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The week in nuclear news

While the world struggles with the problems of virus and vaccines, the nuclear industry, along with many others, is in something of a stalemate. But, as with last week, the industry’s propaganda about small nukes and climate action goes on relentlessly. At the same time, a number of articles have contradicted this propaganda, stressing the long delay in getting nuclear reactors up and running, their costs, and unsoved waste problem.

What it will take to vaccinate the world against COVID-19.

Climate Change Must Be Tackled as a Global Security Risk.

Beyond the pandemic, the priority should be the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The nuclear weapons issue is a women’s issueFacts on who has nuclear weapons, and who might have, now or in the future.

3 governments join in USA’s promotion of conflict with China.

Small nuclear power plants no use in climate crisis.   Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says advanced nuclear reactors are not a viable option to combat climate change,    Nuclear power costs – from the CATO Institute – a reality check for those who imagine nuclear as a climate solution.

Investment advice? Some big worries against investing in nuclear power.   No market for small nuclear reactors,   so no justification for setting up factories to make them.  Nuclear industry in decline, lobbies hard to portray itself as ”green”. 

JAPAN.  “Amid a pandemic, the Tokyo torch relay risks sacrificing public health on the altar of Olympic pageantry”.   Tokyo Olympic Games torch relay starts, but most Japanese want it cancelled.    Infamous Fukushima town sign praising nuclear energy to become permanent museum display . Delay in removal of debris from Fukushima nuclear plant. Longterm clean-up at least a century.

  Japan’s nuclear regulator bans Tepco from restarting Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant due to safety flaws. Unprecedented decision by Japan’s nuclear regulator to stop restart of the giant Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant.  Japan seeks international support for Fukushima tank water release. 

UKUK nuclear weapons announcement ‘shocking and alarming’ warn the Elders .  Scottish government firmly opposed to nuclear weapons and demands complete withdrawal of all nuclear weapons from Scotland.  UK’s decision to expand nuclear weapons – destabilises the fragile world order. 

Alarming safety lapse at Hunterston nuclear siteCovid-19 causes more delays and costs for Hinkley Point C nuclear projects.  Biased pro nuclear report on UK’s Sizewell project ignores the negative economic impacts.  UK new coal mine – to pave the way for a radioactive waste dump?

USA

The folly of USA provoking war with China.   Delay in construction of Vogtle nuclear station – every day extra means additional costs to customers.  US Nuclear Corp signs agreements with Chinese nuclear corporation. Ohio Senate votes to remove nuclear power subsidiesPhysicians for Social Responsibility challenge the 20 year license extension for old enbrittled Point Beach nuclear station. New solar farm to replace Iowa’s only nuclear power plant: will supply more energy, and many jobs..  Community group created to advise cleanup of Three Mile Island nuclear site .

IRAN.  Iran wants sanctions lifted first: USA wants Iran to back down first, and reverse uranium enrichment.

NORTH KOREA. Kim Jong-un wants ”arms control talks” with USA, not denuclearisation in the short term.

PACIFIC ISLANDS. New research into the effects of nuclear bomb tests on Montebello islands.

GERMANY. German government settles disputes with nuclear plant operators.

FRANCE.  France’s nuclear reactors in state of disrepair, reducing electricity output.  France nuclear safety authority finds safety deviations in Flamanville plant .  Iodine tablets to be givento 64 municipalities near France’s Paluel nuclear power plant in Normandy.  No operating nuclear reactor in France is up to the required safety standard.

CANADA.  Canada’s nuclear regulator extended licence for Pickering nuclear plant despite the need for its aging pressure tubes to be replaced.  New nuclear is NOT the path to net zero.

CHINA.  China’s push for advanced nuclear reactors will produce much weapons grade plutonium.  Report on the military implications of China’s new fast-breeder nuclear reactor plans – ‘‘Plowshares to Swords ?”

CZECH REPUBLIC.    Czech secret services warn against involvement of Russia in nuclear tender .

NEW ZEALANDNew Zealand speaks out against UK’s expansion of nuclear weaponry..

March 29, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

New nuclear is NOT the path to net zero

No plan that gets us to net zero in a reasonable time frame includes new nuclear reactors. Nuclear is far too slow and expensive to deal with the climate emergency.

Just like fossil fuel energy, nuclear produces wastes that pose unacceptable health hazards and economic costs. Radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants have been piling up for over 70 years. Canada still has no long-term strategy to deal with either nuclear or fossil fuel wastes. 
 
Building Canada back better means major investments in conservation and renewable energy, providing hundreds of thousands of good green jobs. 

Global investment in renewable energy and newly-installed renewable capacity has far surpassed nuclear in recent years. Investors are smart: they put their money where it will yield good returns.

In 2015, the Harper Government handed over operation of Canada’s federally-owned nuclear labs to an American-led multinational consortium, currently composed of two Texas-based companies (Fluor and Jacobs) and SNC-Lavalin. The U.S. military-industrial complex is driving the push for new nuclear, hoping Canadian taxpayers will subsidize risky, expensive and largely untried “small modular” reactor designs, including plutonium-fuelled reactors.

In a CBC interview aired on September 19th, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said, “We have not seen a model where we can get to net-zero emissions by 2050 without nuclearnuclear.”

O’Regan also claimed that net zero “needs oil and gas.”

There seems to be some confusion about time frames here. Transportation and home heating across Canada are heavily reliant on oil and gas. Electricity production in two provinces – Ontario and New Brunswick – is heavily reliant on large nuclear reactors.  But implying that this can or should be the status quo until 2050 defies logic. 

The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report says limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.

New nuclear reactors cannot be part of a rapid transition. The 2019 World Nuclear Industry Status Report says the average construction time of 63 reactors started since 2009 (37 in China) was 9.8 years. Small modular reactors (SMRs) have been long delayed. NuScale – the leading U.S. design – was supposed to generate power in 2015-16, but latest estimates are that it will be 2029-30 at the earliest.

O’Regan also said: “There are models that we’re looking at that would reduce the amount of nuclear waste. There are other models that would recycle nuclear waste.” 

Whatever the models predict, the inescapable fact is that all nuclear reactors produce radioactive waste. “Reducing” or “recycling” radioactive waste only creates more radioactive waste, passing the buck to future generations. Worse still, some SMR wastes would be difficult to deal with. SMR designs that use recycled fuel require extraction of plutonium, creating serious national security risks associated with nuclear weapons proliferation. 

The only way to deal with wastes from fossil fuels and nuclear is to phase out these technologies. 

Canada is dragging its feet on creating a realistic climate plan. We already provide more fossil fuel subsidies per capita than any other G-20 nation. Let’s not compound this by subsidizing the pipe dream of new nuclear technologies.

If you agree that new nuclear is not part of the path to net zero, please sign your letter below [on original] to Minister O’Regan and your Member of Parliament. Call upon the federal government to minimize the generation of radioactive waste and to cease all support and taxpayer funding for small modular nuclear reactors.

Thank you for taking action.Dr. Ole HendricksonVice-President and Conservation ChairSierra Club Canada Foundation   https://www.sierraclub.ca/en/new-nuclear-is-not-part-of-path-to-net-zero

March 29, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

There is new hope for freedom for Julian Assange

JULIAN ASSANGE COULD FINALLY WALK FREE—IF WE SEIZE THE MOMENT https://arena.org.au/julian-assange-could-finally-walk-free-if-we-seize-the-moment/

ARENA ONLINE, SCOTT LUDLAM, 27 MAR 2021

For the first time in more than a decade there’s cause for hope. The tortuous chain of cause and effect that saw Australian publisher Julian Assange go from global news sensation to a freezing cell in a London prison may at last be ended if the Biden administration decides to make a principled break with the fateful decisions of President Donald Trump.

Trump’s decision in 2019 to prosecute Assange for espionage placed Assange at risk of a maximum prison sentence of 175 years. It crossed a line that President Obama’s administration had been unwilling to step over—not through any love of WikiLeaks but for the simple reason that accusing publishers of espionage ran headfirst into the principle of press freedom enshrined in America’s First Amendment. The ‘New York Times’ problem, they called it: if Assange goes to jail then so should the editor of the New York Times. The leaks at the centre of the case led to dozens of public interest stories in the Times and other publications around the world, including this one.

In January 2021 there was an unexpected turn: a London Magistrate’s Court decided to reject Trump’s request to extradite Assange from the United Kingdom to the United States. The election result and the court’s decision provide the circuit breaker this terrible miscarriage of justice so desperately needs.

Trump, and his accomplices in the Department of Justice and Department of State, are gone. On their way out the door they filed an appeal in the UK courts—a matter of routine, according to most observers—and there the matter rests.

President Biden’s pick for US attorney general, Merrick Garland, told the Senate judiciary committee of his commitment to the protection of rights, to fair treatment of the press, and to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. It is impossible to reconcile any of these priorities with the continuation of the former president’s dangerous conflation of journalism and espionage.

President Trump relished open hostility to the media, treating the press as ‘the enemy of the people’. He had an ally in Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who showed zero interest in stepping up to help an Australian citizen in trouble. But now, far from Canberra, the ground is shifting.

In the United States, moves are afoot across civil society, the press and the legal profession to bring this dangerous episode to a close. Organisations with global reach, including Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch, have recognised the threat of this prosecution and stepped up a lobbying campaign to ensure the Biden administration drops the case. There is renewed energy around the world, from the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance—Assange’s union here in Australia—to the remarkable work the US-based Courage Foundation is doing to help focus the mind of the incoming attorney general. Now is the time to raise our voices, to demand lawmakers here urge their American counterparts to let Julian Assange walk free and reunite with his family after more than ten years.

‘Transparency in government remains a vital national interest in a democracy, Garland has said. On 29 March his justice department is due to publish more details on its grounds for appeal. That’s how long we have to ensure that these words mean something.

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3 governments join in USA’s promotion of conflict with China

Biden, alongside Morrison, Modi and Suga, continues conflict with China, Independent Australia, By Vijay Prashad | 29 March 2021  The U.S. is determined to maintain its dominance over the world and is unlikely to forfeit that without a fight, writes Vijay Prashad

ON MARCH 12, the heads of government of four countries, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and the United States President Joe Biden, met for a virtual meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, better known as the Quad.

Modi’s opening remarks illustrate the emptiness of the public agenda; he called the Quad “a force for global good” with no details beyond a list of areas of collaboration, which were “vaccines, climate change and emerging technologies”. There was no direct mention of China during the meeting.

In the details relating to the launching of “an ambitious new joint partnership that is going to boost vaccine manufacturing,” a more disturbing agenda revealed itself. The vaccines are meant for Southeast Asia, which is a core area of U.S. contest against China, and the “emerging technologies” refers to the U.S. desire to substitute products from its own high-tech firms and supplant the attractiveness of the Chinese high-tech industry.

The goal of the Quad is to deepen the military and economic pressure against China.

The Quad was created in the aftermath of the tsunami of 2004 and then deepened by President Barack Obama as central to his “pivot to Asia“. But it did not take off until the U.S. Administration of Donald Trump began to rely upon this grouping to tighten pressure on China. It is for that reason that in late 2020, Trump gave the heads of governments of Australia, Japan and India the highest U.S. military decoration, the Legion of Merit.

These three partners are key players in the U.S. Government’s pressure campaign against China.

U.S. primacy in the region

In early January 2021, the U.S. Government declassified a 2018 document prepared for the Trump Administration, called the ‘U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific’. The text clearly states that the U.S. objective in Asia is to:

‘Maintain U.S. primacy in the region.’ 

The idea of “primacy” has a long history in U.S. foreign policy, going back to the early days after World War II. The United States government, in a series of documents, stated that it would seek to be the leading power in the world and it would shape the creation of global institutions to benefit the United States above all else. 

The drafters of the 2018 policy from the U.S. National Security Council noted that the “threat” from China was not from its military.

Rather, the United States worried about Chinese developments in:

‘… cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence and bio-genetics.’

The U.S. Government’s objective, according to the document, was to maintain ‘American industry’s innovation edge vis-à-vis China,’ which does not mean only to enhance U.S. industry, but also to prevent China from getting access to technology and finance.

The war in the Pacific promoted by the U.S. is not irrational.

As this document further points out:

‘Loss of U.S. preeminence in the Indo-Pacific would weaken our ability to achieve U.S. interests globally.’

President Joe Biden’s Administration, which inherits this document, will not set it aside.

All signs show that Biden will continue to push the general line that the U.S. must undermine Chinese scientific and technological development; this goal will be achieved not by the encouragement of U.S. industry but by military threats and by the attempted use of U.S. alliances to exclude Chinese firms from doing business in other countries……… https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/biden-alongside-morrison-modi-and-suga-continue-conflict-with-china,14939

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The folly of USA provoking war with China

Dragon’s threat real or imagined, but nuclear war will be a folly!  The Pioneer, Monday, 29 March 2021 | Gwynne Dyer   After a prolonged absence, the tradition of raising a bogey is back, though now it’s a Chinese threat in the Pacific, not a Russian threat in the Caribbean.

