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TODAY: Toad’s new fad- nuclear fusion.

Sadly, in this age of omnipresent Disney characters, it is rare to see the whimsical children’s favoutites of last century. Mr Toad, of the Wind in the Willows, was a great favourite. Lovable, but foolish, he entertained with his enthusiastic obsessions for new technology, inevitably ending himself in trouble. Luckily those surrounding him saw through his follies, and helped him scrape out.

Not so lovable, today’s technical experts come up with new nuclear gimmicks, and the media fawn over them.

Today I find news item after news item, whether it be in print, radio TV or social media – extolling the wonder of the latest nuclear fusion breakthrough.

Wow! It will be boundless, super-clean, cheap electricity for all of us! We can hardly wait – to spend $squillions of tax-payer funding to produce this planet-saving marvel!

I tell you – you gotta scour through a heap of information to find these little scraps of thoughtful knowledge:

  • The lasers creating the nuclear fusion  emitted 2.05 megajoules, but they took about 500 megajoules of energy to power, 
  • the actual experiment made a tiny  net gain of 1.1 megajoules of energy. (Expert Gordon Edwards estimates that a typical household  averages 273 megajoules per day). 
  • it will take at least 20-30 years to have a prototype fusion reactor in operation, even if things go quite well, and more decades will be required to scale it up to a commercial level.
  • fusion reactors will not produce high-level nuclear waste, but  will release an enormous amount of tritium (radioactive hydrogen) to the environment.
  • the structural materials in a fusion reactor will become very radioactive. The decommissioning wastes will remain dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years
  • And of course – there’s a military connection, (as with all nuclear stuff)


December 14, 2022 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

Fusion “breakthrough” is largely irrelevant to the climate crisis 

Gordon Edwards 15 Dec 22

Just a short commentary on the  “fusion breakthrough” this week.
The experiment took place at the Lawrence Radiation Lab, a pre-eminent weapons Laboratory in California once directed by Edward Teller.

Jubilation is felt because, for the first time in over 60 years of effort costing many billions of dollars, a greater amount of energy came  out of an extremely short-lived fusion reaction than the amount of energy needed to trigger it in the first place. The net energy gain was about 50 percent.

It all happened very quickly. “The energy production took less time than it takes light to travel one inch,” said Dr Marvin Adams, at the NNSA.  (NNSA = National Nuclear Security Administration)

Here are a few details –

1) In an earlier email ( )I described the “magnetic confinement” concept, whereby an electromagnetic force field holds a very hot plasma of hydrogen gases inside a doughnut-shaped torus (typical of the Tokamak and its close relatives). In this case, “very hot”. Means about 150 million degrees C.  

But the breakthrough that is being bally-hooed now, since Tuesday December 13, is a different kind of process altogether, using a concept called “inertial confinement”.

The experiment involved a small pellet about the size of a peppercorn. This pellet contained, in its interior, a mixture of deuterium and tritium gases, two rare hydrogen isotopes.  In the experiment, the pellet’s exterior was blasted by x-rays triggered by a battery of 192 very powerful lasers, all targeted on the inner walls of a cylinder made of gold. The lasers generated x-rays on contact with the goldatoms, and those x-rays were focussed by the curving cylinder walls on the little peppercorn-sized pellet in the middle of the gold cylinder.

The x-rays heated the outer shell of the pellet to more than three million degrees, making the exterior of the pellet explode outwards, and (by Newtons “action-reaction” principle) causing the inner gases to be compressed to a very high density at an extremely high temperature, presumably to over 100 million degrees. It is a high-energy kind of implosion, causing fusion to occur in the very centre. The peppercorn “pops”.

2) The experimenters input 2.05 megajoules of energy to the target, and the result was 3.15 megajoules of fusion energy output – that is over 50% more energy than was put in (for a net gain of 1.1 megajoules). This suggests that the fusion reaction inside the pellet may have triggered other fusion reactions.

How much energy is that? Well, a typical household uses about 100,000 megajoules of energy per year, or an average of 273 megajoules per day.  So 1.1 megajoules is not much.  But it is greater than the input energy.

The Tokamak project now under construction in France for the ITER project, using magnetic confinement, is hoping to have a net energy gain factorof 10 or more (i.e. 10 times as much energy output as energy input).

Earlier this year, in February 2022, the UK JET laboratory announced thatthey had managed to have a fusion reaction last for five seconds. Thereaction produced 59 megajoules of energy, but without a net gain in energy.

3) Most of the news stories about this event state, erroneously, that fusionreactors will not produce any radioactive wastes. This is untrue. 
It is true that fusion reactors will not produce high-level; nuclear waste(irradated nuclear fuel), but It is expected that fusion reactors will release an enormous amount of tritium (radioactive hydrogen) to the environment— far more than is currently released by CANDU reactors, which in turn release 30 to 100 times more tritium than light water fission reactors. 

Moreover, because of neutron irradiation, the structural materials in a fusion reactor will beome very radioactive. The decommissioning wastes will remain dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

4) Many experts believe it will take at least 20-30 years to have a prototype fusion reactor in operation, even if things go quite well, and more decades will be required to scale it up to a commercial level.  Thus fusion energy will be largely irrelevant to the climate emergency we are now facing as all of the critical decision points will have passed before fusion is available. 

And, of course, there are no guarantees even then. As one commentator sardonically remarked, fusion energy is 20 years away,it always has been, and perhaps it always will be. 

December 14, 2022 Posted by | Reference, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Dismantling Sellafield: the epic task of shutting down a nuclear site

Nothing is produced at Sellafield anymore. But making safe what is left behind is an almost unimaginably expensive and complex task that requires us to think not on a human timescale, but a planetary one

Guardian, by Samanth Subramanian 15 Dec 22,

“……………………………………………………………………….. Laid out over six square kilometres, Sellafield is like a small town, with nearly a thousand buildings, its own roads and even a rail siding – all owned by the government, and requiring security clearance to visit………. having driven through a high-security gate, you’re surrounded by towering chimneys, pipework, chugging cooling plants, everything dressed in steampunk. The sun bounces off metal everywhere. In some spots, the air shakes with the noise of machinery. It feels like the most manmade place in the world.

Since it began operating in 1950, Sellafield has had different duties. First it manufactured plutonium for nuclear weapons. Then it generated electricity for the National Grid, until 2003. It also carried out years of fuel reprocessing: extracting uranium and plutonium from nuclear fuel rods after they’d ended their life cycles. The very day before I visited Sellafield, in mid-July, the reprocessing came to an end as well. It was a historic occasion. From an operational nuclear facility, Sellafield turned into a full-time storage depot – but an uncanny, precarious one, filled with toxic nuclear waste that has to be kept contained at any cost.

Nothing is produced at Sellafield any more. Which was just as well, because I’d gone to Sellafield not to observe how it lived but to understand how it is preparing for its end. Sellafield’s waste – spent fuel rods, scraps of metal, radioactive liquids, a miscellany of other debris – is parked in concrete silos, artificial ponds and sealed buildings. Some of these structures are growing, in the industry’s parlance, “intolerable”, atrophied by the sea air, radiation and time itself. If they degrade too much, waste will seep out of them, poisoning the Cumbrian soil and water.

To prevent that disaster, the waste must be hauled out, the silos destroyed and the ponds filled in with soil and paved over. The salvaged waste will then be transferred to more secure buildings that will be erected on site. But even that will be only a provisional arrangement, lasting a few decades. Nuclear waste has no respect for human timespans. The best way to neutralise its threat is to move it into a subterranean vault, of the kind the UK plans to build later this century.

Once interred, the waste will be left alone for tens of thousands of years, while its radioactivity cools. Dealing with all the radioactive waste left on site is a slow-motion race against time, which will last so long that even the grandchildren of those working on site will not see its end. The process will cost at least £121bn.

Compared to the longevity of nuclear waste, Sellafield has only been around for roughly the span of a single lunch break within a human life. Still, it has lasted almost the entirety of the atomic age, witnessing both its earliest follies and its continuing confusions. In 1954, Lewis Strauss, the chair of the US Atomic Energy Commission, predicted that nuclear energy would make electricity “too cheap to meter”. That forecast has aged poorly. The main reason power companies and governments aren’t keener on nuclear power is not that activists are holding them back or that uranium is difficult to find, but that producing it safely is just proving too expensive.

… The short-termism of policymaking neglected any plans that had to be made for the abominably lengthy, costly life of radioactive waste. I kept being told, at Sellafield, that science is still trying to rectify the decisions made in undue haste three-quarters of a century ago. Many of the earliest structures here, said Dan Bowman, the head of operations at one of Sellafield’s two waste storage ponds, “weren’t even built with decommissioning in mind”.

As a result, Bowman admitted, Sellafield’s scientists are having to invent, mid-marathon, the process of winding the site down – and they’re finding that they still don’t know enough about it. They don’t know exactly what they’ll find in the silos and ponds. They don’t know how much time they’ll need to mop up all the waste, or how long they’ll have to store it, or what Sellafield will look like afterwards. The decommissioning programme is laden “with assumptions and best guesses”, Bowman told me. It will be finished a century or so from now. Until then, Bowman and others will bend their ingenuity to a seemingly self-contradictory exercise: dismantling Sellafield while keeping it from falling apart along the way.

To take apart an ageing nuclear facility, you have to put a lot of other things together first. New technologies, for instance, and new buildings to replace the intolerable ones, and new reserves of money. (That £121bn price tag may swell further.) All of Sellafield is in a holding pattern, trying to keep waste safe until it can be consigned to the ultimate strongroom: the geological disposal facility (GDF), bored hundreds of metres into the Earth’s rock, a project that could cost another £53bn. Even if a GDF receives its first deposit in the 2040s, the waste has to be delivered and put away with such exacting caution that it can be filled and closed only by the middle of the 22nd century.

Anywhere else, this state of temporariness might induce a mood of lax detachment, like a transit lounge to a frequent flyer. But at Sellafield, with all its caches of radioactivity, the thought of catastrophe is so ever-present that you feel your surroundings with a heightened keenness. At one point, when we were walking through the site, a member of the Sellafield team pointed out three different waste storage facilities within a 500-metre radius. The spot where we stood on the road, he said, “is probably the most hazardous place in Europe”.

Sellafield’s waste comes in different forms and potencies. Spent fuel rods and radioactive pieces of metal rest in skips, which in turn are submerged in open, rectangular ponds, where water cools them and absorbs their radiation. The skips have held radioactive material for so long that they themselves count as waste. The pond beds are layered with nuclear sludge: degraded metal wisps, radioactive dust and debris. Discarded cladding, peeled off fuel rods like banana-skins, fills a cluster of 16-metre-deep concrete silos partially sunk into the earth.

More dangerous still are the 20 tonnes of melted fuel inside a reactor that caught fire in 1957 and has been sealed off and left alone ever since. Somewhere on the premises, Sellafield has also stored the 140 tonnes of plutonium it has purified over the decades. It’s the largest such hoard of plutonium in the world, but it, too, is a kind of waste, simply because nobody wants it for weapons any more, or knows what else to do with it.


………………………………… I only ever saw a dummy of a spent fuel rod; the real thing would have been a metre long, weighed 10-12kg, and, when it emerged from a reactor, run to temperatures of 2,800C, half as hot as the surface of the sun. In a reactor, hundreds of rods of fresh uranium fuel slide into a pile of graphite blocks. Then a stream of neutrons, usually emitted by an even more radioactive metal such as californium, is directed into the pile. Those neutrons generate more neutrons out of uranium atoms, which generate still more neutrons out of other uranium atoms, and so on, the whole process begetting vast quantities of heat that can turn water into steam and drive turbines.

During this process, some of the uranium atoms, randomly but very usefully, absorb darting neutrons, yielding heavier atoms of plutonium: the stuff of nuclear weapons. The UK’s earliest reactors – a type called Magnox – were set up to harvest plutonium for bombs; the electricity was a happy byproduct. The government built 26 such reactors across the country. They’re all being decommissioned now, or awaiting demolition. It turned out that if you weren’t looking to make plutonium nukes to blow up cities, Magnox was a pretty inefficient way to light up homes and power factories.

For most of the latter half of the 20th century, one of Sellafield’s chief tasks was reprocessing. Once uranium and plutonium were extracted from used fuel rods, it was thought, they could be stored safely – and perhaps eventually resold, to make money on the side. Beginning in 1956, spent rods came to Cumbria from plants across the UK, but also by sea from customers in Italy and Japan. Sellafield has taken in nearly 60,000 tonnes of spent fuel, more than half of all such fuel reprocessed anywhere in the world. The rods arrived at Sellafield by train, stored in cuboid “flasks” with corrugated sides, each weighing about 50 tonnes and standing 1.5 metres tall.

………….. at last, the reprocessing plant will be placed on “fire watch”, visited periodically to ensure nothing in the building is going up in flames, but otherwise left alone for decades for its radioactivity to dwindle, particle by particle.

ike malign glitter, radioactivity gets everywhere, turning much of what it touches into nuclear waste. The humblest items – a paper towel or a shoe cover used for just a second in a nuclear environment – can absorb radioactivity, but this stuff is graded as low-level waste; it can be encased in a block of cement and left outdoors. (Cement is an excellent shield against radiation. A popular phrase in the nuclear waste industry goes: “When in doubt, grout.”) Even the paper towel needs a couple of hundred years to shed its radioactivity and become safe, though. A moment of use, centuries of quarantine: radiation tends to twist time all out of proportion.

On the other hand, high-level waste – the byproduct of reprocessing – is so radioactive that its containers will give off heat for thousands of years. …………………………….

Waste can travel incognito, to fatal effect: radioactive atoms carried by the wind or water, entering living bodies, riddling them with cancer, ruining them inside out. During the 1957 reactor fire at Sellafield, a radioactive plume of particles poured from the top of a 400-foot chimney. A few days later, some of these particles were detected as far away as Germany and Norway. Near Sellafield, radioactive iodine found its way into the grass of the meadows where dairy cows grazed, so that samples of milk taken in the weeks after the fire showed 10 times the permissible level. The government had to buy up milk from farmers living in 500 sq km around Sellafield and dump it in the Irish Sea.

From the outset, authorities hedged and fibbed. For three days, no one living in the area was told about the gravity of the accident, or even advised to stay indoors and shut their windows. Workers at Sellafield, reporting their alarming radiation exposure to their managers, were persuaded that they’d “walk [it] off on the way home”, the Daily Mirror reported at the time. A government inquiry was then held, but its report was not released in full until 1988. For nearly 30 years, few people knew that the fire dispersed not just radioactive iodine but also polonium, far more deadly. The estimated toll of cancer deaths has been revised upwards continuously, from 33 to 200 to 240. Sellafield took its present name only in 1981, in part to erase the old name, Windscale, and the associated memories of the fire.

The invisibility of radiation and the opacity of governments make for a bad combination. Sellafield hasn’t suffered an accident of equivalent scale since the 1957 fire, but the niggling fear that some radioactivity is leaking out of the facility in some fashion has never entirely vanished. In 1983, a Sellafield pipeline discharged half a tonne of radioactive solvent into the sea. British Nuclear Fuels Limited, the government firm then running Sellafield, was fined £10,000. Around the same time, a documentary crew found higher incidences than expected of leukaemia among children in some surrounding areas. A government study concluded that radiation from Sellafield wasn’t to blame. Perhaps, the study suggested, the leukaemia had an undetected, infectious cause.

It was no secret that Sellafield kept on site huge stashes of spent fuel rods, waiting to be reprocessed. This was lucrative work. An older reprocessing plant on site earned £9bn over its lifetime, half of it from customers overseas. But the pursuit of commercial reprocessing turned Sellafield and a similar French site into “de facto waste dumps”, the journalist Stephanie Cooke found in her book In Mortal Hands. Sellafield now requires £2bn a year to maintain. What looked like a smart line of business back in the 1950s has now turned out to be anything but. With every passing year, maintaining the world’s costliest rubbish dump becomes more and more commercially calamitous.

The expenditure rises because structures age, growing more rickety, more prone to mishap. In 2005, in an older reprocessing plant at Sellafield, 83,000 litres of radioactive acid – enough to fill a few hundred bathtubs – dripped out of a ruptured pipe. The plant had to be shut down for two years; the cleanup cost at least £300m. …………………………………………………………………………….

Waste disposal is a completely solved problem,” Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb, declared in 1979. He was right, but only in theory. The nuclear industry certainly knew about the utility of water, steel and concrete as shields against radioactivity, and by the 1970s, the US government had begun considering burying reactor waste in a GDF. But Teller was glossing over the details, namely: the expense of keeping waste safe, the duration over which it has to be maintained, the accidents that could befall it, the fallout of those accidents. Four decades on, not a single GDF has begun to operate anywhere in the world. Teller’s complete solution is still a hypothesis.

Instead, there have been only interim solutions, although to a layperson, even these seem to have been conceived in some scientist’s intricate delirium. High-level waste, like the syrupy liquor formed during reprocessing, has to be cooled first, in giant tanks. Then it is vitrified: mixed with three parts glass beads and a little sugar, until it turns into a hot block of dirty-brown glass. (The sugar reduces the waste’s volatility. “We like to get ours from Tate & Lyle,” Eva Watson-Graham, a Sellafield information officer, said.) Since 1991, stainless steel containers full of vitrified waste, each as tall as a human, have been stacked 10-high in a warehouse. If you stand on the floor above them, Watson-Graham said, you can still sense a murmuring warmth on the soles of your shoes.

Even this elaborate vitrification is insufficient in the long, long, long run. Fire or flood could destroy Sellafield’s infrastructure. Terrorists could try to get at the nuclear material. Governments change, companies fold, money runs out. Nations dissolve. Glass degrades. The ground sinks and rises, so that land becomes sea and sea becomes land. The contingency planning that scientists do today – the kind that wasn’t done when the industry was in its infancy – contends with yawning stretches of time. Hence the GDF: a terrestrial cavity to hold waste until its dangers have dried up and it becomes as benign as the surrounding rock.

A glimpse of such an endeavour is available already, beneath Finland. From Helsinki, if you drive 250km west, then head another half-km down, you will come to a warren of tunnels called Onkalo…………. If Onkalo begins operating on schedule, in 2025, it will be the world’s first GDF for spent fuel and high-level reactor waste – 6,500 tonnes of the stuff, all from Finnish nuclear stations. It will cost €5.5bn and is designed to be safe for a million years. The species that is building it, Homo sapiens, has only been around for a third of that time.

………. In the 2120s, once it has been filled, Onkalo will be sealed and turned over to the state. Other countries also plan to banish their nuclear waste into GDFs…. more

December 14, 2022 Posted by | - plutonium, decommission reactor, technology | Leave a comment

Can France rely on its nuclear fleet for a low-carbon 2050?

Map above refers to 2016 – many of the nuclear plants above are not currently in operation

Nuclear Engineering International, 14 Dec 22,

EDF has not shown its 900 MW units can be operated that far ahead, says ASN’s annual assessment of nuclear safety in France. Decisions have to be taken soon if nuclear is to play a big part in 2050 – and a ‘Marshall Plan’ is needed to rebuild the industry’s capability

France may have to go back to the drawing board with regard to options for decarbonising its economy, because assumptions it has made on the lifetime of the 900 MW reactors in its nuclear fleet may be unwarranted.

That was the warning in French nuclear safety authority ASN’s annual report on safety in the country’s nuclear industries.

The annual “ASN report on the state of nuclear safety and radiation protection in France in 2021”, published earlier this year, warned of “new energy policy prospects which must address safety concerns at once”. And it reminded operators that “quality and rigour in the design, manufacture and oversight of nuclear facilities, which were not up to the required level in the latest major nuclear projects conducted in France, constitute the first level of Defence in Depth in terms of safety.”

ASN noted that five of the six scenarios presented in a report by French system operator Re´seau de Transport d’Electricite´ (RTE) report on “Energies of the future”, which aims to achieve a decarbonised economy by 2050, are based on continued operation of the existing nuclear fleet. But with regard to the 900 MW fleet, ASN says, it cannot say that those plants can be operated beyond 50 years, based on information it received during the generic examination of the fourth periodic safety review of that reactor series. It added, “Due to the specific features of some reactors, it might not be possible, with the current methods, to demonstrate their ability to operate up to 60 years”.

EDF has 32 operating 900 MWe reactors commissioned between 1978 and 1987 and they are reaching their fourth periodic safety review. This safety review has “particular challenges”, ASN says. In particular:

Some items of equipment are reaching their design-basis lifetime……………………

Too optimistic on new-build?

The safety authority also noted that one RTE scenario had almost 50% nuclear in its electricity mix in 2050. It said, consultation with industry revealed that the rate of construction of new nuclear reactors in order to achieve such a level would be hard to sustain……………………………………

Broad concerns

More broadly, ASN said whatever France’s energy policy, it will “imply a considerable industrial effort, in order to tackle the industrial and safety challenges.

If nuclear power is needed for 2050, the nuclear sector will have to implement a ‘Marshall Plan’ to make it industrially sustainable and have the skills it needs.

It warned that “Quality and rigour in the design, manufacture and oversight of nuclear facilities… were not up to the required level in the latest major nuclear projects conducted in France”.

It also warned that more work was also needed in fuel chain facilities. It said a series of events “is currently weakening the entire fuel cycle chain and is a major strategic concern for ASN requiring particularly close attention”. Most urgent is a build-up of radioactive materials and delays in construction of a centralised spent fuel storage pool planned by EDF to address the risk of saturation of the existing pools by 2030. The need for the pool was identified back in 2010, but work has not begun.

ASN said the combination of shortcomings between fuel cycle and nuclear plants meant the electricity system “faces an unprecedented two-fold vulnerability in availability”. New vulnerabilities like the discovery of stress corrosion cracking mostly “stem from the lack of margins and inadequate anticipation,” ASN said, and “must serve as lessons for the entire nuclear sector and the public authorities.”……………….

An energy policy comprising a long-term nuclear component “must be accompanied by an exemplary policy for the management of waste and legacy nuclear facilities,” ASN said………………………………….. more

December 14, 2022 Posted by | France, politics | Leave a comment

The energy from the nuclear fusion experiment was a tiny fraction of the energy put into the experiment.

 The Real Fusion Energy Breakthrough Is Still Decades Away. US nuclear
scientists have achieved the long-sought goal of a fusion ignition—but
don’t expect this clean technology to power the grid yet.

To fusion scientists like Mark Cappelli, a physicist at Stanford University who
wasn’t involved in the research, it’s a thrilling result. But he
cautions that those pinning hopes on fusion as an abundant, carbon-free,
and waste-free power source in the near future may be left waiting.

The difference, he says, is in how scientists define breakeven. Today, the NIF
researchers said they got as much energy out as their laser fired at the
experiment—a massive, long-awaited achievement.

But the problem is that
the energy in those lasers represents a tiny fraction of the total power
involved in firing up the lasers. By that measure, NIF is getting way less
than it’s putting in. “That type of breakeven is way, way, way, way
down the road,” Cappelli says. “That’s decades down the road. Maybe
even a half-century down the road.”

 Wired 13th Dec 2022

December 14, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

For Heaven’s Sake – Examining the UK’s Militarisation of Space

December 13, 2022, By Dr. David Webb of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space

I have been working on behalf of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) with Peter Burt from Dronewars UK on a new joint publication called “For Heaven’s Sake: Examining the UK’s Militarisation of Space”. It was launched in June and looks at the UK’s emerging military space programme and considers the governance, environmental, and ethical issues involved.

The UK’s space programme began in 1952 and the first UK satellite, Ariel 1, was launched in 1962. Black Arrow, a British rocket for launching satellites, was developed during the 1960s and was used for four launches from the Woomera Range Complexin Australia between 1969 and 1971. The final launch was to launch Prospero, the only British satellite to be placed in orbit using a UK rocket in 1971, although the government had by then cancelled the UK space programme. Blue Streak, the UK ballistic missile programme, had been cancelled in 1960andspace projects were considered too expensive to continue. 50 years on and things have changed.

Space is now big business – the commercial space sector has expanded and the cost of launches has decreased. The UK is now treating space as an area of serious interest. The government has also recognised that space is now crucial for military operations. So, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) now has a Space Directorate, which works closely with the UK Space Agency and is responsible for the military space policy and international coordination. UK Space Command, established in April 2021 ,is in charge of the military space programme and is closely linked with US Space Command and US Space Force. While the UK typically frames military developments as being for defensive purposes, they are also capable of offensive use………………………………………………………..

Although many of these launches may be for commercial companies, space use has evolved into a fuzzy military/commercial collaboration and Alexandra Stickings, a space policy and security analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in London, believes that the Shetland and Sutherland spaceports will need military contracts to be viable. She said “I am of the opinion that the proposed spaceports would need the MoD as a customer to survive as well as securing contracts with companies such as Lockheed” and the military will want to diversify their launch capabilitiesso the Scottish locations could provide an option for certain future missions.”  She also warned that: “There is also a possibility that if these sites become a reality, there will be pressure on the MoD to support them even if the cost is more than other providers.”………………………………..

Although many of these launches may be for commercial companies, space use has evolved into a fuzzy military/commercial collaboration and Alexandra Stickings, a space policy and security analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in London, believes that the Shetland and Sutherland spaceports will need military contracts to be viable. She said

“I am of the opinion that the proposed spaceports would need the MoD as a customer to survive as well as securing contracts with companies such as Lockheed” and the military will want to diversify their launch capabilitiesso the Scottish locations could provide an option for certain future missions.”  She also warned that: “There is also a possibility that if these sites become a reality, there will be pressure on the MoD to support them even if the cost is more than other providers.”…………………….


December 14, 2022 Posted by | space travel, UK | Leave a comment

U.S. to deploy advanced Patriot missile interceptor batteries to Ukraine

Polish RadioDecember 14, 2022 US to send Patriot air defence system to Ukraine: CNN The administration of US President Joe Biden is finalising plans to provide Ukraine with the Patriot air defence system and could announce the move later this week, news outlets have reported. *** According to three US officials, who spoke to CNN […]

U.S. to deploy advanced Patriot missile interceptor batteries to Ukraine — Anti-bellum

December 14, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Paul Dorfman: Nuclear power is just a slow and expensive distraction.

Despite recent breakthroughs in nuclear fusion, renewables remain the most
important technology for reaching net zero. “Fissile fuel” is back –
or so say the UK’s policy teams and press.

Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel
Macron are about to strike a deal on nuclear cooperation, and recent
editorials across national newspapers all reckon everything in the garden
is nuclear. Where, however, is the evidence for its efficacy?

The British and French governments can sign any deal they like – if key financial
investors don’t take up the remaining 60 per cent of construction costs,
the planned Sizewell C plant in Suffolk is going nowhere. The omens
aren’t good.

Recently Sir Nigel Wilson, group CEO of Legal & General, one
of the UK’s largest real assets firms, told BBC Radio Four: “We are not
big fans of Sizewell C.” Sir David King, the UK’s former chief
scientific adviser and a long-standing nuclear supporter, told LBC that the
plant would be “very difficult to protect from flooding” due to rising
sea levels on the Suffolk coast.

 New Statesman 13th Dec 2022

December 14, 2022 Posted by | business and costs, UK | Leave a comment

Opinion is split on UK government plan for new nuclear and hydrogen projects

 Ministers are considering requiring that all new domestic boilers be
“hydrogen-ready” from 2026, as they announced £100m for nuclear and
hydrogen projects. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial
Strategy (BEIS) has launched a consultation on improving boiler standards,
and has argued there is a strong case for introducing hydrogen-ready
boilers in the UK from 2026.

The government is examining options to replace
polluting fossil fuel gas in Britain’s energy system and has offered
grants for households to install heat pumps. A ban on gas boilers in new
homes comes into force in 2025, although uncertainty remains over the
timeframe for the phase-out of fossil gas in existing homes.

While hydrogen
is expected to play a significant role in the decarbonisation of heavy
industry and the transport network, opinion is split on the practicality of
using it in Britain’s gas network and the resulting cost to households.

Plans for a pilot to examine the effectiveness of using hydrogen have met
local opposition in Whitby, outside Ellesmere Port, where residents have
expressed concerns over becoming “lab rats”. The consultation, which
closes in late March, will also examine the cost of hydrogen-ready boilers.
“The government needs confidence that consumers will not face a premium
for their purchase,” it said.

 Guardian 13th Dec 2022

December 14, 2022 Posted by | ENERGY, UK | Leave a comment

Fusion breakthrough thrills physicists, but won’t power your home soon.

A nuclear fusion milestone (with frickin’ laser beams!) is a big deal.
Alas, it could be decades before fusion might actually help clean up our
energy system. A reported breakthrough in fusion energy is generating
enormous excitement amongst scientists and the general public alike — but
you might not want to bet on fusion providing usable energy during your

Experimental results set to be announced by the U.S. Department
of Energy on Tuesday are being hyped as potentially heralding a new era of
zero-carbon energy from the power of a controlled fusion reaction, the same
reaction that powers our sun. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has
evidence of a net energy gain in a fusion reaction for the first time,
according to people with knowledge of preliminary results from a recent
experiment, as first reported by the Financial Times. The lab confirmed to
the paper that a successful experiment had recently been conducted at its
National Ignition Facility but said analysis of the results was ongoing.

 Canary Media 13th Dec 2022

December 14, 2022 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

The SECOND suburban husband indicted for smuggling nuclear weapon tech to Russia  

  • Vadim Yermolenko helped smuggle tech used in nuclear weapons into Russia, according to court documents
  • can reveal his double life after it emerged co-defendant Alexey Brayman runs an online craft store in New Hampshire with his wife
  • They are allegedly part of the ‘Serniya Network’, run by Russia’s security service 
  • Yermolenko lives in a luxury home with his wife, Diana, and their young children
  • He allegedly used his wife’s signature to create forged documents for the plot
  • The men, who were indicted and appeared in court on Tuesday, have been released after posting bail and will appear in court again in February

By LEWIS PENNOCK FOR DAILYMAIL.COM . 15 December 2022 …………………………… more

December 14, 2022 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Very significant barriers to further progress on nuclear fusion

There are two approaches to nuclear fusion: call them doughnuts v lasers.
Magnetic confinement is the more common and longstanding method: picture,
if you can, a doughnut-shaped machine, with nuclear fuel inside it kept
afloat by magnetic fields and heated to incredible temperatures while the
reaction takes place.

The NIF is one of a smaller number of facilities
trying something different: inertial confinement. In the pithy summary of
White House science chief, Arati Prabhakar, yesterday:

“They shot a bunch of lasers at a pellet of fuel [hydrogen plasma] and more energy was
released from that fusion ignition than the energy of the lasers.” The
pellet, encased in diamond, sits in a tiny gold cylinder. By hitting it
with 192 giant lasers for less than 100 trillionths of a second at more
than 3 million celsius, scientists at NIF succeeded in producing 3
megajoules of energy from the 2.05 megajoules it took to make the reaction

But as good as that sounds, there are very significant barriers to
further progress. “It’s important to say that this is not trying to be
a fusion reactor, it’s simply trying to make fusion happen,” said

“But it lacks almost everything that you need to make a viable
reactor. “So, OK, the energy put in has resulted in a larger amount of
energy coming out – but the big caveat is that it depends where you draw
your perimeter: powering the lasers themselves required way more energy.
You have to draw a slightly artificial dotted line around the vessel to say
there’s been a gain.” The lasers may emit 2.05 megajoules, but they
took about 500 megajoules of energy to power, though defenders of the
experiment say that they are not optimally efficient and can be
significantly improved.

 Guardian 14th Dec 2022

December 14, 2022 Posted by | 2 WORLD, technology | Leave a comment

A Tale of Two Nuclear Plants Reveals Europe’s Energy Divide

An upgraded power plant in Slovakia has angered neighboring Austria and fueled the debate over nuclear power and  independence from Russian gas.

Wired, MORGAN MEAKER, DEC 13, 2022

……………………………………….. Europe remains deeply divided on the use of nuclear power. Of the European Union’s 27 member states, 13 generate nuclear power, while 14 do not. “It’s still a very national debate,” says Bunsen. That means public attitudes can drastically change from one side of a border to the other. Surveys show that 60 percent of Slovakians believe nuclear power is safe, while 70 percent of their neighbors in Austria are against it being used at all—the country has no active nuclear plants.

……… workers are preparing a new reactor—where nuclear fission will take place—for launch in early 2023. 

…………..  Europe remains deeply divided on the use of nuclear power. Of the European Union’s 27 member states, 13 generate nuclear power, while 14 do not. “It’s still a very national debate,” says Bunsen. That means public attitudes can drastically change from one side of a border to the other. Surveys show that 60 percent of Slovakians believe nuclear power is safe, while 70 percent of their neighbors in Austria are against it being used at all—the country has no active nuclear plants.

For the two neighbors, Mochovce has become a focal point in the debate over how Europe should transition away from fossil fuels. To supporters in Slovakia, Mochovce’s expansion—the launch of Unit Three is expected to be followed two years later by Unit Four—demonstrates how even a small country can become an energy heavyweight. Unit Three will make Slovakia the second-largest producer of nuclear power in the EU, after France. But neighboring Austrians cannot ignore what they consider to be the drawbacks: the mammoth costs associated with building or improving aging facilities, the problems associated with disposing of nuclear waste, and the sector’s reliance on Moscow for uranium, the fuel which powers the reactor. Last year, the EU imported one fifth of its uranium from Russia. 

For years, politicians and activists in Austria have also alleged that Mochovce is not safe, with local newspapers using maps to illustrate how close Mochovce is to Vienna: just 150 kilometers. “It’s a Soviet design from the 1980s, without a proper containment,” claims Reinhard Uhrig, an antinuclear campaigner with Austrian environmental group GLOBAL 2000. The containment is one of a series of safety systems that prevents radioactive material being released into the environment in case of an accident. “Apart from these inherent design problems, there have been major issues with the quality control of the works,” he says, describing nuclear power as a dangerous distraction from real solutions to the climate crisis.  

Concerns in Austria about Mochovce’s safety were exacerbated by Mario Zadra, an engineer turned whistleblower who worked on Mochovce units Three and Four between 2009 and 2018. Zadra alleges the plant’s emergency diesel generators were suffering serious technical issues and cooling towers fundamental for safety were built with the wrong material. “Other components important for safety, like the main steam isolation valves, were in a shameful condition,” says Zadra, whose video and photo evidence have been verified by GLOBAL 2000. Since Zadra and other whistleblowers went public in 2018, Mochovce has been accused of corruption, raided by police, and inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency.  “I’m sure things have improved since the inspections,” Zadra says, but he still doesn’t believe the plant is safe due to what he calls the company’s “poor safety culture.”

………………………………….. Long-term, Austria is aiming to run 100 percent on renewables by 2030. Wind, solar, and hydro power currently account for 77 percent of the country’s power generation.

Austria is now agitating to spread its antinuclear message on an EU level. Officials have criticized nuclear power plants not just in Slovakia, but also in other neighboring countries, including the Czech Republic and Hungary. On New Year’s Eve 2021, the European Commission released a proposal which defined nuclear as well as natural gas as “green investments.” In response, Austria launched a legal challenge, calling for the inclusion of the two energy sources to be annulled. “Neither nuclear energy nor fossil gas are green investments,” says Gewesseler.

Zwentendorf and Mochovce demonstrate the extremes of Europe’s nuclear power debate. But between those extremes, it’s messy. The EU might have agreed to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, but consensus on how that will happen remains elusive. Weish, the Austrian scientist, believes there’s a lot more debating to be done. “The EU needs to have the debate Austria had back in the 1970s,” he says.

December 14, 2022 Posted by | EUROPE, politics international | Leave a comment

Hungary’s risky bet on Russia’s nuclear power

By Nick Thorpe, BBC News, Hungary, 15 Dec 22,

“If this new power plant is built,”, says Janos, a tall, friendly nuclear engineer who works in Reactor block 2 of the existing nuclear power station at Paks, “it will be good for the town, and good for the country.”

It’s a big if.

Despite the Hungarian government’s unswerving commitment to the Paks 2 project, despite the Russian commitment to supply the finance and technology, the Russian war in Ukraine is making the new power station less likely by the day.

It is the biggest single investment in Hungarian history.

The government claims it will make the country less dependent on Russia, from which Hungary gets most of its oil and gas. Critics say it will make Hungary even more dependent on Russia for much of this century.

Paks 1 nuclear power station, on the shore of the Danube and an hour’s drive south of Budapest, was built by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and its four reactors still supply around 40% of Hungary’s electricity needs.

Their working life is due to end in the 2030s. In 2014, Prime Minster Viktor Orban signed a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin to build two new 1,200 MW reactors beside the old ones.

Russia will finance the plant with a €10bn loan, which Hungarian consumers should pay back in their electricity bills, starting in 2026, when the plant was due to come on line.

Years of delays with permits meant that ground-clearing work at the site only began last August.

While Hungary has pressed ahead with Paks 2, last May Finland cancelled a similar, Russian-built plant on the Hanhikivi peninsula in mid-construction, because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine is now hanging like a dark cloud over the Paks project, too.

Fighting in the early days of the war around Ukraine’s former nuclear plant at Chernobyl and artillery duels around the Zaporizhzhia plant, the biggest in Europe, have harmed the project.

Even those who believe in Paks 2 with an almost religious zeal sound worried.

“Isolation of Russia is not a solution, even in this war situation,” says Attila Aszodi, former government commissioner for Paks 2.

Died-in-the-wool opponents such as former Green MEP Benedek Javor are more blunt.

“Paks 2 is a purely political project,” he says, pointing to close relations established by Viktor Orban with Russian Vladimir Putin since 2009.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Hungarian leader has pushed back repeatedly against EU sanctions on Russia and its officials have maintained close diplomatic ties with Moscow.

“From an energy perspective it’s not necessary to build [Paks 2], and it’s definitely not necessary to build it with the Russians,” says Mr Javor.

Died-in-the-wool opponents such as former Green MEP Benedek Javor are more blunt.

“Paks 2 is a purely political project,” he says, pointing to close relations established by Viktor Orban with Russian Vladimir Putin since 2009.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Hungarian leader has pushed back repeatedly against EU sanctions on Russia and its officials have maintained close diplomatic ties with Moscow.

“From an energy perspective it’s not necessary to build [Paks 2], and it’s definitely not necessary to build it with the Russians,” says Mr Javor.

He argues the money would be better spent on renewables like solar, from which Hungary already gets 10% of its energy, and improving the electricity grid.

This autumn, the government abruptly ended subsidies for households installing solar panels, because the grid could not cope with the new inputs.

The Fidesz government has also made wind power practically impossible, by banning the construction of turbines within 10km (6.2 miles) of a settlement.

“We might arrive at a point where Paks 2 cannot be constructed but there is no alternative,” says Mr Javor. “Then Hungary will have a serious problem with the security of supply.”

The list of complications from the war in Ukraine is long.

Many major components of the plant are supposed to be built in Russia, and transported overland.

The original plan was to bring them through Ukraine and there are no obvious alternative routes.

Several thousand welders are supposed to be employed.

Back in 2014, everyone I asked said Ukrainian welders would be found. And the plant is not simply a Russian one.

Under EU pressure, it is now a hybrid, using Russian hardware and a control system to be built by the Siemens-led, French-German consortium Framatome.

The turbines are supposed to be built by GE Hungary, a subsidiary of US firm General Electric. It is hard to imagine US, German and French engineers working shoulder to shoulder with their Russian comrades, 400 km from the border of a country the Russians shell day and night.

There are other question marks, too. How will Russia supply nuclear fuel? How will Hungary send highly radioactive used fuel elements back to Russia?

And will the EU eventually extend sanctions to nuclear technology and employees of Russian state nuclear firm Rosatom?…………………….

December 14, 2022 Posted by | EUROPE, politics | Leave a comment

Point Lepreau nuclear plant taken offline after power loss

Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon · CBC News · Dec 14, 2022

The Point Lepreau nuclear generating station has been taken offline, following a partial loss of power.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission was informed of the incident Wednesday around 5:30 a.m. and has staff onsite, closely monitoring the situation, according to a news release late Wednesday afternoon..

“At the time of this update, NB Power has not identified any reports of injuries, radiation contamination or spills into environment,” said the commission, whose mandate includes protecting health, safety, security and the environment.

N.B. Power says further assessments are underway to perform the maintenance required to reconnect the station to the grid…….. N.B. Power spokesperson Dominique Couture did not immediately respond to a request for more information, such as when and why the power loss occurred, or how long it’s expected to take to get the plant back online……………

‘Major equipment replacement’ delayed until April

Point Lepreau was shut down for a week in August due to an undisclosed “equipment issue.”

That outage came only five days after the generating station came back online following scheduled spring maintenance,  which dragged on for more than 100 days and wasn’t completed as planned.

Supply and personnel shortages and more significant problems with station equipment than anticipated all contributed to the delay, Couture had said.

She said a 22-day outage is planned for April 2023 to deal with the unfinished work — a “major equipment replacement … to ensure predictable, reliable station operations going forward.”

According to N.B. Power’s annual reports, unscheduled outages at the nuclear plant cost the utility between $28,500 and $45,700 per hour, depending on the time of year and market conditions, plus the cost of any required repairs.

According to filings with the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board, Lepreau has experienced 8,000 more hours of downtime than projected since it underwent a 4½-year, $2.4-billion refurbishment in late 2012, not including the spring outage.

Lepreau’s operating licence was renewed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in June for 10 years. N.B. Power had sought an unprecedented 25-year licence renewal.

December 14, 2022 Posted by | Canada, ENERGY | Leave a comment