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America must renew the progress in the the nuclear non-proliferation treaty: ‘first use’ of nuclear weapons is madness

My Turn: The madness of the nuclear first-use option, By RAY PERKINS Jr. For the Monitor, 2/15/2019 It seems Mike Moffett (Monitor Opinion, Feb. 11,) “ ‘No first use’ policy increases likelihood of war”) not only needs some historical refreshment, he also ignores the legal and moral dimensions of nuclear weapons use and the problems of our first-use option as opposed to a wiser no-first-use policy.

Some history: Moffett says that “first use” ended World War II. That was hardly the principal cause of Japan’s surrender.

Most historians now attribute the end to the Soviet entry on Aug. 8. That immoral and illegal first use was also unnecessary. I’ve made the case in this paper many times, but I’ll merely quote Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, the supreme allied commander): “Japan was ready to surrender, and there was no need to use that awful thing.” Virtually all the top military leaders agreed.

But apart from its illegal and immoral despicability “common to Dark Age barbarians” (as Adm. William Leahy put it), that first use alienated our Soviet ally and started a long and dangerous Cold War.

What Moffett doesn’t say is that the first-use option, while not necessitating first use, does require preparation and willingness to do it. In a time of crisis, Nation X, knowing that Enemy Y has the first-use option and fearing imminent first use from Y, may pre-empt with the strike first – better to use ’em than lose ’em. This is equally dangerous with nukes kept on “hair trigger” alert, which first-use nuke nations do (but not the no-first-use nations: India, China and North Korea). It’s a recipe for an accidental nuclear launch.

We’ve long held first use, even during the 1980s when the Soviets (and China) espoused a no-first-use policy. It was a main driver of the dangerous and often nearly catastrophic super power arms race. There were hundreds of nuclear accidents and near misses, some after the Cold War ended, as we now know from Eric Schlosser’s shocking 2014 book, Command and Control. By pure luck we survived decades of military inattention to nuclear safety and our (still ongoing) deference to the “we’re falling behind” cries of the dollar-seeking military-industrial-complex. (We are the world’s No.1 arms merchant, with many undemocratic customers.) For some frighteningly close calls see my review of Schlosser’s book:

First use has also been used by every president since Harry Truman as a threat to force concessions, as Daniel Ellsberg (nuke adviser to the Pentagon and several presidents in the 1960s and ’70s) has pointed out, with many examples in his recent Doomsday Machine.

Moffett also says Ronald Reagan showed “wisdom” by retaining the first-use option. Eventually Reagan wised up, but not until Mikhail Gorbachev (Nobel Peace Prize, 1990) came along in the mid-1980s. Earlier Reagan had little understanding of nukes. In fact he and his vice president, George H.W. Bush, were both insisting that a nuclear war was survivable and winnable.

By 1986, Reagan and Gorbachev, at their first summit, nearly agreed to the abolition of all nukes. But Reagan’s “Star Wars” (a proposed anti-ballistic missile system then outlawed by treaty and thought to be “pie in the sky”) killed the deal. But in 1987 we fortunately got the INF Treaty destroying 3,000 medium-range missiles – a treaty the United States is threatening to leave.

Moffett said our local leftists should “leave defense policy to national security and military experts.”

Surely Moffett knows that many such experts are today advocating exactly what the “local leftists” are – urging our state Legislature to urge Congress and the president to adopt no first use and halt funds for new low-yield nukes. They include: Gen. Lee Butler (Air Force), commander of Strategic Air Command (1984-1991) and first of the Strategic Command (1991-1994); Gen. James Cartwright (USMC), commander of the Strategic Command (2004-07) and vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2007-2011); Secretary of State George Shultz (under Reagan); and Secretary of Defense William Perry (under Bill Clinton).

There are moral problems with nukes and even with nuclear deterrence of any form. Even deterrence (with no first use) requires the preparation for possible use and a willingness to use nukes “if necessary.” As such, all nuclear deterrence runs the risk of nuclear war and the killing of millions of innocent human beings or worse, given the possibility of nuclear winter. As science knows, but apparently not the Pentagon, even a small nuclear exchange – for example, India versus Pakistan, each firing 50 low-yield weapons – could bring on a 10-year nuclear winter and global famine killing over a billion people (2014 study by Physicians for Social Responsibility). Such a risk is morally unacceptable – a concern central to creating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968 – now with 189 parties and as important as ever.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (Art. 6) requires a swift end to the nuclear arms race and the bringing to conclusion a treaty for “general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” In 1996 the World Court rendered an opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons, saying: “The threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict.”

Meeting our treaty obligations will be a very long and difficult journey. But we must recover the progress that slowed soon after the end of the Cold War and recently threatens to stop – or worse.

In the meantime, the United States can encourage the non-proliferation treaty’s many non-nuke parties to show that the United States is still serious about its treaty obligations. We N.H. folks – as many other states are doing – can and should take the small but positive steps to support our state government to urge Congress and the president to adopt a no-first-use pledge, and to decline funding for any new costly and “more usable” low-yield nukes.

(Ray Perkins Jr. of Concord is professor of philosophy, emeritus, at Plymouth State University and vice chairman of the Bertrand Russell Society board of directors.)

February 16, 2019 Posted by | Reference, USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Nuclear Regulatory Commission removes a critical safety regulation

NRC Guts a Critical Safety Regulation, Recklessly Disregarding the Critical Lessons of the Fukushima Disaster– January 24, 2019  Decision Will Leave U.S. Nuclear Plants Dangerously Vulnerable to Major Floods and Earthquakes

WASHINGTON  —The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Republican majority, in a 3-2 vote, approved a stripped-down version of a rule originally intended to protect U.S. nuclear plants against extreme natural events, such as the massive earthquake and tsunami that triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan in March 2011.

The commission majority struck a provision from the draft final rule the NRC staff recommended in December 2016 requiring plant owners to protect their facilities from the real-world hazards they face today instead of “design-basis” hazards that were estimated using now-obsolete information and methodologies when the plants were built decades ago.

The commission majority’s act will leave unresolved how the NRC will address new information showing that plants may experience bigger floods and earthquakes than they are now required to withstand. It is possible that the commission will not require all plant owners whose facilities face greater hazards to make structural upgrades.

“Nearly eight years after the Fukushima accident, the NRC continues to disregard a critical lesson: Nuclear plants must be protected against the most severe natural disasters they could face today—not those estimated 40 years ago,” said Dr. Edwin Lyman, senior scientist and acting director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

After Fukushima, an NRC task force recommended that the NRC “order licensees to reevaluate the seismic and flooding hazards at their sites … and if necessary, update their design basis and SSCs [structures, systems and components] important to safety to protect against the updated hazards.”

To date, the NRC has only implemented the first part of the recommendation: Owners have reevaluated seismic and flooding hazards. What they found is not reassuring. For instance, the flooding reevaluations revealed that roughly two-thirds of U.S nuclear plants face hazards beyond what they were originally designed to handle, including higher flood levels from  extreme precipitation, upstream dam failure and storm surge. The reevaluated flood height for local intense precipitation for the Palisades plant in Michigan, for example, was more than 25 feet higher than the level considered in the plant’s original design. Similar concerns were identified in many seismic risk evaluations.

Despite these findings, the NRC failed to implement the second part of the task force recommendation to require plant owners to strengthen their defenses against greater hazards. The rule that was approved today was originally intended to close that gap. The commission majority’s action today removed that requirement and will simply maintain the uncertain—and inadequate—status quo.

“The NRC must require plant owners to upgrade their facilities based on the best current information, the most realistic analyses, and the potentially devastating impacts of increased flooding from climate change,” said Dr. Lyman. “Failing to do so will leave some nuclear plants dangerously unprepared and needlessly invite disaster.”

February 16, 2019 Posted by | climate change, safety, USA | Leave a comment

South Korea says that Kim Jong Un is ready to accept nuclear-plant inspections

Kim Ready to Accept Nuclear-Plant Inspections, South Korea Says, Bloomberg, By Youkyung Lee, February 16, 2019,

·          South Korea presidential adviser sees Trump path to compromise

·          Trump says ‘I’m in no rush for speed’ in talks with Kim regime

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was ready to accept the dismantlement and inspection of a high-profile nuclear plant, a South Korean presidential adviser said, suggesting a possible point of compromise in upcoming talks with President Donald Trump.

Moon Chung-in, a special adviser for foreign affairs and national security, said in an interview Friday that the verified destruction of the regime’s Yongbyon nuclear complex was an achievable goal during Trump’s planned Feb. 27-28 summit with Kim. Moon said it was his “understanding” that South Korean President Moon Jae-in got Kim’s personal assurance on that when they met in Pyongyang in September.

………..Moon Chung-in said the U.S. should agree to allow economic projects between the two Koreas to proceed in exchange for inspections of Yongbyon — something the U.S. has so far been reluctant to do. Kim has railed against the international sanctions regime choking his moribund economy and called for resuming the projects, including a industrial park and a mountain resort.

“Those will be doable,” Moon Chung-in said. Such an exchange would advance talks, “without undermining the overall sanctions regime by the UN Security Council, yet giving some kind of incentives to North Korea in a way the U.S. can come up with some sort of compromise,” he said.

Moon Chung-in, a strong advocate of South Korea rapprochement with North Korea, said the success of the Hanoi summit hinges on how North Korea proceeds with its nuclear arms program. Satellite-imagery analysis and leaked American intelligence suggest that North Korea has been churning out rockets and warheads as quickly as ever.

If North Korea continues to produce nuclear materials even after the Hanoi summit, I would say that’s the most important indicator that the Hanoi summit failed,” Moon Chung-in said.


February 16, 2019 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, South Korea | Leave a comment

Nuclear fusion: American Association for the Advancement of Science deceived by ITER propagandists

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February 16, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, spinbuster, technology | 1 Comment

What the planet needs from men 

Brisbane Times, by Elizabeth Farrelly, 15 Feb 19…………women aren’t the only victims. Nature too bears the brunt. The world is being shoved off a cliff not by masculinity’s strength but by its terrifying fragility.Fragile masculinity is fear pressurised into rage; fear of losing control – of liberated femininity, of mysterious nature, of a world bucking its traces, of chaos. The anger is a desperate attempt to reinstate that control, illusory as it may always have been.

We [in Australia] have just endured a series of 40-plus days across much of the country, last month was the hottest on record. We joke. Thirty-six is the new normal, haha. I gaze with cold-envy at Antarctica, minus 29. But see this for what it is. This is the will-to-dominance: fragile masculinity in action.

Tasmania incineratesRiver systems shrink to nothingFish die in their millions. In Queensland up to half a million head of cattle lie rotting in the mud. In the Northern Territory, the soil itself has begun to ignite and thermometers melt in bare ground. On Tuesday, ploughing-induced dust storms obscured Parliament House. Globally, we’re witnessing catastrophic insect extinction, the start of the sixth mass extinction in the planet’s history. The evidence is insurmountable.

Yet we continue to beat nature into submission, as if striving to make the world hotter and weather events more extreme. Other countries reduce emissions. Germany pledges to close its remaining coal-fired power plants in 30 years. Australia could match that. Both UNSW and the CSIRO with Energy Networks Australia argue that renewables could easily supply most or all of our future energy needs. Instead, we become the developed world’s only deforestation hotspot, expected to clear-fell a further 3 million hectares in 15 years.

The Darling Basin Royal Commission finds “gross maladministration” and “negligence” in our governments’ wilful ignorance of climate change. Even the courts, bless them, have started to disallow coal mines for their climate impact. Yet the government response is, well, nothing, actually. Minister Littleproud mentions “learnings” from the Darling but still our noble leaders favour irrigators, build motorways, approve new mines, deny climate science and ease the path to public subsidies for one the biggest coal mines on earth as though it’s all fine.

It’s not fine. This is domestic violence. This planet is our home and they thrash around in it yelling, intimidating, wrecking the joint. Like violent husbands they get all remorseful and beg forgiveness only to do it all again. Why? Because we’ve always thrashed nature, and nature has always coped. As a bloke once said to me: “You don’t want me to shout and get possessive? But I’ve always treated women like this.”

Stoically, the planet has housed and nourished us, tolerated us. But it can’t last. A dominance relationship is never sustainable, human-to-human or human-to-nature. Winning? To win this battle is to lose. The era of collaboration is here………….

It’s when people “stitch their self-worth to being all-powerful” that things go bad. An equal-status relationship – with a partner or with nature – requires listening, empathy, the antidote to shame.

We talk as though “traditional masculinity” were the enemy, as though we want men to evolve into something more like women. But that’s wrong.

What we need is not faux-women but nobler, more confident men. The man-heroes of the future, if we’re to have one, won’t be the brutes and sociopaths. They won’t be the cruel and the thoughtless, the boat-stoppers and coal-brandishers. They’ll be those who hold power but refuse to exploit it, renowned as much for their kindness as their exploits. Literally, gentlemen.

Male anger is leading us over a cliff. If men can find the strength to be truly vulnerable, they deserve to lead. If not, if they persist in this fragile rage, it’ll be up to Rosie the Riveter to save the day. Why? Because there is no spare room to sleep in.

February 16, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, culture and arts | Leave a comment

Chicago to go 100% renewable energy by 2035

February 16, 2019 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

Energy efficiency, renewables, battery storage race ahead, as Bill Gates seeks tax-payer funds for chimera of “small modular nuclear reactors”

Consumers, businesses and utilities all win with this new distributed clean utility because renewables plus efficiency and batteries is available as a very resilient, near-zero carbon solution to providing power when and where it’s needed at the lowest cost. As these technologies continue to scale, they continue to experience steep cost declines, making the idea of a nuclear alternative vanishingly unrealistic.

Tens of billions of dollars have been spent developing different nuclear power plant designs, and even with enormous government subsidies and guarantees, corporations and utilities do not want to invest in nuclear power. Gates is a large investor in a nuclear firm, Terrapower, which hopes to build a prototype by 2030. If this target is achieved and a prototype is demonstrated by 2030, it could move toward commercial deployment in the 2030s. But we cannot afford to wait 15 or 20 years to scale very-low-carbon energy — and, fortunately, we don’t need to.

Renewable energy has more than doubled in the last decade to provide 20 percent of U.S. electricity, as much as nuclear.

Bill Gates’ quixotic quest to revive nuclear power,Greg Kats, February 7, 2019  Bill Gates has been lobbying Congress to secure federal financial support for nuclear power and for a nuclear company in which he is a large investor. This plea for federal largesse from a decabillionaire illustrates why further nuclear subsidies make no sense.

Nuclear power is already a heavily subsidized 60-year-old industry with over half a trillion dollars invested in several hundred large operating nuclear plants, including 99 in the United States. The cost of nuclear power has soared while the cost for other low-carbon power options — including wind, solar, batteries and energy efficiency — have plunged. This is why no U.S. utilities want to build nuclear plants unless they can get large additional subsidies.

Gates’ rationale for nuclear power can be summarized as follows: Given the reality and gravity of climate change, nuclear provides the only large-scale, very-low-carbon electricity source that cost-effectively can provide power at scale when needed. Other very-low-carbon options, such as wind and solar power, batteries and energy efficiency, cannot reliably provide power when needed — especially on hot summer afternoons when air conditioning loads are large.

This same argument was made by nuclear advocates 30 years ago and is even less true today. Continue reading

February 16, 2019 Posted by | renewable, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Thousands of young people walk out of lessons in protest at political inaction over climate crisis

School pupils call for radical climate action in UK-wide strike, Guardian, Matthew TaylorSandra Laville , Amy Walker , Poppy Noor and Jon Henley16 Feb 2019

Thousands of young people walk out of lessons in protest at political inaction over crisis 
Thousands of schoolchildren and young people have walked out of classes to join a UK-wide climate strike amid growing anger at the failure of politicians to tackle the escalating ecological crisis.Organisers said more than 10,000 young people in at least 60 towns and cities from the Scottish Highlands to Cornwall joined the strike, defying threats of detention to voice their frustration at the older generation’s inaction on the environmental impact of climate change.Anna Taylor, 17, one of the most prominent voices to emerge from the new movement, said the turnout had been overwhelming. “It goes some way to proving that young people aren’t apathetic, we’re passionate, articulate and we’re ready to continue demonstrating the need for urgent and radical climate action.”

Organisers estimated around 3,000 schoolchildren and young people gathered in London, with 2,000 in Oxford, 1,000 each in Exeter and Leeds and several hundred in Brighton, Bristol, Sheffield and Glasgow.

In London, the protesters held banners and chanted as police and onlookers watched. They blocked the roads outside parliament chanting “Turn off your engines” at passing cars, and “We want the chance for change now” before mounted police moved them away. There were three arrests in London in connection with the protests. A 19-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl were arrested for obstructing the highway, and a 17-year-old boy for a public order offence.

In Manchester, hundreds gathered outside the Central Library before marching to the Royal Northern College of Music with signs reading “Climate over capitalism” and chanting “Whose future? Our future.”

Matt Sourby, 18, said his journey from Queen Elizabeth school in Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, was worth it: “This is our future and this is making a difference. The government has to listen. I feel incredibly powerful just being here.”

The protests won the backing of a former UN climate chief, who said it was “time to heed the deeply moving voice of youth”.

Christiana Figueres, who led the historic 2015 Paris agreement, said the fact that children were so worried about their future they were prepared to strike should make adults sit up and take notice.

“It is a sign that we are failing in our responsibility to protect them from the worsening impacts of climate change,” she said.

The school strike movement started in August when Greta Thunberg, then 15, held a solo protest outside the Swedish parliament. Now, up to 70,000 schoolchildren each week hold protests in 270 towns and cities worldwide.

On Friday, tens of thousands marched again, some for the sixth week in succession, through towns and cities across Europe.

For the first time up to 1,000 pupils demonstrated in Paris chanting “Don’t go breaking my earth” and “One, two, three degrees – a crime against humanity”.

In Berlin, a large crowd gathered for the sixth week in a row. “We’re here now because we want to be able to be here in 50 years’ time,” read one banner……….

Thunberg hit back at the Conservative government, saying on Twitter that political leaders had wasted 30 years by not taking action against climate change.

February 16, 2019 Posted by | climate change, UK | Leave a comment

The real nuclear crisis: danger of India-Pakistan nuclear war

Billions Dead: That’s What Could Happen if India and Pakistan Wage a Nuclear War, This is the real nuclear crisis the world is missing. National Interest, by Zachary Keck 14 Feb 19, Armed with what they believe is reasonable intelligence about the locations of Pakistan’s strategic forces, highly accurate missiles and MIRVs to target them, and a missile defense that has a shot at cleaning up any Pakistani missiles that survived the first strike, Indian leaders might be tempted to launch a counterforce first strike.

With the world’s attention firmly fixated on North Korea, the greatest possibility of nuclear war is in fact on the other side of Asia.

That place is what could be called the nuclear triangle of Pakistan, India and China. Although Chinese and Indian forces are currently engaged in a standoff, traditionally the most dangerous flashpoint along the triangle has been the Indo-Pakistani border. The two countries fought three major wars before acquiring nuclear weapons, and one minor one afterwards. And this doesn’t even include the countless other armed skirmishes and other incidents that are a regular occurrence.

At the heart of this conflict, of course, is the territorial dispute over the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, the latter part of which Pakistan lays claim to. Also key to the nuclear dimension of the conflict is the fact that India’s conventional capabilities are vastly superior to Pakistan’s. Consequently, Islamabad has adopted a nuclear doctrine of using tactical nuclear weapons against Indian forces to offset the latter’s conventional superiority………

February 16, 2019 Posted by | India, Pakistan, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Lockheed Martin Sued for Fraud over Washington Nuclear Site

February 15, 2019 The U.S. Justice Department is accusing Lockheed Martin Corp. of using false records and making false statements to bill the Energy Department for tens of millions of dollars in unauthorized profits and fees at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington.

The federal civil lawsuit was filed last week in U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington.

The Seattle Times says the lawsuit also accuses Lockheed Martin of using federal money to pay millions of dollars in kickbacks.

Hanford is located near Richland, Washington, and for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons. The site is now involved in a massive cleanup effort that costs more than $2 billion per year.

The lawsuit covers the period from 2010 to 2015.

Lockheed Martin denied the allegations and said it will defend itself vigorously.

February 16, 2019 Posted by | legal, USA | Leave a comment

Long haul to clean up radioactive debris in Fukushima’s shattered nuclear reactors – remote probe in use

Remote-Controlled Probe Picks Up Radioactive Debris At Fukushima For The First Time Dvorsky. Feb 15, 2019   Tepco, the state-owned operator of the badly damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, has conducted an important test in which a remote-controlled probe managed to grasp several small grains of radioactive debris, AFP reports. The successful operation marked an important achievement for the company as it prepares for a cleanup operation that could take decades.

In March 2011, the devastating Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami triggered the core meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Eight years later, the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (Tepco), is still in the formative stages of devising a clean-up plan.

The primary challenge, of course, is dealing with the intense radiation emanating from the melted fuel. Two years ago, for example, a robot became unresponsive after just two hoursin reactor No. 2; there’s enough radiation down there — approximately 650 sieverts per hour — to fry a person within a few seconds. The episode showed that technical advancements will be required to make robots more resilient to radiation near the core, and that the cleanup will likely take longer than expected.

Early last year, a camera attached to a remote-controlled probe was sent into reactor No. 2. Images confirmed that fuel debris had melted through the reactor pressure vessel (RPV), also known as the reactor core, dripping down into a collection chamber known as the primary containment vessel (PCV).

Images of the chamber showed pebble and clay-like deposits covering the entire bottom of the PCV pedestal. This accumulated waste, along with similar piles at reactors No. 1 and 3, needs to be cleaned up, and Tepco is currently trying to determine the best way of doing so.

To that end, the state-owned company devised an operation to see what that material is like and determine if it can be moved. On Wednesday February 13, Tepco sent a probe equipped with a remotely operated robotic hand down into the No. 2 lower chamber, Japan Timesreports.

Using its tong-like fingers, the probe picked up five grain-sized pieces of radioactive melted fuel. AFP reported that the pieces were moved to a maximum height of 5 centimeters above the bottom of the chamber. In addition to taking images with a camera, the probe measured radiation and temperature during the investigation, according to a Tepco release

No radioactive debris was removed from the chamber, but the eight-hour-long operation showed that some of the melted fuel can be moved — an important bit of evidence that will inform future plans to clean up the plant. But as the Japan Times noted, one of the six areas explored by the probe contained debris that had solidified into a clay-like substance, which the robotic hand was unable to grasp. Future robots will need to slice or saw through this material such that it can be removed. That won’t be easy.

A future test, planned for April, will see some debris removed from the chamber, according to the Japan Times. Tepco has yet to disclose how and where this radioactive waste will be stored.

The company is hoping to start removing radioactive fuel in earnest by 2021, but the clean-up is expected to take decades, with some estimates suggesting it won’t be done until the 2050s. Many other technological hurdles still exist, such as determining the full extent of structural damage at the Fukushima plant, locating all the melted fuel in the three damaged reactors, and figuring out a way to remove the large quantities of contaminated water stored at the site.

If that all sounds overwhelming, well, it is. As we’ve said before, when nuclear power goes wrong, it really goes wrong.

February 16, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

The massive costs of USA’s stranded canisters of nuclear wastes

These dumpsters of old nuclear waste are costing taxpayers a fortune

They were supposed to be hauled away decades ago. They’re still here.

By Joshua Miller GLOBE STAFF  JANUARY 31, 2019

ROWE — The nuclear plant deep in the woods of this Western Massachusetts town stopped producing power 27 years ago when George H.W. Bush was still president. It was dismantled, piece by piece. Buried piping was excavated. Tainted soil was removed. But nestled amid steep hills and farmhouses set on winding roads, something important was left behind.

Under constant armed guard, 16 canisters of highly radioactive waste are entombed in reinforced concrete behind layers of fencing. These 13-foot-tall cylinders may not be much to look at, but they are among the most expensive dumpsters in the country, monuments to government inaction.

Lawyers for Rowe’s defunct plant and long-dismantled reactors in
Maine and Connecticut are poised to march into a federal courtroom in coming weeks and, for the fourth time in recent years, extract a huge sum of taxpayer money to cover ongoing security and maintenance costs. Taxpayers have already ponied up $500 million as a result of lawsuits filed by the plants’ owners, and they are poised to pay $100 million more this time.

Nationally, the US government’s failure to keep its vow to dispose of spent nuclear fuel and other high-level waste is proving staggeringly expensive. So far, the government has paid out more than $7 billion in damages for violating its legal pledge to begin hauling away nuclear waste by 1998.

And costs are expected to soar as more of the nation’s aging reactors close permanently: Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, for instance, is slated to go offline by June. Eventually, the remaining staff may have the sole job of safeguarding the radioactive detritus.

By the Department of Energy’s own optimistic estimates, the government will be forced to cough up a whopping $28 billion more in taxpayer funds as a result of litigation in coming years.

Long before the 35-day partial government shutdown crippled Washington, the dug-in debate over where to dump the nation’s civilian nuclear waste set the radioactive standard for government dysfunction. For more than 60 years, government officials have tried to solve the problem, but plan after plan has collapsed amidst nationwide cries of “Not in my backyard!” So far, all officials have to show for the work is an enormous $10 billion-plus hole in Nevada that will probably never be used.

Instead of consolidating waste in one place, it has left material that is toxic for thousands of years at scores of current and former civilian nuclear plants. Neighbors fear the waste will stay permanently, siphoning money from other needs, thwarting redevelopment, and eventually posing a safety risk.

Senator Edward J. Markey, a longtime nuclear skeptic, said lingering nuclear waste tends to focus the attention of nearby cities and towns on a simple question: “When is this problem going to be solved? Or am I going to have a nuclear waste site in my community for the rest of my family’s life?”

The promise of nuclear power burned bright in 1960 when the Yankee Atomic Electric Co. first fired up its reactor in Rowe. But, even then, proponents of the new power source knew they were creating a problem: the super-hot, super-radioactive uranium fuel rods left over from generating power. Most plants dumped them in deep pools of water, but that was only a temporary solution

By the early 1980s, as waste accumulated, Congress made this pledge: The Department of Energy would haul away nuclear plants’ spent fuel and other high-level waste starting by 1998 and the owners would pick up the tab, in part through a fee in customers’ electric bills.

The law was supposed to jump-start a scientific process to choose the best repository for waste. But not-in-my-backyard politics repeatedly got in the way. Who, after all, wants a national nuclear waste dump buried nearby forever?

Congress later zeroed in on a remote desert site called Yucca Mountain in Nevada, about 75 miles from Las Vegas.

But Nevada didn’t want the nation’s spent nuclear fuel either, and the state’s top politician, senator Harry Reid, the majority leader from 2007 to 2015, strongly opposed the plan. After the United States spent more than $10 billion drilling down into and studying the site, the Obama administration effectively killed Yucca around 2010. Congress has not restarted funding for the effort.

Proposals to create a consolidated repository to store the waste for an interim period in New Mexico and West Texas are moving forward. But those, too, face huge hurdles.

Meanwhile, electric ratepayers from New England, home to seven current and former nuclear power plants, have paid what is now an estimated $3 billion with interest into the fund to dispose of nuclear waste.

But the account has not brought its intended benefit.

Even with strong support for a permanent fix from the nuclear power industry, environmentalists, and local officials, Congress has remained deadlocked on a final resting place for spent fuel and other highly radioactive waste.

So nuclear plants continue to keep the waste on hand. And they continue to get reimbursed for payroll, security, supplies, and more, because the courts have found the government is in partial breach of its contract to haul away the waste.

In a twist, the government’s payments can’t come from that nuclear waste fund, a federal court ruled. Instead, it is taken from a separate pool of taxpayer dollars for court judgments and settlements of lawsuits against the government.

The latest suit from Yankee Rowe and the two other fully shuttered New England plants in Wiscasset, Maine, and Haddam, Conn., is set to soon go to trial and cost taxpayers more than $100 million.

And it probably won’t be the last lawsuit. Company officials say each plant spends about $10 million a year safeguarding its waste and maintaining corporate structures solely for that task.

Meanwhile, soon-to-close Pilgrim is getting ready to follow in Yankee Rowe’s footsteps, moving its remaining spent fuel from cooling pools to huge concrete cylinders, known as dry cask storage, by 2022.

So far, across the country, there haven’t been any serious accidents with the casks, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But as the time frame for their use stretches out indefinitely, no one can be sure how long before the waste poses a threat.

The uncertainty also is forcing plant operators to plan for longer-term issues including climate change and rising sea levels. Officials at Pilgrim, which is oceanfront property, said last year that the plant will move its current cylinders to higher ground and place new ones there, too.

The NRC believes the casks should be safe for years to come, licensing their use for up to 40 years at a time.

The agency has ruled that, with proper inspection and maintenance, casks could last more than 100 years before the waste would have to be transferred to a new steel canister and concrete shell.

But Allison M. Macfarlane, a former NRC chairwoman, said there’s no guarantee the infrastructure will be in place to monitor them for safety.

“That assumes our institutions are robust and will last hundreds of years and I think that’s a poor assumption based on no evidence whatsoever,” Macfarlane said in the midst of the partial federal shutdown.

That is why, experts insist, a permanent subterranean repository like the one planned for Yucca Mountain is the only real solution.

“You should really put it underground where the risk is much lower and you don’t have to worry about institutional failures,” said MIT researcher Charles W. Forsberg, a chemical and nuclear engineer.

In the meantime, communities that host closed and closing nuclear plants face yet another cost: prime real estate that’s potentially locked up for generations.

State Senator Viriato M. deMacedo of Plymouth said, “We have a mile of oceanfront property where that plant is. Once it closes, it will never be able to be used as long as those spent fuel rods are there.”

Some still hope that politicians will find a final graveyard for the nuclear waste, and the bucolic valley where Yankee Rowe stood and the beach where Pilgrim stands are redeveloped.

But, after three generations of failed efforts to permanently dispose of the waste, another vision is more likely. Plymouth, where the Pilgrims made the West’s first permanent mark in New England, could be home to its last: 61 gigantic casks of nuclear waste forever overlooking the sea.


February 16, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Corruption scandals involving engineering and nuclear build company SNC Lavalin

A closer look at SNC-Lavalin’s sometimes murky past  CBC, 12 Feb 19 One of Canada’s biggest engineering companies is at the centre of what appears to be a growing scandal engulfing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government.

The Globe and Mail reported Thursday that SNC-Lavalin lobbied the government to agree to a deferred prosecution agreement or remediation agreement. The company faces charges of fraud and corruption in connection with nearly $48 million in payments made to Libyan government officials between 2001 and 2011.

Trudeau denies he directed his former justice minister and attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to intervene in the prosecution. Wilson-Raybould was shuffled out of her position last month and has refused to comment on the story. Days after the story broke, the federal ethics commissioner confirmed he will investigate claims the prime minister’s office pressured Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin avoid prosecution.

SNC-Lavalin has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The case is at the preliminary hearing stage. If convicted, the company could be banned from bidding on any federal government contracts for 10 years.

But the Libya case is just one scandal among many linked to SNC-Lavalin in the past decade.

Allegations of criminal activity are what led to the resignations in February 2012 of top executives Riadh Ben Aïssa and Stéphane Roy. CEO Pierre Duhaime followed them out the door the following month.

MUHC contract scandal…….

Corruption scandal in Bangladesh …….

Libya scandal……

Elections Financing

In late November 2018, former SNC-Lavalin vice-president Normand Morin quietly pleaded guilty to charges of violating Canada’s election financing laws.

According to the compliance agreement reached with the company in 2016, Morin orchestrated a scheme between 2004 and 2011 that used employees to get around the restrictions on companies donating directly to federal political parties. Morin would get employees to donate to political parties, riding associations or Liberal leadership candidates. The company would then reimburse them for their donations through false refunds for personal expenses or fictitious bonuses.

In total, $117,803 flowed from SNC-Lavalin to federal party funds during that period. The Liberal Party of Canada got the lion’s share — $83,534 to the party and $13,552 to various riding associations. Another $12,529 went to contestants in the 2006 Liberal Party leadership race won by Stephane Dion. The Conservative Party of Canada received $3,137 while Conservative riding associations got $5,050.

Which politicians received the money remains a mystery. Because Morin accepted the plea deal, the evidence gathered for the trial was never presented in court.

February 16, 2019 Posted by | Canada, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Focus now on Pennsylvania, in the nuclear industry’s battle to get tax-payer funding

Pennsylvania Is Newest Nuclear Subsidy Battleground, Power Magazine, 02/14/2019 | Sonal Patel, Pennsylvania, the nation’s second-largest nuclear power-producing state, is now definitively a battleground for nuclear power subsidies. 

Last week, in two memos that were circulated in the state House and Senate, seven lawmakers signaled they would soon introduce legislation that would update a 2004 state law—the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS)—to include nuclear power. The law currently requires that 18% of electricity sold should come from renewable sources by 2021, including at least 0.5% of solar photovoltaic power. …….

The memo specifically cites concerns about Beaver Valley and Three Mile Island, which, barring legislative remedy, will shut down soon because they cannot compete with cheaper sources of generation in PJM Interconnection’s wholesale electricity market.

FirstEnergy Solutions Banks on Reforms

FENOC, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Solutions (FES) that sought bankruptcy protection in March 2018, last year notified PJM Interconnection it would shutter Beaver Valley in 2021 (as well as two Ohio plants, the single-unit 908-MW PWR at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor by 2020, and the single-unit 1,268-MW BWR at the the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Perry in 2021). At the time, a company executive said, “Though the plants have taken aggressive measures to cut costs, the market challenges facing these units are beyond their control.”…….

Pennsylvania Could Be Newest Victory for Exelon

Meanwhile, Exelon in May 2017 announced it would shutter Three Mile Island in September 2019 unless policy reforms are enacted in Pennsylvania. Industry observers, however, point out that the gambit is similar to one employed in Illinois to help enact the Future Energy Jobs Act in December 2016 (it went into effect in June 2017), keeping Exelon’s Clinton and Quad Cities plants running. Exelon also strongly backed New York’s Clean Energy Standard, a measure that became effective in April 2017, to preserve the at-risk Nine Mile Point, FitzPatrick, and Ginna reactors in upstate New York. And in 2018, New Jersey also enacted zero-emission credits (ZECs) to bolster profitability of the Hope Creek plant, which is owned by PSEG, and Salem, whose output Exelon owns jointly with PSEG. 

As financial documents Exelon filed on Feb. 8 show, the New York and Illinois ZEC measures have proven beneficial for the company, whose 32.7 GW generation portfolio comprises a 20.3 GW nuclear fleet—the largest in the nation. In 2017, Exelon recorded ZEC revenues from New York and Illinois of $343 million. For the full year of 2018, Exelon Generation recorded a net income of $370 million, while adjusted operating earnings for 2018 soared to $1.3 billion (its net income was $2.7 billion in 2017, and adjusted operating earnings were $989 million).

The company noted that 2018 adjusted operating earnings reflect “the favorable impacts of New York and Illinois ZEC revenue (including the impact of ZECs generated in Illinois from June 1, 2017 through Dec. 31, 2017), increased capacity prices, tax savings related to the [2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act], realized gains on nuclear decommissioning trust (NDT) funds and decreased nuclear outage days, all of which were partially offset by lower realized energy prices and the absence of earnings from Exelon Generation Texas Power due to its deconsolidation in the fourth quarter of 2017.”……..

Widening ZEC Horizons

If Pennsylvania backs nuclear subsidies, it will become the fifth state in the U.S. to do so on a statewide basis. Along with Illinois, New York, and New Jersey, in 2017, Connecticut also enacted legislation to allow Dominion’s Millstone nuclear plant to become eligible for a state procurement process for ZECs, upon certification of financial need. ……..

The nation’s 98 licensed nuclear power reactors at 59 sites in the U.S. generate about 20% of the nation’s power. However, the nuclear sector is facing severe financial pressure from cheaper power produced by natural gas plants, growing supplies of renewables, and stagnant electricity demand. Between 2013 and 2018, seven U.S. reactors were permanently shuttered, and 12 others are planned for closure through the mid-2020s. Dismal economics have stymied plans to build up to 30 new U.S. reactors, which were announced over the past 10 years. Only two reactors are under construction today—at Plant Vogtle in Georgia, which continues to face major challenges.

February 16, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

A headache for Britain – its reliance on China for nuclear technology

UK’s reliance on China’s nuclear tech poses test for policymakers, Britain risks alienating Beijing if it scraps power deals over security concerns,, 15 Feb 19, 

The UK has no easy way to block China’s ambitions to export nuclear reactor technology to Britain on security grounds, despite growing public anxiety about Chinese involvement in sensitive infrastructure, according to people familiar with the situation. The government’s willingness to permit the state-owned utility, CGN, to participate in the UK’s nuclear power generation programme has raised eyebrows in recent months as Chinese investment has come under hostile scrutiny, both in Europe and the US.

In October, an assistant US secretary of state, Christopher Ashley Ford, even warned the UK explicitly against partnering with CGN, saying that Washington had evidence that the business was engaged in taking civilian technology and converting it to military uses. More recently, concerns about the Chinese telecoms company Huawei and cyber security have also prompted calls for the government to back away from closer energy ties. But government policies requiring nuclear projects to be “developer-led”, and interlocking commitments given to Chinese investors by David Cameron’s government in 2014, make it awkward for the government to reverse course………..

Is Chinese involvement really a problem? Opposition to the deal ranges from the strategic to the practical. Economist Dieter Helm said he finds it astonishing that an independent nuclear military power should be “complacent about allowing potential enemies into the core of its nuclear technologies”. Some critics also worry about the availability of fuel and spares in what will be a 60-year plant should Britain and China fall out………..

The bigger risk to CGN’s ambitions may be the UK’s waning appetite for more nuclear reactors, and the lack of competitive tension among developers in seeking new deals. A report last summer from the National Infrastructure Commission warned against “rushing” to support more nuclear stations and suggesting only one more be agreed before 2025, preferring to place bigger bets on renewable energy.

The government has been lobbied by EDF to consider a new form of financing for nuclear, known as the regulated asset base model, which would impose a charge on consumers during the construction phase, helping to reduce the project’s cost of capital, and potentially unlocking private sector investment. This could make the highly geared French group less dependent on Chinese capital to proceed with Sizewell C. According to one civil servant, the business department, BEIS, is considering these proposals “very seriously”.

In the meantime, CGN, which declined to comment on its UK operations, continues to invest heavily in the UK. The total is £2.7bn and counting on Hinkley, the design assessment for the Bradwell reactor and 340 megawatts of renewables plant. According to a source close to CGN: “This is an important year and it is important to remember that the company is a utility, not a bank.” “The Chinese see this UK deal as a strategic imperative and seem intent to do what it takes to make it happen,” said the consultant. “If the UK has changed its mind, it is going to be hard to let them down gently.”

February 16, 2019 Posted by | China, politics international, safety, UK | Leave a comment