In the early decades of the Cold War, this was the season when the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) defence chiefs would announce their spending plans for the next year and they would almost always “discover” some new threat from the erstwhile Soviet Union to justify the money. In the US, for instance, the Intelligence services traditionally found a Soviet armoured brigade hiding in Cuba every February or March.

After a prolonged absence, the tradition is back, though now it’s a Chinese threat in the Pacific rather than a Russian threat in the Caribbean. Last week, Admiral Philip Davidson of the US Navy told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Chinese were getting ready to invade Taiwan within the next six years. “I worry that they’re accelerating their ambitions to supplant the US and our leadership role in the rules-based international order…by 2050,” said the Admiral. “Taiwan is one of their ambitions before that, and I think the threat is manifest during this decade — in fact, in the next six years.”

Then, should we expect a war with China by the 2027? Since the US Navy could not stop a Chinese amphibious invasion of Taiwan by conventional weapons alone — it’s too far from the US, too close to China and Beijing has lots of ship-killing missiles — it would necessarily be a nuclear war, or else America would just have to abandon its not-quite-ally…………………..

By the final stage of the Cold War the political and military establishments on both sides had sobered up and were very careful in their choice of words. They didn’t make idle threats, they stopped fabricating “spring surprises”, and they did not assume that the other side would know when they were just chest-thumping for domestic political purposes.That generation, which eventually managed to turn the monstrous doomsday machine off, is gone now.

In their place is a generation of senior politicians and military officers who don’t truly fear major war. It hasn’t happened within living memory, and they do not really believe it still could. Their counterparts in China and Russia are less vocal, but almost certainly the same.Compared to those who held their jobs on both sides at the end of the Cold War, they are little boys at play, but it’s the same old game. War between nuclear-armed powers would be insane, but it is not impossible. And they are doing this in the midst of a global pandemic.

Moreover, they are talking like this in the opening phase of a huge climate and environmental crisis that will require a high level of global cooperation to survive. There is a cycle of learning and forgetting again in both military and political affairs and we are hitting the “forgetting” phase at just the wrong time.Gwynne Dyer’s new book is ‘Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy and Work’. The  views expressed are personal.  https://www.dailypioneer.com/2021/columnists/dragon—s-threat-real-or-imagined–but-nuclear-war-will-be-a-folly-.html

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Facts on who has nuclear weapons, and who might have, now or in the future

Nuclear Nations Fast Facts https://localnews8.com/news/2021/03/28/nuclear-nations-fast-facts/ Here’s a look at nuclear nations.Information about nuclear stockpiles varies from source to source. The information below is sourced to the Nuclear Threat Initiative.Countries with confirmed nuclear weapons 

 China – 290 warheads, approximately 90 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
France  Approximately 290 warheads.
India – 150 nuclear warheads.Pakistan – 90-110 nuclear warheads.
Russia – 1,444 warheads on 527 ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), and warheads designated for heavy bombers.
United Kingdom – Approximately 225 strategic warheads.
United States – 3,822 nuclear warheads.Countries with unconfirmed nuclear weaponsIsrael – Suspected to have enough plutonium for 100-200 nuclear weapons.
North Korea – Has conducted at least six nuclear tests since 2006. Claimed, in 2017, to have successfully conducted their first test of an ICBM.

Countries suspected of developing nuclear weapons
Iran – World powers, including the United States, want to curb Iran‘s nuclear program to keep it from developing a nuclear bomb. For more details on Iran’s program, visit Iran’s Nuclear Capabilities Fast Facts.

July 14, 2015 – After 20 months of talks, negotiators finalize a landmark nuclear deal between Iran, the United States and five other countries. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) states “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will (it) ever seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons.” The agreement, which has a 15-year time frame, requires Iran to reduce its centrifuges by two-thirds. It also bans enrichment at key facilities. In exchange, the country will get relief from economic sanctions and permission to continue its atomic program for peaceful purposes.

May 8, 2018 – US President Donald Trump announces that the United States is officially withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.Countries that have the ability to build nuclear weapons, but claim not to have any nuclear ambitions
Japan  On November 30, 2006, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso stated that Japan possesses the knowledge and ability to produce nuclear weapons but has no plans to do so.Countries that have abandoned nuclear weapons or weapons programs in recent years
Belarus  Still has a civilian nuclear research program.
Kazakhstan  Although it inherited nuclear warheads after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan transferred the inventory back to Russia.
Ukraine
  After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had the third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons. The weapons were transferred back to Russia.South Africa – Became a non-nuclear weapons state in 1991.

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Unprecedented decision by Japan’s nuclear regulator to stop restart of the giant Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant

Nuclear Intelligence Weekly 26th March 2021, In an unprecedented step this week, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) banned Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings (Tepco) from moving nuclear
fuel into and within its giant Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, effectively
preventing it from restarting KK-6 and -7, the plant’s two 1,315 megawatt
advanced boiling water reactors (ABWRs).

The decision, described by the NRA’s chairman as the most serious since the agency was formed in 2012,
follows the use and subsequent cover-up of a false ID card by a utility
employee to enter the plant, and the discovery of numerous vulnerabilities
in systems designed to prevent terrorists from gaining access to the plant.

https://www.energyintel.com/pages/eig_article.aspx?DocID=1101578

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ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, AUTONOMY, AND THE RISK OF CATALYTIC NUCLEAR WAR

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, AUTONOMY, AND THE RISK OF CATALYTIC NUCLEAR WAR, Modern War Institute, 

James Johnson | 03.18.21    Editor’s note: The following is based on an article by the author recently published in the Journal of Strategic Studies, entitled “‘Catalytic Nuclear War’ in the Age of Artificial Intelligence & Autonomy: Emerging Military Technology and Escalation Risk between Nuclear-Armed States.”

In 2016, the AWD News site reported that Israel had threatened to attack Pakistan with nuclear weapons if Islamabad interfered in Syria. In response, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif issued a thinly veiled threat. On Twitter he warned Israel to remember that Pakistan—like Israel—is a nuclear-armed state. Luckily, the report was false, and it was subsequently debunked as fictitious by the Israeli Ministry of Defense.

This incident puts a modern, and alarming, spin on the concept of “catalytic nuclear war”—in which third-party (a state or nonstate actor) actions provoke a nuclear war between two nuclear-armed powers—and demonstrates the potentially severe damage caused by the misinformation and manipulation of information by a third party. During the Cold War, the main concern about “catalytic nuclear war” centered on the fear that a small or new nuclear power would deliberately set a major exchange in motion between the United States and the Soviet Union. As its name suggests, the concept was inspired by chemical reactions where the catalyzing agent (a third-party actor) would remain unscathed by its initiated process. As we know, however, a catalytic nuclear war never occurred.

In the digital era, the catalyzing chain of reaction and counter-retaliation dynamics set in motion by a third-party actor’s deliberate action is fast becoming a more plausible scenario. The concept of catalytic nuclear war—considered by many as unlikely given the low probability of a terrorist group gaining access to nuclear weapons—should be revisited in light of recent technological change and improved understanding of human psychology. Specifically, the human propensity for making fast, intuitive, reflexive, and heuristic judgments (known as “System I” thinking), which is exacerbated when information overload and unfamiliar technologies are more prominent features of decision making. In short, emerging technologies—most notably cyber, AI technology, and drones—are rapidly creating new (and exacerbating old) low-cost and relatively easy means for state and nonstate actors to fulfill their nefarious goals. This is compounded by the exponential rise in data emerging from today’s information ecosystem—and in the speed with which it does so—which will create novel attack pathways to manipulate and propagate misinformation and disinformation during crisis times.

Emerging Technology and Nuclear Stability……………….

Risk of Catalytic Nuclear War in the Digital Age


Three features of the digital age—information complexity; greater automation of nuclear command, control, and communication systems; and mis- and disinformation—make nuclear crisis management more difficult than in the past. These variables do not, however, constitute mutually exclusive risk scenarios. Rather, the interplay between these conditions might allow them to feed into one another with uncertain and potentially self-reinforcing effects. In short, these conditions are a function of the confusion and uncertainty created by the sociotechnical complexity generated in the digital age.        

Information Complexity

As nuclear states (notably the United States, Russia, and China) modernize and overhaul their outdated nuclear command-and-control systems there are a multitude of challenges to consider, including information warfare, information manipulation, comingled nuclear and conventional weapons systems, and the risks posed by cyberattacks.…………..https://mwi.usma.edu/artificial-intelligence-autonomy-and-the-risk-of-catalytic-nuclear-war/

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