The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Israel appears to confirm it carried out cyberattack on Iran nuclear facility

Shutdown happened hours after Natanz reactor’s new centrifuges were started, Guardian,  Martin Chulov Middle East correspondentMon 12 Apr 2021, Israel appeared to confirm claims that it was behind a cyber-attack on Iran’s main nuclear facility on Sunday, which Tehran’s nuclear energy chief described as an act of terrorism that warranted a response against its perpetrators.

The apparent attack took place hours after officials at the Natanz reactor restarted spinning advanced centrifuges that could speed up the production of enriched uranium, in what had been billed as a pivotal moment in the country’s nuclear programme.

As Iranian authorities scrambled to deal with a large-scale blackout at Natanz, which the country’s Atomic Energy Agency acknowledged had damaged the electricity grid at the site, the Israeli defence chief, Aviv Kochavi, said the country’s “operations in the Middle East are not hidden from the eyes of the enemy”.

Israel imposed no censorship restrictions on coverage as it had often done after similar previous incidents and the apparent attack was widely covered by Israeli media. Public radio took the unusual step of claiming that the Mossad intelligence agency had played a central role.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said later Sunday that “the struggle against Iran and its proxies and the Iranian armament efforts is a huge mission”…..

The unexplained shutdown is thought to be the latest in a series of exchanges between the two arch-enemies, who have fought an extensive and escalating shadow war across the Middle East over more than decade, centred on Iran’s nuclear programme and its involvement in matters beyond its borders.

Clashes have more recently been fought in the open, with strikes against shipping, the killing of Iran’s chief nuclear scientist, hundreds of airstrikes against Iranian proxies in Syria, and even a mysterious oil spill in northern Israel, which officials there have claimed was environmental sabotage.

Natanz has remained a focal point of Israeli fears, with an explosion damaging a centrifuge assembly plant last July, and a combined CIA and the Mossad cyber-attack using a computer virus called Stuxnet in 2010 that caused widespread disruption and delayed Iran’s nuclear programme for several years.

Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, urged the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to take action against the perpetrators of the attack. He confirmed that a “terrorist attack” had damaged the electricity grid of the Natanz site. The IAEA said it was aware of the reports but declined to comment further…………

Western officials believe Israel has become increasingly brazen in its attempts to disrupt the Iranian programme, pointing to the killing of the country’s leading nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, last November, who was shot dead along with his bodyguards on a rural highway. Iran claims that artificial intelligence was used to identify Fakhrizadeh, who was gunned down by a remotely operated automatic weapon. The small lorry carrying the weapon then exploded……………


April 13, 2021 Posted by | Iran, Israel, secrets,lies and civil liberties | 2 Comments

A quick return to the Iran nuclear deal is needed to avoid a real nuclear crisis.

Why a quick return to the Iran nuclear deal is needed to avoid a real nuclear crisis, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists By Seyed Hossein Mousavian | April 11, 2021 Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a Middle East Security and Nuclear Policy Specialist at Princeton University and a former chief of Iran’s National Security Foreign Relations Committee. His book, A Middle East Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction, was published in May 2020 by Routledge. His latest book, A New Structure for Security, Peace, and Cooperation in the Persian Gulf, was published in December 2020 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.  About 80 days after President Biden’s inauguration, Iran and the world powers held the first round of nuclear talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. Diplomats involved in the talks agreed on Friday that initial steps in two working groups designed to bring both the United States and Iran back into compliance with JCPOA were positive and would continue next week.

Still, the Biden administration will need to maneuver around multiple political obstacles if it is to rejoin the nuclear deal in a timely fashion. And if the United States does not quickly rejoin, there is a real possibility that the talks will collapse, that Iran will proceed with its uranium-enrichment program, and that a dangerous crisis will needlessly be created………………

 about three months after taking office, the Biden administration still has not rejoined the deal. There appear to be three principal obstacles to a quick US re-entry:

First, the administration is divided. According to Foreign Policy magazine, the Biden administration’s negotiator with Iran, Robert Malley, and Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer are in favor of rejoining, but Secretary of State Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan favor a harder line.

Second, the powerful pro-Israel lobby has joined in pressing the Biden administration not to rejoin the JCPOA.

Third, congressional Democrats are divided. In two separate letters to Blinken, bipartisan groups of about 160 members of the House have  called for continued pressure on Iran. The chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, opposes revival of the JCPOA in its current form. In a statement, Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma warned, “As a reminder: Members of Congress rejected the JCPOA on a bipartisan basis in 2015. If you (Biden) repeat history next week by restoring that failed agreement, we will work to reject it once again.”

For the United States to return to the JCPOA as it was, the Biden administration would have to engage in rigorous work, lifting about 1,600 sanctions and punitive designations that the Trump administration imposed on Iran after then-President Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018. The Biden administration has already warned that it will not lift every single economic sanction that former President Donald Trump imposed. Therefore, although Washington and Tehran say they want “compliance for compliance” deal to revive the JCPOA, a big question remains: Can Biden deliver full US compliance?

I have been involved in Iran nuclear talks for about two decades. Based on my experience and understanding of the current political situations in Teheran and Washington, absent a quick decision by Biden to rejoin the JCPOA, the agreement will totally collapse, and serious nuclear talks will not take place again until Iran gains new leverage by ramping its nuclear program back up to pre-JCPOA levels—or perhaps even beyond.

A new confrontation and the possibility of a new crisis. Historically, US pressure tactics have backfired, pushing Iran ever closer to nuclear-weapon acquisition………..

Now we have a new confrontation. On December 2, in retaliation for the Trump administration’s reimposition of sanctions, Iran’s hardline Parliament passed legislation requiring that Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization begin enriching uranium to 20 percent of the U-235 isotope, the internationally- designated boundary above which uranium becomes weapon-usable.

The Parliament also withdrew Iran from the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, which allows IAEA inspections at sites such that where Iran produces gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment. If the United States continues to refuse to rejoin the JCPOA and lift its sanctions on Iran, the legislation required Iran to begin to operate advanced centrifuges, to develop the capability to convert uranium into metal form, such as would be used in a nuclear weapon, by this month, and to greatly increase the number of Iran’s operating centrifuges. The legislation also dictates that Iran’s 40-megawatt Arak heavy-water reactor be brought into operation within one year.

So far, the Biden administration’s response has been unfortunate. Secretary of State Blinken has said that there will be no American concessions until Iran returns to full compliance with the JCPOA, and, on March 11, 2021, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat, expressed their common determination to confront Iran.

It therefore now appears in the absence of US return to the JCPOA, Iran will produce enough enriched uranium within the next three to six months to put itself in a position to be able to break out and quickly to enrich enough 90 percent-enriched uranium for a bomb. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has frequently reiterated that producing and stockpiling nuclear weapons is absolutely forbidden in Iran according to the rules of Islam. But he has also stated that Iran will never yield to US pressure over its nuclear activities and might enrich uranium up to 60 percent. This last level appears to be a reference to Iran’s previous expressed interest in developing a nuclear reactor similar to US naval reactors that powering ships.

If Iran continues on this path, it seems likely that the United States and Israel will respond by intensifying the strategies they have followed since 2005: sanctions, sabotage of Iran’s nuclear facilities, and perhaps even assassinations of more Iranian nuclear scientists.

Based on the experience of the past four decades, Iran will be able to resist these confrontational policies and carry through to a breakout position. In response, after the inauguration of Iran’s new and probably hardline president in August 2021, the US policy will have to shift from a policy of no breakout to one of no nuclear bomb. At that point, to resolve the crisis peacefully, new nuclear talks would be required, and the US would have to make enough concessions to convince Iran not to pursue a nuclear bomb.

It would be far better to avoid such a dangerous crisis by returning to President Biden’s original plan for the US to quickly rejoin the JCPOA and raze the sanctions that President Trump imposed in exchange for Iran coming back into full compliance with the agreement. Then, the two countries could begin to negotiate on the other issues that divide them.

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

The US Energy Department’s renewed promotion of plutonium-fueled reactors. 

Plutonium programs in East Asia and Idaho will challenge the Biden administration, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Frank N. von Hippel | April 12, 2021  ”’…………. The US Energy Department’s renewed promotion of plutonium-fueled reactors. The US plutonium breeder reactor development program was ended by Congress in 1983. A decade later, the Clinton Administration shut down the Idaho National Laboratory’s Experimental Breeder Reactor II for lack of mission. At the time, I was working in the White House and supported that decision.

The nuclear-energy divisions at the Energy Department’s Argonne and Idaho National Laboratories refused to give up, however. They continued to produce articles promoting sodium-cooled reactors and laboratory studies on “pyroprocessing,” a small-scale technology used to separate plutonium from the fuel of the Experimental Breeder Reactor II .

During the Trump administration, this low-level effort broke out. With the Energy Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy headed by a former Idaho National Lab staffer and help from Idaho’s two Senators, the Energy Department and Congress were persuaded to approve the first steps toward construction at the Idaho National Laboratory of a larger version of the decommissioned Experimental Breeder Reactor II.

 The new reactor, misleadingly labeled the “Versatile Test Reactor,” would be built by Bechtel with design support by GE-Hitachi and Bill Gates’ Terrapower. The Energy Department awarded contracts to the Battelle Energy Alliance and to university nuclear-engineering departments in Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Oregon to develop proposals for how to use the Versatile Test Reactor.

The current estimated cost of the Versatile Test Reactor is $2.6-5.8 billion, and it is to be fueled with plutonium. The Idaho National Laboratory’s hope is to convince Congress to commit to funding its construction in 2021.

The Energy Department also committed $80 million to co-fund the construction of a 345-megawatt-electric (MWe) “Natrium” (Latin for sodium) demonstration liquid-sodium-cooled power reactor proposed by GE-Hitachi and Terrapower which it hopes Congress would increase to $1.6 billion. It also committed $25 million each to Advanced Reactor Concepts and General Atomics to design small sodium-cooled reactors. And it has subsidized Oklo, a $25-million startup company financed by the Koch family, to construct a 1.5 MWe “microreactor” on the Idaho National Laboratory’s site to demonstrate an extravagantly costly power source for remote regions.

In all these reactors, the chain reaction would be sustained by fast neutrons unlike the slow neutrons that sustain the chain reactions in water-cooled reactors. The Energy Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy has justified the need for the Versatile Test Reactor by the fast-neutron reactors whose construction it is supporting. In this way, it has “bootstraping” the Versatile Test Reactor by creating a need for it that would not otherwise exist.

This program also is undermining US nonproliferation policy..………..

April 13, 2021 Posted by | - plutonium, Reference, reprocessing, USA | 1 Comment

Nuclear reprocessing shut down due to high cost, safety problems, (but still useful to produce weapons grade plutonium)

Plutonium programs in East Asia and Idaho will challenge the Biden administration,  Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Frank N. von Hippel | April 12, 2021”……………. [In the1980s the USA intervened to stop nuclear reprocessing being developed in several nations] The “invisible hand” of the market helped too. In the words of Admiral Rickover, the “father” of the US nuclear navy, after trying a sodium-cooled reactor in a submarine, he found them to be:

“expensive to build, complex to operate, susceptible to prolonged shutdown as a result of even minor malfunctions, and difficult and time-consuming to repair.”

For these reasons, breeder reactors proved to be unable to compete economically with simpler water-cooled reactors fueled “once-through” by low-enriched uranium with the plutonium left unseparated in the spent fuel.

Furthermore, as more low-cost uranium was found and global nuclear power capacity plateaued after the Chernobyl accident, the problem that breeder reactors were supposed to solve—scarcity of the chain-reacting uranium-235 that makes up only 0.7 percent of natural uranium—retreated beyond any realistic planning horizon.

The United States abandoned its Clinch River Breeder Reactor project in 1983; because of safety concerns, Germany abandoned its completed-but-never-operated SNR-300 in 1991; the United Kingdom shut down its Prototype Fast Reactor in 1994; France shut down its Superphénix in 1998; and Japan shut down its Monju in 2017.

Today, after the industrialized world spent about $100 billion trying to commercialize them, only two sodium-cooled power reactor prototypes are operating, both in Russia. However, Russia’s nuclear conglomerate, Rosatom, recently decided to postpone construction of another because it was not expected to be economically competitive with a water-cooled reactor.

A half century after the first nuclear explosion that its breeder reactor program facilitated, India labors on with the completion of its long-delayed, over-budget Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor. Also, China has launched construction of two prototype breeder reactors. All three of these reactors may be dual purpose, however. In addition to producing electric power, they could produce weapon-grade plutonium for the national weapon programs.

Despite the commercial failure of breeder reactors, France, India, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom persisted with the separation of civilian plutonium. The United Kingdom will shut down its program this year but China is building a “demonstration” reprocessing plant. Also, South Korea’s nuclear establishment has been lobbying the United States for the same right to reprocess as Japan. The reprocessing programs in China, India, and Russia are in support of their breeder programs, but France is using the plutonium it separates in mixed-oxide fuel for its water-cooled reactors, and Japan is following France’s example. This reduces their requirements for low-enriched uranium fuel by about 10 percent, but the mixed-oxide fuel costs about ten times more than the low-enriched uranium fuel it replaces.

 The motivations for plutonium “recycle” in France and Japan are therefore not economic. Their nuclear establishments argue that reprocessing reduces the radioactive waste problem, but these arguments have been rejected by their waste-management experts.

The separation of plutonium by civilian reprocessing has far exceeded plutonium use in breeder and light-water reactor fuel with the result being a global stockpile of over 300 tons of civilian but weapon-usable plutonium (Figure 1 on original). By the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) metric, this is enough for almost 40,000 Nagasaki bombs.

This separated plutonium is currently stored relatively securely, but the half-life of its main isotope, Pu-239, is 24,000 years—much longer than the half-lives of governments. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 stimulated a major US effort to help Russia secure its plutonium so that it would not end up on the black market.

Before discussing US policy toward the civilian plutonium programs creating mutual pananoia in East Asia, it is important to understand the complications created for US nonproliferation policy by the renewed interest in plutonium fuel within the US Energy Department…………………….

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Japan’s hugely costly nuclear reprocessing program.

Plutonium programs in East Asia and Idaho will challenge the Biden administration, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Frank N. von Hippel | April 12, 2021,  ”………………Japan’s hugely costly reprocessing program. The United States has been trying to persuade Japan to abandon reprocessing ever since 1977. At the time, then prime minister Takeo Fukuda described plutonium breeder reactors as a matter of “life and death” for Japan’s energy future and steamrolled the Carter administration into accepting the startup of Japan’s pilot reprocessing plant. Today, Japan is the only non-nuclear-armed state that separates plutonium. Despite the absence of any economic or environmental justification, the policy grinds ahead due to a combination of bureaucratic commitments and the dependence of a rural region on the jobs and tax income associated with the hugely costly program. The dynamics are similar to those that have kept the three huge US nuclear-weapon laboratories flourishing despite the end of the Cold War.

For three decades, Japan has been building, fixing mistakes, and making safety upgrades on a large plutonium recycle complex in Rokkasho Village in the poor prefecture of Aomori on the northern tip of the main island, Honshu. The capital cost of the complex has climbed to $30 billion. Operation of the reprocessing plant is currently planned for 2023.

A facility for fabricating the recovered plutonium into mixed-oxide plutonium-uranium fuel for water-cooled power reactors is under construction on the same site (Figure 3 on original). The cost of operating the complex is projected to average about $3 billion per year. Over the 40-year design life of the plant, it is expected to process about 300 tons of plutonium—enough to make 40,000 Nagasaki bombs. What could possibly go wrong?

Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission reports that, because of the failures and delays of its plutonium useage programs, as of the end of 2019, Japan owned a stock of 45.5 tons of separated plutonium: 9.9 tons in Japan with the remainder in France and the United Kingdom where Japan sent thousands of tons of spent fuel during the 1990s to be reprocessed.

Both the Obama and Trump administrations pressed Tokyo to revise its reprocessing policy, especially after Japan’s decision to decommission its failed prototype breeder reactor in 2016.

Perhaps in response to this pressure, in 2018, Japan’s cabinet declared:

“The Japanese government remains committed to the policy of not possessing plutonium without specific purposes on the premise of peaceful use of plutonium and work[s] to reduce of the size of [its] plutonium stockpile.”

A step toward reductions that is being discussed would be for Japan to pay the United Kingdom to take title to and dispose of the 22 tons of Japanese plutonium stranded there after the UK mixed-oxide fuel fabrication plant was found to be inoperable. Japan’s separated plutonium in France is slowly being returned to Japan in mixed-oxide fuel for use in reactors licensed to use such fuel.

If, as currently planned, Japan operates the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant at its design capacity of more than seven tons of plutonium separated per year, however, its rate of plutonium separation will greatly exceed Japan’s rate of plutonium use.  Four of Japan’s currently operating reactors are licensed to use mixed-oxide fuel but loaded only 40 percent as much mixed-oxide fuel as planned in 2018-19 and none in 2020. Two more reactors that can use mixed-oxide are expected to receive permission to restart in the next few years. In 2010, Japan’s Federation of Electric Power Companies projected that the six reactors would use 2.6 tons of plutonium per year. If the much-delayed Ohma reactor, which is under construction and designed to be able to use a full core of mixed-oxide fuel, comes into operation in 2028 as currently planned, and all these reactors use as much mixed-oxide fuel as possible, Japan’s plutonium usage rate would still ramp up to only 4.3 tons per year in 2033. (At the end of 2020 the Federation of Electric Power Companies announced its hope to increase the number of mixed-oxide-using reactors to 12 by 2030 but did not list the five additional reactors, saying only, “we will release it as soon as it is ready.”)

