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Serious questions about government funding Bill Gates’new confidence-trick, the NATRIUM nuclear reactor

Can we be sure that we will not end up with plutonium-fueled reactors coupled with reprocessing? 

Dangerous Decisions about Advanced Nuclear Reactors Could Lead to New Threats

Congress should have answers to tough questions before giving the Energy Department’s Advanced Reactor Development Program additional funding.
June 27, 2021 Victor Gilinsky, Henry Sokolski

The Department of Energy’s recently launched Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) is slipping by without any close Congressional oversight, which is unfortunate as there are some serious questions that should be answered, including ones related to national security. The program was launched with an award of $160 million to TerraPower for its Natrium design and X-energy for its Xe-100. Each is to build a full-scale nuclear reactor within the next seven years, one that could be duplicated and sold commercially. While not a huge sum, it is intended to be the down payment on over $3 billion, a sum that is supposed to be cost-shared by the companies, with more for other projects.

At a March 25 Senate Energy Committee hearing on “advanced” reactors, executives of the two companies described a future with almost unlimited opportunities worldwide for their reactors, hundreds, maybe thousands. They got an enthusiastic reception from both sides of the aisle, summed up by Chairman Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) final observation that while wind and solar power were OK, “nuclear really does the job.” No one asked how the reactors will be fueled. Will they be fueled with nearly highly enriched uranium, or with plutonium? And what will be the security consequences of selling and encouraging reactors fueled with such fuels around the world?

Despite the enthusiasm for new technology, the “advanced” label is misplaced. These are re-engineered versions of old designs, some over fifty years old. “Advanced small modular reactors” trips off the tongues of people who think they are talking about the nuclear future, whereas in fact, they are talking about reviving the past.  

“Small” is also an inaccurate label. Yes, there are lots of projects for small reactors, but they are a sideshow, for niche applications. The real action, the main ring, concerns larger units. TerraPower’s CEO, Chris Levesque, told the senators at the March 25 hearing that the company was pursuing a 300-megawatt (electric) unit because that was what today’s market would accept. But as it gained experience, TerraPower anticipated “growing Natrium output back up to gigawatt scale,” the size of current large light water reactors. The obvious conclusion is that TerraPower doesn’t think the smaller units would be economic, despite the current ballyhoo about the economic advantages of such units. Levesque thought there was a market for hundreds of the large units domestically and more abroad. As much of the talk was on competing with Russia and China, it is clear that the nuclear industry business plan centers on exporting the technology around the world. 

Above – a different model – NuScale, but see the person indicated – this ”small” reactor is not small

The Natrium reactor TerraPower has promised to build with DOE funds is not, as many people think, the highly advertised “traveling wave” reactor design that TerraPower pursued when started by Bill Gates. That idea involved the active (fissioning) reactor region slowly “traveling” from the center of the reactor core over the life of the reactor, “breeding” plutonium from uranium and fissioning it in place, therefore with no need for reprocessing. That Bill Gates was assumed to be a shrewd investor boosted the company’s credibility. The traveling wave idea didn’t work, but TerraPower retained the label for a different design, apparently because it aids marketing. 

The Natrium reactor is a scaled-up version of a General Electric design for a small sodium-cooled, plutonium-fueled fast breeder reactor (natrium is German for sodium, and “fast” means it relies on energetic neutrons). This is the reactor the nuclear enthusiasts have wanted to build since Congress canceled the Clinch River Fast Breeder Reactor in 1983. The Atomic Energy Commission, the DOE’s predecessor agency, pushed the liquid metal fast breeder (LMFBR) reactors in the 1970s as the energy solution in what was thought to be a uranium-poor world. But it turned out we live in a uranium-rich world so the expensive LMFBR made no economic sense.

It also made no sense to flood the world with untold tons of plutonium when a few kilograms is enough for a bomb. That’s why Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter made it U.S. policy to discourage commercializing of plutonium-fueled reactors. Enthusiasts tried but failed to revive fast reactors as part of the second Bush administration’s Global Nuclear Energy Partnership program. It appears they are trying again. 

TerraPower’s CEO told the senate hearing that the Natrium reactor would be fueled with uranium enriched to just short of 20 percent U-235 (a level that America is trying to prevent Iran from enriching to). It’s the borderline between low and highly enriched uranium. That choice seems to be related to DOE’s interest in developing a large enrichment market for the DOE-created Centrus Corporation, which is a story in itself. 

Widespread use of reactors in this mode would dramatically increase demand for enriched uranium. Will 20 percent enriched uranium remain the preferred fuel for Natrium, or will it revert to plutonium with reprocessing to meet foreign customer interest? (The original GE design included an onsite reprocessing plant.) So configured, the reactor would make and reuse massive quantities of material that could be used to create a bomb. Recently, the Senate armed Services Committee raised this worry with regard to China’s fast reactor program. Congress should nail down the answer to this key question with regard to DoE’s programs.

