummet in the price of renewable energy – a huge boost to the UK economy, to energy independence and security, and to a cleaner future. Why do successive governments of both main parties continue to support these massive white elephants?

January 21, 2019 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Trump plans North Korea nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un for February 

Jan. 19, 2019, By Jonathan Allen, Abigail Williams and Dan De Luce

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump plans to meet face-to-face with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month for a second nuclear summit, the White House announced Friday. …..https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-meets-top-north-korean-official-second-kim-summit-possibility-n960301

January 21, 2019 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Australia bakes as record temperatures nudge 50C

‘It’s like hell here’: Australia bakes as record temperatures nudge 50C , Fears rise for homeless and vulnerable people as communities brace for another week of relentless hot weather , Guardian, Naaman Zhou,  @naamanzhou, Sun 20 Jan 2019

It was 48.9C last Tuesday in Port Augusta, South Australia, an old harbour city that now harvests solar power. Michelle Coles, the owner of the local cinema, took off her shoes at night to test the concrete before letting the dogs out. “People tend to stay at home,” she said. “They don’t walk around when it’s like this.”It’s easy to see why: in the middle of the day it takes seconds to blister a dog’s paw or child’s foot. In Mildura, in northern Victoria, last week gardeners burned their hands when they picked up their tools, which had been left in the sun at 46C. Fish were dying in the rivers.

Almost every day last week a new heat record was broken in Australia. They spread out, unrelenting, across the country, with records broken for all kinds of reasons – as if the statistics were finding an infinite series of ways to say that it was hot.

The community of Noona – population 14 – reached the highest minimum ever recorded overnight in Australia – 35.9C was the coldest it got, at 7am on Friday. It was 45C by noon.

A record fell on Tuesday in Meekatharra in Western Australia – the highest minimum there ever recorded (33C). Another fell on Wednesday, 2,000 miles away, in Albury, New South Wales – their hottest day (45.6C).

It was 45C or higher for four consecutive days in Broken Hill – another record – and more than 40C for the same time period in Canberra, the nation’s capital. Nine records fell across NSW on Wednesday alone. Back in Port Augusta, Tuesday was the highest temperature since records began in 1962………..

In South Australia, they declared a “code red” across Adelaide, the state capital. Homelessness services were working overtime and the Red Cross started calling round a list of 750 people who were deemed especially vulnerable

At the Australian Open in Melbourne, only the sea breeze kept the temperature below 40C. At Adelaide’s Tour Down Under, a bike race, it was 41C.

On Monday last week the hottest spot in New South Wales was Menindee, a river town that feeds the country’s largest water system, the Murray-Darling basin. It was 45C. It climbed to 47C on Wednesday, and by Thursday the fish were gasping.

Australia’s native Murray cod can live for decades under normal conditions, growing all the while. The oldest are a metre long, with heavy white bellies that have to be held with both hands. Last week, hundreds died, choked of oxygen due to an algal bloom that fed and grew in the heat, and collapsed when temperatures dipped.

Blue-green algae flourishes in hot, slow-moving water. Then, when temperatures inevitably drop, the algae dies and becomes a food source for bacteria, who multiply and starve the river of oxygen. The fish rise to the surface.

The mass fish death has reignited a debate over water management in the region, where cotton farmers upstream have been accused of taking more water than they should.

The heat is not the root cause, the locals stress. But the five punishing days settling over the river have not made it better. Last Thursday the cod were up near the surface and struggling. On Friday, it was 45C again. In Menindee, the locals believe the fish kill will happen again, with temperatures in the 40s expected to continue into this week. The water will be running hot……….https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jan/19/australia-swelters-as-relentless-hot-weather-smashes-records

January 21, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change | Leave a comment

Federal Plan Could Reclassify Hanford Nuclear Waste — And Leave it in the Ground

Major Problems at Hanford Nuclear Waste Site – King 5 Reports

 by Anna King Follow and John Notarianni    Follow OPB Jan. 18, 2019  new proposal from the Trump administration could dramatically change the way the government cleans up radioactive tank waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington.

In fall 2018, the Department of Energy released a proposal to downgrade the rating of some of the country’s high-level radioactive waste to a lower status. But critics say it could be bad news for places like Hanford.

The Hanford site in Washington is already “one of the most contaminated nuclear waste sites in North America,” according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Cleaning up the radioactive waste stored there is an ongoing process, and a federal report due out later this month estimates it will cost more than $240 billion to clean up the site.

Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Washington state Democrats Gov. Jay Inslee and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have all expressed major concerns with the federal plan.

Reporter Anna King covers Hanford and spoke to OPB “Weekend Edition” host John Notarianni about what’s at stake for waste reclassification.

John Notarianni: How much of the nuclear waste at Hanford could be subject to this reclassification?

Anna King: Congress is asking the U.S. Department of Energy things like, “What are you talking about? How much will this new plan save? And how much radioactive and chemical waste will be left at Hanford?” But so far, there have been few answers from the DOE.

Most at stake is 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge stored in aging underground tanks, not far from the Columbia River.

What’s at stake in this conversation is a proposed shift of some radioactive waste from high-level to low-level classification. What’s the difference?

The main difference between high-level and low-level radioactive waste is currently defined by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. High-level waste is so hazardous that federal law requires it to be stored in a deep geologic repository, a la Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

That’s because it contains highly radioactive material. But that Yucca project has been on hold since the beginning of the Obama administration. Low-level waste could be buried at Hanford in shallow or near-surface disposal facilities under both DOE and NRC regulations.

Some of the tank waste will likely be classified TRU waste — or transuranic — which means it contains extremely long-lived radionuclides, and the Nuclear Waste Policy Act requires that waste to also be stored in a deep geologic repository. And that waste would have to be taken down to New Mexico to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP — the only place that will take transuranic waste.

State officials and other Hanford watchdogs say they have several major concerns: There’s 56 million gallons of tank waste held in aging underground steel and concrete containers not far from the Columbia River.

Since 2002, the latest plan has been to build a massive plant to treat that waste. The idea is to bind it up in glass logs for long-term storage in a Yucca-type repository.

Sources say that if this was no longer the plan, and the waste was reclassified, that tank waste could be instead made into large blocks of grout and stored at Hanford, or hauled to another state or location and stored in a near-surface waste dump………..https://www.opb.org/news/article/hanford-nuclear-waste-federal-cleanup-plans/

January 21, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

The value of informal talks about nuclear security

Let’s talk about nuclear security — informally, SF Chronicle, By James Goodby and Kenneth Weisbrode Jan. 19, 2019

With the high-profile conclusion of Robert Mueller’s investigation, a U.S. threat to withdraw from a nuclear missile treaty, a worsening political situation in Ukraine, an ongoing conflict in Syria, not to mention recent reports that the FBI began a counterintelligence investigation of President Trump — the citizens of Russia and the United States should worry that their countries are soon reaching a point of no return.

Diplomats will say that few such points exist, and that professionals can and will continue to keep the channels of dialogue open. What’s missing here is not the capacity to talk but a political consensus on both sides to reaffirm why both countries still need to cooperate and how to go about finding it.

Mikhail Gorbachev and George P. Shultz recently called for a “broad strategic dialogue” among Americans and Russians to pull our nations out of their trough, or at least to look beyond it. Gorbachev and Shultz propose an “informal forum,” and that makes sense. The U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, nuclear arms control talks, and other formal arrangements appear to be stalled. The establishment of dialogue at a higher level — similar to efforts in the 1990s to encourage mutual investments and business opportunities — would probably be a nonstarter. What would an informal forum look like?………. https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Let-s-talk-about-nuclear-security-informally-13547680.php

January 21, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA | Leave a comment

Why don’t airplanes run on nuclear power?

Why There Are No Nuclear Airplanes Strategists considered sacrificing older pilots to patrol the skies in flying reactors. An Object Lesson. The Atlantic, 20 Jan 19 CHRISTIAN RUHL

“……….. Why don’t airplanes run on nuclear power?

The reasons are many. Making a nuclear reactor flightworthy is difficult. Shielding it from spewing dangerous radiation into the bodies of its crew might be impossible. During the Cold War, when the threat of nuclear apocalypse led to surprisingly pragmatic plans, engineers proposed to solve the problem by hiring elderly Air Force crews to pilot the hypothetical nuclear planes, because they would die before radiation exposure gave them fatal cancers.

The Italian American physicist Enrico Fermi had introduced the idea of nuclear flight as early as 1942, while serving on the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. As World War II drew to a close, the United States began work to realize Fermi’s dream of nuclear-powered flight. From 1946 until 1961, vast teams of engineers, strategists, and administrators toiled in a whirl of blueprints, white papers, and green bills in an attempt to get the idea off the ground.

The advantages of nuclear-powered airplanes mirrored those of nuclear submarines. Nuclear submarines did not need to surface for fuel, and nuclear airplanes would not need to land. A 1945 proposal at the Department of War (now the Department of Defense) promised, “With nuclear propulsion, supersonic flight around the world becomes an immediate possibility.” A secret Atomic Energy Commission memorandum now held in the Eisenhower Presidential Library explained the promise of nuclear flight in a more measured tone. Nuclear energy “should make possible ranges of one or more times around the world with a single loading of the reactor.” The idea of a nuclear-powered bomber became a strategic dream for the military; it could stay aloft for days to cover any number of targets throughout the world, before returning to the United States without refueling………

 nuclear power came with its own problems. The reactor would have to be small enough to fit onto an aircraft, which meant it would release far more heat than a standard one. The heat could risk melting the reactor—and the plane along with it, sending a radioactive hunk of liquid metal careening toward Earth.

The problem of shielding pilots from the reactor’s radiation proved even more difficult. What good would a plane be that killed its own pilots?

To protect the crew from radioactivity, the reactor needed thick and heavy layers of shielding. But to take off, the plane needed to be as light as possible. Adequate shielding seemed incompatible with flight.

Still, engineers theorized that the weight saved from needing no fuel might be enough to offset the reactor and its shielding. The United States spent 16 years tinkering with the idea, to no avail. The Soviet Union pursued nuclear aircraft propulsion too, running up against the same problems.

……The nuclear airplane became redundant from a military point of view, as ICBMs avoided the problems of manned nuclear flight.

…….In a last-ditch effort to keep the nuclear airplane on the table, military strategists considered a radical solution: They could use pilots closer to death. The Air Force would use crews old enough to die of natural causes before the harmful effects of radiation could show up and thus, the logic went, sidestep the shielding problem. As the nuclear-policy expert Leonard Weiss explained in an article for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the proposal would have made radiation shielding unnecessary and decreased the weight of the plane significantly. It might have let the nuclear airplane take flight.

………Even that shocking proposal failed to save the nuclear airplane. The Eisenhower administration concluded that the program was unnecessary, dangerous, and too expensive. On March 28, 1961, the newly inaugurated President John F. Kennedy canceled the program. Proposals for nuclear-powered airplanes have popped up since then, but the fear of radiation and the lack of funding have kept all such ideas down……….https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/01/elderly-pilots-who-could-have-flown-nuclear-airplanes/580780/

January 21, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, technology | Leave a comment

USA’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission extending license for Seabrook nuclear power BEFORE HEARING ON ITS SAFETY PROBLEMS

Seabrook nuclear power plant license to be extended  NRC planning to allow an additional 20 years, The Eagle Tribune,  By Jack Shea Staff Writer, 20 Jan 19, SEABROOK — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is set to extend the operating license for the Seabrook nuclear power plant for an additional 20 years, despite an ongoing proceeding related to the plant’s degraded concrete.For several years, NextEra Energy, the plant’s owner, has been seeking a 20-year extension of its current license, which expires in 2030. The plant went online in 1990. Since 2016, NextEra has also been seeking an amendment to the license to express how it plans to deal with concrete degradation caused by alkali-silica reaction, which causes tiny cracks in concrete.

The NRC announced this week that it planned to issue a final no significant hazards consideration determination and license amendment to NextEra “on or about January 22.” The federal commission also said it plans to issue a renewed operating license for Seabrook “on or about January 30.”

………Last year, the local watchdog organization C-10 was granted the right to intervene in an Atomic Safety Licensing Board hearing on concrete degradation at the plant, which is set for this summer. C-10 Executive Director Natalie Hildt Treat expressed frustration this week with the NRC’s decision to approve the license extension before the hearing.

“For the NRC to grant the license amendment — and then approve a license extension out to 2050 – before the public hearing that the ASLB granted on the concrete is just crazy,” Treat said in a press release. “What’s the hurry? Seabrook still has 11 more years on its current operating license. We believe these actions could undermine the safety of the American citizens that NRC is charged with protecting.”

Chris Nord, a Newbury resident and C-10 board member, added, “The unprecedented concrete testing and monitoring methodologies that underpin the license amendment request should be subject to independent peer review prior to their adoption. This is not just good science, but in the case of the deteriorating concrete at Seabrook, this is essential to ensure public safety.” ……. https://www.eagletribune.com/news/seabrook-nuclear-power-plant-license-to-be-extended/article_ada1b3f4-00a0-5944-961b-ec39e27dec6f.html

January 21, 2019 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Super Weapon: Israel Could Arm Stealth F-35s with Nuclear Weapons 

  National Interest, by Zachary Keck 20 Jan 19, There is no reason to think that Israel doesn’t have the technical capability to make its new F-35s nuclear capable

By the end of this year, Israel is expected to become the second country after the United States to declare Initial Operational Capability for its F-35s. Already, Tel Aviv has taken possession of five of the multirole fighters,and following an agreement late last month to buy an additional seventeen planes, will ultimately purchase fifty planes. All fifty F-35s are scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2024.

(This first appeared in 2017.)

Israeli officials typically describe the F-35s purpose as ensuring the country’s continued air superiority in the region. In particular, they focus on how the plane’s stealth capabilities will allow them to evade Iran’s increasingly capable, Russian-built air defense systems. One mission that is not being discussed is that Israel will likely use its F-35s as a nuclear delivery system.

Although the government refuses to officially acknowledge it, Israel is known to have a nuclear arsenal with as many as 100 warheads. The Jewish State is also believed to possess a nuclear triad, consisting of ground-based Jericho missiles, Dolphin-class submarines equipped with sea-launched cruise missiles and some combination of nuclear-capable aircraft.

It’s likely that the F-35 will be the newest addition to the air leg of Israel’s triad……….At the same time, Israel also assured the United States that it would not “introduce” nuclear weapons in the Middle East, which Israel interpreted to mean it could build a nuclear arsenal as long as it didn’t publicly acknowledge its existence. ……https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/super-weapon-israel-could-arm-stealth-f-35s-nuclear-weapons-42097

January 21, 2019 Posted by | Israel, weapons and war | Leave a comment

How US and China’s African nuclear mission could provide model for disarming North KoreaSC

MP,  Lee Jeong-ho, 20 Jan 19, 

  • The recent joint operation to remove uranium from Nigeria could provide a template for denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula
  • Although the two countries have proved they can still work together, the challenges posed by North Korea are likely to prove far more challenging
China and America’s recent joint nuclear non-proliferation mission in West Africa could provide a precedent for dismantling North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, analysts have said, but warned that the scale and political complexity of the task will be far greater.

This week it emerged that Chinese and American nuclear experts had cooperated on a project to remove highly enriched uranium (HEU) from a reactor in Nigeria to prevent the material falling into the hands of terrorists.

The mission last year, which also involved British and Norwegian experts along with contractors from Russia and the Czech Republic, was completed within a day despite violent clashes in Kaduna province where the reactor was located, according to Defensenews.com.

The logistics and security arrangements needed to fly the material to China were completed within six weeks, showing the capacity of both the US and China to set aside their differences and cooperate when their mutual interests are at stake.

The Nigerian operation was not the first time the two countries had worked together to prevent nuclear proliferation in West Africa; a similar operation to remove HEU to China was carried out in Ghana in 2017.

Because neither China nor America’s interests are served by a nuclear-armed North Korea, similar work could be carried out in the future should talks on denuclearisation come to fruition.

Miles Pomper, a senior fellow at the James Martin centre for non-proliferation studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said: “It is conceivable in the case of denuclearisation that North Korea’s nuclear weapons or material could be taken to China.

“Given the fact that China already has nuclear weapons, the US could likely accept that although the US would likely then push for their disassembly.”

Bruce Bennett, a senior defence researcher at the Rand Corporation, said the two countries would continue to cooperate on dismantling nuclear weapons.

“If instability developed in North Korea, China may well be at greater risk from terrorists or Chinese dissident groups seizing North Korean nuclear weapons and using them against China,” he said……… https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/2182564/how-us-and-chinas-african-nuclear-mission-could-provide-model

January 21, 2019 Posted by | China, politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment