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This week’s nuclear news

Christina Macpherson’s websites & blogs

The TV mini-series “Chernobyl” has reminded the world of something that the insurance industry fully understands: even if the probability of a nuclear accident is very small, the consequences of a nuclear accident are very big.

Two current events highlight the risks of nuclear disaster:

14 sailors died in a heroic effort to avert a planetary catastrophe, in a fire accident on a Russian nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea.

 Earthquakes in Southern California raise anxieties about the safety of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Station. The Quake That Could Make Los Angeles a Radioactive Dead Zone. What are the risks at closed San Onofre during a big earthquake?

Far from stopping climate change – nuclear reactors are being stopped by climate change.

Special UN meeting to discuss Iran: Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany try to keep nuclear deal.

United Nations warns that climate crisis disasters are happening at the rate of one a week and work is urgently needed to prepare developing countries for the profound impacts. Rich countries are not immune.

Renewable energy racing ahead, close to beating nuclear power.

RUSSIA. Russia’s nuclear submarine fire: what is known so far . Local fishermen saw the Russian nuclear submarine accident.   14 Russian Sailors Killed in Fire on Nuclear Sub.   Russian commentators criticise secrecy on details of nuclear submarine accident.    Trip to check radiation after 1989 sinking of Russian sub.  Russia’s President Putin officially halts participation in nuclear treaty .

IRAN. Iran to breach nuclear deal limits:  still far from producing a nuclear weapon. Fiery Imam suggests missile attack on Israel’s Dimona nuclear power plant.  Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief says -The world knows Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapon.

USA.

UK.  Britain’s nuclear power projects not economically viable, and adding to global warming.   £1.68bn pre-tax loss for Horizon Nuclear Power, builder for suspended Wylfa Newydd project.  Expert opinion: small nuclear reactors a very bad deal for Scotland.  Together Against Sizewell C: the battle to save UK’s Suffolk coast from nuclear development. Nuclear power – unsustainable – half Scotland’s reactors offline – but renewables supplying the load.

UKRAINE. The Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe is not over. Chernobyl radiation proves harmful to vital forest mammal . Chernobyl’s $1.7B nuclear confinement shelter finally revealed.

IRAQ. Dramatic rise in cancer rates in Basra, where depleted uranium weapons were used.

FRANCE. French government wants an independent audit of EDF’s Flamanville nuclear plant.

AUSTRALIA.   Australia would be wise not to mindlessly follow USA into war against Iran.

TURKEY. Arrests in Turkey for theft of nuclear weapons material.

JAPAN. Should Fukushima exclusion zone be widened?

SINGAPORE. Singapore plans huge 50MW floating solar project.

BELGIUM. Belgium’s green party demands review of nuclear waste storage project.

July 9, 2019 Posted by | Christina's notes | 3 Comments

What are the risks at closed San Onofre nuclear plant during a big earthquake?

July 9, 2019 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Global nuclear industry now threatened by heat, lack of water

Weatherwatch: heatwaves test limits of nuclear power   https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/08/weatherwatch-heatwaves-nuclear-power

Global heating is threatening supplies of water needed in large volumes to cool reactors   Paul Brown, Tue 9 Jul 2019 

Enthusiasts describe nuclear power as an essential tool to combat the climate emergency because, unlike renewables, it is a reliable source of base load power.

This is a spurious claim because power stations are uniquely vulnerable to global heating. They need large quantities of cooling water to function, however the increasing number of heatwaves are threatening this supply.

The French energy company EDF is curbing its output from four reactors in Bugey, on the Rhône River near the Swiss border, because the water is too warm and the flow is low.

Some reactors in the US are also frequently affected. This matters in both countries because the increasing use of air conditioning means electricity demand is high during summer heatwaves and intermittent nuclear power is not much help.

This does not affect nuclear power stations in the UK because they draw their water supplies from the sea, which stays relatively cool. However, it may affect plans to build small reactors on a lake in Trawsfynydd, Wales. And it may also reduce some of the UK’s power supplies during the summer.

As heatwaves intensify, the flow of electricity from French reactors through the growing number of cross-Channel interconnector cables cannot be relied on.

July 9, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, water | Leave a comment

Renewable energy racing ahead, close to beating nuclear power

When you see an article like this, from a basically pro-nuclear writer, in a journal that is the propaganda voice of the nuclear industry – well, isn’t this a cause for some shadenfreude?

Nuclear power remains ahead of renewables, but just barely. Further, it is losing ground. In 2017, the world produced 22% more power from nuclear than it did from modern renewables. In 2018, the nuclear lead was less than 9%. Based on current trends, modern renewables will surpass nuclear power production either this year or next year.

Renewables Catching Nuclear Power In Global Energy Race Forbes, Robert Rapier 7 Jul 19, This article is the fifth in a series on BP’s recently-released Statistical Review of World Energy 2019
Today, I want to cover global trends in renewable energy.

The Review separates renewables into two categories called Hydroelectric and Renewables. The former consists of hydropower, which has been around for a long time. Hydropower still produces more electricity globally than the Renewables category, which consists primarily of rapidly-growing wind and solar power, as well as more mature renewable technologies like geothermal power and power produced from biomass

Coal is still the dominant source of electricity around the world, although natural gas has taken over the top spot in the U.S. But, renewables have grown rapidly over the past decade, and are on the cusp of overtaking nuclear globally.

In 2018, nuclear power was responsible for 2,701 Terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity generation, compared to 4,193 TWh for hydropower and 2,480 for renewables. In comparison, coal produced more power than all three categories combined.

However, the growth rates of the different categories of electricity generation tell a different story. Over the past decade, from 2007 to 2017, global electricity generated by coal grew at an annual average of 1.7%. Nuclear generation over that time actually declined annually by 0.4%, a consequence of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. Hydropower generation grew at an average annual rate of 2.8%. These growth rates are indicative of mature power sources.

But contrast those growth rates with those of modern renewables.

From 2007 to 2017, the Renewables category grew at an average annual rate of 16.4%. But within that category, power from geothermal and biomass grew at an annual average of 7.1%. Wind and solar power, by contrast, grew at an annual average of 20.8% and 50.2%, respectively, over the past decade.

What does a 50% average annual growth rate over the past decade look like? Here are the global trends in solar power since 2000:  (in graph at top

I will note that in 2007 I wrote an article called The Future is Solar, a few years before solar took off).

The world’s leading producer of solar power in 2018 was once again China, with a 30.4% share globally. China maintained a blistering growth rate in 2018, with solar generation increasing by 50.7% over 2017. From 2007 to 2017, China increased solar generation at an average annual rate of just over 100%.

The U.S. remains in second place globally with a 16.6% share. U.S. solar power generation increased by 24.4% over 2017, and over the decade the U.S. has increased solar power at an average annual rate of 53.2%. Rounding out the Top 5 countries in solar power generation are Japan (12.3% share), Germany (7.9% share), and India (5.3% share).

Wind power is still ahead of solar in global electricity generation. In 2018, wind power was used to generate 1,270 TWh of power, versus 585 TWh for solar power. But solar power is on a trajectory to surpass wind power during the next decade.

Globally, China was also the top producer of wind power with a 28.8% global share. Again, the U.S. was second with a 21.9% share, followed by Germany (8.8% share), India (4.7% share), and the UK (4.5% share).

Nuclear power remains ahead of renewables, but just barely. Further, it is losing ground. In 2017, the world produced 22% more power from nuclear than it did from modern renewables. In 2018, the nuclear lead was less than 9%. Based on current trends, modern renewables will surpass nuclear power production either this year or next year. (I will add that nuclear is firm power, and renewables are intermittent, and that is an important distinction).

The rapid growth rate for renewables is a positive development in a world trying to rein in carbon dioxide emissions. However, renewables have not yet reached a level at which they are actually causing fossil fuel demand to contract.