There is a natural tendency to loosen the financial reins on projects that fall into the research and development category. But the two ARDP projects are prototypes for the commercial market. Congress should have answers to tough questions before giving the Energy Department’s ARDP additional funding. A good start would be to ask: Can we be sure that we will not end up with plutonium-fueled reactors coupled with reprocessing? 

June 29, 2021 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

Old cracked infrastructure – the Florida building collapse – a warning for old cracked nuclear reactors.

embrittlement, pipe cracking, component degradation, technical obsolescence, an aging workforce, rampant incompetence, and worse define the reality of virtually every operating atomic reactor, here and around the planet.

Collapsed Florida Condo Sends a Giant Nuke Warning, By Harvey Wasserman, Reader Supported News, 28 June 21  he horrifying collapse of a south Florida condo should alarm us all about the next reactor catastrophe.

The owners of that 13-story condo were warned years ago that it could implode. They were apparently getting ready for repairs, but in the interim did nothing.

The owners of America’s 93 licensed reactors have been warned for decades that they could both implode and explode. They have also done nothing.

More than 150 people may have died in this avoidable Florida disaster. The death toll from the next avoidable reactor disaster could stretch into the millions, with property damage in the trillions, a blow from which our economy and ecosystems might never recover.

South Florida authorities have now ordered inspections of large buildings over forty years old. Nearly all US reactors – including four on the ocean in South Florida – are also now around forty years old.

They all must be immediately shut for rigorous inspection. To wait is to invite a radioactive version of what just happened to that condo.

The argument is not about nuclear power. It’s about basic sanity.

The industry is currently pushing “new” designs based on fusion, thorium, breeder technologies, molten salt, small modular, and more. None have been proven safe or effective in fighting climate chaos. Nor can they compete with renewables. None have a reasonable prospect of coming online before being completely left in the radioactive dust by accelerating advances in wind, solar, batteries, and LED efficiency.

All are certain to consume huge quantities of public money, pouring into private pockets (like those of Bill Gates) before failing utterly.

But they pale in importance alongside the 93 US reactors (there are some 430 worldwide) now plummeting toward certain catastrophe.

None of these reactors can get private liability insurance against an apocalyptic disaster. Most were designed in the pre-digital 1950s and ‘60s. Many were built with inferior materials and understanding.

Critical welds at California’s Diablo Canyon, for example, contain metal components long since banned. But Unit One continues to operate.

Critical concrete at New Hampshire’s Seabrook and Ohio’s Davis-Besse is crumbling. Fort Calhoun in Nebraska was flooded. Intake pipes at South Texas froze. Reactors in Ohio and Virginia have been damaged by earthquakes. Diablo is surrounded by earthquake faults set to deliver seismic shocks which a Nuclear Regulatory Commission resident inspector has said it can’t withstand. The owners of San Onofre want to bury their high-level wastes ONE HUNDRED FEET from the tide line. Meaningful evacuation planning is nonexistent at sites where nearby population centers have exploded since the original siting approval.

All these old reactors contribute to climate chaos with emissions of heat, radiation, and carbon. They suck up billions of gallons of precious water, then dump it or evaporate it with chemical, radioactive, and thermal pollution. In every case, our planet would benefit from their shutdown.

Virtually all US reactors are almost certainly embrittled, meaning emergency cooling water poured into the core to quell a meltdown would shatter critical components, resulting in apocalyptic hydrogen and possibly fission explosions, as at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

To put it most simply: no embrittled reactor has a workable set of brakes. Yet states like California, and the NRC itself, refuse to conduct relatively cheap and simple open inspections.

Thus embrittlement, pipe cracking, component degradation, technical obsolescence, an aging workforce, rampant incompetence, and worse define the reality of virtually every operating atomic reactor, here and around the planet.

So when we look in horror at that collapsed south Florida condo, with all those innocent souls buried in the rubble, we must remember that later today, parallel pictures could show a mega-hot runaway reactor spewing Chernobyl/Fukushima levels of radiation throughout the ecosphere.

Thankfully, the Solartopian realities of fast-accelerating wind, solar, battery, and efficiency technologies give us the leeway to shut them all NOW.

Let’s do it before it’s too late!!

Harvey Wasserman co-convenes the weekly Election Protection 2024 ZOOM. His People’s Spiral of US History is at

June 29, 2021 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Protests against France’s Tricastin nuclear station, Greenpeace activists face gaol.

 Despite the lawsuits, we, Greenpeace, will continue to warn of nuclear
danger. Thirty-four Greenpeace activists will appear on June 29 in court in
Valencia. They had entered the Tricastin nuclear site to denounce the
danger. Greenpeace reaffirms in this forum its commitment and calls for the
dismantling of the plant.

 Reporterre 26th June 2021

 “40 years is enough”: 300 people gathered in Montélimar to demand the
shutdown of the Tricastin power plant.

 France Bleu 26th June 2021

June 29, 2021 Posted by | France, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

EDF will try to minimise the radiological leak at the Taishan nuclear plant – but the damage is done.

 A minor operating incident of a Chinese reactor at the French-designed Taishan NPP, pinned down by CNN. The small world of nuclear power has still not returned from the tortuous journey of this information. Monday, June 14, the American channel released a world scoop by reporting that the French group Framatome warned the American authorities of an “imminent radiological threat” to the Taishan power plant. In the hours that follow,

EDF, a 30% shareholder in the Taishan EPR plant, will specify that this is only a fuel rod leak (supplied by Framatome), confined in the very secure circuit. primary of a reactor. An operating incident under control, a priori without consequences. But the damage is done.

 Le Figaro 24th June 2021


June 29, 2021 Posted by | China, incidents | Leave a comment

Magnox Silo Liquor “Crack Under Control.” note: it isn’t.

How does the Nuclear Industry get away with wanting to produce ever more and ever hotter nuclear wastes when they cannot contain the existing wastes. The Magnox Swarf silo is leaking – from an unknown point – part
of the silo is below ground. United Utilities are abstracting drinking water for West Cumbria from boreholes at South Egremont a short distance away.

This is just one of the tenders Sellafield has put out for help with “seepage.” Sellafield are asking contractors to help: The Key Questionis “Can We Stop This Leak Which Is In The Building” “Can We Identify The Location”.

 Radiation Free Lakeland 25th June 2021

June 29, 2021 Posted by | incidents, UK | Leave a comment

Russia unveils largest nuclear submarine built in 30 years

Russia unveils largest nuclear submarine built in 30 years Russia has unveiled what’s believed to be its largest submarine built in 30 years amid a tense standoff with Britain in the Black Sea. The Belgorod sailed for the first time today, just days after the Russian military assets fired warning shots at a British Royal Navy destroyer after it came too close to what Moscow has claimed is its territorial waters near Crimea last week.  Bombs were also dropped by jets near the vessel.

While the nuclear submarine’s specifications have not been revealed, the Belgorod will be able to launch nuclear strikes, according to the Daily Telegraph.

It will also act as a mothership for smaller submarines.   

June 29, 2021 Posted by | Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Iraq’s stability depends on Iran and the US re-entering the nuclear deal

Iraq’s stability depends on Iran and the US re-entering the nuclear deal

Reviving the nuclear deal would give Iran less of an incentive to target US positions in Iraq and support Baghdad’s sovereignty.

Iran’s Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi has emerged as president after an election with one of the lowest turnouts in the Islamic Republic’s history.

This outcome favours Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, as it consolidates power in the hands of the so-called “hardliners” in a triumvirate with the presidency and the Revolutionary Guard.

The last time such an alignment occurred was during the Bush administration and the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005. Both alignments also corresponded with more antagonistic American foreign policies.

By withdrawing from the nuclear deal and undermining Rouhani’s foreign policy, Trump  confirmed the hardliner mantra that the US is fickle and cannot be trusted to honour any agreement. He also contributed to Raisi’s election, as well as what is set to be a more assertive Iranian foreign policy towards Iraq. 

But this wasn’t the case before. Former president Hassan Rouhani’s foreign policy sought to respect Iraq’s sovereignty, which was at odds with the hardliners who wanted to use Iraq as a means of challenging the US during the more bellicose Trump administration.

The consolidation of hardliners in Tehran’s leadership today means that its internal foreign policy conflict no longer exists. 

Iraq’s future is now tied to Iran and the US finding an agreement to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal.

After the September 11 attacks, Iran and the US shared enmity towards the Taliban in Afghanistan. The George W Bush administration missed a window to forge relations with what was then a conciliatory Iranian president Mohammed Khatami. Like Rouhani, Khatami sought to engage with the US.

However, the Bush administration declared that the Islamic Republic of Iran formed part of an “axis of evil,” which included Iraq and North Korea. In March 2003, American forces were on Iran’s border, having just successfully invaded Iraq, a member of the “Axis.” 

It was then that Iran offered the US a comprehensive negotiation proposal, where the Islamic Republic was willing to open its nuclear program for inspections, work to stabilise Iraq and cooperate against Al Qaeda, offering Washington what Trump later asked of Iran during his administration.

The significance of this offer was not that it occurred during the presidency of a moderate, Khatami, but that it had the blessing of Khamenei, the key decision maker in Iran.

Yet former Vice President Dick Cheney responded, “We don’t talk to evil,” and the Bush administration never engaged with the Iranian offer.

The Axis of Evil speech led to the victory of Iranian hardliners in the nation’s parliament and after the Iraq War, hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005, an outcome that Khamenei would have favoured then in response to American belligerency.

When Washington refused Iran’s overture, the Islamic Republic then was in a position to undermine US presence in Iraq after 2005. One tool at Iran’s disposal was its support of a variety of Iraqi insurgents to target American forces.

Jump to 2021, and Iran is in a much better position to project its influence in Iraq due to its sprawling network of allied militias. This is a message that the Biden administration has surely received. 

Ultimately Iran, with its new constellation of power in Tehran, has found a way to shore up its position at home and in the region ahead of any potential renegotiations of the nuclear deal.

The future of US-Iran relations

Negotiations over re-entering the Iran deal continue in Vienna. Had these negotiations succeeded under Rouhani’s administration, it would have given the moderate faction in Iran a victory prior to the elections.

While a hardliner consolidation of power would not bode well for Iraq’s sovereignty, a resumption of the Iran nuclear deal would. It gives Iran less of an incentive to foment rocket strikes at US targets in Iraq, which only intensified in the aftermath of Trump’s withdrawal from this agreement.

Ironically, with a hardliner ascendancy today, a new deal is more likely, as there is one Iranian faction at the negotiating table rather than competing ones. This ultimately means Baghdad’s future domestic security is contingent on events in far-off Vienna and the nuclear negotiation.

Notwithstanding the hardliners in power, their legitimacy still rests on getting the Trump-era sanctions rescinded. Meanwhile, the Biden administration most likely wants to settle this issue in the Middle East to focus its efforts on China.

As Ali Vaez and Dina Esfandiary write in the New York Times, “The alternative to negotiations — an exponentially growing Iranian nuclear program — threatens to set the United States and the Islamic Republic on a collision course where there will be no winners.”

In this case there will also be another loser, Iraq, caught again between the two adversaries’ conflict.

June 29, 2021 Posted by | Iraq, politics international | Leave a comment

Russia, China Pledge to Not Use Nuclear Weapons First, Avoid Firing Missiles at Each Other

Russia, China Pledge to Not Use Nuclear Weapons First, Avoid Firing Missiles at Each Other , NewsWeek, BY JENNI FINK ON 6/28/21    Russia and China reaffirmed their friendship treaty amid increasing concerns about their growing relationship and the two countries continued a vow not to fire strategic missiles at each other.

Russia President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping extended the 20-year Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation, a document Putin credited with taking their relationship to “unprecedented height.” An extension that’s set to last for five years, it outlines that both countries will support each others’ right to defend their “national unity” and territories.

Article 2 has both countries promising to using “peaceful means” to resolve their differences, not the use of force, threat of force or economic pressures.

The contracting parties reaffirm their commitment that they will not be the first to use nuclear weapons against each other nor target strategic nuclear missiles against each other,” the treaty states.

Russia and China have grown closer as their relationships with the United States has deteriorated. Although Putin’s summit with President Joe Biden was seen as a positive step, America and Russia failed to see eye-to-eye on a number of topics, but they agreed to work together on the issue of nuclear weapons.

In a joint statement, the two countries agreed to “embark” on dialogue that would “lay the groundwork” for future arms control and risk reduction measures, acknowledging that “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

One of two biggest nuclear powers, Putin’s endorsement of Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy raised concerns. The policy allows him to use nuclear weapons in response to a strike with conventional weapons, or if Russia gets “reliable information” about the launch of an attack against its territory or allies.

The strategy is “purely defensive,” according to General of the Army Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, but he defended Russia’s ability to use nuclear weapons at the Moscow International Security Conference last week…….

June 29, 2021 Posted by | China, politics international, Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Coal-powered bitcoin is an environmental disaster — First University in the World to Use BitCoin? Cumbria! — RADIATION FREE LAKELAND

The latest episode in the process of trying to present Bitcoin as if it’s not only clean but vital to clean power development is particularly bad. The post Coal-powered bitcoin is an environmental disaster appeared first on RenewEconomy. Coal-powered bitcoin is an environmental disaster — RenewEconomy Coal-powered bitcoin is an environmental disaster — RenewEconomy — Antinuclear

Coal-powered bitcoin is an environmental disaster — First University in the World to Use BitCoin? Cumbria! — RADIATION FREE LAKELAND

June 29, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment