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USA Senate panel concerned about technical problems in nuclear weapons

Senate panel wants probe into nuclear weapons glitches, Roll Call, John M. Donnelly  @johnmdonnelly 18 Sept 19, 

Panel is concerned that problems might reflect fundamental oversight shortcomings that have broader implications. The panel is concerned that recent glitches in atomic weapons may have broader implications, and senators want to get to the bottom of the issue. Separately, a congressional aide familiar with the issue said the problems will add hundreds of millions of dollars to the atomic weapons budget.

“The Committee is concerned that a recent technical challenge demonstrates a lack of systems engineering and highlights a lack of coordination and leadership focus, which in turn jeopardizes successful program execution,” the report says.

The document does not mention any particular programs or provide details on the nature of the technical challenges. But experts on nuclear weapons said the panel is almost certainly referring to problems with two new weapons: a bomb called the B61-12 and a modified submarine-launched warhead called the W-88.

In both those programs, problems with commercially manufactured electrical components have caused months of delays, U.S. government officials have publicly acknowledged.

In another sign of intensifying congressional concern over the programs, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces plans to hold a hearing Sept. 25 on those two programs.

Senate appropriators suggested in their report that they are worried the delays in these programs may reflect fundamental oversight shortcomings and could cause ripple effects in other nuclear initiatives, such as keeping nuclear weapons out of terrorists’ hands, updating warship reactors and modernizing facilities.

The investigation must find causes and solutions, the panel said, and it must “ensure the extent of condition is not more widespread than currently reported.”……….. https://www.rollcall.com/news/congress/senate-panel-wants-probe-nuclear-weapons-glitches

September 19, 2019 Posted by | safety, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Security dangers of nuclear energy in space

Nuclear Energy in Space: Nonproliferation Risks  http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=54634, University of Texas-Austin, September 17, 2019

On October 17, experts from NASA, Congress, and reactor companies will gather in the nation’s capital to discuss ongoing development of nuclear reactors for space missions and the potential security risks.

The event is free, but pre-registration is required.  For further details, and to register, please see: https://space-nuclear.eventbrite.com.

The program will feature Jeffrey A. Sheehy, NASA’s Chief Engineer in the Space Technology Mission Directorate.   The keynote address will be delivered by Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), the only physicist in Congress and a member of the House Science Committee.

Controversy centers on NASA’s choice of fuel for the reactor it tested in 2018 for use on a planetary surface: weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium.  NASA scientists believe such uranium would enable smaller reactors, reducing launch costs.  However, critics argue it could undermine decades of U.S. progress in reducing worldwide civilian commerce in this dangerous material, create a precedent that could help rogue countries obtain nuclear weapons, sharply increase security costs, impede NASA’s cost-saving collaboration with commercial partners who lack licenses for such uranium, and potentially disperse nuclear weapons material to adversaries in the event of a launch failure.  They say that an alternative reactor fuel – low-enriched uranium, which is unsuitable for nuclear weapons – could reduce the security, economic, and political risks.

Last month, President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum on the launch of space nuclear systems, which highlighted the security risk: “Due to potential national security considerations associated with nuclear nonproliferation . . . The President’s authorization shall be required for Federal Government launches . . . when such systems utilize any nuclear fuel other than low-enriched uranium.”  In June 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill that included an amendment by Rep. Foster, directing NASA to “work towards the development of a low enriched uranium (LEU) space power reactor.”

September 19, 2019 Posted by | safety, space travel, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Strong environmental case to scrap Bradwell B new nuclear build

Mersea Island Courier 16th Sept 2019, Native oysters at risk from new nuclear build. Graham Farley of Mersea Island Environmental Alliance (MIEA) shares why marine life in the
Blackwater Estuary will be at risk if the Bradwell B nuclear new-build goes
ahead.

CHINA General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) and EDF Energy are currently
circulating updates on the proposed Bradwell new-build nuclear project. In
their article they say that members of the public have a chance to win a
photographic competition or even submit their happy memories associated
with the original Bradwell Magnox Station!

My memories of the Bradwell Magnox station include: radioactive leaks, record fines, more leaks and attempts to cover up a catalogue of failures including the failed FED
dumping of radioactive waste in our estuary.

Unsurprisingly, there are no mentions of climate change and environmental protection in their
literature. It was assumed that with the decreasing cost of green energy,
spiralling costs of new nuclear projects and collapse of other UK proposed
nuclear builds that Bradwell would be shelved.

However, this isn’t so, as we have a copy of a Marine Licence application from July this year to
survey the estuary, which confirms that the project is still moving
forward. This document confirms the power station “will likely operate
with cooling water abstracted from the Blackwater Estuary”.

The case I’m making to stop the nuclear new build at Bradwell is environmental:
the Blackwater Estuary is one of the most important wildlife habitats in
the country, therefore safeguarding and preserving this habitat for future
generations is a priority! We must protect of the delicate ecology of the
mud flats, salt marsh and the shallow estuary with its many international
environmental protections and UK Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) status.

https://www.facebook.com/MerseaIslandCourierNews/?__tn__=%2Cd%2CP-R&eid=ARCXSjfi2E_C6CL5eAX4Wa1zR6M4NHF98IQvB60PU0ALVpvfuFzC7Kyd1J8fQ6a4UpvR19lHEu5jwshV

September 19, 2019 Posted by | environment, UK | Leave a comment

Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) see Revenue Asset Base (RAB) financial model as a danger to UK’s public purse

NFLA 16th Sept 2019, The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) publishes today its response to
the UK Government consultation on the Revenue Asset Base (RAB) financial
model being proposed to assist the funding of new nuclear reactors.

NFLA see this new model as a real risk to the public purse, providing
preferential treatment to new nuclear over renewable energy investment, is
overly complicated to implement at a time when the ‘climate emergency’
calls for more straightforward and realisable schemes like energy
efficiency and decentralised energy solutions instead.

http://www.nuclearpolicy.info/news/nfla-view-governments-proposed-funding-new-nuclear-reactors-moving-risks-taxpayer/

September 19, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | Leave a comment

From space, the human impact on the Amazon is clearly visible

From space, you can clearly see the human impact on the Amazon, ABC News, 19 Sep 19, [excellent pictures] , By Michael Slezak and Mark Doman  As thick plumes of smoke blanketed Brazil’s most populous city Sao Paulo, global attention turned to the cause.

The Amazon, the world’s most biodiverse rainforest, was burning at a rate not seen in almost a decade.

It was decried as a global tragedy. Lit by farmers, the fires raged through villages, destroyed ecosystems and pumped climate-warming pollution into the atmosphere.

The Brazilian government, which has been criticised for winding back protections of the Amazon, sent in the army and slapped a temporary ban on fires used to clear land.

But one month on, the fires are still burning.

It’s a vicious circle as fire after fire, as well as other farming activities, damage surrounding forests making them more prone to future fires.

The cycle has alarmed some scientists who fear the rainforest is being pushed closer toward a tipping point they call the “dieback scenario”, where the forests enter an irreversible cycle of collapse.

“This year it is a correct statement that most of the fires are on previously cleared lands or are deforesting lands immediately adjacent to them,” said Professor Mark Cochrane, an expert in Amazon deforestation from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

That’s the case most years, since fires are lit by farmers and usually can only spread through disturbed forest. An exception is during severe droughts, when fires can spread through less disturbed forest, Professor Cochrane said.

But he said this year was “exceptional in recent memory” because of the proportion of the ongoing fires were being used for deforestation, rather than merely for the maintenance of previously deforested areas.

The latest data shows a dramatic uptick in land clearing in July and August, just as the fires took hold. …….. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-19/satellite-images-of-amazon-reveals-human-impact-of-fires/11478580

September 19, 2019 Posted by | climate change, SOUTH AMERICA | Leave a comment

Israel’s duplicity about its nuclear weapons

The Emperor’s New-Old Nuclear Clothes, Common Dreams ,  Helena Cobban September 18, 2019, by  The Lobe Log, 

Israel wants to keep leaders in Washington distracted and always a little off-balance, so they will end up without the bandwidth and the stamina needed to confront Israel over the continuation of colonial expansion in the lands occupied in 1967.byHelena Cobban

How is it still possible to write a lengthy article about the military/strategic dynamic among the triad of Israel, Iran, and the United States while making zero mention of Israel’s robust nuclear-weapons capability? New York Times staffers Ronen Bergman and Mark Mazzetti, and their editors at the Times magazine clearly think this is quite okay. In their recent lengthy article, “The Secret History of the Push to Strike Iran,” Bergman and Mazzetti looked at the U.S.-Israeli coalitional aspect of the past 17 years in the project to prepare for launching military or special-ops actions against Iran. They followed in the long tradition within the big corporate media of deliberately ignoring Israel’s nuclear capability, a factor that is central to any understanding of the forces at play in the Middle East and also, crucially, those at play in the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

The authors’ omission of any mention of Israel’s nuclear capabilities—and the ability these capabilities have long given to the country’s leaders to exert strong, continuing nuclear blackmail on Washington—is one serious flaw in their narrative. Another is that they seriously downplay the importance of the fact that Israel’s military is incapable, on its own, of inflicting debilitating damage on Iran’s nuclear program using only “conventional,” that is non-nuclear, weapons. (The two lacunae could perhaps be linked, as we will see below.)

Early in the article, Bergman and Mazzetti set the scene for how they see the strategic dynamic among Israel, Iran, and Washington by citing an analysis provided by Ilan Goldenberg, who was an up-and-coming Pentagon official in the Obama administration………….

A few things about the nuclear dimension of the U.S.-Israel-Iran triangle have been clear to me for a long time. One is that the longstanding refusal of most members of the U.S. political elite (officials, legislators, think-tankers, corporate media, and so on) to even mention the fact of Israel’s own nuclear-weapons capabilities and to take full account of them in public discussions of strategic matters in the Middle East is extremely harmful. Among the harms inflicted by that refusal (and by the general political clout that Israel wields in Washington) is that Israel’s longstanding ability to wield a form of nuclear blackmail against Washington—as I have written about for more than 30 years now—is never mentioned. Nor is the fact that, while Iran has been a full member of the NPT and has submitted to a full range of inspections of its nuclear research facilities for many decades now, Israel is not a member and has never been subjected to any such inspections.

(Another thing that is almost never mentioned is that all journalists based in Israel—as Bergman is—are subject to the country’s rigorous censorship system. This censorship is particularly strict regarding all military issues.)

…………  so long as Iran does not break out of the NPT, Israel can quietly, behind the veil of its longstanding policy of “nuclear ambiguity”, continue to exert a form of “extreme-case” nuclear deterrence against Iran. (And to use the threat of a potential unveiling as a potent means of leverage against decision-makers in Washington.)

So why, then, do we have all the continual hullabaloo and endless navel-scratching in the Western corporate media (and the Western political system, more broadly) about the possibility—not yet anywhere close to a fact, but a possibility, some time in the future—that Iran may start to build a nuclear-weapons capability?

My conclusion is that a good part of this navel-scratching is a deliberate tactic of diversion: a way for the decision-makers in Israel and their supporters to keep leaders in Washington and elsewhere distracted and always a little off-balance, so they will end up without the bandwidth and the stamina needed confront Israel over the continuation of its project of colonial expansion in the lands occupied in 1967.

That colonial project in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and in Golan is what all Israeli leaders since 2001 have cared about most deeply. And they all knew that one great way to head off any efforts a U.S. president might make to challenge the project was to raise a hubbub about Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“Why do you keep talking to us about human rights or international law issues in the Palestinian territories?” was the essential message such efforts sent to decision-makers in Washington. “Stop worrying about those. We will handle them as we see fit, and you should butt out. But meantime, keep looking at all those shiny objects over there in the Iranian nuclear program! And by the way, keep your aid money flowing to our military. Otherwise, just imagine what havoc we could create for you in the Gulf…”

Helena Cobban is a writer and researcher on global affairs. She is a Contributing Editor of Boston Review, and writes weekly news analysis on Middle East affairs for Inter-Press service. Her blog can be enjoyed at Just World News.    https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/09/18/emperors-new-old-nuclear-clothes

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Israel, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear lobby’s keen propaganda campaign in Indonesia

Nuclear tourism experience in Bandung to be launched in October   https://www.thejakartapost.com/travel/2019/09/18/nuclear-tourism-experience-in-bandung-to-be-launched-in-october.html, THE JAKARTA POST, Jakarta  /  Wed, September 18, 2019  

The National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan) is set to launch a nuclear tourism experience on Oct. 30, aiming to introduce nuclear technology to the public.

“We will have an open house to present the results of our research and development team from 2015 to 2019,” said Jupiter Sitorus Pane, head of the Science and Applied Nuclear Technology Center of Batan in Bandung on Wednesday to Antara news agency.

Jupiter said travelers can visit a number of places related to Batan in Bandung, such as reactors, isotopes production lab, the reactor conversion lab and Applied Nuclear Technology Center.

“Our target market is students and those interested in nuclear sciences. As this is a nuclear facility and considered a vital object, visitors must be at least 18 years old,” he said, adding that the tour will be free of charge.

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Indonesia, marketing | Leave a comment

Russia trying to market nuclear power to Uganda (or to anybody, really)

Uganda says Russia to help it develop nuclear energy, KAMPALA (Reuters) 18 Sept 19, – Uganda said on Wednesday it had signed an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with Russia to help the East African country build capacity to exploit nuclear technology for energy, medical and other peaceful purposes.The government of President Yoweri Museveni has previously said it is eager to use the country’s uranium deposits to boost energy production capacity.

In May last year Uganda also signed a memorandum of understanding with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to help Uganda build capacity in the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.

In an emailed statement, Uganda’s energy ministry said the IGA with Russia was signed in Vienna on Tuesday between Energy Minister Irene Muloni and Nikolai Spasskiy, the deputy director general of Russian state corporation ROSATOM……….

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema in Kampala; Editing by Matthew Lewis https://www.reuters.com/article/us-uganda-russia/uganda-says-russia-to-help-it-develop-nuclear-energy-idUSKBN1W328N

 

September 19, 2019 Posted by | AFRICA, marketing, Russia | Leave a comment

September 18 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “September, 2019: A Tipping Point Moment For The Earth?” • Thanks to the unceasing efforts of people like Bill McKibben, Michael Mann, Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion, Sunrise Movement, and many others, there is a sense that attitudes toward climate change may be shifting. Mainstream media is starting to cover the story. [CleanTechnica] Science […]

via September 18 Energy News — geoharvey

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The good, the bad and the ugly: the nations leading and failing on climate action — RenewEconomy

Few nations are on track to reaching our goal, causing us to head to a warming above 3℃ by 2100 – and this will have catastrophic consequences for the planet. The post The good, the bad and the ugly: the nations leading and failing on climate action appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via The good, the bad and the ugly: the nations leading and failing on climate action — RenewEconomy

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australia’s capital to be first city outside Europe to transition to 100% renewables — RenewEconomy

ACT to become the first jurisdiction outside Europe to complete the switch from fossil fuel electricity to a grid powered completely by renewables. The post Australia’s capital to be first city outside Europe to transition to 100% renewables appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Australia’s capital to be first city outside Europe to transition to 100% renewables — RenewEconomy

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

10 ways technology can meet the Paris climate targets — RenewEconomy

New report lists 10 measures – using current technologies – that can keep global warming well below 2°C. But not at current rates of progress, and not without good policy. The post 10 ways technology can meet the Paris climate targets appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via 10 ways technology can meet the Paris climate targets — RenewEconomy

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment