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

Is the US nuclear community prepared for the extreme weather climate change is bringing? 

Is the US nuclear community prepared for the extreme weather climate change is bringing?  https://thebulletin.org/2021/04/is-the-us-nuclear-community-prepared-for-the-extreme-weather-climate-change-is-bringing/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ThursdayNewsletter04222021&utm_content=NuclearRisk_NuclearExtremeWeather_04202021 By Susan D’Agostino | April 20, 2021 

In May 2000, a planned burn to remove dead, dried underbrush on New Mexico’s drought-stricken Cerro Grande peak in the Bandelier National Monument grew out of control. As the sky darkened with smoke, a wall of flames fueled by high winds burned through tens of thousands of acres of land where people, elk, and bald eagles made their homes. The monstrous blaze escaped the monument’s containment line and headed to the forested birthplace of the atomic bomb—Los Alamos National Laboratory. There, it raced over soil, rocks, and trees contaminated from decades-old nuclear weapons testing, releasing radioactive particles into the air and setting 47 buildings ablaze. As the devastation unfolded, the wildfire inched close to, but stopped short of, a facility containing tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen.

In May 2000, a planned burn to remove dead, dried underbrush on New Mexico’s drought-stricken Cerro Grande peak in the Bandelier National Monument grew out of control. As the sky darkened with smoke, a wall of flames fueled by high winds burned through tens of thousands of acres of land where people, elk, and bald eagles made their homes. The monstrous blaze escaped the monument’s containment line and headed to the forested birthplace of the atomic bomb—Los Alamos National Laboratory. There, it raced over soil, rocks, and trees contaminated from decades-old nuclear weapons testing, releasing radioactive particles into the air and setting 47 buildings ablaze. As the devastation unfolded, the wildfire inched close to, but stopped short of, a facility containing tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen.

The US response to potential climate impacts on the country’s various nuclear activities has, in the eyes of many experts, fallen far short of what it needs to be.

“All of these [nuclear] structures were built on the presumption of a stable planet. And our climate is changing very rapidly and presenting new extremes,” Hill said. “There’s harm that stems from that.”

Drought and spent nuclear waste. When forests are drier for long periods of time, they act as kindling for wildfires. Extreme drought exacerbated by climate change is a key driver of wildfires in the Western United States, which are increasing both in frequency and in size. For nuclear infrastructure in the heart of wildfire territory, this trend spells trouble.

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April 24, 2021 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

The Chernobyl story continues

Chernobyl: The next phase   https://www.ebrd.com/news/2021/chernobyl-the-next-phase.html By Axel  Reiserer, 23 Apr 2021

At 01:23:40 on 26 April 1986, the failure of a routine test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, caused reactor 4 to explode, releasing parts of its radioactive core. It was the worst nuclear accident the world had ever seen, with far-reaching political, economic and ecological consequences. Thirty-five years on, Chernobyl is still as well-known as it was a generation ago.

Fires broke out, causing the main release of radioactivity into the environment. Wind carried contaminated particles over Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, as well as parts of Scandinavia and wider Europe. The 50,000 inhabitants of the adjacent town of Pripyat were evacuated, never to return.

The accident destroyed reactor 4, killing 30 operators and firemen within three months and causing numerous other deaths in weeks and months that followed. To this day, it remains the only accident in the history of the civil use of nuclear power when radiation-related fatalities occurred. The precise number of short- and longer-term victims remains heavily disputed.

By 06:35 on 26 April, all fires at the power plant had been extinguished, apart from the fire inside reactor 4, which continued to burn for many days. Some 5,000 tonnes of boron, dolomite, sand, clay and lead were dropped from helicopters in a bid to extinguish the blaze. When the destroyed reactor was later enclosed in a provisional structure – the so-called sarcophagus – these fuel-containing materials were also walled in.

The sarcophagus was built under extremely hazardous conditions and unprecedented time pressure. By November 1986, a steel and concrete shelter was in place to lock away the radioactive substances inside the ruined reactor building and to act as a radiation shield. It was always intended as a temporary measure, with an estimated lifespan of 20-30 years

The search for a long-term solution started soon after, alongside the massive challenge of cleaning up the accident site. By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union had dissolved and newly independent Ukraine had been left with the Chernobyl legacy. Following a G7 Action Plan to improve nuclear safety in central and eastern Europe, the Nuclear Safety Account was set up at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in 1993. Two years later, the scope of the programme was extended to include Chernobyl.

A breakthrough came with the Shelter Implementation Plan in 1997, which provided a road map of how to the tackle the immediate and longer-term tasks. In the same year, the G7 officially invited the EBRD to set up and manage the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, which became the main vehicle for all efforts to ensure that the destroyed reactor 4 remained in an environmentally safe and secure state.

Emergency repairs in 1998 and 1999 prevented the imminent collapse of the sarcophagus, as well as a vent stack that was endangering the adjacent turbine hall over reactor 3, which was still in operation. It was only at the end of 2000 that all nuclear power generation in Chernobyl ceased. The following year saw a landmark decision to build an arch-shaped steel structure, called the New Safe Confinement (NSC), to seal off reactor 4.

In the subsequent years, several tasks were carried out simultaneously. Detailed technical work on the NSC started. The site had to be stabilised and prepared for the construction work. The first project the EBRD managed was the construction of a liquid radioactive waste treatment plant (LRTP) to handle some 35,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level liquid waste at the site. Meanwhile, the safe storage of the spent fuel assemblies from reactors 1, 2 and 3 came into focus.

All this has been achieved. The LRTP has been operational since 2014. A new interim storage facility for the treatment and storage of spent fuel has been built and, after successful hot tests, is currently awaiting a permanent licence from the Ukrainian regulator. The NSC, the most visible Chernobyl project, was slid into position in late 2016 and then handed over to the Ukrainian authorities.

In total, the Bank has managed close to €2 billion in donor funds through the Chernobyl Shelter Fund and Nuclear Safety Account. Of this, the EBRD provided €715 million of its own resources to complete the Interim Storage Facility and New Safe Confinement.

Today, the New Safe Confinement dominates the skyline over Chernobyl, as the sarcophagus once did. The steel structure is 108 metres high and 162 metres long, with a span of 257 metres and a lifetime of at least 100 years. It was assembled in two stages in a cleaned area near the accident site and, despite its size and weight of 36,000 tonnes, was pushed 327 metres into position. It is the largest moveable structure ever built.

This is not where the story ends, however. The fact that the NSC has a lifespan of 100 years means that the next phase of work now has to be planned, agreed and implemented. The estimated 200 tonnes of radioactive nuclear fuel inside reactor 4 are now shielded by the New Safe Confinement. However, parts of the sarcophagus are becoming unstable and will have to be removed at some point. Once this is done, work will come closer to the reactor’s interior.

The EBRD remains a key partner in these efforts. Following a request by Ukraine, in November 2020, the Bank established the new International Chernobyl Co-Operation Account, aimed at creating an integrated plan for the site to serve as the basis for developing and implementing longer-term projects. The new fund will hold it first assembly meeting on Tuesday – fittingly one day after the 35th anniversary. The Chernobyl story continues.

April 24, 2021 Posted by | safety, technology, Ukraine, wastes | 2 Comments

At climate summit, Biden pleases Republicans, includes support for the nuclear industry

Nuclear, carbon capture, technology jobs: Biden hits on climate-change words Republicans like to hear, MarketWatch, April 23, 2021 , Rachel Koning Beals ”…… 

Addressing the final day of the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate, Biden’s punch list of what he believes are economic benefits in shifting from fossil fuels CL00, +0.99% to renewables and embracing technology to curb emissions included GOP-favored initiatives like modernizing nuclear energy and scaling up carbon capture.

……A diverse “clean” energy portfolio typically includes spending to modernize nuclear energy, and Biden included nuclear in a brief mention Friday. Republican plans have included measures seeking to establish a uranium reserve and speeding up nuclear power plant permits and reactor environmental reviews. …….. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/nuclear-carbon-capture-technology-jobs-biden-hits-on-climate-change-words-republicans-like-to-hear-11619192720

April 24, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics | Leave a comment

Rising threat of nuclear war is barely noticed. Corporate media likes it that way.

Rising Threat of Nuclear War Is Barely Noticed, Consortium news,    By Caitlin Johnstone
CaitlinJohnstone.com   23 Apr 21,
U.S. Strategic Command, the branch of the U.S.  military responsible for America’s nuclear arsenal, tweeted the following on Tuesday:

“The spectrum of conflict today is neither linear nor predictable. We must account for the possibility of conflict leading to conditions which could very rapidly drive an adversary to consider nuclear use as their least bad option.”

STRATCOM called it a preview of the “posture statement” it submits to U.S. Congress every year. It was a bit intense for Twitter and sparked a lot of alarmed responses. This alarm was due not to any inaccuracy in STRATCOM’s frank statement, but due to the bizarre fact that our world’s increasing risk of nuclear war barely features in mainstream discourse.

STRATCOM has been preparing not just to use its nuclear arsenal for deterrence but also to “win” a nuclear war should one arise from the (entirely U.S. -created) “conditions” which are “neither linear nor predictable.”

And it’s looking increasingly likely that one will as the prevailing orthodoxy among Western imperialists that U.S.  unipolar hegemony must be preserved at all cost rushes headlong toward America’s plunge into post-primacy.

The U.S. has been ramping up aggressions with Russia in a way that has terrified experts, and it looks likely to continue doing so. These aggressions are further complicated on increasingly tense fronts like Ukraine, which is threatening to obtain nuclear weapons if it isn’t granted membership to NATO, either of which would increase the risk of conflict. 

Aggressions against nuclear-armed China are escalating on what seems like a daily basis at this point, with potential flashpoints in the China Seas, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, India and any number of other possible fronts………

The fact that those in charge of U.S. nuclear weapons now see both Russia and China as a major nuclear threat, and the fact that U.S. cold warriors are escalating against both of them, is horrifying.

The fact that they’re again playing with “low-yield” nukes designed to actually be used on the battlefield makes it even more so. This is to say nothing of tensions between nuclear-armed Pakistan and nuclear-armed India, between nuclear-armed Israel and its neighbors, and between nuclear-armed North Korea and the Western empire.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has the 2021 Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight, citing the rising threat of nuclear war:……………

As I all too frequently find myself having to remind people, the primary risk here is not that anyone will choose to have a nuclear war, it’s that a nuke will be deployed amid heightening tensions as a result of miscommunication, miscalculation, misfire, or malfunction, as nearly happened many times during the last Cold War, thereby setting off everyone’s nukes as per Mutually Assured Destruction.

The more tense things get, the likelier such an event becomes. This New Cold War is happening along two fronts, with a bunch of proxy conflicts complicating things even further. There are so very many small moving parts, and it’s impossible to remain in control of all of them.

Thousands of Starter Buttons 

People like to think every nuclear-armed country has one “The Button” with which they can consciously choose to start a nuclear war after careful deliberation, but it doesn’t work that way.

There are thousands of people in the world controlling different parts of different nuclear arsenals who could independently initiate a nuclear war. Thousands of “The Buttons.” It only takes one. The arrogance of believing anyone can control such a conflict safely, for years, is astounding.

2014 report published in the journal Earth’s Future found that it would only take the detonation of 100 nuclear warheads to throw 5 teragrams of black soot into the Earth’s stratosphere for decades, blocking out the sun and making the photosynthesis of plants impossible. This could easily starve every terrestrial organism to death that didn’t die of radiation or climate chaos first. China has hundreds of nuclear weapons; Russia and the United States have thousands.

This should be the main thing everyone talks about. There is literally no more urgent matter on earth than the looming possibility that everyone might die in a nuclear war.

But people don’t see it.

On a recent Tucker Carlson Tonight” appearance, former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard did a solid job describing the horrors of nuclear war and the very real possibility that it could be inflicted upon the U.S. due to America’s insane brinkmanship with Russia. She spoke earnestly about how “such a war would come at a cost beyond anything we can really imagine,” painting an entirely accurate picture of “hundreds of millions of people dying and suffering, seeing their flesh being burned from their bones.”

Gabbard is correct, and was right to give such a confrontational account of what we are looking at right now. But if you read the replies to Gabbard’s tweet in which she shared a clip from the interview, you’ll see a deluge of commenters accusing her of “hyperbole,” saying she’s being soft on Russian President Vladimir Putin and admonishing her for appearing on Tucker Carlson. It’s like they can’t even hear what she’s saying, how real it is, how significant it is.

Normalcy Bias & Media Malpractice

 People’s failure to wrap their minds around this issue is a testament to the power of normalcy bias, a cognitive glitch which causes the U.S. to assume that because something bad hasn’t happened in the past, it won’t happen in the future.  We survived the last Cold War by the skin of our teeth, entirely by sheer, dumb luck; the only reason people are around to bleat “hyperbole” is because we got lucky. There’s no reason to believe we’ll get lucky in this New Cold War environment; only normalcy bias says we will. Believing we’ll survive this Cold War just because we survived the last one is as sane as believing Russian roulette is safe because the guy passing you the gun didn’t die.

It’s also a testament to the power of plain old psychological compartmentalization. People can’t handle the idea of everything ending, of everyone they know and love dying, of watching their loved ones die in flames or from radiation poisoning right in front of them, all because someone made a mistake at the wrong time after a bunch of imperialists decided that U.S.  planetary domination was worth putting every terrestrial organism at risk.

But mostly it’s testament to the ubiquitous malpractice of the Western media. It’s inconvenient to the agendas of the imperial war machine to have people protesting these insane Cold War games of nuclear brinkmanship, so their media stenographers barely touch on this issue. If mainstream journalism actually existed, this flirtation with nuclear war would be front and center in everyone’s awareness and people would be flooding the streets in protest against their lives being toyed with as casino chips in an insane all-or-nothing gamble.

This is so much bigger than any of the petty little things we spend our mental energy on from day to day……….The rising threat of nuclear war is the most urgent matter in the world and it’s absolute madness that we’re not talking about it all the time.    https://consortiumnews.com/2021/04/23/rising-threat-of-nuclear-war-is-barely-noticed/
Attachments areaPreview YouTube video Tulsi Gabbard issues warning about potential war with RussiaTulsi Gabbard issues warning about potential war with RussiaPreview YouTube video Vasili Arkhipov: HeroVasili Arkhipov: Hero

April 24, 2021 Posted by | media, USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

USA: Small nuclear reactors cannot meet the critical climate need – now, or ever

The critical need for deep carbon pollution reductions this decade calls on us to focus on the low-carbon technologies we have now. And those are wind and solar. SMRs will be a dollar short and a day too late. They cannot meet critical climate deadlines, not by 2030 or 2035, and likely never.

Advanced Nuclear Dreaming in Washington State, CounterPunch, PATRICK MAZZA  19 Apr 21, It was once known by one of the most inadvertently appropriate acronyms ever, WPPSS, the Washington Public Power Supply System.  “Whoops!,” as they called it, in the early 1980s brought on what was then the worst municipal bond default in U.S. history trying to build five nuclear reactors in Washington state at once, completing only one.

But faith in the nuclear future lives on at “Whoops!,” today rebranded as Energy Northwest. On April 1, the day perhaps also inadvertently fitting, the consortium of Washington state public utilities announced a move aimed at the first advanced nuclear reactor deployment in the U.S. Energy Northwest will partner with Grant County Public Utility District, a member utility serving a desert county in the center of the state, and X-energy, a leading developer of the nuclear industry’s bright shining hope, the small modular reactor (SMR)…………….

The WPPSS default was part of the first wave of nuclear failures in the U.S. In the wake of the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, approximately 100 proposed nuclear plants were cancelled. Recent years have seen a second round of failures. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 put $25 billion in nuclear subsidies on the table. That jumpstarted all of four nuclear reactors, two each in Georgia and South Carolina.  The only way Wall Street would touch the projects was to make ratepayers carry the risk by paying for “work in progress” before the first watt is delivered. South Carolina ratepayers won’t even see that. Cost overruns killed the project there in 2017 after $9 billion was thrown away, setting up a political and court fight over whether ratepayers will continue to be soaked.  The last two standing, Georgia’s Vogtle plants, were to have cost $14 billion and come on line in 2016-17. Now costs have doubled to $28 billion and scheduled completion this year and next is considered unlikely.

IS THE SMR A SOLUTION?

SMRs are the nuclear industry’s answer to avoid such failures in the future. Instead of being custom-built and individually licensed, SMRs are intended to cut costs by licensing a single design manufactured at a plant and sent for final assembly to their operating site.  Smaller than the 1,000-megawatt-plus plants with which we’re familiar, SMRs are 100 MW or less, and designed with safety features to prevent meltdowns such as experienced at Japan’s Fukushima plant in 2011. Though there are questions about that, as covered below…………..

CAN THE SMR SAVE THE CLIMATE?

For now, the question is whether SMRs such as X-energy’s can really revive the nuclear industry, and most importantly, provide a climate solution with low-carbon electrical power in a meaningful timeframe. The answer, by simple logic, is no

…………Though deep carbon cuts must start quickly, the Washington state partnership gives a completion date for its SMR pilot project as 2027-28. Considering the nuclear industry’s track record, delays and cost overruns are likely. And that would only be the beginning of a long-process to create the entire manufacturing supply chain needed to make SMRs an economical alternative. If they can be. The key issue is economies of scale.

“Power generation scales on volume of the reactor vessels,” notes Arjun Makhijani, who has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, with a specialization in nuclear fusion, from the University of California at Berkeley. “The materials and labor scale more slowly.  That’s a basic reason that there are economies of scale and big reactors were built.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) cites a study which shows that a reactor with 1,100 MW capacity would cost three times as much to build as a 180 MW plant, but produce six times the electricity, “so the capital cost per kilowatt would be twice as great for the smaller plant.”

SMRs lose those economies of scale, but proponents hope to make that up with mass manufacturing and licensing, avoiding costs of custom-built plants.

ROCKY ROAD TO MASS PRODUCTION

“The road to such mass manufacturing will be rocky,” Makhijani and M.V. Ramana write in a recent article, “Why Small Modular Reactors Won’t Help Counter the Climate Crisis.” “Even with optimistic assumptions about how quickly manufacturers could learn to improve production efficiency and lower cost, thousands of SMRs, which will all be higher priced in comparison to large reactors, would have to be manufactured for the price per kilowatt for an SMR to be comparable to that of a large reactor.”

That sets up “a chicken-and-egg economic problem,” they write. “Without the factories, SMRs can never hope to achieve the theoretical cost reductions that are at the heart of the strategy to compensate for the lack of economies of scale. But without the cost reductions, there will not be the large number of orders to stimulate the investments needed to set up the supply chain in the first place.”………….

WE DON’T NEED NUCLEAR

The world is running out of time to address all the concerns facing SMRs and advanced reactor designs in general.

“If you look at the cold facts from a climate point of view we have a shortage of time and money. New reactors cannot help materially,” Makhijani told The Raven. “How are we going to have a carbon-free electricity system by 2035 in which SMRs will play a significant role when the first one isn’t even supposed to come on line till the late 2020s? Those who are advocating new nuclear reactors should address the time constraint, and whether we can do it without nuclear. If we could not do it without, that would be another question. But we can. So there should be no question.”

Many studies document the capacity of wind and solar to replace fossil fuel electricity. The challenge of varying sunlight and wind speeds is met with a smart grid that can adjust energy demand to available supply and link diverse geographies. So when the wind is blowing on the Great Plains, it can supply juice while clouds block sunlight in Chicago. For times when none of that is sufficient, storage in many forms can be used, from batteries to pumped storage reservoirs. Even household water heaters. If all else fails, backup generators fueled with stored hydrogen can be brought into play.  Hydrogen can be electrolyzed from water through solar and wind energy that would otherwise go unused because generation exceeds the demands of the grid.


Mark Jacobson
 of Stanford has done many studies documenting the capacity of wind, water and solar to meet all energy needs. A NOAA study showed carbon pollution from electricity could be cut up to 80% from 1990 levels by 2030, largely with wind and solar, needing no new nuclear and energy storage, while actually cutting electricity costs. That would require building a continental grid with efficient high-voltage DC lines to link diverse geographies. A study done by Makhijani for the Institute for Environmental and Energy Research, of which he is president, lays out a path to zero carbon electricity in Maryland.

ANOTHER WHOOPS?

Despite towering obstacles facing SMRs, from economic chicken-and-egg problems of ramping up production, to unsolved waste and proliferation issues, to remaining safety questions, the nuclear faithful at Energy Northwest soldier on. Yes, they now have operated a nuclear plant successfully since the 1980s, though questions have been raised about earthquake hazards in light of emerging seismic knowledge. Washington state has enacted a goal of 100% clean electricity by 2045, and nuclear advocates see it filling a role.  In any event, new nuclear power from SMRs will be incapable of supplying a significant portion of low-carbon energy until well into the 2030s, even if economic and other issues are resolved.

All that time, any new nuclear reactors will be facing continuing cost declines in wind, solar and storage, as well as increasing deployment of smart grid technologies and advanced long-distance power transmission. If the Washington state partnership’s SMR installation actually is built and operated, with the 2027-8 timeline likely to be stretched out and the projected $2.4 billion cost figure likely to be exceeded, it could well be a costly white elephant, a relic of faith in a technology whose time has passed. The critical need for deep carbon pollution reductions this decade calls on us to focus on the low-carbon technologies we have now. And those are wind and solar. SMRs will be a dollar short and a day too late. They cannot meet critical climate deadlines, not by 2030 or 2035, and likely never.  https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/04/19/advanced-nuclear-dreaming-in-washington-state/

April 24, 2021 Posted by | climate change, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | 1 Comment

New research on papillary thyroid cancer confirms the accepted science on the harmful effects of ionising radiation.

 

Our work provides a foundation for further investigation of radiation-induced cancer, particularly with respect to differences in risk as a function of both dose and age, and underscores the deleterious consequences of ionizing radiation exposure.

Radiation-related genomic profile of papillary thyroid cancer after the Chernobyl accident, Science Magazine, Lindsay M. Morton, Danielle M. Karyadi et al. 23 Apr 21,

Abstract

The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident increased papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) incidence in surrounding regions, particularly for 131I-exposed children. We analyzed genomic, transcriptomic, and epigenomic characteristics of 440 PTCs from Ukraine (359 with estimated childhood 131I exposure and 81 unexposed children born after 1986). PTCs displayed radiation dose-dependent enrichment of fusion drivers, nearly all in the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway, and increases in small deletions and simple/balanced structural variants that were clonal and bore hallmarks of non-homologous end-joining repair. Radiation-related genomic alterations were more pronounced for those younger at exposure. Transcriptomic and epigenomic features were strongly associated with driver events but not radiation dose. Our results point to DNA double-strand breaks as early carcinogenic events that subsequently enable PTC growth following environmental radiation exposure.

The accidental explosion in reactor 4 at the Chernobyl (Chornobyl in Ukrainian) nuclear power plant in April 1986 resulted in the exposure of millions of inhabitants of the surrounding areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and the Russian Federation to radioactive contaminants (1). Epidemiologic and clinical research in the ensuing decades has demonstrated increased risk of papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) with increasing thyroid gland exposure to radioactive iodine (131I) from fallout, which was deposited on pastures with grazing cows and ingested through milk and leafy greens, particularly during early childhood (2). Together with data from populations exposed to other types of radiation, compelling evidence indicates that PTC risk increases following childhood exposure to ionizing radiation, a recognized carcinogen (25)……….

The majority of individuals with PTC were female (n = 335, 76.1%), resided in the Kiev (Kyiv in Ukrainian) region at the time of the accident (n = 286, 65.0%), and were diagnosed during young adulthood (mean = 28.0 years, range: 10.0-45.6),,……..

The pronounced evidence of radiation-related damage that we observed for individuals exposed at younger ages is consistent with epidemiologic analyses that have identified higher thyroid cancer risks with radiation exposure at younger ages …………

our data are consistent with a linear dose-response for the key molecular characteristics associated with radiation dose in the range examined in our analysis (≤1 Gy), which aligns with the extensive radiobiological literature and other epidemiologic evidence regarding DNA damage and cancer risk following ionizing radiation exposure………….

Our work provides a foundation for further investigation of radiation-induced cancer, particularly with respect to differences in risk as a function of both dose and age, and underscores the deleterious consequences of ionizing radiation exposure.  https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2021/04/21/science.abg2538.full

April 24, 2021 Posted by | radiation, Ukraine | Leave a comment

”Advanced” nuclear reactors not necessarily better. NuScale’s ”small” nuclear reactors not really small

  Johnson Loves Pie in the Sky nuClear News N0. 131 April 2021 ………….. NuScale In Jan 2021, a UK company, Shearwater, announced a partnership with US NuScale to develop 3GW hybrid off-shore wind/SMR plant to produce electricity & hydrogen. (9) The NuScale option, whether as a standalone plant or a hybrid with offshore wind, suffers from the fact that while the individual reactors are small, they are designed to be in as cluster of 12 – about 1GW capacity – making it effectively a large reactor. Until a project being built in the USA is completed and operating efficiently and economically, it will remain an unproven and risky investment. 
The NuScale SMR design is further ahead than Rolls Royce’s, since they have been working on it since 2003. It is a 77MW reactor designed to be deployed in clusters of 12 – so 924MW altogether. NuScale has only one potential project – Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) – with USDOE funding for part of the project but not sufficient investors yet for rest of project. 

M.V. Ramana (Liu Institute for Global Issues, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, The University of British Columbia) argues that higher construction and operational costs per unit of    electricity generation capacity will make electricity from SMRs more expensive than electricity from large nuclear power plants. An assessment of the markets for these technologies, suggests they are inadequate to justify constructing the necessary manufacturing facilities. (10) 
Economics of scale would suggest that SMRs would be more expensive per unit of electricity than large-scale reactors. Proponents argue that they can make up for the lost economies of scale by savings through mass and modularized manufacture in factories and resultant learning. Learning in this context refers primarily to the reduction of cost with increased construction. It is often quantified through a learning rate, which is defined as the percentage cost reduction associated with a doubling of units produced. Sustained learning would require just one or two standard reactor designs to be built in large quantities. However, there are roughly six dozen SMR designs are in various stages of development in multiple countries.

Although there is no data on jobs from SMRs—because SMRs have not been deployed at any meaningful level to measure employment figures—the literature is clear that nuclear power generates fewer jobs than renewables like solar and wind energy per unit of energy generated. (11) (12) 
Several advocates have argued that SMRs are capable of load following to balance intermittent renewables. From a technical point of view, shutting down, restarting, or varying the output power are all more challenging for nuclear power plants, especially water-cooled reactors, compared to other electricity sources. Further, although load following may be technically possible, operating reactors in this mode would decrease their economic competitiveness. The challenge arises from the fact that nuclear power plants have high fixed (capital) costs. Therefore, it makes more economic sense to operate them continuously near their maximum capacity in order to improve the return on investment. Given the already poor economic prospects for SMRs, this penalty will essentially rule out deployment of these technologies in a load-following mode.   

Ramana concludes that pursuing SMRs will only worsen the problem of poor economics that has plagued nuclear power and make it harder for nuclear power to compete with renewable sources of electricity. The scenario is even more bleak as we look to the future because other sources of electricity supply, in particular combinations of renewables and storage technologies such as batteries, are fast becoming cheaper. Finally, because there is no evidence of adequate demand, it is financially not viable to set up the manufacturing facilities needed to mass produce SMRs and advanced reactors. All of these problems might just end up reinforcing The Economist magazine’s observation from the turn of the century: ‘‘nuclear power, which early advocates thought would be ‘too cheap to meter’, is more likely to be remembered as too costly to matter’’.

 Professor Dave Elliott is also sceptical about claims that SMRs can reduce costs. Delivery of power at £40-60/MWh is promised, but there is still some way to go before any project actually goes ahead and we can see if the promises hold up in practice. He says most designs are basically variants of ideas proposed, and in some cases tested, many decades ago, but mostly then abandoned. The most developed is the NuScale reactor, which is basically PWR technology. Rolls Royce is also promoting a mini-PWR design, which, it is claimed, will be ready for grid use by 2030. Some of the other SMR proposals are less developed and may take more time to get to   that stage. But it is claimed that one of the more novel design, the Natrium fast reactor system, proposed by Terrapower and backed by Bill Gates, will be on line this decade. Given that this makes use of liquid sodium and molten salt heat storage, that is quite a claim.

If they are going to be economically viable, some say that SMRs will have to be run in Combined Heat and Power ‘Cogen’ mode, supplying heat for local used, as well as power for the grid. That implies that they will have to sited in or near large heat loads i.e. in or near urban areas. Will local residents be keen to have mini-nuclear plants nearby? That issue is already being discussed in the USA, with some urban resistance emerging. A key issue in that context is that it has been argued that since they allegedly will be safer, SMRs will not need to have such large evacuation zones as is the norm for standard reactors, most of which are sited in relatively remote area. (13)


  “Advanced” is not always better The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), examines all the proposed new types of reactor under development in the US and fails to find any that could be developed in time to help deal with the urgent need to cut carbon emissions. 

The US government is spending $600 million on supporting these prototypes. While the report goes into details only about the many designs of small and medium-sized reactors being developed by US companies, it is a serious blow to the worldwide nuclear industry because the technologies are all similar to those also being underwritten by taxpayers in Canada, the UK, Russia and China. This is a market the World Economic Forum claimed in January could be worth $300 billion by 2040. Edwin Lyman, who wrote the report, and is the director of nuclear power safety in the UCS Climate and Energy Program, thinks the WEF estimate is extremely unlikely. He comments on nuclear power in general: “The technology has fundamental safety and security disadvantages compared with other low-carbon sources.” He says none of the new reactors appears to solve any of these problems. The industry’s claims that their designs could cost less, be built quickly, reduce the production of nuclear waste, use uranium more efficiently and reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation have yet to be proved. The developers have also yet to demonstrate that the new generation of reactors has improved safety features enabling them to shut down quickly in the event of attack or accident. (14)   

One of the industry’s ideas for using the power from these reactors to produce “green hydrogen” for use in transport or back-up energy production is technically feasible, but it seems likely that renewable energies like wind and solar could produce the hydrogen far more cheaply, the report says. 


“Advanced” reactors often present greater proliferation risks, says Lyman. “In many cases, they are worse with regard to … safety, and the potential for severe accidents and potential nuclear proliferation. ‘Advanced’ Isn’t Always Better”. (15) 
Lyman says, if nuclear power is to play an expanded role in helping address climate change, newly built reactors must be demonstrably safer and more secure than current generation reactors. Unfortunately, most “advanced” nuclear reactors are anything but. A comprehensive analysis of the most prominent and well-funded non-light-water reactor (NLWR) designs   concluded that they are not likely to be significantly safer than today’s nuclear plants and pose even more safety, proliferation, and environmental risks than the current fleet. (16)    https://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/nuClearNewsNo131.pdf

April 24, 2021 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK, USA | Leave a comment

Britain’s unlikely-to-succeed bet on Rolls Royce small nuclear reactors

 

…..Advanced Modular Reactors are unlikely to be available before 2045 if ever – much too late to be any help in tackling the climate emergency. .….

Small Modular Reactors s will only proceed if the risk to RR money is minimal. That means RR will only put serious effort into design development with government guarantees given now, before the design exists, and it has been reviewed by ONR, a demonstration plant has been completed, and costs are known. 

SMRs will only proceed if the risk to RR money is minimal. That means RR will only put serious effort into design development with government guarantees given now, before the design exists, and it has been reviewed by ONR, a demonstration plant has been completed, and costs are known. 

UK taxpayers would have to provide a large proportion of the cost of design development, navigating the regulators design assessment and assist in the setting up of component production lines. It would also have to guarantee orders for a minimum of 16 reactors, which, even on Rolls Royce’s unrealistic cost estimate, would be a commitment to spend nearly £30bn before it has progressed beyond a conceptual design.

Johnson Loves Pie in the Sky nuClear News N0. 131 April 2021, We saw in June 2020 (nuClear News No. 126) how the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board (NIRAB) has been advising the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) that we need three streams of nuclear product development and deployment:

 • large-scale Light Water Reactors (LWRs), which are currently available and suitable for baseload electricity generation;
 • small modular reactors (SMRs), which are based on the same proven technology and can offer additional flexibility to meet local energy needs;

 • advanced modular reactors (AMRs), which typically have a higher temperature output, enabling them to contribute to decarbonisation through heat and hydrogen production, as well as generate electricity at competitive costs. 

Small modular and advanced nuclear reactors are proposed, supposedly, as potential ways of dealing with some of the problems of large nuclear reactors —specifically economic competitiveness, risk of accidents, link to proliferation and production of waste. Yet Gregory Jaczko, Former Chair US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says Advanced Nuclear Technologies should only be supported “if they can compete with renewables & storage on deployment cost & speed, public safety, waste disposal, operational flexibility & global security. There are none today.” (1) 

The UK Government’s Policy Paper on ‘Advanced Nuclear Technologies’ (ANTs) specifies two broad categories of ANT. Firstly, Generation III water-cooled reactors similar to existing nuclear power station reactors but smaller, it calls Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). This is despite the fact that the Rolls Royce design which it is supporting is 470MW – much larger than the maximum 300MW defined by IAEA as small.   

  Secondly, Generation IV which use novel cooling systems or fuels to offer new functionality (such as industrial process heat) it calls Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs). (2) 

In July 2019 the UK Government gave an initial £18m to Rolls-Royce to help them develop the design for an SMR. This was to be matched with funding from the consortium led by Rolls-Royce (and including Assystem, SNC Lavalin/Atkins, Wood, Arup, Laing O’Rourke, BAM Nuttall, Siemens, National Nuclear Laboratory, and Nuclear AMRC). (3)

A year earlier, in June 2018, as part of the UK government’s £200 million Nuclear Sector Deal, £56 million was put towards the development and licensing of advanced modular reactor designs. Eight non-light water reactor (non-LWR) vendors each received £4 million to perform detailed technical and commercial feasibility studies. Those vendors were Advanced Reactor Concepts, DBD, LeadCold, Moltex Energy, Tokamak Energy, U-Battery Developments, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), and Westinghouse Electric Company UK. (4) This was Phase One of the Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) Feasibility and Development Project. Then in July 2020 Phase Two was announced with 3 AMRs receiving a share of £40m: U-Battery (4MW hig   temperature reactor), Westinghouse (450MW lead-cooled fast reactor) & Tokamak (fusion). A possible further £5m was also made available to regulators to support this. (5) In November 2020, Boris Johnson’s 10 Point Plan confirmed the Government’s commitment to advancing large, small and advanced reactors, and announced an Advanced Nuclear Fund of up to £385 million which included:


 • funding of up to £215 million for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs); • up to £170 million for Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs); • up to £40 million to develop regulatory frameworks and support UK supply chains to help bring these technologies to market.

According to the Energy & Climate Change Intelligence Unit (ECIU) the investment in small modular reactors (SMRs) was less than expected. “If I was in the SMR game I’d be disappointed with this because £2bn support for a small initial fleet of reactors has been paired back to just over £500M.” (6) 


Professor Steve Thomas says the 3 AMRs are unlikely to be available before 2045 if ever – much too late to be any help in tackling the climate emergency. (7) 

The Rolls Royce (RR) SMR design is still at an early stage. It was only announced in 2016. It is slightly larger than the first unit at Fukushima (470MW vs 439MW) and much larger than the Trawsfynydd Magnox reactors, which were 250MW. Rolls Royce claims the first reactor could be operational by 2030, but it’s hard to see how this can be achieved. Even if achieved it is probably too late. By 2030 only Sizewell B and possibly Hinkley Point C will be operating and if the UK is to meet its targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by 2030 and 78% by 2035, we should by then be well on the road to a low carbon economy with a limited nuclear capacity   

  Thomas says SMRs will only proceed if the risk to RR money is minimal. That means RR will only put serious effort into design development with government guarantees given now, before the design exists, and it has been reviewed by ONR, a demonstration plant has been completed, and costs are known. 

Rolls-Royce told the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee in 2016 that 7GW of power would “be of sufficient scale to provide a commercial return on investment from a UKdeveloped SMR, but it would not be sufficient to create a long-term, sustainable business for UK plc.” Therefore, any SMR manufacturer would have to look to export markets to make a return on their investment.

 Rolls Royce is making extraordinary demands on the UK Government that it must commit to before further significant development work takes place. Thomas says RR would need:   

  •  Exclusive access to UK market; 

• Matched funding (minimum) up to end of Generic Design Assessment;   
  Sharing of costs for production line facilities (to produce 2 reactors per year); 

• Guaranteed orders for 7GW (16 reactors).

 UK taxpayers would have to provide a large proportion of the cost of design development, navigating the regulators design assessment and assist in the setting up of component production lines. It would also have to guarantee orders for a minimum of 16 reactors, which, even on Rolls Royce’s unrealistic cost estimate, would be a commitment to spend nearly £30bn before it has progressed beyond a conceptual design. The first plant must be made using production lines so all 16 reactors must be ordered now & by the time the first is completed, another 8 will be on their way. (8)   

 Rolls Royce claims a construction time of 4 years & costs (after 5 units) of £1.8bn (£3800/kW), which means electricity at £40-60/MWh. These claims are extraordinary but very similar to those made for Hinkley Point C. In 2000, it had been claimed the EPR would be built in four years or less and would cost $1000/kW (about £800/kW). In fact, all EPR’s that have been built have gone far over budget and all will take much more than 4 years to construct. The latest cost estimate for Hinkley Point C is about £27bn (2020 money) or about £8400/kW. Rolls Royce’s claims must therefore be taken with a very large pinch of salt. 

Steve Thomas comments: 
“The UK Government’s ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ 10-point plan of November 2020 seemed to include a major strengthening of the commitment to Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). However, closer examination shows much of the money is far from committed and the focus is on technologies that have little chance of contributing to meeting the UK’s target of zero-carbon by 2050. There remains no firm commitment to the Rolls Royce SMR and it must be hoped the government is unwilling to gamble the huge sums of money Rolls Royce is demanding to be promised if it is to progress the design from the early stage it is currently at.”   ………   https://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/nuClearNewsNo131.pdf


April 24, 2021 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | Leave a comment

Insider threats targeting nuclear plants have always been a concern. A stressful pandemic exacerbates those existing risks.

Insider Threats and Nuclear Security During a Pandemic

Insider Threats and Nuclear Security During a Pandemic

Insider threats targeting nuclear plants have always been a concern. A stressful pandemic exacerbates those existing risks.
The Diplomat, By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, April 23, 2021  Nuclear security is a challenge in the best of circumstances. Those challenges may increase many times over amid the COVID-19 pandemic because government may not fully grasp the consequences and spillover effects of policies they adopt to deal with the pandemic on seemingly unrelated issues. For example, COVID-19 has undoubtedly resulted in enormous economic and social pressures across many societies and consequently, is likely to lead to greater psychological stresses. There is no doubt this will also directly or indirectly affect personnel in sensitive nuclear facilities, leading to potential insider threats. The Review Conference of the Parties to the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) in Vienna this July is a good opportunity to review the status of Personnel Reliability Programs (PRPs) while locating insider threats as part of broader physical protection measures as well.  

In September 2020, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) held discussions over the impact of the pandemic on nuclear plant operations, safety, and security during operations under COVID-19 circumstances, radiation protection, and emergency preparedness. These discussions occurred in the context of the annual meeting of the International Nuclear Safety Group (INSAG), a group of top experts from around the world who debate and advise on nuclear safety issues. The experts highlighted issues like resilience and information exchange as key during these unprecedented times…………

Insider threats could possibly worsen during extremely stressful conditions like the ongoing pandemic………

Even though insider threats may be rare, the consequences are serious when they do occur.  Almost all the recent incidents of nuclear thefts or losses of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) and Plutonium (Pu) have occurred with the help of an employee, or even worse, the crime has itself been committed by an employee. This highlights the vulnerabilities and the salience of this growing threat. …………

The fact that such insider threat possibilities in the context of the pandemic have not figured prominently in national or international discussions should be of concern. The July Review Conference of the Parties to the Amendment to the CPPNM is a useful opportunity to highlight the importance of insider threats and take appropriate steps both at the global and national levels.  https://thediplomat.com/2021/04/insider-threats-and-nuclear-security-during-a-pandemic/

April 24, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, health, safety | Leave a comment

Not necessary to increase USA’s nuclear arsenal – China’s goal is defence – a stronger-second strike arsenal.

We Don’t Need a Better Nuclear Arsenal to Take on China

The military’s arguments for a nuclear overhaul are unconvincing. Slate, BY FRED KAPLAN, APRIL 23, 2021

This week, top military officers launched their big push on Capitol Hill for a total overhaul of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, at an estimated cost of $1.3 trillion over the next 30 years, and their top rationale—the go-to rationale for just about every large federal program these days—was the threat from China.

Their case was less than compelling

Yes, China is displaying some bellicose behavior these days, economically, politically, and militarily. But a new generation of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers, cruise missiles, and submarines would do nothing to deal with the problem.

Adm. Charles Richard, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, which runs plans and operations for the nuclear arsenal, laid out his case in hearings before House and subcommittees on strategic forces. He noted that China is expanding its nuclear arsenal at an “unprecedented” pace, on course to double in size by the end of the decade. It’s building more solid-fuel missiles, which can be launched right away (older liquid-fuel missiles require hours to load). It’s also building better early-warning radar, putting some of its ICBMs on trucks and moving them around. It might have adopted a launch-on-warning policy.

But all of this adds up to something less alarming than Richard’s rhetoric suggested—namely that the People’s Liberation Army is improving its ability to detect, and respond to, a nuclear attack on the Chinese homeland. Even if the Chinese doubled the size of their arsenal, which would give them about 600 nuclear weapons instead of the current 300, it would be well under half the size of the U.S. arsenal, so they would have no ability to launch a first strike against us.

In other words, China seems to be building a more potent second-strike arsenal—what we in the West would call a deterrent—perhaps in the face of Russia’s build-up of medium-range missiles and America’s development of a missile-defense force. This is troubling only to the extent it means that the United States would have a hard time launching a nuclear first-strike against China.

This is a bit troubling, but for reasons that seem less so, the more deeply the problem is analyzed. China’s military strategy is to establish hegemony in the region—especially in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea—and to prevent U.S. air and naval forces from intervening in this area. Beijing has made progress toward this goal by declaring some small islands, which are clearly in international waters, to be Chinese territory and converting them into military bases. It has also built and deployed hundreds of missiles that can attack ships, even large ones, with steadily improving accuracy and steadily longer range. China has also improved its ability to hit satellites and sensors in outer space (through cyber and more conventional means). Again, the goal is to keep the U.S. from intervening in Chinese military ventures. The American trump card in any such conflict has long been its nuclear arsenal (whether any president actually would use nukes to protect, say, Taiwan is another matter), but if China has its own potent nuclear deterrent, this card’s value is reduced: if we attack them, they can attack us……..

But all of this adds up to something less alarming than Richard’s rhetoric suggested—namely that the People’s Liberation Army is improving its ability to detect, and respond to, a nuclear attack on the Chinese homeland. Even if the Chinese doubled the size of their arsenal, which would give them about 600 nuclear weapons instead of the current 300, it would be well under half the size of the U.S. arsenal, so they would have no ability to launch a first strike against us.

n other words, China seems to be building a more potent second-strike arsenal—what we in the West would call a deterrent—perhaps in the face of Russia’s build-up of medium-range missiles and America’s development of a missile-defense force. This is troubling only to the extent it means that the United States would have a hard time launching a nuclear first-strike against China.

This is a bit troubling, but for reasons that seem less so, the more deeply the problem is analyzed. China’s military strategy is to establish hegemony in the region—especially in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea—and to prevent U.S. air and naval forces from intervening in this area. Beijing has made progress toward this goal by declaring some small islands, which are clearly in international waters, to be  Chinese territory and converting them into military bases. It has also built and deployed hundreds of missiles that can attack ships, even large ones, with steadily improving accuracy and steadily longer range. China has also improved its ability to hit satellites and sensors in outer space (through cyber and more conventional means). Again, the goal is to keep the U.S. from intervening in Chinese military ventures. The American trump card in any such conflict has long been its nuclear arsenal (whether any president actually would use nukes to protect, say, Taiwan is another matter), but if China has its own potent nuclear deterrent, this card’s value is reduced: if we attack them, they can attack us.

……. the main point is this: We would gain no leverage in this scenario by building new ICBMs, bombers, cruise missiles, or submarines. To the extent these sorts of weapons loom as the ultimate deterrent, as a sort of overlord to any military competition, we already have plenty.

………. There will be fierce resistance to any slowdown of the strategic juggernaut. Most members of the congressional armed services committees regard the Nuclear Triad with the same veneration that Catholics bestow to the Holy Trinity. When they ask a witness if he believes in the Triad, they do so with a quivering tone, as if they were priests asking a supplicant if he believes in God.

At the same time, budget pressures are rousing some lawmakers to mull, a bit more deeply than before, whether so many nukes are necessary, whether they all have to be 100 percent reliable to deter adversaries from aggression, whether the recondite scenarios and theories of the nuclear game are quite real. It’s long past time to demystify the nuclear enterprise, to strip away the fear and trembling, and ask how many weapons are needed to do what.  https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/04/nuclear-triad-overhaul-china.html

April 24, 2021 Posted by | China, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Brookfield interested in selling its stake in nuclear company Westinghouse

Brookfield explores sale of stake in nuclear firm Westinghouse -sources, Reuters, 24 Apr 21, Joshua FranklinDavid French,  Brookfield Business Partners (BBU_u.TO) is exploring options including the sale of a minority stake in Westinghouse Electric Co that could value the U.S. nuclear power developer and servicer at as much as $10 billion including debt, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The sale plans come as the nuclear power sector may benefit from President Joe Biden’s push to tackle climate change. Biden unveiled a target to slash America’s carbon emissions by the end of the decade to 50% of what they were in 2005, and included nuclear power in the potential energy mix to achieve this goal. read more

While critics argue it is more expensive than renewable power sources and poses heightened safety risks, Westinghouse is among the companies seeking to develop smaller nuclear reactors, which are billed as cheaper and easier to deploy.

Brookfield Business Partners has hired investment banks to engage with potential buyers for a minority stake in Westinghouse, the sources said, requesting anonymity as the discussions are private.

The sources cautioned that there is no certainty Brookfield will find a buyer and that an outright sale of the company is also an option. Brookfield Business Partners and Westinghouse declined to comment.

Brookfield Business Partners Chief Executive Cyrus Madon said on a Feb. 5 earnings call that it could “test the market” in relation to Westinghouse.

“We could hang onto it and continue milking these incredible cash flows, but it will all come down to what’s the value we can get versus what we can create by keeping it,” Madon said.

One of the most storied names in the American power industry, Westinghouse was acquired by Brookfield Business Partners, an affiliate of Canadian asset manager Brookfield (BAMa.TO), in 2018 for $4.6 billion, including debt, from Toshiba Corp (6502.T)……   Brookfield Business Partners Chief Executive Cyrus Madon said on a Feb. 5 earnings call that it could “test the market” in relation to Westinghouse.

“We could hang onto it and continue milking these incredible cash flows, but it will all come down to what’s the value we can get versus what we can create by keeping it,” Madon said.

One of the most storied names in the American power industry, Westinghouse was acquired by Brookfield Business Partners, an affiliate of Canadian asset manager Brookfield (BAMa.TO), in 2018 for $4.6 billion, including debt, from Toshiba Corp (6502.T)…….. Brookfield Business Partners Chief Executive Cyrus Madon said on a Feb. 5 earnings call that it could “test the market” in relation to Westinghouse.

“We could hang onto it and continue milking these incredible cash flows, but it will all come down to what’s the value we can get versus what we can create by keeping it,” Madon said.

One of the most storied names in the American power industry, Westinghouse was acquired by Brookfield Business Partners, an affiliate of Canadian asset manager Brookfield (BAMa.TO), in 2018 for $4.6 billion, including debt, from Toshiba Corp (6502.T)……. https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/exclusive-brookfield-explores-sale-stake-nuclear-firm-westinghouse-sources-2021-04-23/

April 24, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Artificial Intelligence is already a serious problem in military systems

Worried about the autonomous weapons of the future? Look at what’s already gone wrong, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Ingvild BodeTom Watts, April 21, 2021……..a close look at the history of one common type of weapons package, the air defense systems that militaries employ to defend against missiles and other airborne threats, illuminates how highly automated weaponry is actually a risk the world already faces……   while many policymakers say they want to ensure humans remain in control over lethal force, the example of air defense systems shows that they face large obstacles.

Weapons like the US Army’s Patriot missile system, designed to shoot down missiles or planes that threaten protected airspace, include autonomous features that support targeting. These systems now come in many different shapes and sizes and can be typically operated in manual or various automatic modes. In automatic modes, the air defense systems can on their own detect targets and fire on them, relegating human operators to the role of supervising the system’s workings and, if necessary, of aborting attacks. The Patriot air defense system, used by 13 countries, is “nearly autonomous, with only the final launch decision requiring human interaction,” according to research by the Center for Strategic and International Studies………..

Our research on the character of human-machine interaction in air defense systems suggests that over time, their use has incrementally reduced the quality of human oversight in specific targeting decisions. More cognitive functions have been “delegated” to machines, and human operators face incredible difficulties in understanding how the complex computer systems make targeting decisions……….

A study of air defense systems reveals three real-world challenges to human-machine interaction that automated and autonomous features have already created. These problems are likely to grow worse as militaries incorporate more AI into the high-tech weapons of tomorrow.
Targeting decisions are opaque.

The people who operate air defense systems already have trouble understanding how the automated and autonomous features on the weapons they control make decisions…………

The history of Patriot systems operated by the US Army, for instance, includes several near-miss so-called “friendly fire” engagements during the First Gulf War in the 1990s and in training exercises…….. . Rather than addressing the root-causes of these deficiencies or communicating them to human operators, the military appears to have framed the issues as software problems that could be fixed through technical solutions.

Another problem that operators of air defense systems encounter is that of automation bias and over-trust. Human operators can be overly confident of the reliability and accuracy of the information they see on their screens. 

Operators can lose situational awareness………..  In real terms, the machines are now performing the bulk of the cognitive skills involved in operating an air defense system, not just the motor and sensory tasks……….
The tragic 1988 downing of an Iranian Air flight carrying 290 passengers and crew by a US Navy warship, the Vincennes, illustrates how human operators in the midst of combat can misinterpret computer outputs and make fatal mistakes. ………..

Improvements in the speed and maneuverability of modern weaponry continue to reduce the time human operators have to decide whether to authorize the use of force. Take what happened to an unfortunate Ukraine International Airlines jet as a recent example. The Iranian operators of a Tor-M1 system near Tehran’s airport shot down the civilian plane carrying 176 passengers and crew members in January 2020, only minutes after the plane took off…………

Regulating autonomous weapons.   In our assessment, the decades long process of integrating automated and autonomous features into the critical functions of air defense systems has contributed toward an emerging norm governing the use of air defense systems. The norm is that humans have a reduced role in use of force decisions……..

Countries have been debating possible regulations on lethal autonomous weapons systems at the United Nations since 2014. Many states have agreed in principle that human responsibility for using weapons systems has to be retained to ensure that autonomous weapons systems are used in compliance with international humanitarian law. But this raises two questions. First, how can human control over the use of force be defined; and second, how can such control be measured to ensure that it is people, not machines, who retain ultimate control over the use of force?

Almost a decade after a nonprofit called Article 36 introduced the concept of meaningful human control, there is no agreement on what exactly makes human control meaningful. ………………..The current crop of more-or-less autonomous weapons has created norms for human control over lethal force, and policymakers need to understand how these may undermine any (potential) international efforts to regulate autonomous weapons systems.  https://thebulletin.org/2021/04/worried-about-the-autonomous-weapons-of-the-future-look-at-whats-already-gone-wrong/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=MondayNewsletter04262021&utm_content=DisruptiveTechnology_AlreadyWrong_04212021

April 24, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, technology | Leave a comment

Washington’s nuclear industry a costly failure for ratepayers. Now they’re about to fail again, with small nuclear reactors

Advanced Nuclear Dreaming in Washington State, CounterPunch, PATRICK MAZZA  19 Apr 21……………..The WPPSS default was part of the first wave of nuclear failures in the U.S. In the wake of the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, approximately 100 proposed nuclear plants were cancelled. Recent years have seen a second round of failures. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 put $25 billion in nuclear subsidies on the table. That jumpstarted all of four nuclear reactors, two each in Georgia and South Carolina.  The only way Wall Street would touch the projects was to make ratepayers carry the risk by paying for “work in progress” before the first watt is delivered. South Carolina ratepayers won’t even see that. Cost overruns killed the project there in 2017 after $9 billion was thrown away, setting up a political and court fight over whether ratepayers will continue to be soaked.  The last two standing, Georgia’s Vogtle plants, were to have cost $14 billion and come on line in 2016-17. Now costs have doubled to $28 billion and scheduled completion this year and next is considered unlikely.

IS THE SMR A SOLUTION?

SMRs are the nuclear industry’s answer to avoid such failures in the future. Instead of being custom-built and individually licensed, SMRs are intended to cut costs by licensing a single design manufactured at a plant and sent for final assembly to their operating site.  Smaller than the 1,000-megawatt-plus plants with which we’re familiar, SMRs are 100 MW or less, and designed with safety features to prevent meltdowns such as experienced at Japan’s Fukushima plant in 2011. Though there are questions about that, as covered below.

X-energy’s proposed plant is 80 MW. The Washington partnership envisions clustering four to make a 320-MW complex, with costs estimated at $2.4 billion. Half is to come from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), and half from private investors, apparently leaving ratepayers out of the picture this time.

ARDP in 2020 made two $80 million grants to advanced nuclear reactor developers, one to X-energy, and the other to TerraPower, a venture in which Bill Gates has invested. The latter, slated to be 345 MW, aims at eventual scales as large as today’s plants, so it is not an SMR. The TerraPower liquid-sodium cooled reactor concept has its own set of issues. Liquid-sodium reactors have suffered operating difficulties and fires, and pose potential weapons proliferation hazards. The Raven will look at TerraPower in a future post……..

ROCKY ROAD TO MASS PRODUCTION

“The road to such mass manufacturing will be rocky,” Makhijani and M.V. Ramana write in a recent article, “Why Small Modular Reactors Won’t Help Counter the Climate Crisis.” “Even with optimistic assumptions about how quickly manufacturers could learn to improve production efficiency and lower cost, thousands of SMRs, which will all be higher priced in comparison to large reactors, would have to be manufactured for the price per kilowatt for an SMR to be comparable to that of a large reactor.”

That sets up “a chicken-and-egg economic problem,” they write. “Without the factories, SMRs can never hope to achieve the theoretical cost reductions that are at the heart of the strategy to compensate for the lack of economies of scale. But without the cost reductions, there will not be the large number of orders to stimulate the investments needed to set up the supply chain in the first place.”

That is leaving aside the prospect of a design defect being discovered after many SMRs have been deployed. In the 1990s, multiple Westinghouse-built reactors suffered common steam generator problems, resulting in lawsuits. “If an error in a mass-manufactured reactor were to result in safety problems, the whole lot might have to be recalled, as was the case with the Boeing 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner jetliners,” Makhijani and Ramana write. “But how does one recall a radioactive reactor? What will happen to an electricity system that relies on factory-made identical reactors that need to be recalled?”

The economic hurdles of SMRs posed by its competitors are overwhelming.

“Lazard, a Wall Street financial advisory firm, estimates the cost of utility-scale solar and wind to be about $40 per megawatt-hour,” Makhijani and Ramana write. “The corresponding figure for nuclear is four times as high, about $160 per MWh – a difference that is more than enough to use complementary technologies, such as demand response and storage, to compensate for the intermittency of solar and wind.”

While costs for competitors declines, nuclear costs continue to escalate. Cost for a proposed Idaho project by NuScale, another SMR developer, has doubled from an estimated $3 billion in 2015 to $6.1 billion in 2020  “long before any concrete has been poured,” Makhijani and Ramana note……….  https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/04/19/advanced-nuclear-dreaming-in-washington-state/

April 24, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment