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Nuclear power: Why molten salt reactors are problematic and Canada investing in them is a waste

China’smolten salt nuclear reactor

Nuclear power: Why molten salt reactors are problematic and Canada investing in them is a waste, MV Ramana, Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British ColumbiaSeptember 15, 2021 

Should an MSR be built, it will also saddle society with the challenge of dealing with the radioactive waste it will produce. This is especially difficult for MSRs because the waste is in chemical forms that are “not known to occur in nature” and it is unclear “which, if any, disposal environment could accommodate this high-level waste.” The Union of Concerned Scientists has also detailed the safety and security risks associated with MSR designs.

 One of the beneficiaries of the run-up to a potential federal election has been the nuclear energy industry, specifically companies that are touting new nuclear reactor designs called small modular reactors. The largest two financial handouts have been to two companies, both developing a specific class of these reactors, called molten salt reactors (MSRs).

First, in October 2020, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and industry announced a $20-million grant to Ontario-based Terrestrial Energy and its integral molten salt reactor (IMSR) design. In March 2021, New Brunswick-based Moltex received $50.5 million from the Strategic Innovation Fund and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

As a physicist who has analyzed different nuclear reactor designs, including small modular reactors, I believe that molten salt reactors are unlikely to be successfully deployed anytime soon. MSRs face difficult technical problems, and cannot be counted on to produce electricity consistently.

How they work

Molten salt reactors use melted chemicals like lithium fluoride or magnesium chloride to remove the heat produced within the reactor. In many MSRs, the fuel is also dissolved in a molten salt.

These designs are very different from traditional reactor designs — currently, the Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) design dominates Canada’s nuclear energy landscape. CANDU uses heavy water (water with deuterium, the heavier isotope of hydrogen) to transport heat, slow down or “moderate” neutrons produced during fission, and natural uranium fabricated into solid pellets as fuel. Slower neutrons are more effective in triggering fission reactions as compared to highly energetic, or fast, neutrons.

Terrestrial’s IMSR is fuelled by uranium which contains higher concentrations of uranium-235, a lighter isotope as compared to uranium found in nature (natural uranium), which is used in CANDU reactors. The enriched uranium is dissolved in a fluoride salt in the IMSR. The IMSR also uses graphite, instead of heavy water used in CANDU reactors, to moderate neutrons.

Moltex’s Stable Salt Reactor (SSR), on the other hand, uses a mixture of uranium and plutonium and other elements, dissolved in a chloride salt and placed inside a solid assembly, as fuel. It does not use any material to slow down neutrons.

Because of the different kinds of fuel used, these MSR designs need special facilities — not present in Canada currently — to fabricate their fuel. The enriched uranium for the IMSR must be produced using centrifuges, while the Moltex design proposes to use a special chemical process called pyroprocessing to produce the plutonium required to fuel it. Pyroprocessing is extremely costly and unreliable.

Both processes are intimately linked to the potential to make fissile materials used in nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, nine non-proliferation experts from the United States wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressing serious concerns “about the technology Moltex proposes to use.”

Difficult questions

Experience with MSRs has not been very encouraging either. All current designs draw upon the only two MSRs ever built: the 1954 Aircraft Reactor Experiment that ran for just 100 hours and the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment that operated intermittently from 1965 to 1969. Over those four years, the latter reactor’s operations were interrupted 225 times; of these, only 58 were planned. The remaining were due to various unanticipated technical problems. In other words, the reactor had to be shut down at least once every four out of five weeks — that is not what one would expect of a reliable power plant.

Even the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission that had funded the U.S. MSR program for nearly two decades raised difficult questions about the technology in a devastating 1972 report. Many of the problems identified continue to be technical challenges confronting MSR designs.

Another basic problem with MSRs is that the materials used to manufacture the various reactor components will be exposed to hot salts that are chemically corrosive, while being bombarded by radioactive particles. So far, there is no material that can perform satisfactorily in such an environment. A 2018 review from the Idaho National Laboratory could only recommended that “a systematic development program be initiated” to develop new alloys that might work better. There is, of course, no guarantee that the program will be successful.

These problems and others have been identified by various research laboratories, ranging from France’s Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire (IRSN) to the Nuclear Innovation and Research Office in the United Kingdom. Their conclusion: molten salt reactors are still far from proven.

As the IRSN put it in 2015: “numerous technological challenges remain to be overcome before the construction of an MSR can be considered,” going as far as saying that it does not envision construction of such reactors “during the first half of this century.”

Should an MSR be built, it will also saddle society with the challenge of dealing with the radioactive waste it will produce. This is especially difficult for MSRs because the waste is in chemical forms that are “not known to occur in nature” and it is unclear “which, if any, disposal environment could accommodate this high-level waste.” The Union of Concerned Scientists has also detailed the safety and security risks associated with MSR designs.

Problematic solutions

The Liberal government’s argument for investing in molten salt reactors is that nuclear power is necessary to mitigate climate change. There are good reasons to doubt this claim. But even if one were to ignore those reasons, the problems with MSRs laid out here show that they cannot be deployed for decades.

The climate crisis is far more urgent. Investing in technologies that are proven to be problematic is no way to deal with this emergency.

he Liberal government’s 

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Canada, Reference, technology | Leave a comment

Top U.S. general feared that Trump might start a nuclear war

Top general was so fearful Trump might spark war that he made secret calls to his Chinese counterpart, new book says. ‘Peril,’ by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, reveals that Gen. Mark A. Milley called his Chinese counterpart before the election and after Jan. 6 in a bid to avert armed conflict. WP, By Isaac Stanley-Becker, 5 Sept 21,

Twice in the final months of the Trump administration, the country’s top military officer was so fearful that the president’s actions might spark a war with China that he moved urgently to avert armed conflict.

In a pair of secret phone calls, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army, that the United States would not strike, according to a new book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward and national political reporter Robert Costa.

One call took place on Oct. 30, 2020, four days before the election that unseated President Donald Trump, and the other on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Capitol siege carried out by his supporters in a quest to cancel the vote.

The first call was prompted by Milley’s review of intelligence suggesting the Chinese believed the United States was preparing to attack. That belief, the authors write, was based on tensions over military exercises in the South China Sea, and deepened by Trump’s belligerent rhetoric toward China.

“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley told him. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”

In the book’s account, Milley went so far as to pledge he would alert his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack, stressing the rapport they’d established through a backchannel. “General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”

Li took the chairman at his word, the authors write in the book, “Peril,” which is set to be released next week.

In the second call, placed to address Chinese fears about the events of Jan. 6, Li wasn’t as easily assuaged, even after Milley promised him, “We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

Li remained rattled, and Milley, who did not relay the conversation to Trump, according to the book, understood why. The chairman, 62 at the time and chosen by Trump in 2018, believed the president had suffered a mental decline after the election, the authors write, a view he communicated to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a phone call on Jan. 8. He agreed with her evaluation that Trump was unstable, according to a call transcript obtained by the authors.

Believing that China could lash out if it felt at risk from an unpredictable and vengeful American president, Milley took action. The same day, he called the admiral overseeing the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the military unit responsible for Asia and the Pacific region, and recommended postponing the military exercises, according to the book. The admiral complied.

Milley also summoned senior officers to review the procedures for launching nuclear weapons, saying the president alone could give the order — but, crucially, that he, Milley, also had to be involved. Looking each in the eye, Milley asked the officers to affirm that they had understood, the authors write, in what he considered an “oath.”

The chairman knew that he was “pulling a Schlesinger,” the authors write, resorting to measures resembling the ones taken in August 1974 by James R. Schlesinger, the defense secretary at the time. Schlesinger told military officials to check with him and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs before carrying out orders from President Richard M. Nixon, who was facing impeachment at the time.

Though Milley went furthest in seeking to stave off a national security crisis, his alarm was shared throughout the highest ranks of the administration, the authors reveal. CIA Director Gina Haspel, for instance, reportedly told Milley, “We are on the way to a right-wing coup.”

The book’s revelations quickly made Milley a target of GOP ire.

Trump, speaking Tuesday evening on the conservative television network Newsmax, labeled the chairman’s reported actions “treason” and said, “I did not ever think of attacking China.”Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote a letter to President Biden urging him to dismiss the Joint Chiefs chairman, saying he had undermined the commander in chief and “contemplated a treasonous leak of classified information to the Chinese Communist Party in advance of a potential armed conflict …” A White House spokeswoman earlier Tuesday declined to comment on the book. Milley’s office did not respond to a request for comment…………

 In discussions about Iran’s nuclear program, Trump declined to rule out striking the country, at times even displaying curiosity about the prospect, according to the book. Haspel was so alarmed after a meeting in November that she called Milley to say, “This is a highly dangerous situation. We are going to lash out for his ego?”

………………. with Jan. 6, Milley thought as he wrestled with the meaning of that day, telling senior staff: “What you might have seen was a precursor to something far worse down the road.”

September 16, 2021 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | 2 Comments

Tepco technicians ignored Fukushima filters leaking radioactive water.

Technicians at Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant have acknowledged neglecting to investigate the cause of faulty exhaust filters key to preventing radioactive pollution, after being forced to replace them twice. Representatives of the Tokyo Electric Power Company made the revelations Monday during a regular review of the Fukushima Daiichi plant at a meeting with Japanese regulatory authorities.

The plant suffered triple meltdowns following a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011. “At the core of this problem is TEPCO´s attitude,” said a Nuclear RegulationAuthority commissioner, Nobuhiko Ban, at the meeting. TEPCO has been
repeatedly criticized for coverups and delayed disclosures of problems atthe plant. In February, it said two seismometers at one reactor remained broken since last year and failed to collect data during a powerful quake.

Company officials have said that 24 out of 25 filters attached to water treatment equipment had been found damaged last month, after an alarm went off as workers were moving sludge from the unit to a container, temporarilysuspending the water treatment. The operation partially resumed last weekafter filter replacement. The filters are designed to prevent particles from escaping into the air from a contaminated water treatment system – called Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS – that removes selected radioactive isotopes in the water to below legally releasable limits.

 Daily Mail 14th Sept 2021

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

New research shows drastic climate effects of even a ”limited” nuclear war

Climate Change from Nuclear War’s Smoke Could Threaten Global Food Supplies, Human Health, Rutgers University, 15 Sep 21,

Nuclear war would cause many immediate fatalities, but smoke from the resulting fires would also cause climate change lasting up to 15 years that threatens worldwide food production and human health, according to a study by researchers at Rutgers University, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and other institutions.

The study appears in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres.

Scientists have long understood that nuclear weapons used on cities and industrial areas could initiate large-scale fires whose massive amounts of smoke injected into the stratosphere could cause global climate change, leading to the term “nuclear winter.”

But in the new study, researchers for the first time used a modern climate model, including aerosols and nitric oxide emissions, to simulate the effects on ozone chemistry and surface ultraviolet light caused by absorption of sunlight by smoke from regional and global nuclear wars.

This could lead to a loss of most of our protective ozone layer, taking a decade to recover and resulting in several years of extremely high ultraviolet light at the Earth’s surface and further endangering human health and food supplies.

“Although we suspected that ozone would be destroyed after nuclear war and that would result in enhanced ultraviolet light at the Earth’s surface, if there was too much smoke, it would block out the ultraviolet light,” said one of the study’s authors Alan Robock, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “Now, for the first time, we have calculated how this would work and quantified how it would depend on the amount of smoke.”

The study’s results showed that for a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan that would generate five megatons of soot, the enhanced ultraviolet light would begin within a year. For a global war between the United States and Russia generating 150 megatons, it would only begin after about eight years. For intermediate amounts of smoke, the effects would fall between these extreme cases.

For a global nuclear war, heating in the stratosphere and other factors would cause a 15 year-long reduction in the ozone column, with a peak loss of 75 percent globally and 65 percent in the tropics. This is larger than predictions from the 1980s, which assumed large injections of nitrogen oxides but did not include the effects of smoke.

For a regional nuclear war, the global column ozone would be reduced by 25 percent with recovery taking 12 years. This is similar to previous simulations but with a faster recovery time due to a shorter lifetime for soot in the new simulations.

“The bottom line is that nuclear war would be even worse than we thought, and must be avoided,” Robock said. “For the future, in other work, we have calculated how agriculture would change based on the changes of temperature, rain and sunlight, but have not yet included the effects of ultraviolet light. In addition, the ultraviolet light would damage animals, including us, increasing cancer and cataracts.”

The study, which included Rutgers Research Associate Lili Xia, also included researchers from the University of Colorado, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Columbia University, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Autonomous University of Barcelona.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Australian Greens blast nuclear submarine deal

Floating Chernobyls: : Greens blast sub deal, Matt CoughlanAAP, September 16, 2021

The Greens have warned Australia acquiring nuclear-powered submarines will create “floating Chernobyls” in the heart of major cities.

The UK and US will give Australia access to top secret nuclear propulsion technology for a fleet of new submarines to be built in Adelaide through new security pact AUKUS.

Greens leader Adam Bandt believes the move increases the prospect of nuclear war in the region and puts Australia in the firing line.

“It’s a dangerous decision that will make Australia less safe by putting floating Chernobyls in the heart of our major cities,” he told the ABC on Thursday.

It’s a terrible decision. It’s one of the worst security decisions in decades.”

Mr Bandt said the Greens would fight the decision and urged Labor to do the same.

“The prime minister needs to explain what will happen if there’s an accident with a nuclear reactor now in the heart of one of our major cities?” he said.

“How many people in Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth, will die as a result of it? What is going to happen if there is a problem with one of the nuclear reactors?”

It is understood the submarines will not require a civilian nuclear capability but rather will have reactors and fuel which will last the life of the vessel.

Independent senator and former submariner Rex Patrick wants an urgent parliamentary inquiry to report before the next federal election.

Senator Patrick, who has been a vocal critic of the $90 billion French submarine deal that is now over, said scrutiny was crucial.

We have to be careful we don’t move from one massive procurement disaster into something else that hasn’t been thought through properly,” he said.

The government has sunk $2.4 billion on the French program and is negotiating on other compensation, which remains commercial in confidence.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese and three senior frontbenchers received a briefing ahead of the announcement on Thursday morning.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, politics, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

3 old white politicians do a deal for the nuclear lobby – selling U.S. nuclear submarines to Australia

Why Biden Is Taking The Rare Step Of Sharing Nuclear Submarine Tech With Australia, AYESHA RASCOE, 15 Sept 21,

In a rare step, President Biden is announcing Wednesday that the United States plans to share its nuclear-powered submarine technology with Australia.

The announcement comes as Biden tries to refocus U.S. national security and economic policy on the threat posed by China.

There has been only one other time that the United States has shared what a senior administration official described as “extremely sensitive” technology — more than 60 years ago, back in 1958, with Great Britain. The United Kingdom will be involved with the new trilateral security partnership, known as AUKUS.

The decision comes amid escalated tension in recent years over territorial disputes in the South China Sea — a major shipping lane with oil and natural gas resources — with China building military outposts on several small reclaimed islands. The U.S. and other regional partners have stepped up their military presence in the region, and the U.S. is in the process of reorienting its military posture toward the Indo-Pacific.

Ahead of the formal announcement from the White House, a senior U.S. administration official insisted to reporters that the new security cooperation with Australia was not directed specifically at China.

“I think one of the thingsthat the United States has done most effectively in the Indo-Pacific is to secure peace and stability and to be the ultimate guarantor of that rules-based order,” the senior official said. “Over the last several years there have been questions: Does the United States still have the stomach? Do we have the wit and wisdom that we want to continue to play that role? What President Biden is saying with this initiative is, ‘Count us in.’ “

It’s about nuclear propulsion, not nuclear weaponsThe three AUKUS countries will launch an 18-month effort to determine how best to share the nuclear submarine propulsion technology, which will allow the Australian navy’s submarines to travel faster and farther, with more stealth.

“Australia has no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons,” the official told reporters. The Biden administration is working to move past the 20-year war in Afghanistan and the chaotic U.S. exit from Kabul. Biden has put countering China at the center of his economic and national security efforts, describing it as the biggest challenge of this era.

Australia’s prime minister will visit next week

Biden is set to meet in person at the White House next week with the leaders of India, Japan and Australia — what’s known as the “Quad.”

He invited leaders of Japan and South Korea as the first two foreign leaders to visit the White House in person earlier this year. And his first foreign trip in June to the Group of Seven and NATO was also focused on the economic and security threats posed by China.

For only the second time since taking office, Biden spoke last week to Chinese President Xi Jinping. He did not discuss the new security partnership “in any specific terms,” the senior U.S. official said, but emphasized to Xi that the United States planned to play a strong role in the region. 

September 16, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, politics international | Leave a comment

Latest on America’s plutonium ”pits” costly fiasco

Stumbling plutonium pit project reveals DOE’s uphill climb of nuclear modernization,  BY TOM CLEMENTS, — 09/15/21   

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is mounting a full-court press for the “modernization” of the nuclear weapons production complex, an effort packed with capital-intensive projects on which contractors thrive. A cornerstone of modernization, a new plant to make the plutonium “pits” for new nuclear weapons already faces problems. Yet, Congress and the Biden administration are moving ahead despite gathering storm clouds.

“Pits” are the hollow plutonium spheres that cause the initial nuclear explosion in all U.S. nuclear weapons. New pits would first go into the new W87-1 warhead for a new missile, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), meant to replace the U.S.’s current ICBMs. Second in the queue is a submarine launched missile. Both weapons have their detractors, but pits could prove to be their ultimate stumbling block.

The new pit plant will be at DOE’s sprawling Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina. Already SRS’s plans face massive cost increases and schedule delays, causing skepticism in Congress.

In 2020, NNSA presented an initial cost estimate of $4.6 billion for the SRS pit plant. By June of this year that cost estimate had more than doubled to a stunning $11 billion. Timelines continue to slip as well. NNSA has quietly admitted in its fiscal year 2022 budget request that the original 2030 operational date to produce 50 pits had slipped until between 2032 and 2035.  

While more schedule setbacks loom, the NNSA has tried to save some time by cutting corners. The most obvious is the rushed manner in which they conducted a legally required environmental analysis of the project. In their haste, NNSA failed to analyze environmental justice concerns and impacts of pit production across the DOE complex. Of paramount concern, disposal of plutonium waste has not been reviewed. Public interest groups filed a lawsuit against DOE on June 29, demanding preparation of a required Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. A response to the lawsuit is due on Sept. 27. 

None of this should be surprising. SRS lacks pit production experience and has a record of problems. Perhaps that is why the NNSA is also having the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico to also produce pits. That lab has been assigned to ramp up its current pit production with a goal of producing 30 pits per year by 2026 ¾ a tall task for a facility plagued by plutonium-handling problems.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, knows all of this. He highlighted the agency’s chronic inability to carry out modernization projects earlier this year saying, “in nearly every instance, NNSA programs have seen massive cost increases, schedule delays, and cancellations of billion-dollar programs. This must end.”

On Aug. 31, when speaking about pit production in a Brookings Institution virtual event, Smith went further saying that “Savannah River sort of gives me an involuntary twitch after the whole MOX disaster. I don’t trust them.” 

And what a disaster it was. MOX was a plutonium fuel plant at SRS that NNSA wasted $8 billion on before termination in 2018. Smith’s mistrust is well placed— his committee should investigate the failed construction of the MOX plant before handing the same facility billions more for a new project.

In the event at Brookings, Smith defended his lack of action on pits and the GBSD, saying that decisions about them are in a “tactical pause” until the cost of the SRS plutonium bomb plant is clearer and as we wait and see if President Biden will honor his pledge to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, of which almost 4,000 are deployed or in active reserve. 

Of course, Smith is incorrect as there is no pause in either the projects or the spending. If he wants a real pause, he must act. Without strong leadership and oversight, the programs could quickly develop the same inertia as MOX leaving us with another multi-billion fiasco with nothing to show for it.

He and his colleagues should fight to reduce fiscal year 2022 funding authorization in the National Defense Authorization Act for the SRS pit plant ($710 million), Los Alamos pit production ($1 billion) and the W87-1 warhead ($691 million for NNSA and $2.6 billion for the Department of Defense). He should review the reuse of 15,000 existing pits stored at DOE’s Pantex Plant in Texas. He should also demand a proper environmental review of pit production.

Waiting for Biden is an inadequate strategy. Action is needed now by Chairman Smith and Congress to increase our collective security by fulfilling their leadership responsibilities. Requiring a true pause on pit production would not only stop money from being wasted on this project but would act as a wake-up call that nuclear weapons projects don’t have a blank check from Congress.

Tom Clements is the director of Savannah River Site Watch a public interest organization in Columbia, South Carolina, which monitors U.S. Department of Energy management of weapon-usable materials, nuclear weapons production, and clean-up of high-level nuclear waste, with a focus on the Savannah River Site.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | - plutonium, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Iran appoints harsh critic of the nuclear deal to the Foreign Ministry

Crucial changes at Iran’s foreign ministry ahead of nuclear talks

Iran has appointed a staunch critic of the nuclear deal to a position that will have a significant impact on its future.    Aljazeera,  By Maziar Motamedi, 15 Sep 21,

Tehran, Iran – Shortly before talks resume in Vienna around restoring Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, its foreign ministry has made some changes that may well prove critical.

Hardline diplomat Ali Bagheri Kani has been appointed as the new deputy for political affairs, replacing veteran diplomat Abbas Araghchi, who led six rounds of nuclear talks in Vienna up to late July – when talks stopped to allow Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raisi to form his administration.

Araghchi, a career diplomat and senior member of the team that negotiated the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) during the tenure of President Hassan Rouhani, is now an adviser to Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, which may mean he has not been fully sidelined

If the nuclear file stays with the foreign ministry – as opposed to the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) – Bagheri Kani, for years a staunch opponent of the nuclear deal, could become the new chief nuclear negotiator.

But even if he does not lead the negotiations, he is expected to play a significant role in pushing for a stricter stance on the lifting of unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States after it left the deal in 2018.

Bagheri Kani’s appointment was reportedly pushed for by Saeed Jalili, another opponent of the JCPOA and an ultraconservative senior member of the SNSC who ran for president in the June elections………….

The path ahead

The appointments come as Iran and the US, China, Russia, and European powers are expected to return to the Austrian capital at a critical stage for the JCPOA.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman on Monday said the Vienna talks would happen “in the near future”.

Another crisis looming over the resumption of the talks was avoided on Sunday when Iran and the global nuclear watchdog reached an agreement struck in Tehran……………

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Iran, politics, politics international | Leave a comment

Texas to fight on against dumping of spent nuclear fuel in Andrews County

In a statement before the NRC’s announcement this week, Hadden said opponents would “keep fighting” even if the new license were issued. She said legal challenges remain, and she expressed hope that Texas’ attorney general would fight to protect people. A county commissioners’ body in Andrews County, Texas, also backed a resolution against high-level nuclear waste storage this year, local CBS affiliate KOSA reported

Nuclear waste in the oil patch? Feds spark clash with Texas  E and E News, By Edward Klump | 09/15/2021 A site in West Texas now has a federal license to store spent nuclear fuel, setting up a potential showdown with state leaders who oppose the prospect of attracting high-level radioactive waste from across the country.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced the license for Interim Storage Partners LLC to build and operate an interim storage facility in Andrews County, Texas, on Monday — just days after Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill seeking to restrict nuclear waste storage in the state.

Yesterday, Abbott tried to use the new license in the Permian Basin oil patch to hammer President Biden, though an application for the site was filed in 2016, and the Trump administration didn’t kill the project.

“The Biden Admin. is trying to dump highly radioactive nuclear waste in west Texas oil fields,” Abbott said on Twitter. “I just signed a law to stop it. Texas will not become America’s nuclear waste dumping ground.”

David McIntyre, an NRC spokesperson, declined to comment on the governor’s criticism but said in a statement this week that the “licensing decision was made according to the applicable federal statutes and regulations after thorough, multi-year technical and environmental reviews.”

The drama is being watched by the electricity sector, as nuclear power plants continue to store spent fuel on-site without a permanent U.S. repository. Yucca Mountain in Nevada has failed to garner enough sustained support to be an option (E&E Daily, July 22). In the meantime, backers of the Interim Storage Partners, or ISP, site in West Texas and a separate project in eastern New Mexico from Holtec International have pursued interim storage proposals that could last for decades.

The NRC said this is the second license it has issued for a consolidated storage facility for spent nuclear fuel. The first was in 2006 for a different facility that wasn’t built. A decision on Holtec’s application for a site in Lea County, N.M., is expected in January, according to the nuclear safety regulator. Opposition to Holtec’s plan has been bubbling up in New Mexico, as well.

It remains to be seen how the West Texas proposal will proceed from here. ISP could directly challenge Texas’ stance, or it could take a more conciliatory, wait-and-see approach before seeking to move ahead.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, in response to a question from E&E News yesterday, said its “role is to NOT issue authorizations under TCEQ purview as directed in the bill language” if permits are requested for a high-level radioactive waste facility in the state such as the ISP site.

In a statement yesterday, ISP noted that the “proposed facility would be located adjacent to Waste Control Specialists’ existing low-level nuclear materials disposal facility in Andrews County, Texas.” ISP is a joint venture of Waste Control Specialists and Orano USA, along with some support from a technology provider called NAC International. A revised license application was submitted in 2018.

ISP said the federal authorization was based on a through, multiyear review. The venture didn’t indicate its next move or provide responses to questions posed by E&E News.

“The extensive analyses concluded that this facility’s commercial interim storage and transport operations satisfy all environmental, health, and safety requirements without negative impact to nearby residents or existing industries,” ISP said in its statement.

Critics have noted safety worries for people who live in West Texas, as well as concerns about transporting nuclear waste across the country.

“There were no surprises in NRC’s announcement, by Twitter, about approving the license for deadly nuclear waste storage in Texas,” Karen Hadden, executive director of the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development Coalition, said in a statement to E&E News. “There was no acknowledgement of the overwhelming opposition throughout Texas. Just the federal government steamrolling our state to benefit a private company.”

‘Really interesting times’

In a statement before the NRC’s announcement this week, Hadden said opponents would “keep fighting” even if the new license were issued. She said legal challenges remain, and she expressed hope that Texas’ attorney general would fight to protect people. A county commissioners’ body in Andrews County, Texas, also backed a resolution against high-level nuclear waste storage this year, local CBS affiliate KOSA reported……….

September 16, 2021 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, politics, wastes | Leave a comment

A site once earmarked for nuclear power will now assemble wind turbines

A site once earmarked for nuclear power will now assemble wind turbines,   WHYY, This story originally appeared on NJ Spotlight. Tom Johnson, NJ Spotlight, 15 Sept 21,

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority and PSEG have signed a longtime lease on land that is planned to become home to the New Jersey Wind Port — a step enhancing the state’s goal of becoming the hub of a burgeoning offshore wind industry.

The site, located on an artificial island in Lower Alloways Creek in Salem County next to three PSEG nuclear plants, is viewed by the administration of Gov. Phil Murphy as an almost ideal location to serve the supply needs of an offshore wind sector that’s expected to take root up and down the Eastern seaboard.

With an expansive footprint alongside Delaware Bay, lack of height restrictions, and easy access to the Atlantic Ocean’s wind farm lease areas, the Wind Port is one of a few select spots on the East Coast that can accommodate the marshalling, assembly and shipping of the huge turbines used to generate offshore wind power. Hundreds of feet tall, offshore wind turbines cannot fit beneath bridges, power lines and other naturally occurring barriers.

For PSEG, the lease agreement also should prove to be lucrative. The site was once viewed as the location for a fourth nuclear unit. But the company abandoned that concept when it appeared economically unsound. Now it’s looking to use the land to help secure its foothold in the emerging offshore wind industry. PSEG already has a 25% stake in the state’s first offshore wind farm, a 1,100-megawatt facility off Atlantic City to be built by Ørsted……….

“The New Jersey Wind Port is a transformational investment that will create hundreds of good jobs and drive billions of dollars of economic activity in South Jersey and throughout the state,” said EDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan.

PSEG Chief Operating Officer Ralph LaRossa agreed. “Alongside PSEG nuclear plants, the New Jersey Wind Port will establish South Jersey as the heart of New Jersey economy,’’ he said. “By supporting the development of renewable energy and offshore wind power, this lease will establish New Jersey as the destination for clean energy development, operations, training, skills and innovation.’’

New Jersey has approved three wind projects, including two by Ørsted, one of the largest offshore wind developers, and another by New Shell Ventures and EDF Renewables — all in the Atlantic Ocean. The Murphy administration wants to develop 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2035.

Along the East Coast, offshore investment through 2035 is anticipated to exceed $150 billion, according to the EDA.

The first rule of real estate and offshore wind is location, location, and location,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “The New Jersey Wind Port is uniquely positioned to jump start the state’s offshore wind industry and offshore wind in the region.’’

September 16, 2021 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear power companies threaten to shut down plants if Spanish government takes action on soaring bills

Nuclear power companies threaten to shut down plants if Spanish government takes action on soaring bills, EL PAIS,   English version by Susana Urra. 15 Sept 21,

The energy sector says it will be ‘impossible to continue’ if their excess gains are cut as part of the raft of measures aimed at reducing the cost of electricity for consumers

Spain’s energy companies are preparing to fight back against the government’s plans to reduce their “extraordinary profits” and redirect these to consumers.

Soaring electricity bills have become a political problem for the executive of Pedro Sánchez, whose Socialist Party (PSOE) leads a minority government with leftist junior partner Unidas Podemos.

Spain’s wholesale power market, which sets the amount paid by the companies that supply electricity to households, has been posting record-high prices since the beginning of summer. According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), consumers’ electricity bills grew 7.8% in August from July, and 34.9% from August 2020.

On Tuesday, Sánchez announced new emergency measures that include tax cuts and greater protection for vulnerable households that cannot afford their utility bills. But the measure that energy companies are reacting against is the one that would contain their “windfall profits” obtained by by the rising market cost of gas.

A similar formula would be applied to limit profits for hydro and nuclear plants that have no CO₂ emissions but gain from higher prices. This legal initiative affects plants that opened before October 25, 2003, ahead of the creation of the European Union’s CO₂ emission rights market system. It also affects hydroelectricity plants and early renewable plants that began operating before that date……….

Despite the Nuclear Forum’s warning about the risk of having to shut down plants ahead of time due to untenable costs, the owners of these facilities do not have the power to unilaterally decide on their date of closure, but must instead make a request to the relevant ministry. These plants typically operate on 10-year licenses and must honor the timeframes or face hefty sanctions.

There are seven nuclear plants operating in Spain (Almaraz 1 and 2, Trillo, Cofrentes, Vandellós 2 and Ascó 1 and 2), owned by Endesa, Iberdrola, Naturgy and EDP. Their production contributes around 20% to Spain’s energy pool and they are slated to be decommissioned between 2027 and 2035.

“The measures aimed at intervening in the markets go against market efficiency and European orthodoxy and they create a climate of legal insecurity,” said the industry association Aelec, which brings together the energy companies Iberdrola, Endesa, Viesgo and EDP. Company sources said they will analyze the government’s initiative to see whether to mount a legal challenge.

The Nuclear Forum, a group that also includes the main electricity companies, warned that if a government bill on reducing CO₂ emission-related profits gets greenlighted by Congress, “the continuity of Spain’s nuclear plants would become impossible.”……

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Iranian Guards Physically Harassed Female U.N. Nuclear Inspectors, Diplomats Say .

Allegations come amid rising tensions between Tehran and the U.N. atomic energy agency  While Iran says it isn’t trying to build nuclear weapons, a look at its key facilities suggests it could develop the technology to make them. WSJ breaks down Tehran’s capabilities as it hits new milestones in uranium enrichment and limits access to inspectors.   WSJ, By Laurence Norman, Sept. 14, 2021

Iranian security guards have physically harassed several female United Nations atomic agency inspectors at a nuclear facility over the past few months, diplomats say, and the U.S. has demanded that Iran stop the behavior immediately.

The previously unreported incidents at Iran’s main nuclear facility, Natanz, allegedly included inappropriate touching of female inspectors by male security guards and orders to remove some clothing, the diplomats said….. (subscribers only)

September 16, 2021 Posted by | civil liberties, Iran | Leave a comment

USA developing space-based electromagnetic warfare

This is just the beginning.

How DOD is taking its Mission to Space SEPTEMBER 14, 2021 | WALTER PINCUS  Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Walter Pincus is a contributing senior national security columnist at The Cipher Brief.  Pincus spent forty years at The Washington Post, writing on topics from nuclear weapons to politics.  He is the author of Blown to Hell: America’s Deadly Betrayal of the Marshall Islanders (releasing November 2021)

While others this past weekend have been looking back to 9/11, U.S. Space Command is looking forward to the next domain of warfare — in the heavens — to be directed from a Space Electromagnetic Operating Base somewhere in the United States.

Space Command’s Systems Command, Enterprise Corps and Special Programs Directorate, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., are looking for potential contractors to run an ambitious, five-year program that will, by 2027, design, develop, deliver and operate a Space Electromagnetic Warfare facility whose primary purpose would be to jam or destroy enemy satellite and land-based communications in time of war.

It all was described in a request for information published September 1, for possible contractors to provide their potential capabilities and interest in taking on the job.

The U.S. may not have done well here on earth against the Taliban in Afghanistan, but Space Command is moving to stay ahead of its big-power competitors in using the electromagnetic spectrum for use as a weapon against potential adversary satellites in space.

As the Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently described it, “The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of wavelengths or frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. It includes radio waves, microwaves, visible light, X-rays, and gamma rays.”

The majority of military communications capabilities use radio waves and microwaves. Infrared and ultraviolet spectrums can disseminate large volumes of data, including video, over long distances – for example, intelligence collection and distribution. The military can also use lasers offensively, to dazzle satellite sensors, destroy drones, and for other purposes, according to the CRS.

Electronic warfare is not new – it was extensively used in World War II and its uses have been growing ever since.

CRS described it this way: “Missiles in general, and anti-air munitions in particular, use either infrared or radar for terminal guidance (i.e., guiding a missile once it has been launched) to targets. Electronic jammers are used to deny an adversary access to the spectrum. These jammers are primarily used in the radio and microwave frequencies (and sometimes paired together), preventing communications (both terrestrially and space-based) as well as radar coverage. Militaries have also begun using lasers to disable intelligence collection sensors, destroy small unmanned aerial systems (aka ‘drones’), and communicate with satellites.”

Back in 1977, I covered a House hearing when Dr. George Ullrich, then-Deputy Director of Defense Special Weapons Agency, described resumption of atmospheric nuclear testing in 1962 following a three-year testing moratorium. One test, called Starfish Prime, was a 1.4 megaton, high-altitude detonation. It took place over Johnston Island in the South Pacific at an altitude of about 250 miles – the largest nuclear test ever conducted in outer space.

Ullrich testified that the EMP (electromagnetic pulse) effects of the Starfish explosion surprisingly knocked out the telephone service and street lights on Hawaiian Islands, which were 800 miles east of the detonation. Years later, Ullrich wrote that another surprise outcome had been that months after the 1962 detonation, an AT&T satellite transmitting television signals from space died prematurely followed by the early failure of other satellites.

Ullrich closed on a note more relevant to today. “High-altitude EMP does not distinguish between military and civilian systems. Unhardened infrastructure systems, such as commercial power grids, telecommunication networks, as we have discussed before, remain vulnerable to widespread outages and upsets due to high-altitude EMP. While DOD (Defense Department) hardens their assets it deems vital, no comparable civilian programs exist. Thus, the detonation of one or a few high-altitude nuclear weapons could result in serious problems for the entire U.S. civil and commercial infrastructure.”

There are also non-nuclear, EMP weapons that produce pulses of energy that create a powerful electromagnetic field capable of short-circuiting a wide range of electronic equipment, particularly computers, satellites, radios, radar receivers and even civilian traffic lights.

Key to the proposed Space Electromagnetic Operating Base is L3Harris’ next generation CCS (Counter Communications System) electronic warfare system known as Meadowlands, that can reversibly deny adversaries’ satellite communications. In March 2020, Space Force declared initial operational capability of Meadowlands as “the first offensive weapon system in the United States Space Force.” Currently a road-mobile system, an additional $30 million was added to the program in this fiscal year (2021) to “design forward garrison systems…Accelerate development of new mission techniques to meet advancing threat and integrate techniques into the CCS program of record.”

Defense Daily reported last month that in May, Space Force put out a bid for production of an additional 26 Meadowlands systems with production to go on through fiscal 2025.

The first task listed for the proposed, new Space Electromagnetic Operating Base is to provide a “Space EW (Electromagnetic Warfare) Common Operating Picture” that displays relevant space electromagnetic warfare information via the remote modular terminals (RMTs) of the Meadowland program. Another task will be mission planning to include providing “executable tactical instructions, planning weapon-target pairings, & enabling automated control of multiple SEW assets by a single operator.”

The proposal called for the Space EW common picture to depict the current adversary’s Space Order of Battle (SOB), the current state of space electromagnetic warfare tasking, and real-time status of operations.  The information displayed will come from “real time intelligence, C2, and operational units.  The information from intelligence will include SOB and Battle Damage Assessment (BDA). Command and control (C2) will provide its information to SEWOL [Space Electromagnetic Warfare Operating Location] via secure communications. Operational units will provide systems status, electromagnetic support (ES) reporting, Electromagnetic Attack (EA) strike assessment, and remote assets situational awareness (SA).”

The eventual contractor “will integrate the Meadowlands and RMT Remote Operations capability into the facility’s eventual architecture,” according to the proposal. The architecture of the proposed space warfare operating base “will be scalable and flexible to allow incorporation of future SEW [space electromagnetic warfare] systems. Future SEW systems could have substantially different interfaces from the RMT and Meadowlands systems without a baseline interface, and the development of the COI [common operating interface] will help streamline integration of future systems,” according to the proposal.

While Space Command is focused on an initial location in the continental U.S., the proposal said, “It will then expand to include multiple geographically dispersed operating locations…[which] will be able to control a scalable number of assets. In addition, they can be used interchangeably and/or collaboratively to provide high resiliency and operational flexibility.”

Three weeks ago, on August 24, Army Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander, declared the nation’s 11th combatant command achieved initial operational capability (IOC). “We are a very different command today at IOC then we were at stand-up in 2019 — having matured and grown into a war fighting force, prepared to address threats from competition to conflict in space, while also protecting and defending our interests in this vast and complex domain.”

to conflict in space, while also protecting and defending our interests in this vast and complex domain.”

This is just the beginning.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Reference, space travel, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Time to rethink Hinkley C nuclear plan – biased research minimises harm to fish

 Katie Attwater: In your article last week§ionIs=news&searchyear=2021
) EDF disputed the figure of 11 billion fish that will be killed over the
60 year life of Hinkley C. EDF said that an “independent” study had
shown that HPC would have a neglible impact on the Fish Population.

The independent study they refer to was carried out by the commercial arm of
CEFAS, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture, who are under
contract to EDF to do their research and have been in receipt of
£8.3million pounds from EDF between 2015 and 2018.

The figure of 11 billion fish lives lost over 60 yrs of HPC operation was calculated by **PA
Henderson, expert on fish populations in changing environments, who stated
that he had made a conservative estimate, based on fish deaths at Hinkley A
and B, and the actual number is probably higher.

If we knew in 2013 what we
know now a cooling system using the water of the Severn Estuary and all its
rivers would never have been allowed.

Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Director of
Conservation James Robinson said: “This is a landmark moment for the
UK’s energy and its environment. The authorities must decide if it’s
worth building a giant plughole to suck millions of sea animals to their
deaths, in one of our most important protected marine areas, in order to
produce electricity?

The obvious answer is that alternatives exist and are
used elsewhere – so if they accept this cheapest and most damaging option,
the UK will be a global environmental embarrassment. We think it’s time
for a rethink.”

 West Somerset Free Press (not on the web) 10th Sept 2021

September 16, 2021 Posted by | environment, UK | Leave a comment

North Korea, nuclear proliferation and why the ‘madman theory’ is wrong about Kim Jong-unç

North Korea, nuclear proliferation and why the ‘madman theory’ is wrong about Kim Jong-unç, Colin Alexander, Lecturer in Political Communications, Nottingham Trent University 15 Sep 21,  The two missile tests conducted by North Korea in recent days have reopened discussions about the country, its leadership, its foreign policy, its perception around the world and the use (and usefulness) of nuclear weapons as an option within global politics.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency announced on September 12 that it had test-fired a new long-range cruise missile, believed by analysts to be the country’s first missile with the capacity to carry a nuclear warhead.

Three days later the South Korean military said the North had launched “two unidentified ballistic missiles” into the Sea of Japan, prompting Japan’s outgoing prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, to order his country’s defence agencies to investigate.

North Korea usually makes grand nuclear statements like the ones we have seen in recent days during early September to mark the founding of the DPRK on September 9 1948. As such, these tests are as much about domestic propaganda and internal regime prestige as they are about threat to the outside world.

More broadly though, North Korea’s advance of its nuclear weapons technology – off and on since the 1950s – has made its integration with the rest of the international community much less likely. This is primarily on account of its development coming at considerable cost and sacrifice to the small nation.

No moral high ground

It can be argued that, given the indiscriminate barbarity of the destruction that a nuclear attack would cause, no state has a moral right to nuclear weapons over that of another state. But countries which already have a nuclear arsenal will often push the line that while it’s OK for them to have a nuclear stockpile, other countries do not necessarily have that right. These communications often rely on a manufactured sense of who is responsible and stable-minded and who is irresponsible and unstable. In short, it is an attempt to create a polarised world of good and evil.

This simplistic polarisation is encouraged through government communications regarding foreign policy. But they also depend on wider more implicit perception management strategies. These include harnessing the agendas of global mainstream news media and exporting popular culture products, films, television programmes and the like, that seek to encourage certain worldviews and to marginalise ones that are undesirable to the world’s most powerful nations.

It should always be remembered that the United States is the only state to have used nuclear weapons as an act of war (twice during 1945). Yet it declares North Korea to be a nuclear threat based on its “madness” (Donald Trump repeatedly called Kim Jong-un “mad”). But if we are to believe revelations from the upcoming book Peril by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, America’s top military personnel had to take action in the final months of the Trump administration to limit any risks of a nuclear showdown with China.

It’s probably true to say that few aspiring candidates for high office are going to say that they would never use their country’s nuclear capability in any circumstance. But it could also be said that any head of government who boasts of their readiness to use nuclear weapons is demonstrating their lack of fitness to govern. But, as the first part of this paragraph suggests, no candidate is likely to make this assertion.

Madman’ theory wrong

There is no evidence that the previous leaders of North Korea, Kim Il-sung or Kim Jong-il, were assessed by psychologists and found to be suffering from mental ill health. This is also true of Kim Jong-un, the country’s current leader – in fact before Kim’s summit with Trump in 2018, a former State Department psychiatrist, Kenneth Dekleva, who creates psychological profiles of foreign leaders, told America’s National Public Radio that: “I think the madman theory was wrong.”

I would say he’s smart, that he’s a very, very savvy diplomat, a leader with a sense of gravitas. He wants to be a player on the world stage.

For Simon Cross, a colleague of mine at Nottingham Trent University, “madness” is an imprecise term and a cultural construct that does not require a trained medical professional to identify it, but it resonates with ease with audiences when uttered by someone they trust. Stephen Harper at the University of Portsmouth, says our perception of what represents “madness” is based on uncritical interpretations of the past and fantasies and inclinations within the human mind towards what he calls “self-haunting”. These tropes are perpetuated, confirmed and even encouraged at the persuasion of powerful individuals reinforced by mainstream media content.

So, for example, the Hollywood films Team America: World Police (2004) and The Interview (2014), despite being satires of North Korea’s leaders, promote this idea of the North Korean leader and his senior advisers as mad.  And Trump kept hammering at this with his regular references to Kim as a “madman”, as “crazy” and as a “little rocket man”.

North Korea’s prevailing international image of being mad is thus predominantly the creation of hostile external parties. But Pyongyang has also played up to it at times when it has been deemed useful – as the psychologist Dekleva said earlier in this article, it could be a useful tool of diplomacy. This is a theme explored by Niccolo Machiavelli in his book The Prince in 1517.

That said, what is perhaps most interesting is the extent to which recent US administrations and their allies appear to have come to believe the madness story – despite the fact that they are largely responsible for it. This has been the case with successive US administrations – but whether they genuinely believe it, or perpetuate it because it is convenient to their wider foreign policy ambitions to do so, remains to be seen.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | culture and arts, North Korea, politics, psychology - mental health | Leave a comment