Modern renewable energy consumption (mainly wind and solar power) grew by 71 million metric tons of oil equivalent in 2018. But global energy consumption grew much faster than that, with fossil fuels carrying most of the load. Global consumption of coal, oil, and natural gas grew by 276 million metric tons in 2018, nearly four times the growth in renewables. As a result, global carbon dioxide emissions set a new all-time high in 2018…….https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2019/07/07/wind-and-solar-power-nearly-matched-nuclear-power-in-2018/#5494d17039ee

July 9, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, renewable | 1 Comment

The rich and the dead: UN warns of ‘climate apartheid’

The rich and the dead: UN warns of ‘climate apartheid’   https://www.theceomagazine.com/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/united-nations-climate-change-apartheid/  by  

The United Nations predicts that climate change will push 120 million people into poverty by 2030 – and only the rich will be left standing.  A shocking new report by the United Nations has revealed that the world is facing a “climate apartheid” between the rich and poor.

While the rich can afford to relocate to more habitable areas, the report predicts that climate change will push more than 120 million people into poverty by 2030 – and many more will die.

“Even if current targets are met, tens of millions will be impoverished, leading to widespread displacement and hunger,” said Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

“Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction.”

The price to pay

Most disturbingly, an Oxfam study has found that the richest 10% of the population are responsible for half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. On the other end of the scale, the world’s poorest (3.5 billion people in 2015) are responsible for less than 10 per cent.

“While people in poverty are responsible for just a fraction of global emissions, they will bear the brunt of climate change, and have the least capacity to protect themselves,” says Alston.

He explains that instead of putting their money towards preventing or reversing the effects of climate change, the rich can pay to avoid the problem.

“We risk a ‘climate apartheid’ scenario where the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger, and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer.”

Alston believes climate change also poses a threat to democracy and human rights.   Even the best-case scenario of 1.5°C of warming by 2100 will see extreme temperatures in many countries, leaving disadvantaged populations with food scarcity, lost incomes and poor health.

“People in poverty tend to live in areas more susceptible to climate change and in housing that is less resistant; lose relatively more when affected; have fewer resources to mitigate the effects; and get less support from social safety nets or the financial system to prevent or recover from the impact,” Alston explains.

This is why, he believes, people in poor countries have died from disasters at rates up to seven times higher than those from wealthy countries.

For many – it will be a choice between starvation and migration.

How do we avoid this ‘climate apartheid’?

Alston calls for “deep structural changes in the world economy”, blaming not only governments and the private sector for their inaction on climate change, but also human rights bodies and the UN itself.

He asks for a safety net for workers who temporarily lose their jobs during the transition to a green economy, and he urges human rights institutions to “step up and engage determinedly and creatively with climate change”.

Alston acknowledges the enormity of the task but sees no alternative given the world’s current trajectory.

“Climate action should not be viewed as an impediment to economic growth but as an impetus for decoupling economic growth from emissions and resource extraction, and a catalyst for a green economic transition, labour rights improvements, and poverty elimination efforts.”

Here’s what you can learn from the thriving businesses listed in Corporate Knights’ 2019 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations.

July 9, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

The nuclear industry cries poor, wants bailouts, BUT LOOK WHAT THEY PAY THEIR EXECUTIVES!

Christine Layman  . Three Mile Island Survivors (Facebook) 6 July 19, The PA nuclear industry claims it needs a $500 million dollar a year bailout because they are unable to be competitive in the market place and yet, First Energy paid their top 7 executives more than $25 million combined in 2018 alone. Sounds like they are making plenty of money to me!

SAY NO TO ANY NUCLEAR BAILOUT IN PA!

7 First Energy executives were paid more than $25 million in 2018

July 9, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

How the Iran nuclear deal actually works

“I think in Iran, we are pretty confident that there is no undeclared plant”

How the Iran nuclear deal works, explained in 3 minutes

Iran is enriching uranium and breaking the limit set by the nuclear deal. Here’s what that means.

Uranium enrichment is a critical step in making nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. VOX, By Iran has exceeded the uranium enrichment level of 3.67 percent set in the 2015 nuclear deal it made with world powers, a spokesman for Iran’s nuclear agency said, according to reports Monday.

The deal put tight restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the loosening of some international sanctions on the country. The 3.67 percent limitation on uranium enrichment purity was one of many limits in the deal meant to keep Iran from gathering enough material to build an atom bomb in a year if it chose to (Iran has never officially said it wants a nuclear weapon).

On Sunday, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, said Iran would begin enriching uranium to 4.5 percent for its Bushehr power plant.

“This is to protect the nuclear deal, not to nullify it. … This is an opportunity for talks. And if our partners fail to use this opportunity, they should not doubt our determination to leave the deal,” Araghchi said.

The 4.5 percent enrichment is still well below the 90 percent considered weapons-grade. But the violation of the deal is a move meant “to pressure Europe to reset the terms of the nuclear agreement following a US withdrawal from the pact last year,” according to the Washington Post.

Given the extraordinary destructive power of a nuclear weapon, keeping a close eye on enrichment around the world is critical to global security. But in the decades since the Manhattan Project, the enrichment process has gone from a massive, power-hungry, brute-force operation to a sophisticated and potentially clandestine affair.

Since it’s immensely important in international diplomacy right now, it’s worthwhile to understand what goes into enriching nuclear material, how the nuclear process works, and the strategies for keeping it in check………

Given the extraordinary destructive power of a nuclear weapon, keeping a close eye on enrichment around the world is critical to global security. But in the decades since the Manhattan Project, the enrichment process has gone from a massive, power-hungry, brute-force operation to a sophisticated and potentially clandestine affair.

Since it’s immensely important in international diplomacy right now, it’s worthwhile to understand what goes into enriching nuclear material, how the nuclear process works, and the strategies for keeping it in check.

Under the NPT, countries that don’t currently possess nuclear weapons are prevented from developing or spreading nuclear weapons technologies, but they can pursue nuclear activities for peaceful purposes like research or energy.

In 2003, Iran was found to have violated nuclear activity reporting requirements in the NPT, which spurred the international effort to get Iran to suspend its enrichment work. The US has argued that Iran does not have the right to enrich uranium since it was caught violating some of the safeguards imposed by the NPT, though Iran has not violated the treaty itself.

The goal of the six countries that signed the JCPOA with Iran in 2015 was to limit what is called “breakout time.” That is, how long it would take Iran to enrich enough material for a nuclear weapon if the country suddenly decided to ditch all international agreements and aggressively ramp up enrichment.

Prior to the agreement, Iran’s breakout time was estimated at four to six weeks. The provisions of the deal (Vox’s Zack Beauchamp put together an excellent explainer on this) aimed to extend this to more than a year, which would give international observers time to detect such a shift and enact countermeasures.

In short, the agreement made Iran limit uranium enrichment to 3.67 percent and decommission about 14,000 of its centrifuges, allowing just roughly 5,000 of Iran’s first-generation units to keep spinning. These IR-1 centrifuges produce between 0.75 and 1 SWU per device, whereas the IR-8 centrifuges Iran was developing at the time of the deal could theoretically manage 24 SWU, making them much more efficient.

Iran also gave up much of its low-enriched uranium stockpile, going from 25,000 pounds to 660 pounds. Iranian officials also agreed to pour concrete into their Arak reactor, a potential source of plutonium for nuclear weapons.

In addition, the JCPOA requires round-the-clock monitoring of Iran’s enrichment facilities in Fordow and Natanz, with only the Natanz facility allowed to operate. These are likely the only places where Iran can enrich uranium for a weapon.

“I think in Iran, we are pretty confident that there is no undeclared plant,” said Alex Glaser, director of the Nuclear Futures Laboratory at Princeton University.

International observers are also monitoring Iran’s uranium mining operations.

As it stands, the agreement effectively eliminates Iran’s prospects for enriching enough uranium for a civilian nuclear program and makes it much more tedious to gather the material required for a weapon. What little enrichment Iran is allowed under the deal is effectively a face-saving measure.

But, critics argue, pausing Iran’s entire nuclear enrichment apparatus only extends the breakout time by a few months since the country could just rebuild or reinstall its centrifuges if it decided to leave the agreement. And it looks like that day may be getting closer: a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said Monday that the agency may increase the enrichment level to 20 percent or reinstall centrifuges.https://www.vox.com/2018/6/11/17369454/iran-uranium-enrichment

July 9, 2019 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

One climate crisis disaster happening every week, UN warns

One climate crisis disaster happening every week, UN warns https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/07/one-climate-crisis-disaster-happening-every-week-un-warns  

Developing countries must prepare now for profound impact, disaster representative says  Climate crisis disasters are happening at the rate of one a week, though most draw little international attention and work is urgently needed to prepare developing countries for the profound impacts, the UN has warned.Catastrophes such as cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique and the drought afflicting India make headlines around the world. But large numbers of “lower impact events” that are causing death, displacement and suffering are occurring much faster than predicted, said Mami Mizutori, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on disaster risk reduction. “This is not about the future, this is about today.” Continue reading

July 9, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief says -The world knows Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapon

The world knows Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapon: Guards chief https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-iran-guards-chief-idUSKCN1U324EGENEVA (Reuters) – The world knows that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon, the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Major General Hossein Salami, said on Monday, according to the Tasnim news agency.

Iran threatened on Monday to restart deactivated centrifuges and ramp up enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity as its next potential big moves away from a 2015 nuclear agreement that Washington abandoned last year.

Why do they globally sanction us about the nuclear issue when the world knows that we are not pursuing a weapon? In reality they are sanctioning us because of knowledge,” he said. “Nuclear weapons have no place in Islam. Islam never approves of weapons of mass destruction.”

Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh, Editing by William Maclean

 

July 9, 2019 Posted by | Iran, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia would be wise not to mindlessly follow USA into war against Iran

We must think very carefully before committing to war in the Gulf, The Age, By Hossein Esmaeili, July 8, 2019 Conflict between the United States and Iran is deepening and the two states are marching towards war. The Persian Gulf, where a third of the world’s natural gas and a fifth of the world’s oil is sourced, may soon see another large scale and probably long-lasting international conflict………

On Sunday, Iran announced it would enrich uranium beyond the nuclear deal limit unless the remaining parties – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – help reduce the paralysing US economic sanctions, which are strangling Iran’s economy. …….
Any war in the volatile environment of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East would not be, as Trump said, ‘‘quick and short’’, but rather a blazing regional and international conflict which may disturb the world economy and endanger global peace and security. ….
In late June, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo officially called on Australia to play a role in a new global coalition against Iran. Following Pompeo’s request, Prime Minster Scott Morrison did not rule out possible Australian involvement in a possible military conflict between the US and Iran.  ……
After the events of September 11, 2001, John Howard invoked provisions of the 1951 ANZUS Treaty to demonstrate Australia’s support for the US in its war against the Taliban/al-Qaeda and later against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.  …..
Australia has no legal obligations under the ANZUS Treaty, or any other international agreement, to join the US in another possibly long, chaotic and devastating regional conflict. Indeed, under the Charter of the United Nations, to which both Australia and the US are parties, the use of force is prohibited unless authorised by the Security Council of the United Nations.
Australia’s Prime Minister must think very carefully before committing Australia to a war that has virtually no international support, no international legal justification, and no rational justification. ……

the European Union is backing measures, provided by France, United Kingdom and Germany, known as Instruments In Support of Trade Exchange (INSTEX), to facilitate trade between the EU and Iran to partially get around the US sanctions, in order to save the 2015 nuclear deal, to maintain dialogue with Iran and to prevent an international military crisis.

Australia would be much wiser to join the EU’s INSTEX and engage in dialogue with Iran……..

Should Morrison decide to enter into a conflict in one of the most volatile regions of the world, he will not have the decision-making power to end it. He would do well not to drive Australia into such a war, instead, given Australia’s international reputation, he should help European countries, the world community and the United Nations to avoid a useless armed conflict, which will not benefit any country.

War with Iran won’t be like war with Iraq: significantly more pain, more bloodshed and more devastation for the entire world, including Australia, will be the result.

Hossein Esmaeili is an associate professor of international law at Flinders University.  https://www.theage.com.au/world/middle-east/we-must-think-very-carefully-before-committing-to-war-in-the-gulf-20190708-p52566.html

July 9, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Uranium and plutonium are the key elements in a nuclear reaction

Iran is enriching uranium and breaking the limit set by the nuclear deal. Here’s what that means. VOX, By 

……….Uranium enrichment is a critical step in making nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. 

Uranium and plutonium are the key elements in a nuclear reaction…….. specific starting materials, most commonly uranium and plutonium, must be processed or enriched to drive a chain reaction.

Here are some of the basics: Uranium is the heaviest naturally occurring element in the periodic table, with an atomic number of 92, representing the number of protons in its nucleus………..

Plutonium, on the other hand, is a synthetic element. It has an atomic number of 94 and is formed in nuclear reactors as a byproduct of neutrons being captured by uranium. Plutonium can be acquired from reprocessing spent fuel from conventional nuclear power plants, or reactors can be designed specifically to produce plutonium for use in weapons.

But making plutonium usually requires a reactor to begin with, so uranium remains the choke point for both uranium-based and plutonium-based weapons.

The nuclear reaction is the same for weapons and energy. The desired outcome is different.

So you have your uranium (or plutonium). Can you now make a bomb?

Not quite. Let’s wade into the history and science of splitting atoms to set the stage for nuclear negotiations today.

Researchers found since the 1930s that they could bombard uranium with neutrons to create heavier isotopes and form new elements that have never before been seen in nature, like plutonium.

An isotope is a variety of an element with the same chemical structure but a different internal composition. In comparing isotopes of an element like uranium, the atomic number stays the same, but the isotope number — the sum of the protons and neutrons in a nucleus — can differ. Uranium-235 (U-235), for example, has three fewer neutrons than uranium-238 (U-238), but they undergo the same chemical reactions.

In their experiments, German scientists Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner, and Fritz Strassmann in 1938 found another curious result. Among the atoms resulting from neutron bombardment were much smaller atoms like barium, which has an atomic number of 56. Meitner, along with Austrian scientist Otto Frisch, realized that this was the result of splitting the uranium atom into smaller atoms, a phenomenon that also emits a huge amount of energy. The finding marked the dawn of the nuclear age.

Isotopes of atoms that can split apart (undergo fission) are described as fissile. When there are enough fissile atoms close together — a quantity known as critical mass — the particles ejected by fission can strike other fissile atoms, triggering more atoms to split apart and so on. The energy released in the process can generate heat to boil water to spin a turbine or wreak devastation from a bomb.

But not all uranium atoms can easily split apart and trigger a chain reaction. In fact, most can’t. In nature, about 99.7 percent of uranium is in the form of the non-fissile isotope U-238.

Only about 0.7 percent of uranium occurs in the fissile form of U-235. And in nature, U-235 is in such a low concentration that even if a stray neutron were to strike it with enough force to break it apart, it’s unlikely that the resulting neutrons would find another U-235 atom nearby to continue the reaction.

To produce a chain reaction, you need to increase the concentration of U-235 relative to U-238. This is called enrichment.

For plutonium, all isotopes are fissile, but some are easier to use in nuclear weapons than others. Plutonium rich in the isotope Pu-239, called weapons-grade plutonium, poses the fewest technical challenges and can be extracted from nuclear fuel that is only irradiated in a reactor for a short time.

Making uranium and plutonium useful is a major technical challenge

Enrichment is the sorting problem from hell.

Instead of uranium atoms, imagine you have a bag filled with 1,000 marbles, each identical in material, size, shape, color, and texture. However, there are seven marbles in the bag that weigh 1.3 percent less than the others. For 5-gram, 1.5-centimeter diameter marbles, we’re talking about a difference of about 65 milligrams for the light marbles, or the weight of a few grains of sand.

Since it’s tedious to weigh each individual marble, you’ll want to come up with some sort of group sorting mechanism. But weight is the only thing setting them apart and the difference between desired and undesired marbles is small, so the sorting process won’t be perfect and you’ll still have a mixture of light and heavy marbles at the end. So you run the results through the sorter again. And again. And again.

With each iteration, you have a higher percentage of lighter marbles, but every repetition costs time, money, and energy.

And remember, the marbles in this analogy are atoms, the smallest unit of matter, so they’re that much more difficult to manipulate, and it takes far longer to get the quantities you need when you’re trying to go from atoms of uranium to tons of it.

For a nuclear reactor cooled with ordinary water, you need only about 3 to 5 percent U-235 enrichment, but you need it by the ton. A 1-gigawatt nuclear reactor uses 27 tons of nuclear fuel per year. …

Uranium with more than 20 percent U-235 is considered highly enriched. Conversely, the residual uranium with U-235 removed is called depleted (this is the uranium used in armor-piercing ammunition).

A nuclear weapon, on the other hand, requires even higher enrichment, typically around 90 percent, though it needs much less mass than a reactor. The Little Boy bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, used 141 pounds of highly enriched uranium, though only 2 percent actually underwent fission due to inefficiencies in the design of the bomb. The Fat Man bomb dropped on Nagasaki used just 14 pounds of plutonium.

The International Atomic Energy Agency defines a “significant quantity” of nuclear material for a weapon to be 55 pounds of U-235 within a quantity of highly enriched uranium, or 17.6 pounds of plutonium.

Some countries with civilian nuclear reactors, like South Korea, don’t bother with the whole enrichment process and have opted instead to buy their nuclear fuel on the open international market. But for others, like France, mastering the fuel cycle is a vital pillar of their energy strategy.

The enrichment process has become easier, which makes controlling nuclear weapons harder

Both Iran and North Korea have developed surreptitious enrichment networks for producing nuclear material. These facilities are hard to detect and easy to reconfigure, so without regular inspections and monitoring, the possibility of a clandestine nuclear weapons program remains.

This wasn’t always the case.

The Manhattan Project marked the first successful effort to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. One of the earliest and most primitive enrichment techniques used in this endeavor was gaseous diffusion. Here, uranium is reacted with fluorine to make uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6). The gas is then pumped through membranes, the idea being that lighter isotopes of uranium would diffuse faster than heavier isotopes (fluorine has only one naturally occurring isotope, so any differences in the mass of the gas come from uranium).

But each stage of the process could only separate a tiny amount of uranium, so gaseous diffusion required huge buildings and devoured energy to power the pumps needed to move the gas through the separation stages.

“The original ways of doing it were very inefficient,” said Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “They required very large amounts of land, lots of power.”

For example, the K-25 gaseous diffusion building in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was completed in 1945 at a cost of $500 million. It was half a mile long and 1,000 feet wide, making it the largest building under one roof at the time. The facility employed 12,000 workers at its peak and consumed enough electricity to power 20,000 homes for a year.

These days, uranium enrichment is much more subtle. The most common tool is the gas centrifuge. This is where uranium hexafluoride gas is fed into a column spinning at upward of 100,000 rotations per minute.

As the centrifuge spins, the heavier isotopes push harder against its wall than the lighter ones. The centrifuge also induces the gas to circulate within the device, further increasing separation. The output of one centrifuge is then fed into another and another in an arrangement called a cascade.

Centrifuges are more energy-efficient than other enrichment techniques and are harder to detect. The centrifuges themselves don’t take up much floor space, so their plants have a much smaller physical footprint than gaseous diffusion facilities. They also don’t draw as much electricity, nor do they leave much of a heat signature.

A declassified 1960 report from a contractor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory noted that “it would not be too difficult to build a relatively small clandestine gas centrifuge plant capable of producing sufficient enriched uranium for a small number of nuclear weapons.”

The point is a primitive enrichment apparatus is massive; a modern one is small.

“Centrifuges are the only [enrichment process] today that makes economic sense,” said R. Scott Kemp, director of the Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy at MIT. “[A centrifuge plant] capable of producing a weapon can fit in a garage or a small office building, and the energy consumption is less than typical office lighting per square foot.”

That’s why arms control discussions focus so much on centrifuges, and why the Iran nuclear deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — went to great lengths to specify the number and type of centrifuges allowed, as well as how closely they are monitored. Centrifuges are the key variable in how long it takes to enrich a usable quantity of uranium, whether for fuel or for weapons.

To produce nuclear energy, where you need tons of uranium but at low levels of enrichment, an enrichment operation would need many parallel cascades, but only a handful of enrichment stages. For a weapon, which demands kilograms of uranium but at much higher enrichment, it’s almost the reverse: You would only need a few parallel cascades, but those cascades would involve dozens of stages. With enough centrifuges, getting enough usable uranium for either would only take a few weeks.

The term of art for the amount of effort required to enrich uranium is a separative work unit,or SWU. It’s built on a complicated formula, and it’s useful for describing the efficiency of a centrifuge cascade. It takes about 120,000 SWU per year to produce enough fuel for a 1-gigawatt nuclear reactor, but it only takes about 5,000 SWU to have enough material for a nuclear weapon. So a country with enough enrichment capacity to sustain a small nuclear energy program theoretically has enough throughput to build dozens of weapons.

And switching between a nuclear fuel centrifuge arrangement and a nuclear weapon arrangement isn’t all that difficult or time-consuming. It’s a matter of changing how pipes are routed, so converting a plant from supplying energy material to supplying weapons material could take no more than a few months.

The term of art for the amount of effort required to enrich uranium is a separative work unit,or SWU. It’s built on a complicated formula, and it’s useful for describing the efficiency of a centrifuge cascade. It takes about 120,000 SWU per year to produce enough fuel for a 1-gigawatt nuclear reactor, but it only takes about 5,000 SWU to have enough material for a nuclear weapon. So a country with enough enrichment capacity to sustain a small nuclear energy program theoretically has enough throughput to build dozens of weapons.

And switching between a nuclear fuel centrifuge arrangement and a nuclear weapon arrangement isn’t all that difficult or time-consuming. It’s a matter of changing how pipes are routed, so converting a plant from supplying energy material to supplying weapons material could take no more than a few months………….https://www.vox.com/2018/6/11/17369454/iran-uranium-enrichment

July 9, 2019 Posted by | Reference, technology | Leave a comment

Praise for Russian sailors who died in nuclear submarine accident. Secrecy on what happened.

July 9, 2019 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Holtec’s dodgy nuclear waste canisters

The Holtec nuclear waste storage canisters at San Onofre are lemons and must be replaced with thick-wall casks. 11/29/2018 Oceanside:   The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) admits in their November 28, 2018 NRC Inspection Report and Notice of Violation, ML18332A357 (page 8 and 9) every Holtec canister downloaded into the storage holes is damaged due to inadequate clearance between the canister and the divider shell in the storage hole (vault).  The NRC states canister walls are already “worn”.  This results in cracks. Once cracks start, they continue to grow through the wall.

The NRC stated Southern California Edison (and Holtec) knew about this since January 2018, but continued to load 29 canisters anyway. Continue reading

July 9, 2019 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Belgium’s green party demands review of nuclear waste storage project

Belgium’s green party demands review of nuclear waste storage project  https://www.brusselstimes.com/all-news/belgium-all-news/science/60278/deforestations-impact-on-climate-change-deemed-worse-than-expected/

July 9, 2019 Posted by | EUROPE, wastes | Leave a comment

USA. Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez move to declare climate crisis official emergency

July 9, 2019 Posted by | climate change, politics, USA | Leave a comment