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Nuclear Device Assembly Facility In Nevada Desert at risk of earthquakes

Nuclear Device Assembly Facility In Nevada Desert May Be A Ticking Time Bomb (Updated)

The fortress-like facility that holds nuclear material and high explosives wasn’t designed to take the quakes the land it sits on can dole out. The Drive , BY TYLER ROGOWAY, APRIL 4, 2019 One of the most important and high-security facilities in the Department Of Energy’s sprawling nuclear infrastructure portfolio could be a radiation hazard just waiting to occur according to the Chairman of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

The fortress-like Device Assembly Facility (DAF) sits about 60 miles northwest of Las Vegas within the highly-security Nevada National Security Site (NNSS)—previously called the Nevada Test Site—near Yucca Dry Lake.

The NNSS is surrounded by the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) with shadowy neighbors like Area 51. The entire area continues to have massive strategic importance as evidenced by a recent Russian surveillance flightdirectly over the NNSS that occurred according to the rules of the Open Skies treaty.

It turns out that the area is at a much higher risk to powerful seismic activity than the DAF’s designers realized decades ago. Considering that the potentially seismically vulnerable installation houses nuclear material and high explosives, and these compounds are manipulated inside the facility, a large quake could have terrible consequences. The issue was first reported on by Gary Martin of the always great Las Vegas Review Journal.

In an official letter to DOE secretary Rick Perry, Chairman Bruce Hamilton states the following:

“The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board is concerned that the Department of Energy has not adequately addressed the seismic hazards for the Device Assembly Facility at the Nevada Nationatinal Security Site. The DAF probabilistic seismic hazard analysis update in 2007 identified a significant seismic hazard increase… A seismically induced high explosive violent reaction could result in unmitigated dose consequences to the offsite public… The facility continues to operate without accounting for the increase in seismic hazard and without evaluating whether the credited structures, systems, and components can perform their safety function during and after a seismic event.”………..

The Device Assembly Building is a low-slung, partially buried, extremely high-security, bunker-like structure that is ringed by rows of security fencing and flanked by turrets. Internally it is comprised of various compartments including nuclear storage and device assembly areas, labs, and administrative offices…………

A Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board staff report dated November 27th, 2018 discusses the fact that the facility sits on ground that is more unstable than architects realized during its design and construction. It states:

“The Board’s staff review team is concerned that DAF continues to operate without incorporating the increased seismic hazard and without analyzing its credited safety-related SSCs to ensure that they can perform their safety function during and after a seismic event. In the DAF documented safety analysis, a high explosive violent reaction (HEVR), or a detonation of high explosives that are co-located with special nuclear material, has the highest public dose consequences that challenge the evaluation guideline and require safety class controls.”

The report goes on to talk about all the systems in place to help mitigate risk to the public during an accident and notes that these systems may not meet the current risk requirements. The same goes for the overhead crane systems, ducts, conduits, and other infrastructure contained in the facility.

The report includes a somewhat ominous conclusion:

“The Board’s staff review team is concerned that DAF continues to operate with the increase in seismic hazard and MSTS has not adequately evaluated credited safety-related SSCs to ensure that they can perform their safety function during and after a seismic event. Seismic accident scenarios at DAF could result in significant consequences to the offsite public. Since the impact of seismic events on DAF SSCs has not been adequately characterized, DAF continues to operate with unknown risk.”

All of this is quite timely as America’s aging nuclear infrastructure is taking center stage once again as the Pentagon pivots towards focusing on what it calls “great power competition.” This includes not just modernizing America’s existing nuclear arsenal, but also adding new nuclear capabilities like low-yield tactical nuclear warheads that can be mounted on cruise and ballistic missiles. With new nuclear weapons come the need for billions of dollars worth of testing and development and they have to be assembled and maintained somewhere over the course of their service lives.

With these developments in mind, it is quite possible, if not probable, that the DAF will see a substantial uptick in operations in the coming years, not the other way around. ……….

The potential vulnerability of the DAF to earthquakes is just another reminder of America’s rickety nuclear infrastructure that supports the strategic deterrent. Some have said it is not a matter of if but when a major nuclear issue occurs at one of these sites due to lack of maintenance, upgrades, and a robust long-term plan for storing nuclear waste. Even concerns about security in and around America’s nuclear stockpile have been raised. Scares of multiple types have occurred recently, some of which seem to underline these concerns.

The fact is that the dawn of nuclear age and the Cold War that followed has left the U.S. speckled with bizarre nuclear sites, most of which the average person would never know existed. But that could rapidly change if a major accident that could have been avoided occurs at one of them…

Such as an earthquake near the Device Assembly Building at a very inopportune time.

April 6, 2019 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Doctors want UK to be at the forefront of international nuclear disarmament. 

Nuclear war and a new arms race , Guardian, Bruce Kent, Vice-president, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, 5 Apr 19

Dr Lesley Morrison and fellow health professionals fear Donald Trump and think the UK should be at the forefront of international nuclear disarmament. Bruce Kent and Judy Turner on the service at Westminster Abbey to mark 50 years of submarine-based nuclear weapons
“…….. The recent decision of the US and then Russia to suspend compliance with the intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) treaty threatens the start of a new arms race. We are all concerned about Donald Trump’s increasingly erratic behaviour and unpredictable methods of conducting international diplomacy; our security is at risk, and the fact that he has control over the US nuclear arsenal and its potential deployment is frightening.

We write as members of Medact, an organisation of health professionals working to make the world a safer place by drawing attention to the links between nuclear disarmament, the environment and social justice.

Medact is the British affiliate of IPPNW, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, set up in 1980 by two eminent cardiologists, one American and one Soviet, and both doctors to their heads of state. Last week we met with the director of programmes for IPPNW and heard first-hand just how worried people in the US are about the potential use – deliberate or inadvertent – of nuclear weapons.

The BMA produced a report in 1983 entitled The Medical Effects of Nuclear War, describing the humanitarian catastrophe that would result. The World Medical Association and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement have echoed these sentiments.

It is worth noting that 122 nations voted in favour of the 2017 UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. The UK was not among them. Having heard from our American colleagues just how dangerous the current situation is, we urge people to encourage their political representatives to push for the UK to engage with the treaty and be at the forefront of international nuclear disarmament.

Dr Lesley Morrison GP
Dr Duncan McIntyre Retired physician
Dr Michael Orgel Retired clinician
Dr Judith McDonald GP
Dr Danuta Orlowska Clinical psychologist
Dr Georgina Race Junior doctor
Dr Margaret Craig GP
Dr Cath Dyer Retired GP
Dr Richard Dyer Retired GP
Dr Guy Johnson GP

 May I urge the dean of Westminster Abbey to cancel the ceremony planned for 3 May. It is to be held in thanksgiving for 50 years of continuous at-sea (nuclear weapon) deterrence. That means 50 years of being ready and wiling to commit mass murder. Is this something to thank God for?

Nuclear weapons are supposedly there to ensure our security. They actually have precisely the opposite effect, and are, of course, a standing invitation to other countries to copy our example. As Robert McNamara, a former US defence secretary, said: “It was luck that prevented nuclear war.”

We are rarely told about the many accidents and miscalculations that have taken us, too often, to the brink of disaster. Perhaps it would be better to hold a day of prayer for the success of the current UN nuclear weapon abolition treaty, which this country has yet to support.

April 6, 2019 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, UK | Leave a comment

Challenges in Nuclear Verification- IAEA 

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, Washington, DC, USA Center for Strategic and International Studies, 5 Apr 19  “………Despite positive developments such as the introduction of the additional protocol, we face some challenges in our nuclear verification work.

The world in which the IAEA implements safeguards today is very different from that envisaged by our founding fathers in 1957. Nuclear proliferation is now easier than it has ever been. Globalization, new technology and modern communications have made it possible to access knowledge, materials and expertise that were previously not widely available.

Many countries, both developed and developing, have made great technological progress. Technology that could be used for the development of nuclear weapons is no longer out of reach.

The steady increase in the amount of nuclear material and the number of nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, and continuing pressure on our regular budget, are among the key challenges facing the Agency today.

The amount of nuclear material in the world is growing every year as countries make more use of nuclear power and other peaceful applications of nuclear technology. Nuclear material no longer in use, and nuclear facilities that have been shut down, also remain under safeguards……….

for some years, the IAEA has had to undertake verification activities against a background of close to zero budget increases. This year, our budget has actually been cut.

Pressure on the regular budget is a particularly serious problem for the IAEA. ………

Our safeguards budget last year was around 142 million euros. Since 2010, it has increased by only 6.3 percent in real terms.

However, in the same period, the number of nuclear facilities under safeguards rose by 12 percent to just over 1,300, while the number of so-called significant quantities of nuclear material under safeguards – that means enough material to make a nuclear explosive device – grew by 24% to 213,000. The number of nuclear material accounting reports from Member States which we process has gone up by more than a third since 2010 to 880,000………

April 6, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, safety, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Spain to Shut Down Nuclear Plants And Push Forward Clean Energy Plan

South EU Summit,  Amid a Europe-wide debate over the future of nuclear power in a renewable energy future, Spain has rolled out a schedule to close its seven nuclear power plants. This move comes as the government proposes an ambitious clean energy plan to shift away from fossil fuels completely by 2050.

The deal to close the Almaraz plan is paving the way for further negotiations about the closure of Spain’s other nuclear plants. …….

April 6, 2019 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Lawmaker Working On Proposal To Create Subsidies For Nuclear Power

 , 5 Apr 19,  State lawmakers are working on a bill that could effectively bailout the state’s two nuclear power plants. A piece of draft legislation would create subsidies, rewarding nuclear for not emitting carbon.

The proposal crafted by Republican Representative Jamie Callender would allow a new charge on electric bills.

The unofficial language would cap those new charges per month at $2.50 for residential customers, $20 for commercial users, and $250 for industrial users.

Callender’s office reiterates this is only a rough draft, saying there’s already a new rendition of the bill drawn up so details are expected to change.

Nuclear power has been struggling in the energy market against cheaper natural gas and stiff competition from other sources.

FirstEnergy Solutions, which used to be a subsidiary of FirstEnergy and owns Ohio’s two nuclear plants, has filed for bankruptcy but says it’s also pursuing legislative relief.

Opponents have suggested a so-called nuclear bailout would undermine renewable energy and efficiency programs.

April 6, 2019 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

4 Sound reasons why Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group opposes Sizewell nuclear project

BANNG 2nd April 2019 BANNG’s primary purpose is to oppose the development of new nuclear power
at Bradwell in Essex. We also have an interest in generic and specific
processes and proposals for new nuclear developments which may have a
bearing on the Bradwell development.

Our response to the Sizewell application reflects a number of common concerns. One, is that Sizewell and
Bradwell are projects being developed by a partnership between EDF and CGN.
Although Sizewell is based on the UK EPR while Bradwell is intended for the
UK HPR1000, both comprise reactors, waste stores and other buildings which
must be accommodated on coastal sites.

A second feature is that the sites
are hemmed in by areas of environmental significance with many
designations, the most notable being the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB and
Minsmere RSPB reserve in Suffolk and the Marine Conservation Zone in Essex.

Thirdly, both are close to substantial populations with Leiston (Suffolk)
and West Mersea (Essex) within two to three miles from the sites.

both sites are vulnerable to coastal processes, in the case of Sizewell,
coastal erosion and at Bradwell flooding and storm surges, problems which
will only get worse as climate change wreaks havoc on the fragile and
low-lying east coast while the operation and decommissioning of the plants
continues into the next century and beyond. And, fifth, as the UK’s
nuclear strategy collapses, Sizewell and Bradwell are the two remaining
sites which puts enormous pressure on government, developers, regulators
and the IPC to ensure the delivery of the two new nuclear power stations.
Indeed, CGN has responded to the opportunity presented by stating that,
‘In simple terms, we have ramped up. We are bringing forward [the
Bradwell project]’1.

April 6, 2019 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, UK | Leave a comment

A ‘Small’ Nuclear War? It just takes one nuclear weapon to start Armageddon.

Dumbest Idea Ever: A ‘Small’ Nuclear War, Millions would die.  National Interest,

by WarIsBoring 5 Apr 19, It just takes one nuclear weapon to start Armageddon.

n the event of a rapidly escalating conflict with the Russians, should the United States conduct a “limited” nuclear strike to coerce the enemy to back down? Or, in Cold War nukespeak, should the United States “escalate to deescalate” the situation?

Believe it or not, that is a real question that is being debated in the Pentagon today. And the answer is no. Thinking we can use nuclear weapons in a “limited” way without inviting nuclear catastrophe is a dangerous fantasy.

Here is the hypothetical scenario. Russia decides to annex part, or all of, NATO ally Latvia, much like it did with the Crimean Peninsula. Russian forces cross the border, and NATO is forced to respond with a mixed force of U.S. Army brigades, U.S. Marines, air wings, special forces and allied personnel.

All of the sudden, a full-fledged war is threatening to engulf Northern Europe.

Fearing that the fighting will spill over into the rest of Europe, or even break out in Poland or the Ukraine, the United States launches a “tactical” nuclear strike against Russian forces on the border of Latvia.

The hope is that this will cause Russian commanders to pause amidst the destruction, and take a second to reconsider their options now that nuclear force has been used.

In theory, that pause would be enough time for cooler heads to prevail — and for the State Department to cable the Kremlin and hammer out some kind of ceasefire.

To Pentagon planners, this scenario is a legitimate one.

The Air Force already has plans to field a new, low-yield, air-launched nuclear cruise missile that it refers to as the Long Range Standoff Weapon, which critics argue is tailored for limited nuclear war fighting.

“Beyond deterrence, an LRSO-armed bomber force provides the president with uniquely flexible options in an extreme crisis, particularly the ability to signal intent and control escalation,” Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top weapons-buyer, told Congress.

But once we’ve opened Pandora’s Box, is it possible to close it again? With thousands of Russian soldiers dead or dying on the Latvian border, would the Russians really just stand down?

Would the United States?

There’s no way to know for sure. But the little data that exists suggests no………..

After being briefed on the operational need for the new nuclear cruise missile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, told her colleagues in Congress that “the so-called improvements to this weapon seemed to be designed, candidly, to make it more usable, to help us fight and win a limited nuclear war. I find this a shocking concept.”

The notion that nuclear weapons can be used for anything “beyond deterrence” is reckless and dangerous thinking. It is an option that should be taken off the table entirely. Reagan recognized as much after witnessing the disastrous results of Proud Prophet.

“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” Reagan said in his subsequent state-of-the-union address.

Even contemporary American officials recognize as much, albeit indirectly. At a hearing where he criticized the Russian doctrine of “escalate to de-escalate,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work noted that “anyone who thinks they can control escalation through the use of nuclear weapons is literally playing with fire. Escalation is escalation, and nuclear use would be the ultimate escalation.”

Yet that is precisely the capability that American defense planners are seeking to enhance with the new air-launched nuclear cruise missile……….

It just takes one nuclear weapon to start Armageddon. We maintain an arsenal of nearly 7,000. Let’s make sure we avoid building the more “usable” ones.

Geoff Wilson is a Research Associate at Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation that has supported War Is Boring in the past. Will Saetren is the author of Ghosts of the Cold War: Rethinking the Need for a New Cruise Missile, and an alumnus of the Roger L. Hale Fellowship at Ploughshares Fund.

April 6, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Explosion at Vulcan nuclear submarine site at Dounreay

John O Groat Journal 3rd April 2019 A CAITHNESS community councillor is trying to find out about an explosion
which occurred at the Vulcan nuclear submarine site at Dounreay. Alexander
Glasgow believes the incident could have caused serious injuries and is
critical of the lack of information provided by the Ministry of Defence
(MoD) which operates the facility. He raised the issue at the latest
meeting of the Thurso community council and said he is “still chasing it
up” but colleagues wondered why he was asking questions when Vulcan is not
within the community council boundary. Mr Glasgow said: ” I find it
extraordinary that this isn’t considered within our bailiwick. As well as
the local economy, a great many employees live in Thurso. We could have had
multiple serious injuries here.”

April 6, 2019 Posted by | incidents, UK | Leave a comment

Scottish National Party demands public inquiry into the decommissioning of nuclear-powered submarines

Scotsman 3rd April 2019 The SNP has today demanded a public inquiry into the decommissioning of
nuclear-powered submarines, following the publication of a damning report
on how the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has handled the process. The National
Audit Office (NAO) found the MoD still does not know how it will finally
dispose of 20 decommissioned vessels, several of which remain laid up
afloat at Rosyth Dockyard in Fife. The UK now has twice as many submarines
in storage as it does in service, and has not disposed of any of the boats
decommissioned since 1980. The estimated cost of disposing of a submarine
is £96 million, the NAO found, while the MoD has put its total future
liability for maintaining and disposing of the 20 stored and 10 in-service
nuclear-powered boats at £7.5 billion over the next 120 years. SNP defence
spokesman Stewart McDonald has now called on UK Government ministers to be
held to account and “face up to the consequences of their actions”.

April 6, 2019 Posted by | politics, safety, UK | Leave a comment

Renewables provide over half of German net power in March — RenewEconomy

The German renewable energy industry set a new record in March, producing over half of the country’s net electricity generation. The post Renewables provide over half of German net power in March appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Renewables provide over half of German net power in March — RenewEconomy

April 6, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Canada replaces largest North American coal plant with solar — RenewEconomy

A 44MW solar facility has been completed in Ontario, built on the site of what was once the largest coal-fired power plant in North America. The post Canada replaces largest North American coal plant with solar appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Canada replaces largest North American coal plant with solar — RenewEconomy

April 6, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nepal assures South Asian doctors TPNW will be ratified soon — IPPNW peace and health blog

IPPNW’s South Asia affiliates have urged government officials in Kathmandu, Nepal, to take additional steps towards nuclear disarmament, reduction of small arms, and resolution of issues through dialogue.

via Nepal assures South Asian doctors TPNW will be ratified soon — IPPNW peace and health blog

April 6, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

10 years after Obama’s nuclear-free vision, the US and Russia head in the opposite direction

Steven Pifer, April 4, 2019   April 5 marks the 10th anniversary of the speech in which Barack Obama laid out his vision for a world without nuclear weapons. It did not gain traction. Instead, the United States and Russia are developing new nuclear capabilities, while the nuclear arms control regime is on course to expire in 2021. The result will be a world that is less stable, less secure, and less predictable…….

April 6, 2019 Posted by | general | Leave a comment