As of June 2020, construction at Rokkasho on the mixed-oxide fuel fabrication facility that will process the plutonium separated by the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant was only 12 percent complete. It was still just a hole in the ground containing some concrete work with its likely completion years behind the currently planned 2023 operation date of the reprocessing plant.

Thus, as happened in Russia and the United Kingdom, the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant could operate indefinitely separating plutonium without the mixed-oxide plant operating. The reprocessing plant includes storage for “working stocks” containing up to 30 tons of unirradiated plutonium. If and when it begins operating, the mixed-oxide fuel fabrication plant will itself have additional working stocks of at least several tons of plutonium. Therefore, even if Japan transfers title to the plutonium it has stranded in the United Kingdom and manages to work down its stock in France, the growth of its stock in Japan could offset those reductions.

The Biden administration should urge Japan’s government to “bite the bullet” and begin the painful but necessary process of unwinding its costly and dangerous plutonium program. A first step would be to change Japan’s radioactive waste law to allow its nuclear utilities to use the planned national deep repository for direct disposal of their spent fuel.

In the meantime, most of Japan’s spent fuel will have to be stored on site in dry casks, as has become standard practice in the United States and most other countries with nuclear power reactors. Because of its safety advantages relative to storage in dense-packed pools, the communities that host Japan’s nuclear power plant are moving toward acceptance of dry-cask storage. During the 2011 Fukushima accident, the water in a dense-packed pool became dangerously low. Had the spent fuel been uncovered and caught on fire, the population requiring relocation could have been ten to hundreds of times larger ………….

April 13, 2021 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, Reference, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Fukushima: Japan announces it will dump contaminated water into sea

Fukushima: Japan announces it will dump contaminated water into sea

More than 1m tonnes of contaminated water will be released from the destroyed nuclear station in two years’ time,  
Japan plans to release into the sea more than 1m tonnes of contaminated water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear station, the government said on Tuesday, a decision that is likely to anger neighbours such as South Korea.

The move, more than a decade after the nuclear disaster, will deal another blow to the fishing industry in Fukushima, which has opposed such a step for years.

The work to release the water will begin in about two years, the government said, and the whole process is expected to take decades.

“On the premise of strict compliance with regulatory standards that have been established, we select oceanic release,” the government said in a statement after relevant ministers formalised the decision.

Around 1.25 million tonnes of water has accumulated at the site of the nuclear plant, which was crippled after going into meltdown following a tsunami in 2011.

It includes water used to cool the plant, as well as rain and groundwater that seeps in daily.

The water needs to be filtered again to remove harmful isotopes and will be diluted to meet international standards before any release.

The decision comes about three months ahead of the postponed Olympic Games to be hosted by Tokyo, with some events planned as close as 60km (35 miles) from the wrecked plant.

The disposal of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power, has proved a thorny problem for Japan as it pursues a decades-long decommissioning proj

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

China concerned about Japan dumping Fukushima nuclear waste water into the Pacific.

China says concerned over Fukushima waste disposal
Beijing asks Japan to take ‘responsible attitude’ towards Fukushima nuclear plant’s radioactive water disposal

Riyaz Ul Khaliq   |12.04.2021   
ANKARAChina on Monday expressed concern over the disposal of waste from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea.“China has expressed grave concern to Japan through diplomatic channels, asking the country to take a responsible attitude towards Fukushima nuclear power plant’s radioactive water disposal,” the local newspaper People’s Daily reported, quoting the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Last week, Japan said it plans to dispose of radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government will move ahead with the idea despite opposition within and outside the country and may announce the decision as early as Tuesday.

The wastewater, though treated, may still contain radioactive tritium.Japanese authorities want to dilute the waste to “acceptable global standards” and start dumping it into the ocean two years from now.

Japan’s fishery industry and some provincial authorities have voiced concerns over the plan, which has also drawn criticism from China and South Korea.However, the Japanese government said it “will work to address their concerns and bring in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other partners.”“We will seek the cooperation of global organizations such as the IAEA and local governments to thoroughly check the plan’s safety and maintain transparency,” Kajiyama Hiroshi, Japan’s economy, trade, and industry minister, said last week.

April 13, 2021 Posted by | China, Japan, oceans, politics international | Leave a comment

USA’s nuclear rocket plan, and the Nazi history behind it.

The US plans to put a nuclear-powered rocket in orbit by 2025,  David Hambling.. (subscribers only)

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Reference, space travel, USA, weapons and war, YouTube | Leave a comment

Nuclear space craft very clearly is part of nuclear weapons programme

DARPA awards nuclear spacecraft contracts to Lockheed Martin, Bezos’ Blue Origin and General Atomics

The Pentagon’s DARPA awarded contracts to General Atomics, Lockheed Martin and Jeff Bezos’ space venture Blue Origin under the agency’s DRACO (Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations) program.

The Pentagon’s research and development arm on Monday awarded a trio of companies with contracts to build and demonstrate a nuclear-based propulsion system on a spacecraft in orbit by 2025.

General Atomics, Lockheed Martin and Jeff Bezos’ space venture Blue Origin won the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA awards, under the agency’s Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations program or DRACO.

The goal of the program is deceptively simple: Use a nuclear thermal propulsion system to power a spacecraft beyond low Earth orbit.

April 13, 2021 Posted by | space travel, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The problem of plutonium programs

Plutonium programs in East Asia and Idaho will challenge the Biden administration, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Frank N. von Hippel | April 12, 2021    Among the Biden administration’s nuclear challenges are ongoing civilian plutonium programs in China and Japan. Also, South Korea’s nuclear-energy research and development establishment has been asserting that it should have the same “right” to have a plutonium program as Japan. These challenges have been compounded by a renewed push by the Energy Department’s Idaho National Laboratory to revive a plutonium program that was shut down in the 1980s. These foreign and domestic plutonium programs are all challenges because plutonium is a nuclear-weapon material.

Henry Kissinger’s State Department quickly discovered that the governments of Brazil, Pakistan, South Korea, and Taiwan—all under military control at the time—had contracted for French or German spent-fuel “reprocessing” plants. The United States intervened forcefully and none of these contracts were fully consummated…………………..

…………….A possible path forward. During the Trump administration, the Energy Department fell back into the never-never land of plutonium-fueled reactors from which the United States extracted itself in the 1980s. Fortunately, the big-dollar commitments to the Versatile Test Reactor and the Natrium Reactor have not yet been made, and the Biden administration could use the excuse of budget stringency not to make those commitments.

In South Korea, the Biden administration will have to deal with the completion of the Idaho National Lab–Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute Joint Fuel Cycle Study. Although there will no doubt be obfuscation in the report, the conclusions of the 10-year study should have been obvious from the beginning: reprocessing is hugely costly, creates proliferation risks, and complicates spent fuel disposal. Fortunately, the anti-nuclear-energy Moon administration is unlikely to push for reprocessing. It will be much more interested in the opportunities that the Biden administration can provide to advance the Korean Peninsula denuclearization agenda. It should therefore be politically relatively easy for the Biden Administration to terminate cooperation on pyroprocessing.

China’s reprocessing and fast-neutron reactor program may be driven in part by China’s interest in obtaining more weapon-grade plutonium to build up the size of its nuclear arsenal. If that is the case, China’s incentive to build up could be reduced through nuclear arms control. Specifically, if China is building up its nuclear arsenal out of concern about the adequacy of its nuclear deterrent in the face of an unconstrained US missile-defense buildup, then the United States could examine the possibility of an agreement to limit missile defenses as an alternative to an open-ended, offense-defense arms race. That was the path of wisdom that the United States and Soviet Union chose with their 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

In Japan, the Biden administration will be faced with the continued unwillingness of the powerful Ministry of Economics, Trade, and Industry to wind down Japan’s dysfunctional plutonium program.  But, if a linkage could be made between constraining China’s nuclear buildup and ending Japan’s hugely costly reprocessing program, that might help tip the balance in Japan’s internal debate over reprocessing.

April 13, 2021 Posted by | - plutonium, 2 WORLD, technology | Leave a comment

New nuclear power may not be feasible in USA – former NRC chair says

Former NRC chair questions economic feasibility of new nuclear in US,  Utility Dive Iulia Gheorghiu. 12cApr 21,

Without further aid from Congress and the White House, the prospects for the U.S. nuclear industry will dwindle in the face of cheaper resources that are getting built faster than new nuclear generators, according to a former Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission………

Excepting NuScale Power, which has advanced in permitting with the NRC, the near-term potential for other small modular reactor designs to replace physical coal plants is “very low in the near future, like zero,” Allison Macfarlane, …..

The only U.S. reactors currently under construction continue to face delays. Vogtle Unit 3 and Unit 4 are poised to be the first nuclear plants completed in the United States [since 2016]……….

Excepting NuScale Power, which has advanced in permitting with the NRC, the near-term potential for other small modular reactor designs to replace physical coal plants is “very low in the near future, like zero,” Allison Macfarlane, …..

The only U.S. reactors currently under construction continue to face delays. Vogtle Unit 3 and Unit 4 are poised to be the first nuclear plants completed in the United States [since 2016]……….

Georgia Power, one of the owners of the two nuclear reactors at Vogtle Power Plant, recently announced construction remediation work, signaling further delays for the unit that is expected to be operational later this year.

“If we don’t pay attention to this issue, there is no future for nuclear, you will not build anything. It will all be too expensive, it will all take too long,” she said.

She remarked on supply chain issues with larger designs, such as the Westinghouse AP1000 design, a pressurized water reactor power plant that was used in V.C. Summer and Vogtle construction.

“The AP1000 is a good design, but it may be a dead design,” Macfarlane said.

April 13, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Bitcoin: cryptocurrency an extreme energy user. Can it be justified in a climate emergency?

This is a critically important article. As long as multi billionaires like Elon Musk and Bill Gates are accepted as authorities of integrity, on what direction society should take, we are in trouble. Both of these visionary zealots are enthusiastic about nuclear power. Both are enthusiastic about nuclear-powered space rocketry. Elon Musk is all for Bitcoin. I don’t know about Bill Gates’opinion on this. While we acknowledge thsat these entrepreneurs have made beneficial achievements, we really do not need to minlessly follow them. Neither are really scientific experts, and should not in any way be determining society’s policies on climate, or anything else. Neither show any awareness of concern about unlimited growth and unlimited energy use, on a finite planet.

A new “crypto climate accord” wants to clean up Bitcoin. But the calls for government regulation, bans and taxation are growing. The post Can cryptocurrency be justified in a climate catastrophe? appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Can cryptocurrency be justified in a climate catastrophe? — RenewEconomy

Bitcoin mining and cryptocurrency in general are having what could very loosely be sort of described as a ‘coming of age’ moment. It’s loose because advocates of these digital currencies, which obtain ‘trust’ from requiring massive amounts of energy to generate (‘proof of work’), don’t seem to be handling the challenges of dealing with key issues like climate and environment particularly well.

This was explored recently in RenewEconomy, in this post detailing how there are many Bitcoin mining operations running massive server farms that either exist on carbon intensive grids, or even directly use fossil gas on mining sites where that gas would have otherwise been flared.

And last week, we covered a piece of research that predicted Bitcoin’s energy consumption will match that of Australia’s by the year 2024.

“Under the Paris Agreement, China is devoted to cut down 60 per cent of the carbon emission per GDP by 2030 based on that of 2005. However, according to the simulation results of the [blockchain carbon emission] model, we find that the carbon emission pattern of Bitcoin blockchain will become a potential barrier against the emission reduction target of China”, the researchers found. It’s significant, because the fate of China on energy and climate decides, by and large, the fate of the world.

Part of the reason interest has increased in Bitcoin was a significant purchase of it by Tesla. CEO Elon Musk is a well-known fan of cryptocurrency, including Dogecoin, an alternative to the more mainstream Bitcoin. But scrutiny of its extreme energy consumption, alongside a lack of any real sustainability or environment initiatives across the industry of Bitcoin miners, has led to nearly months now of constant criticism (including from this author).

Now, a new initiative is attempting to change that at a surprisingly ambitious and fundamental level. Last week, a range of organisations launched the ‘Crypto Climate Accord’, aiming to decarbonise the entire cryptocurrency industry, including Bitcoin trading house Coinshares.

Among the partners are the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), well-regarded among energy experts, and representations from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Energy Web and the Alliance for Innovative Regulation (AIR) are involved too, as are the cryptocurrency companies.

“The Accord intends to achieve this by working collaboratively with the cryptocurrency industry — including all blockchains — to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2025 or sooner. While many organisations are individually taking steps to decarbonise their operations, the Accord recognises that an industry-wide coalition and scalable solutions can quickly multiply impact.”

Total decarbonisation of power by 2025 comes along with full decarbonisation of all business operations by 2040, and with the active removal of historical emissions from the Earth’s atmosphere by 2040. These are both genuinely ambitious goals, and they seem to be closely tied to international climate diplomacy. It is a far cry from the decentralised, regulation-hating, unaccountable world of Bitcoin mining as it exists today.

While this seems like a step in the right direction, it is very likely its advocates will be swimming against the tide. The very philosophy of collective action to take responsibility for the externalities of profit-making business is contrary to the libertarian values of individual freedom. Some participants may not be all that invested. “Coinshares less than two weeks ago was arguing more energy consumption is about the best thing ever. I’m not sure how this is inspired by the Paris Agreement if they’ve clearly never read it or don’t understand it”, wrote Alex De Vries, author of the Digiconomist blog.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin seems only to be getting hungrier for energy, and there doesn’t seem to be much effort to direct that big ship towards clean power sources only. Cheap coal and gas will likely get cheaper, as they both get displaced from grids by renewable energy.

The Centre for Global Development just released a new analysis showing that mining a single Bitcoin is equivalent to the total annual energy usage of 18 Americans, or 2,199 Tanzanians.

They recommend a range of policy options to forcibly clamp down on the problem, including a ban of large mining operations and taxing mining activity. Neither of these will be welcomed by the industry. “The most hopeful case for the environment is that the price of bitcoin falls low enough to push most miners out of business, leaving behind only those with access to cheap renewable energy and the most efficient mining rigs”, they write.

The question is whether voluntary accords or forcible regulation win out in cleaning up Bitcoin. The alternative is very ugly – a major new threat to climate action at a sensitive time indeed.

April 13, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, ENERGY | Leave a comment

Reforms needed at Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission ~ Hill Times letter to the editor — Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

April 12, 2021 Canada’s nuclear regulatory agency, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission says it’s the “World’s best nuclear regulator” on its website. That “self-image” of the CNSC’s is inconsistent with statements made in recent years by international peer reviewers, high-ranking Canadian officials, international nuclear proponents and others. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently reviewed Canada’s nuclear […]

Reforms needed at Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission ~ Hill Times letter to the editor — Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Canada, safety | Leave a comment

Scottish Greens’ manifesto includes pledge to force Westminster to remove nuclear subs from Faslane.

Morning Star 11th April 2021, Scottish Greens’ manifesto includes pledge to force Westminster to remove
nuclear subs from Faslane. The party policy would amend the Marine Scotland
Act under Holyrood’s devolved powers to make it impossible for the navy
to operate Trident from Faslane, banning “the movement of nuclear weapons
through Scottish waters.”

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The United States collaborates on nuclear pyroprocessing with South Korea. 

Plutonium programs in East Asia and Idaho will challenge the Biden administration, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Frank N. von Hippel | April 12, 2021,  ”…………………………………The United States collaborates on pyroprocessing with South Korea. The Idaho and Argonne National Laboratories also continue to promote the pyroprocessing of spent fuel. After the Clinton Administration shut down the Experimental Breeder Reactor II in 1994, the laboratory persuaded the Energy Department to continue to fund pyroprocessing as a way to process Experimental Breeder Reactor II spent fuel and blanket assemblies into stable waste forms for disposal in a deep underground repository. The proposal was to complete this effort in 2007. According to a review by Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, however, as of the end of Fiscal Year 2016, only about 18 percent of the roughly 26 metric tons of assemblies had been processed at a cost of over $200 million into waste forms that are not stable. (Since then, an additional three percent has been processed.)

During the George W. Bush administration, Vice President Cheney accepted Argonne’s argument that pyroprocessing is “proliferation resistant” and the two US national laboratories were allowed to share the technology with the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute.

At the beginning of the Obama administration, however, a group of safeguards experts from six Energy Department national laboratories, including Argonne and Idaho, concluded that pyroprocessing is not significantly more resistant to proliferation than PUREX, the standard reprocessing technology originally developed by the United States to extract plutonium for its weapons.

In 2014, the US-Republic of Korea Agreement for Cooperation on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy was due to expire, but the negotiations on a successor agreement bogged down over Korea’s insistence that the new agreement include the same right to reprocess spent fuel as the 1988 US-Japan Agreement for Cooperation.

The compromise reached the following year was that the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute and the Idaho National Laboratory would complete their Joint Fuel Cycle Study on “the technical, economic, and nonproliferation (including safeguards) aspects of spent fuel management and disposition technologies.” If the United States could be convinced that the proliferation risks of pyroprocessing were manageable, the secretary of energy would give consent for South Korea to use the technology on its territory. The final report from the joint study is due this year.

Meanwhile, in 2017, Moon Jae-in was elected president of the Republic of Korea on a platform that included not building any more nuclear power plants in South Korea. Fast-neutron reactors and pyroprocessing obviously do not fit with that policy. This gives the Biden administration an opportunity to end a cooperative nuclear-energy research and development program that is contrary to both US nuclear nonproliferation policy and South Korea’s energy policy. The United States could propose instead a joint collaborative program on safe spent fuel storage and deep underground disposal……………

April 13, 2021 Posted by | - plutonium, Reference, South Korea, technology, USA | Leave a comment