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Drones could be a real danger to nuclear facilities

What Happens When A Drone Comes For A Nuclear Reactor? Forbes, Kelsey D. Atherton, 31 July 20.
How seriously, exactly, should a nuclear reactor take the threat from a quadcopter?

This question sits at the center of a long investigation by The War Zone, built upon a trove of documents about a curious pair of incidents in September 2019. As the authors report:How seriously, exactly, should a nuclear reactor take the threat from a quadcopter?

This question sits at the center of a long investigation by The War Zone, built upon a trove of documents about a curious pair of incidents in September 2019. As the authors report:

This particular story starts on Sept. 29, 2019. Shortly before 11:00 PM local time at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, Daphne Rodriguez, an Acting Security Section Chief at the plant, called the duty officer at NRC’s Headquarters Operations Center (HOC). Rodriguez reported that a number of drones were flying over and around a restricted area near the nuclear power plant’s Unit 3, which houses one of its three pressurized water reactors.

The observed drone flights on September 29th were followed by multiple reported sightings on the night of September 30th. The full tale, about what action was taken, and what risks were prioritized, is worth reading in full, as it gives a deep sense of prioritization and uncertainty in the face of novel concern.

What I found fascinating reading it is the way this was all foreshadowed, half a decade ago, by a series of incidents in France.
In 2014, a series of drones buzzed nuclear reactors in France. While environmental activists were accused and hobbyists detained, little came of the arrests. At the time, much was made of the unique way drones could threaten nuclear power plants. Cheap, small, and expendable, commercial, hobbyists drones are hard to see on radar, and, especially in 2014, few technologies existed to reliably detect or disable drones. Reactors and power plants are large facilities, and cameras built to record movement on the ground are especially oblivious to flying objects……..
As The War Zone notes, a drone doesn’t have to break a reactor for it to cause problems and disruptions at such a power plant. Drone detection technologies, abundant in 2020 in a way they simply were not in 2014, could provide a start for keeping an eye on weird flights near critical infrastructure. Automated disabling systems, from jammers to directed energy weapons to electronic warfare tools to, even, guns mounted on turrets are all possibilities in hardening reactors specifically against drone intrusions.
Yet the technology most worth watching isn’t the countermeasures so much as it is the kinds of cheap drone available. Presently most drones available for anybody can either be directly piloted or set on a preset path of waypoints. Should drones gain longer flight times, greater route autonomy, and especially, an ability to carry larger, heavier payloads without losing much flight time, those would be the factors that should suggest a rethink of infrastructure hardening. ……..https://www.forbes.com/sites/kelseyatherton/2020/07/31/what-happens-when-a-drone-comes-for-a-nuclear-reactor/#3eba981285d3

August 1, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, safety | Leave a comment

Donald Trump on nuclear proliferation and global heating – he’s incompetent about both

Trump Says Nuclear Proliferation Is Scarier Than Climate Change. He’s Failing at Both. Mother Jones 

“Enlightened leadership would be treating both as emergencies.”

 WILL PEISCHEL  31 Jul 20,  On Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump set off a furor when he told Axios reporter Jonathan Swan that during a recent call with Vladimir Putin, he hadn’t bothered to mention US intelligence suggesting that Russia had offered bounties to Taliban fighters for killing American service members. Trump said that instead, the two leaders had discussed nuclear nonproliferation efforts—and then he inexplicably pivoted to downplaying the threat of climate change.

“If we can do something with Russia in terms of nuclear proliferation, which is a very big problem, bigger problem than global warming, a much bigger problem than global warming in terms of the real world, that would be a great thing,” he said told Swan.

Bringing up global climate change—which already affects the lives of millions—was apparently an arbitrary tangent to the conversation. Even if it wasn’t, experts say attempting to rank the two existential threats against each other isn’t exactly a useful way to gauge either of them. …….

New START, a weapons treaty between Russia and the United States to limit nuclear stockpiles, is slated to expire in early 2021. The treaty contains a provision allowing it to be extended for five years, activated by signatures from both presidents. “If there was seriousness to his remarks, he could do that with the stroke of a pen,” Pomper says. Pomper also criticized Trump for abandoning the Iran nuclear deal and for his failed efforts to scale back North Korea’s weapons programs. On top of that, the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs is serving only in an acting role. “Basically, it’s hard to find a situation in the nonproliferation arms control world where it’s gotten better after this administration,” Pomper says.  “I’m kind of at a loss for words.”

Efforts to confront global climate change—the smaller problem, according to Trump—are in a similar state. That’s perhaps less surprising, given Trump’s long record of dismissing global warming as a Chinese hoax. We’re already dealing with the consequences. “We’re seeing droughts and wildfires,” says Astrid Caldas, a senior climate scientist with Union of Concerned Scientists. “Here we are with the ninth tropical storm this year, about to be named, if it happens. This usually doesn’t happen until September.” And though climate change was a known existential threat long before Trump entered the picture, Caldas says the administration’s stewardship has done additional damage. “The denial of climate change and calling it a hoax, the whole administration rolling back of environmental regulations and the pulling out of the Paris Agreement,” she says, “all of these things signal that there is not a concern about people’s well being.” https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2020/07/trump-says-nuclear-proliferation-is-scarier-than-climate-change-hes-failing-at-both/

August 1, 2020 Posted by | climate change, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Iran’s Khamenei refuses talks with U.S., says Trump wants them only for election propaganda

Iran’s Khamenei Rejects Talks With U.S. Over Missile, Nuclear Programs, RFERL, 30 Jul 20

  Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ruled out negotiations with Washington over Tehran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs, calling the United States “Iran’s main enemy.”

“America’s brutal sanctions on Iran are aimed at collapsing our economy…..Their aim is to limit our influence in the region and to halt our missile and nuclear capabilities,” Khamenei said on July 31 in a live speech on state television……..

Khamenei said he would not agree to negtiations with the United State that were aimed only at boosting Trump’s reelection hopes.

“This old man in charge, he apparently made some propaganda use out of his negotiations with North Korea. Now he wants to use (talks with Iran) for the (November 3 U.S. presidential) election,” he said. ……  https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-s-khamenei-rejects-talks-with-u-s-over-missile-nuclear-programs/30758648.html

August 1, 2020 Posted by | Iran, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Pandemic slows down nuclear construction, increases costs

Coronavirus company news summary – EDF says construction delays likely – Nuclear plant bill ramps up for Georgia Power, https://www.power-technology.com/uncategorised/coronavirus-company-news-summary-edf-says-construction-delays-likely-nuclear-plant-bill-ramps-up-for-georgia-power/  31 July 20

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has increased Georgia Power’s share of the costs for the Vogtle nuclear plant by nearly $150m. However, the company still intends to complete the construction of Units 3 and 4 as per schedule by November 2021 and November 2022, despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

EDF has acknowledged that coronavirus has slowed down construction and maintenance of its nuclear power plant fleet in France and the UK. , A statement by EDF said the risk of delays in commissioning of the UK’s Hinkley Point C plant is “high”. In France, all construction activities at the Flamanville 3 EPR project were suspended between mid-March and early-May, which could result in further delays and additional costs.

Singareni Collieries Company has revealed plans to build 800MW of solar power projects in the southern Indian state of Telangana. The plan encompasses building 500MW of floating solar capacity on large water bodies.

The AES Corporation has made a strategic investment of nearly $8.6m in Australian solar technology innovator 5B to accelerate the adoption of solar energy. It claims 5B’s MAVERICK design allows customers to leverage a higher number of solar resources at three-times the pace, while providing up to two times more energy within the same footprint of traditional solar facilities.

August 1, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, health | Leave a comment

Legal case settled over nuclear plant Vogtle

JEA Settles Litigation Over Nuclear Plant Vogtle, WJCT News 89.9, By BILL BORTZFIELD • JUL 30, 2020  JEA has ended its attempt to get out of a deal it made to buy electricity from a Georgia nuclear power plant that has seen billions of dollars in cost overruns.

Thursday afternoon Jacksonville’s public utility announced it has settled litigation and all related claims with the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG Power) in its dispute over the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, which is commonly referred to as Plant Vogtle.

In settling the case, JEA acknowledged the contract is “valid and enforceable.”…….

Earlier this week JEA’s board unanimously agreed to have JEA’s legal team attempt to reach a settlement….. https://news.wjct.org/post/jea-settles-litigation-over-nuclear-plant-vogtle

That followed a U.S. District judge’s June ruling against JEA in the lawsuit, saying the contract Jacksonville’s utility set up for the nuclear power plant is still valid.

August 1, 2020 Posted by | legal, USA | Leave a comment

A science professor has a radical idea. Scientists should care about the world, not just about their careers

These days, science is simply a career. You do your work and you keep your eyes to the bench. But the world can be a better place if we take our eyes off the bench occasionally. So this letter is a reminder to our colleagues: Get involved, and consider it our contribution to the general public who support our research.

3 Questions: Jonathan King on the future of nuclear weapons testing   http://news.mit.edu/2020/3qs-jonathan-king-future-nuclear-weapons-testing-0729  

Professor of biology discusses a scientist’s responsibility to speak out about important issues that affect our nation and the world.  Raleigh McElvery | Department of Biology, July 29, 2020

In an open letter published on July 16 in Science, four MIT professors and nearly 70 additional scientific leaders called upon fellow researchers to urge U.S. government officials to halt plans to restart nuclear weapons testing. Corresponding author and professor of biology Jonathan King sat down to discuss the history of nuclear testing, his personal ties to the issue, and his responsibilities as a scientist. He also co-chairs the Nuclear Disarmament Working Group of Massachusetts Peace Action, MIT’s annual Reducing the Threat of Nuclear War conference, and the editorial board of the MIT Faculty Newsletter.

Q: What events have made you passionate about the issue of nuclear weapons testing?

A: I grew up in the shadow of nuclear war, participating in drills at school where you would duck under your desk. During the Cold War, the world’s nations exploded hundreds of dangerous nuclear tests, releasing radioactivity into the atmosphere in order to develop these weapons. I was a college student during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and remember vividly the fear of a nuclear exchange.

Around that time, it became clear to our nation’s leaders that this was not the way to go. In his famous speech at American University, President Kennedy reversed direction. Professor of chemistry at Caltech Linus Pauling led an effort with his wife to back Kennedy and collect 9,000 signatures from scientists endorsing the president’s Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. This was before the internet, so getting 9,000 signatures was not easy, and it had a national impact. I was actually a graduate student at Caltech, following up on Pauling’s work on proteins, when the treaty was ratified and he was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his work.

When I arrived at MIT as an assistant professor, Jerome Wiesner was the Institute president. He was also a key player in pushing the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and Kennedy had previously named him chair of the President’s Science Advisory Committee (PSAC). MIT was full of world leaders in nuclear disarmament, including physicists who had worked on the bomb and decided it was a mistake. I’m not a physicist, but I was among the generation at MIT that was very vocal about these issues.

Q: What is the current state of nuclear weapon testing and regulation in the United States, and what concerns do you have about renewed testing?

A: The U.S. hasn’t tested a nuclear weapon since 1992. In that period of time, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was developed by many nations, agreeing not to conduct a nuclear weapons test of any yield. The Senate hasn’t ratified it, but in 2016 the U.S. did adopt UN Security Council Resolution 2310, agreeing to uphold the goal of the CTBT and withhold nuclear testing.

However, the current administration is proposing to modernize nuclear weapons and restart testing, which is both provocative and dangerous. Even if these tests are small, contained, and underground, they will still open the door for other nations to restart testing of their own, and possibly lead to a new nuclear weapons arms race.

When a nuclear weapon — either a conventional bomb or hydrogen bomb — explodes, many radioactive isotopes are produced. Some of them are short-lived and decay quickly, but others like strontium-90 are much longer-lived. These ones can make you sick very slowly, and some can mutate or damage DNA. Even underground tests can leak radioactivity into the atmosphere and environment.

Q: What spurred you and your colleagues to write an open letter to Science, and what was your goal in doing so?

A: Our letter was signed by 70 scientific leaders and Nobel Prize winners, and calls upon the scientific community to warn the nation that this is a dangerous way to go. We also urged the Senate to ratify the CTBT, and pass a new bill introduced by Senator Ed Markey called the Preserving Leadership Against Nuclear Explosives Testing (PLANET) Act — which would prevent spending money on the renewal of testing.

I come from a culture that views scientists as public servants. All my research has been funded by taxpayer dollars, and with that comes a responsibility to help address threats to the community. The very history of my department, the MIT Department of Biology, is tied to scientists taking a stand against social and political issues. I was just a young assistant professor when faculty members like David Baltimore and Ethan Signer led demonstrations to oppose the Vietnam War. It was a very open environment and we supported one another.

These days, science is simply a career. You do your work and you keep your eyes to the bench. But the world can be a better place if we take our eyes off the bench occasionally. So this letter is a reminder to our colleagues: Get involved, and consider it our contribution to the general public who support our research.

August 1, 2020 Posted by | general | 1 Comment

Marshall Islands leaders hope for better help over radioactively polluted weapons tests sites

Nuclear-affected atolls in Marshalls see promise in US talks, RNZ 31 July 2020 , Giff Johnson, Editor, Marshall Islands Journal / RNZ Pacific correspondent,  Momentum is developing behind efforts for renewed attention to lingering problems related to the US nuclear weapons testing programme in the Marshall Islands.

This week leaders of four nuclear test-affected atolls spoke of the building movement movement to issues surrounding the actions of the US from 1946 to 1958.

Elected leaders from Bikini and Enewetak, the ground zeroes for 67 nuclear weapons tests, and Rongelap and Utrok, two atolls heavily contaminated with radioactive fallout from the 1954 Bravo hydrogen bomb test, described separate meetings in the past few days with US Ambassador to the Marshall Islands, Roxanne Cabral, and Marshall Islands President, David Kabua, as “productive and positive.”

The push for action on compensation, health care and cleanups of radioactive islands comes against the backdrop of negotiations between the Marshall Islands and US governments to extend expiring grant funding in a Compact of Free Association.

Island leaders said nuclear test legacy issues had languished for years and they wanted the Marshall Islands to pursue them during the upcoming talks.

It was preferred that a solution was found that benefitted both the Marshall Islands and the United States…….

US-provided compensation fell far short of funds needed to meet compensation awards for this nuclear test-affected nation……

Utrok Mayor Tobin Kaiko said he personally, as well as other nuclear test-affected islanders, continued living with health problems caused by exposure to radioactive fallout.

He said their suffering had been exacerbated by US authorities consistently downplaying the hazards of radiation and the potential for health problems among affected islanders………. https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/422407/nuclear-affected-atolls-in-marshalls-see-promise-in-us-talks

August 1, 2020 Posted by | OCEANIA, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA’s budget for nuclear weapons goes up and up

NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION:

Information on the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Request and Affordability of Nuclear Modernization Activities, Government Accountability Office

GAO-20-573R: Published: Jul 30, 2020.  The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration is in the middle of a long-term effort to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

DOE’s 2021 budget estimate for nuclear modernization activities for FYs 2021-2025 is $81 billion—$15 billion more than its 2020 budget estimate for the same period.

Such an increase may require cuts in other national defense programs to keep the defense budget within spending limits.

What GAO Found

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is in the midst of a long-term effort to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile and its supporting production infrastructure. NNSA’s modernization plans and budgets are communicated to Congress on an annual basis primarily through two key documents—the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (SSMP) and DOE’s budget justification—together referred to as NNSA’s nuclear security budget materials. GAO reviewed four areas related to the affordability of NNSA’s modernization activities as described in these budget materials:

Funding for nuclear modernization activities. Congress funds NNSA’s nuclear modernization activities through the Weapons Activities appropriation account, which falls under the National Defense budget function along with other NNSA, DOE, and Department of Defense (DOD) appropriations related to the common defense and security of the United States. Discretionary defense spending for fiscal year 2021 may not exceed a certain statutory limit, or else a sequestration—a cancellation of budgetary resources—would be triggered. Therefore, a proposed increase for a given program under the National Defense budget function may need to be offset by reductions in other defense programs to keep the defense budget within statutory spending limits………https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-20-573r#summary

August 1, 2020 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Dismantling nuclear reactors in Snowdonia; should be cleaned up by 2083, if We’re lucky

Trawsfynydd: Nuclear reactors to go under new decommissioning plan, By George Herd, BBC News, 30 July 2020   

Plans have been unveiled to remove nuclear reactors and towers at a former power plant in Snowdonia.

It follows a decision to name Trawsfynydd in Gwynedd as the lead project for former Magnox stations in the UK.

The twin reactors will become the very first in the UK to be fully decommissioned.

It should safeguard hundreds of jobs at the plant for 20 years, and help drive decommissioning plans at other sites.

There are 10 former Magnox nuclear power stations in the UK, which have all now stopped generating electricity – the last being Wylfa on Anglesey in 2015.

Trawsfynydd was shut down in 1991 after operating for a quarter of a century.

Under original plans, the twin reactor buildings that tower over the landscape were due to be reduced in height by two-thirds, and then left in a care and maintenance phase, before the site is completely cleared in 2083.

The new programme will see the remaining reactor buildings demolished, while a new low-level radioactive waste store is built on the site to hold the material.

Magnox, which operates the site on behalf of the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, said it estimated there would be 50,000 cubic metres of very low or low-level waste retained, until a new geological waste disposal site is identified by the UK government. …..

Magnox said it was still in the “early days” of planning the next phase of active decommissioning at Trawsfynydd, and would be launching consultations with stakeholders, including the community.

It said it envisaged a 20 year programme to:

  • Remove the reactor building’s concrete panel outer shell down to ground level
  • Remove the six 1,000 tonne boilers stored in sections and the 45 tonne overhead crane from each reactor, for off-site disposal
  • Remove the reactors, their components and the reactor core
  • Demolish the remaining reactor buildings

State of the art robotics and remote handling will be used to dismantle Trawsfynydd’s twin reactors and “minimise the risk of radiation dose to workers”.

Magnox said it still expected the site to be completely cleared by the 2083 target……

“There is a duty on the nuclear sector and today’s electricity users to take responsibility for the clear-up of sites, and Trawsfynydd’s twin reactors will be the first to be completely decommissioned in the United Kingdom,” said the Plaid Cymru MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd. “In this respect, work undertaken here will lead the entire sector, and open opportunities for a whole new generation of engineers.”…. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-53595839

August 1, 2020 Posted by | decommission reactor, UK | Leave a comment