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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls for eradication of nuclear weapons

flag-UN-largeAt Security Council, Ban calls for eradicating weapons of mass destructiontext-relevant ‘once and for all’, UN News Centre,  23 August 2016 – Recalling that eliminating weapons of mass destruction was one of the founding principles of the United Nations and was in fact the subject of the first resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed the need to seriously refocus attention on nuclear disarmament.

“I call on all States to focus on one overriding truth: the only sure way to prevent the human, environmental and existential destruction these weapons can cause, is by eradicating [these weapons] once and for all,” said Mr. Ban in his remarks at the Security Council open debate on ‘non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.’

“We – the international community – must ensure the disarmament and non-proliferation framework is universally and completely implemented, and is resilient and versatile enough to grapple with the changing environment,” he added.

In his remarks, Mr. Ban said the success in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction offers some comfort and that multilateral treaties, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention, and instruments, including Security Council resolution 1540, are “robust and tested.”

Adopted in 2004, resolution 1540 affirms that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery constitutes a threat to international peace and security.

But the Secretary-General also pointed out that the challenges to the disarmament and non-proliferation architecture are growing. He noted that technological advances have made means of production and methods of delivery of these weapons easier and more accessible.

“Vicious non-State actors that target civilians for carnage are actively seeking chemical, biological and nuclear weapons,” he stressed.

He said that it is particularly disappointing that progress on eliminating nuclear weapons has descended into fractious deadlock, underscoring that arguments justifying nuclear weapons, such as those used during the Cold War, “were morally, politically and practically wrong thirty years ago, and they are wrong now”.

Recalling the Security Council’s convening of the historic summit on non-proliferation and adoption of resolution 1887 (2009) in which it emphasized its primary responsibility to address nuclear threats and its willingness to take action, Mr. Ban said the global community now expects the Council to demonstrate the same leadership on the subject, to build on resolution 1887 and to develop further initiatives to bring about a world free of weapons of mass destruction.

While noting that more needs to be done to “bridge the divide” within the international community, the UN chief said that it was encouraging that all UN Member States agree that the collective efforts must complement and strengthen the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime, including the NPT, which is the only treaty-based commitment to nuclear disarmament and has been a strong barrier against nuclear proliferation for nearly 50 years……..http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54738#.V70yNVt97Gh

August 24, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Stuck in the past – America’s nuclear weapons policy


US nuclear policy remains dangerously stuck in the past http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-text-relevantblog/defense/292299-us-nuclear-policy-remains-dangerously-stuck-in-the-past
 By Diana Ohlbaum,August 23, 2016, Republican nominee Donald Trump has been ridiculed for asking “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?” and castigated for his cavalier attitude toward their use. But he is only restating, albeit less artfully, what is, in fact, the standard orthodoxy: that the United States needs nuclear weapons not only as a deterrent to aggression, but as a plausible option for achieving strategic aims.

Those who grew up in the era of the “Doomsday Clock” and “duck and cover” might assume that the days of mutual assured destruction andlaunch under attack were swept away with the Soviet Union. They would be wrong. America’s nuclear weapons remain on hair-trigger alert, and the commander in chief has not ruled out being the first to use them.

Statue of Liberty Gun

For all his talk about a “nuclear free world,” President Obama has proposed a $1 trillionmodernization of the nuclear arsenal. Republicans, having engineered the demise of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, are intent on ramping up U.S. nuclear defenses. The nuclear “football” still follows the president everywhere, enabling a cataclysmic strike to be launched on a moment’s notice.

Twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War, U.S. policy remains stuck on the same horrifying premise: that U.S. national security depends on its willingness to use nuclear weapons.

The problem is, who but a madman would ever do so?

First, the danger of escalation is simply too great. Whether the United States used nuclear weapons preemptively, or simply responded in kind, could it count on a nuclear power such as Russia or China to stand down and give in? There is no scenario more unimaginable than the United States taking the chance of setting off a chain reaction that ends in total annihilation.

Second, the humanitarian and environmental risks are unacceptable. Seventy-one years after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan,, residents are still developing cancerous tumors that can be linked to radiation exposure. New evidence suggests that a nuclear exchange would produce far more serious harm to public health than previously imagined. The United States has made drones its “weapon of choice” in the war on terror in large part because of its obligation under international law to take “all feasible precautions” to avoid and minimize incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian infrastructure.

Third, the world is in a different place than it was when U.S. nuclear doctrine was conceived. Globalization — for better or worse — has interlocked America’s economic fate with that of its former adversaries. Over the past quarter-century, ideological differences have receded, U.S. trade relations with Russia and China have become normalized, and profound cultural, educational, scientific and human ties have been forged. Climate change, mass migration and pandemic disease have brought wide recognition of the interdependence of the planet. And disastrous U.S. interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have plainly demonstrated the limits of what can be achieved with military power, no matter how shocking or awesome it may be.

Envisioning Donald Trump’s finger on the nuclear button helps us to understand how poorly the country is served by its absurd nuclear procedures, which allow a single individual, acting alone and instantaneously, without the benefit of full information or consultation, to order a nuclear attack that could end life as we know it. President Obama has a moral obligation to his country, and the world, to dismantle the “use it or lose it” system designed for a bygone era, and to declare that the United States will never be the first to use nuclear weapons.   Ohlbaum is an independent consultant and a board member of the Center for International Policy.

August 24, 2016 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA President’s deadly nuclear “football”

Codes President's nuclearFlag-USAThe ‘nuclear football’ – the deadly briefcase that never leaves the text-relevantpresident’s side
Donald Trump’s views on nukes may be the scariest thing about his candidacy. But how does Potus launch an attack at a moment’s notice? And what happens when you send the codes to the dry cleaners by mistake…
Guardian,   , 22 Aug 16 “……..As for the nuclear football, it comes into active service when the president leaves the White House. It is the nickname for a large leather, aluminium-framed briefcase weighing 20kg which is hefted by a military aide who shadows the US commander in chief.

It is, as former Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs calls it, “the ultimate power accessory, a doomsday machine that could destroy the entire world”. The late Bill Gulley, a former director of the White House Military Office, described what’s inside the nuclear football in his 1980 memoir Breaking Cover. “There are four things in the football. The Black Book containing the retaliatory options, a book listing classified site locations, a manila folder with eight or 10 pages stapled together giving a description of procedures for the Emergency Broadcast System, and a three-by-five inch card with authentication codes.”

The nuclear football has an antenna protruding from it, likely indicating that inside there is a communication system with which the president can maintain contact the Pentagon’s National Military Command Centre which monitors worldwide nuclear threats and can order an instant nuclear response. “The football,” says Dobbs, “also provides the commander-in-chief with a simplified menu of nuclear strike options – allowing him to decide, for example, whether to destroy all of America’s enemies in one fell swoop or to limit himself to obliterating only Moscow or Pyongyang or Beijing.”…….

Why is the briefcase nicknamed the nuclear football? According to former US secretary of defence Robert McNamara, it was so-named because it was part of an early nuclear war plan code-named Operation Drop Kick.

In Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 nuclear black comedy Dr Strangelove, there is also an Operation Drop Kick. It denoted a nuclear exercise that goes wrong when the unhinged US general played by Sterling Hayden orders a first strike on the Soviet Union. All the president’s men strive to recall the bombers to prevent nuclear politics……..

Aides who carry the nuclear football have extensive psychological evaluations to assess whether they’re up to the task. Metzger discloses that he underwent extensive vetting by the Defense Department, the secret service and the FBI before he was given the job. The incoming president, whether it is Trump or Clinton, will undergo no such checks as to their mental stability. There is, though, one consoling thought. Even if Trump did nuke Europe, he’d probably spare part of Aberdeenshire – he wouldn’t want to destroy his golf resort. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/22/nuclear-football-donald-trump

August 24, 2016 Posted by | Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Children exposed to radiation levels in Fukushima

TV: “Astronomical amounts of radiation” found in downtown Tokyo… Directly outside gov’t building — ‘Horrific’ readings where kids playing in Fukushima, ‘extreme’ levels found where food is grown for elementary school lunches — Nuclear expert shocked, upset by discovery (VIDEO) http://enenews.com/tv-astronomical-amounts-radiation-found-downtown-tokyo-horrific-readings-detected-children-playing-fukushima-extreme-contamination-found-food-grown-school-lunches-nuclear-expert-shocked-upsettin?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29

Children Suffer Nuclear Impact Worldwide

CCTV (Channel 17 in Burlington, Vermont), published Jun 20, 2016 (emphasis added):

  • Margaret Harrington, host: I know you mentioned Arnie Gundersen, the chief engineer at Fairewinds, and he said that he measured the radiation there, too. Could you talk about that a little bit?
  • Maggie Gundersen, Fairewinds Energy Education founder and CEO: He’s working with some other scientists who are studying — both Japanese scientists, the samples that they took, and the US scientists who are evaluating the samples — and they’re findingastronomical amounts of radiation, even in downtown Tokyo outside of METI’s door. METI is the regulatory agency over nuclear power… When he and others were downtown in Tokyo, they took samples right there in a garden right outside the door and on the front doormat, and these are really, really high samples. Frightening, because people walking in Tokyo will then be inhaling that dust. What was the film we saw from Japan that had the mothers who were in an area where kids play and run from middle school?
  • Caroline Phillips, Fairewinds Energy Education: It’s a fantastic video… it’s a mothers organization, they live in the Fukushima Prefecture and they’re actually using Geiger counters that have been issued by the government. They’re walking along the river [in Fukushima City.]
  • Maggie Gundersen: What’s so tragic about it – kids are running along dirt paths doing gym class and track and things like that and the mothers are right down in areas that are not posted and the kids can go after school and play, and people do nature hikes and stuff. And the radiation readings are horrific
Gendai Business Online (article in Japanese here), Jun 14, 2016: [J]ust before the 5th anniversary of the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi, a group of young girls in the city of Minami-Soma rode their bikes to school past a shocked and saddened pedestrian. That upset observer was Arnie Gundersen, nuclear reactor expert… “What surprised me at this visit to Japan… is that the decontaminated area is contaminated again,” Mr. Gundersen said while explaining why it was such as sad shock to witness the girls on their bicycles. “This was not what I had expected. I had thought that we would not find such high doses of radiation in the decontaminated area. But, sadly, our results prove otherwise.”… Gundersen collected samples of dust [though] the official data cannot be released before the publication of formal scientific papers, it is evident that high doses of radiation, usually found in nuclear waste, was detected from these samples. “This means thathighly radioactive dust is flying around the city. In other words, the decontaminated land is contaminated again. Little girls are affected by the radiation 20 times as much as adult men. The Japanese government’s standard of 20 mSv is based on exposure assessments for adult men. The girls on their bicycles are actually being affected by a radiation dose equivalent to as much as 400 mSv.” Mr. Gundersen also pointed out that human lungs are heavily affected by internal exposures to radiation. “At this visit, I wore a radiation proof mask that can filter out 99.98% of radiation for six hours. I sent my filter to the lab, and they found a high dose of Cesium. But, unfortunately, the Japanese government only cares about the number on a Geiger counter and does not consider the internal exposure. This has resulted in a hazardous downplay of this kind of data and human lungs are affected by the serious internal exposure.”… [T]he radiation from the mountains are coming back to the city by way of wind and rain. Mr. Gundersen noted the extreme radioactive contamination of the mountains… vegetables grown in that area exceed the government’s standard by 1500 Bq. These vegetables were sold at the MichinoEki in Tochigi prefecture, and the bamboo shoot grown in this contaminated region was used for elementary school lunches in Utsunomiya. These school lunches contained more than twice as much radiation as the government’s standard… However, the government continues to push for the end of people’s relocation and force the return to recontaminated areas… Mr. Gundersen also found that Tokyo remains contaminated. He measured dust… and found a high dose of radiation. That dust is in the air that will be inhaled by the visitors and athletes of the 2020 Olympic Games. Needless to say, the current residents are inhaling it every day…

Watch the CCTV Channel 17 interview here

August 24, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | Leave a comment

North Korea’s nuclear threats to USA and South Korea

flag-N-KoreaNorth Korea threatens to turn Washington and Seoul into a ‘heap of ash’ AUGUST 24, 2016 Gavin text-relevantFernando news.com.au@GavinDFernando NORTH Korea has issued a fresh warning to Seoul and Washington, threatening a huge nuclear attack if provoked.

The North’s military warned it will turn the cities into “a heap of ash through a Korean-style pre-emptive nuclear strike” if they show any signs of aggression towards their territory, a spokesman for North Korea’s military was quoted as saying by the country’s state media.

This comes as South Korea and the US begin their annual military drills, which South Korea has described as defensive in nature. The allied countries have repeatedly stated they have no intention of invading or taking aggressive action against North Korea capital Pyongyang.

South Korea President Park Geun-Hye responded to the threats saying: “The North Korean regime has been continuously suppressing its people by its reign of terror while ignoring the livelihood of its people.”

She also said the South would “prepare” for any potential attacks by North Korea, adding that the communist country’s nuclear and missile threats are “direct and realistic”.

Relations between the countries are tenser than usual now, following the defection of a senior North Korean diplomat and a US plan to place a hi-tech missile defence system in South Korea.

Earlier this month, it was reported South Korea intends to arm itself with nuclear weapons.The state will develop a nuclear self-defence strategy in defiance of a treaty that has been in place for almost 50 years. “It will become a domino effect and even South Korea will become concerned and develop nuclear weapons, and maybe Japan as well,” a senior official in the Seoul government told Fairfax.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, Australia surprised the world by being the only country to attempt to block an international ban on nuclear weapons.

The Australian government tried — and ultimately failed — to block a United Nations report for a complete international ban on nuclear weapons……http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/north-korea-threatens-to-turn-washington-and-seoul-into-a-heap-of-ash/news-story/f1851e5cde3ef6cf88697b57a8a1f11f

August 24, 2016 Posted by | North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

3.7 million documents now pubicly available on Yucca nuclear waste dump plan

paperwork nuclear dumpYucca Mountain Documents Now Publicly Available – In a New Online Library, USA Nuclear Regulatory Commission August 19, 2016 David McIntyre Public Affairs Officer

The NRC is flipping the switch today on its new LSN Library — making nearly 3.7 million documents related to the adjudicatory hearing on the proposed Yucca Mountain repository available to the public…….The library is significant for three reasons. First, it meets federal records requirements. Second, the library again provides public access to the previously-disclosed discovery materials should the Yucca Mountain adjudicatory hearing resume. Third, should the Yucca Mountain hearing not resume, the library will provide an important source of technical information for any future high-level waste repository licensing proceeding. https://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/2016/08/19/yucca-mountain-documents-now-publicly-available-in-a-new-online-library/

August 24, 2016 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

USA govt censoring severity of WIPP nuclear waste problem, $2 Billion Cleanup

“There is no question the Energy Department has downplayed the significance of the accident,” said Don Hancock, who monitors the dump for the watchdog group Southwest Research and Information Center.

 a federal investigation found more than two dozen safety lapses at the dump.

Nuclear Accident In New Mexico Is Still Being Censored, $2 Billion Cleanup

Nuclear accident in New Mexico ranks among the costliest in U.S. history,  http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-new-mexico-nuclear-dump-20160819-snap-story.html Ralph Vartabedian, 23 Aug 16 When a drum containing radioactive waste blew up in an underground nuclear dump in New Mexico two years ago, the Energy Department rushed to quell concerns in the Carlsbad desert community and quickly reported progress on resuming operations.

The early federal statements gave no hint that the blast had caused massive long-term damage to the dump, a facility crucial to the nuclear weapons cleanup program that spans the nation, or that it would jeopardize the Energy Department’s credibility in dealing with the tricky problem of radioactive waste.

But the explosion ranks among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history, according to a Times analysis. The long-term  cost of the mishap could top $2 billion, an amount roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.

The Feb. 14, 2014, accident is also complicating cleanup programs at about a dozen current and former nuclear weapons sites across the U.S. Thousands of tons of radioactive waste that were headed for the dump are backed up in Idaho, Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere, state officials said in interviews.

Washington state officials were recently forced to accept delays in moving the equivalent of 24,000 drums of nuclear waste from Hanford site to the New Mexico dump. The deal has further antagonized the relationship between the state and federal regulators.

“The federal government has an obligation to clean up the nuclear waste at Hanford,” Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “I will continue to press them to honor their commitments to protect Washingtonians’ public health and our natural resources.”

Other states are no less insistent. The Energy Department has agreed to move the equivalent of nearly 200,000 drums from Idaho National Laboratory by 2018.

“Our expectation is that they will continue to meet the settlement agreement,” said Susan Burke, an oversight coordinator at the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

The dump, officially known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, was designed to place waste from nuclear weapons production since World War II into ancient salt beds, which engineers say will collapse around the waste and permanently seal it. The equivalent of 277,000 drums of radioactive waste is headed to the dump, according to federal documents.

The dump was dug much like a conventional mine, with vertical shafts and a maze of horizontal drifts. It had operated problem-free for 15 years and was touted by the Energy Department as a major success until the explosion, which involved a drum of of plutonium and americium waste that had been packaged at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The problem was traced to material — actual kitty litter — used to blot up liquids in sealed drums. Lab officials had decided to substitute an organic material for a mineral one. But the new material caused a complex chemical reaction that blew the lid off a drum, sending mounds of white, radioactive foam into the air and contaminating 35% of the underground area.

“There is no question the Energy Department has downplayed the significance of the accident,” said Don Hancock, who monitors the dump for the watchdog group Southwest Research and Information Center.

Though the error at the Los Alamos lab caused the accident, a federal investigation found more than two dozen safety lapses at the dump. The dump’s filtration system was supposed to prevent any radioactive releases, but it malfunctioned.

Twenty-one workers on the surface received low doses of radiation that federal officials said were well within safety limits. No workers were in the mine when the drum blew.

Energy Department officials declined to be interviewed about the incident but agreed to respond to written questions. The dump is operated by Nuclear Waste Partnership, which is led by the Los Angeles-based engineering firm AECOM. The company declined to comment.

Federal officials have set an ambitious goal to reopen the site for at least limited waste processing by the end of this year, but full operations can not resume until a new ventilation system is completed in about 2021.

The direct cost of the cleanup is now $640 million, based on a contract modification made last month with Nuclear Waste Partnership that increased the cost from $1.3 billion to nearly $2 billion. The cost-plus contract leaves open the possibility of even higher costs as repairs continue. And it does not include the complete replacement of the contaminated ventilation system or any future costs of operating the mine longer than originally planned.

An Energy Department spokesperson declined to address the cost issue but acknowledged that the dump would either have to stay open longer or find a way to handle more waste each year to make up for the shutdown. She said the contract modification gave the government the option to cut short the agreement with Nuclear Waste Partnership.

It costs about $200 million a year to operate the dump, so keeping it open an additional seven years could cost $1.4 billion. A top scientific expert on the dump concurred with that assessment.

In addition, the federal government faces expenses — known as “hotel costs” — to temporarily store the waste before it is shipped to New Mexico, said Ellis Eberlein of Washington’s Department of Ecology.

The Hanford site stores the equivalent of 24,000 drums of waste that must be inspected every week. “You have to make sure nothing  leaks,” he said.

The cleanup of the Three Mile Island plant took 12 years and was estimated to cost $1 billion by 1993, or $1.7 billion adjusted for inflation today. The estimate did not include the cost of replacing the power the shut-down plant was no longer generating.

Other radioactive contamination at nuclear weapons sites is costing tens of billions of dollars to clean up, but it is generally the result of deliberate practices such as dumping radioactive waste into the ground.

For now, workers entering contaminated areas must wear protective gear, including respirators, the Energy Department spokesperson said. She noted that the size of the restricted area had been significantly reduced earlier this year.

Hancock suggested that the dump might never resume full operations.

“The facility was never designed to operate in a contaminated state,” he said. “It was supposed to open clean and stay clean, but now it will have to operate dirty. Nobody at the Energy Department wants to consider the potential that it isn’t fixable.”

Giving up on the New Mexico dump would have huge environmental, legal and political ramifications. This year the Energy Department decided to dilute 6 metric tons of surplus plutonium in South Carolina and send it to the dump, potentially setting a precedent for disposing of bomb-grade materials. The U.S. has agreements with Russia on mutual reductions of plutonium.

The decision means operations at the dump must resume, said Edwin Lyman, a physicist and nuclear expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“They have no choice,” he said. “No matter what it costs.”

ralph.vartabedian@latimes.com  Twitter: @RVartabedian

August 24, 2016 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Allison MacFarlane on Glacial Pace of New Nuclear development

Macfarlane, AllisonA View from Allison Macfarlane, Nuclear’s Glacial Pace  There’s a reason it takes so long to approve a new reactor design.MIT Technology Review ,August 23, 2016  “……. a number of startups are promising cheap, safe, proliferation-­resistant nuclear energy in the next decade … Can these startups fulfill their promises? Outside of China, nuclear power is expanding nowhere. China has 21 new reactors under construction; Russia has nine, India six. The U.S. is bringing five new plants online, but since 2012, five other reactors have been retired, with seven more to be shuttered by 2019. California’s Diablo Canyon plant recently announced it will close by 2025. With other plants closing in Japan, Germany, and the U.K., more reactors may be decommissioned than built in the near future.

So why is this happening? Because it’s expensive and time-consuming to design and build a new nuclear plant, and there are cheaper, easier alternatives.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been waiting since 2014 for applications for design certification licenses for small modular reactors—smaller versions of the large and extra-large operating light-water reactors, with additional safety features. …….. Other designs are on the horizon, including molten-salt reactors, which are promising but won’t be ready for decades.

In 2015, the General Accountability Office reported that it takes 20 to 25 years to develop a new reactor in the United States—10 years for the design phase, 3.5 years for a design certification license from the NRC, four years for a combined operating license, and another four years for construction. And that’s only in an ideal world where no unexpected problems occur.

The GAO also found that it’s not cheap to bring a design to fruition: just to reach the design certification point costs somewhere between $1 billion and $2 billion, and only about $75 million of that is NRC fees. There’s a reason it takes so long and costs so much: manufacturers need to confirm that the design is safe and secure.

Some people blame the regulators for holding up the plants. Yet the NRC hasn’t been presented with any applications for new reactors and probably won’t be for years. Data from prototype plants would be helpful, but then many of the “new” designs are not so new at all. Sodium-cooled fast reactors have been built by countries including the U.S., Japan, Russia, Germany, France, and India since the 1950s, but no country has been able to make a plant cheap and reliable enough to even come close to being a viable energy source…….Allison Macfarlane was the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2012 to 2014. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602155/nuclears-glacial-pace/

August 24, 2016 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

USA’s National Nuclear Security Administration approves controversial B61-12 nuclear bomb

bomb B61-12Controversial New U.S. Nuclear Bomb Moves Closer to Full-Scale Production http://inewsnetwork.org/2016/08/23/controversial-new-u-s-nuclear-bomb-moves-closer-to-full-scale-production/ By:  The most controversial nuclear bomb ever text-relevantplanned for the U.S. arsenal – some say the most dangerous, too – has received the go ahead from the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

The agency announced on Aug. 1 that the B61-12 – the nation’s first guided, or “smart,” nuclear bomb – had completed a four-year development and testing phase and is now in production engineering, the final phase before full-scale production slated for 2020.

This announcement comes in the face of repeated warnings from civilian experts and some former high-ranking military officers that the bomb, which will be carried by fighter jets, could tempt use during a conflict because of its precision. The bomb pairs high accuracy with explosive force that can be regulated.

President Barack Obama has consistently pledged to reduce nuclear weapons and forgo weapons with new military capabilities. Yet the B61-12 program has thrived on the political and economic clout of defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin Corp., as documented in a Reveal investigation last year.

The B61-12 – at $11 billion for about 400 bombs the most expensive U.S. nuclear bomb ever – illustrates the extraordinary power of the atomic wing of what President Dwight D. Eisenhower called the “military industrial complex,” which has now rebranded itself the“nuclear enterprise.” The bomb lies at the heart of an ongoing modernization of America’s nuclear arms, projected to cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years.

Virtually everyone agrees that as long as nuclear weapons exist, some modernization of U.S. forces is needed to deter other countries from escalating to nuclear weapons during a conflict. But critics challenge the extravagance and scope of current modernization plans.

In late July, 10 senators wrote Obama a letter urging that he use his remaining months in office to “restrain U.S. nuclear weapons spending and reduce the risk of nuclear war” by, among other things, “scaling back excessive nuclear modernization plans.” They specifically urged the president to cancel a new nuclear air-launched cruise missile, for which the Air Force is now soliciting proposals from defense contractors.

While some new weapons programs are farther down the road, the B61-12 bomb is particularly imminent and worrisome given recent events such as the attempted coup in Turkey. That’s because this guided nuclear bomb is likely to replace 180 older B61 bombs stockpiled in five European countries, including Turkey, which has an estimated 50 B61s stored at Incirlik Air Base. The potential vulnerability of the site has raised questions about U.S. policy regarding storing nuclear weapons abroad.

But more questions focus on the increased accuracy of the B61-12. Unlike the free-fall gravity bombs it will replace, the B61-12 will be a guided nuclear bomb. Its new Boeing Co. tail kit assembly enables the bomb to hit targets precisely. Using dial-a-yield technology, the bomb’s explosive force can be adjusted before flight from an estimated high of 50,000 tons of TNT equivalent force to a low of 300 tons. The bomb can be carried on stealth fighter jets.

“If the Russians put out a guided nuclear bomb on a stealthy fighter that could sneak through air defenses, would that add to the perception here that they were lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons? Absolutely,” Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists said in the earlier Reveal coverage.

And General James Cartwright, the retired commander of the U.S. Strategic Command told PBS NewsHour last November that the new capabilities of the B61-12 could tempt its use.

“If I can drive down the yield, drive down, therefore, the likelihood of fallout, etc., does that make it more usable in the eyes of some – some president or national security decision-making process? And the answer is, it likely could be more usable.”

__

Ackland can be reached at lenackland@gmail.com. He wrote this story for Reveal,  from the Center for Investigative Reporting.  

August 24, 2016 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Indigenous Americans still paying the health price of uranium mining, long after mines shut

Years after mining stops, uranium’s legacy lingers on Native land  http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2016/tribal-series/crow-series/years-after-mining-stops-uraniums-legacy-lingers-on-native-land  August 22, 2016 By Brian Bienkowski
Editor’s Note: This story is part of “Sacred Water,” EHN’s ongoing investigation into Native American struggles—and successes—to protect culturally significant water sources on and off the reservation.

nuke-indigenous

CROW AGENCY, Mont.—The Crow are not alone in their struggle with uranium. The toxic metal is irrefutably intertwined with Native Americans, long a notorious national environmental injustice. Some 15,000 abandoned uranium mines with uranium contamination pocket 14 Western states. Of those, 75 percent are on federal and tribal lands, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Contamination is especially concentrated across the Colorado Plateau near the Four Corners region of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, leaving a lasting impact on tribes such as Navajos, Utes, Hopi and Zuni.

The area became saturated with the dangerous metal from the heavy mining fueled by Cold War-era anxieties in the 1940s and ’60s, and the lax cleanup of the 1980s.

Most of the mines were on federal land—managed by the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. But tribes, namely the Navajo, were swept into the uranium-mining boom for both their labor and land and are still dealing with the mess it left.

More than 521 abandoned uranium mines pocket Navajo land alone. Some 90 percent of uranium milling in the United States took place on or just outside the boundaries of Native American reservations, according to a 2015 study.  This left a legacy of dirty water, leftover toxic waste and health problems such as lung cancer and developmental delays for children in many Western tribes.

Such pollution becomes a force multiplier for Native Americans—on the Crow reservation it adds to economic, health and historical burdens, and further complicates the ability to cultivate and sustain their culture.

In the body, most—but not all—uranium is excreted. What remains settles mostly in the kidneys and bones. Excess uranium has been linked to increased cancer risk, liver damage, weakened bone growth, developmental and reproductive problems.

Even at low levels uranium may play a role in some cancers and fertility problems. Studies have shown it acts as an endocrine disruptor, mimicking the hormone estrogen. Hormones are crucial for proper development, and such altering can lead to some cancers and fertility and reproductive problems.

For the Navajo Nation, many men worked in mining or milling, unaware of the risks, and later dealt with various cancers and failing kidneys. In 2000 researchers reported that from 1969 to 1993 Navajo uranium miners had a lung-cancer rate about 29 times that of non-mining Navajos, according to the study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Most of the mining tunnels, pits and waste piles remain on the reservation today near Navajo families. Water, already scarce, remains tainted with uranium and other metals. In one report, researchers found elevated uranium levels in the urine of 27 percent of almost 600 Navajo tribal members tested. The U.S. population as a whole is closer to 5 percent.

The uranium-mining legacy also left contaminated groundwater on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Indians. In Washington state, two mines were shuttered in the 1980s, but more than 30 million tons of radioactive rock and ore remain at the site. Today it is a federal Superfund site. Researchers are now tracking cancer rates on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

“We see a high percentage of wells contaminated with trace elements like uranium in the double digits all over the U.S, but they are certainly more prevalent in Western, more arid areas.”
– Joe Ayotte, USGSThis toxic trail spreads throughout the West. Some uranium mining took place near the Crow Reservation, but naturally occurring levels can infiltrate drinking water wells too. And private wells don’t have the same safeguards of testing and treatment that public water does.

“We see a high percentage of wells contaminated with trace elements like uranium in the double digits all over the U.S, but they are certainly more prevalent in Western, more arid areas,” says Joe Ayotte, chief of groundwater quality studies section for the U.S. Geological Survey.

The USGS reported 20 percent of untreated water samples from public, private and monitoring wells nationwide contained concentrations of at least one trace element, such as uranium, arsenic and manganese.  Manganese and uranium were found at levels at or above human health standards in 12 percent and 4 percent of wells nationwide, respectively, according to the study.

Like the rest of the country, Montana home wells have historically not been tested for elements such as uranium and manganese, so it’s unclear if Crow is an outlier or the norm for the state.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality does not have regulatory authority over private wells on tribal lands, says Lisa Peterson, an agency spokesperson, adding that they haven’t received any information about contamination on the Crow Reservation.
For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at bbienkowski@ehn.org.

August 24, 2016 Posted by | health, indigenous issues, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

Climate emergency requires action now – Jill Stein USA Greens Party

Stein, JillGreen Party candidate Jill Stein calls for climate state of emergency Presidential hopeful points to California wildfires and Louisiana flooding in push for Green New Deal to address both environment and economy, Guardian, , 20 Aug 16, “We need to acknowledge the true state of emergency we are in,” Stein said. “The fires in California and floods in Louisiana are going to become day-by-day occurrences, and, within our lifetimes, there is going to be potentially catastrophic sea-level rise.

“We need to ensure that these disasters do not become a daily way of life for all Americans and people all over the world,” she said, “and this is why we need to declare a climate state of emergency so that we can respond in real time in the ways that we need to.”

In poll after poll, Stein added, the American people say they want substantial action on climate change that meets the severity of the crisis. She called for empowering Americans to instruct their elected officials – namely Congress – to act in their interests, not in the interests of lobbyists.

Stein remarked that she was astonished to be witnessing a Republican party that appeared to be “unravelling at the seams”. But she also warned that Democrats were moving to the right………

The Green party nominee, currently polling as high as 6% but well below the 15% threshold required for a podium position in the coming presidential TV debates, said declaring a state of emergency would address two related crises in the climate and the economy….

Part of the solution would be the Green New Deal, a plan that would rapidly create 20m new jobs, lead to a sustainable economy and transition the US to 100% clean energy by 2030.

The New Deal, Stein said, would help revive the economy, turn the tide on climate change and make wars for oil obsolete. “When you have 100% renewable energy, you do not need and you cannot justify a military budget that distributes soldiers and weapons all around the world.”

The plan includes “restoring critical infrastructure, including the ecosystem, cleaning up rivers and waterways, restoring our wetlands and forests and ensuring that we have water systems for our communities that are not toxic”.

Part of the program, she added, would be to call for a complete ban on new fossil fuel and nuclear infrastructure. Communities dependent on coal or fracking would be assured that jobs would be replaced before they were laid off.

Stein estimates the costs of the transition would be completely offset by the money saved by not using fossil fuels. The savings, she suggested, would include billions of dollars related to healthcare costs from asthma, emphysema, heart attacks, strokes and cancers related to exposure to fossil fuels.

The party’s vice-presidential nominee, Ajamu Baraka, also appeared at the event. A longtime human rights activist, he told the gathering that participatory job creation and planning was paramount in the development of a Green New Deal economy. “It’s imperative that the people are direct participants,” he said. “It’s a principle that this party and this campaign stands for.”…..

As a medical doctor, of course I support vaccinations,” she tweeted. “I have a problem with the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] being controlled by drug companies.”

But on the campaign trail, Stein largely limited her remarks to concerns over climate change. She proposed introducing a carbon tax of $60 a ton that would yield around $360bn annually and increasing the estate tax to its level during the Reagan administration. Her proposals, she argued, were now a necessity.

“Each month now, we’re seeing records set for climate change and global warming. Science is telling us that the day of reckoning is coming closer. This is not something that can wait another four years.

“We are in an existential moment where we have to decide if we want a future or not,” she said. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/20/jill-stein-green-party-climate-state-of-emergency

August 24, 2016 Posted by | USA elections 2016 | Leave a comment

Westinghouse puts on hold plans to build nuclear fuel plant in Ukraine

US Westinghouse gives no confirmation of decision to build nuclear fuel plant in Ukraine, 
Ukrainian Energy and Coal Industry Minister Nasalik earlier announced that Westinghouse and Kiev had reached a deal on building a nuclear fuel factory in Ukraine.

KIEV, August 16. /TASS/. The US-based Westinghouse has not confirmed a decision to finance the construction of a nuclear fuel factory in Ukraine as was previously announced by Ukrainian Energy and Coal Industry Minister Igor Nasalik.

As Westinghouse Vice-President and Managing Director for Northern and Eastern Europe Aziz Dag told Deutsche Welle publication, surplus capacities for nuclear fuel production can be observed in the world at present and, therefore, the construction of a new factory won’t bring any considerable economic benefits for the country….. http://tass.ru/en/economy/894536

August 24, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Nuclear power holds back action on climate change – new study shows

New Study Shows How Clinging to Nuclear Power Means Climate Failure http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/08/22/new-study-shows-how-clinging-nuclear-power-means-climate-failure “By suppressing better ways to meet climate goals, evidence suggests entrenched commitments to nuclear power may actually be counterproductive” by Andrea Germanos, staff writer  23 Aug 16 

While it’s been touted by some energy experts as a so-called “bridge” to help slash carbon emissions, a new study suggests that a commitment to nuclear power may in fact be a path towards climate failure.

climate-change-time

For their study, researchers at the University of Sussex and the Vienna School of International Studies grouped European countries by levels of nuclear energy usage and plans, and compared their progress with part of the European Union’s 2020 Strategy.

That 10-year strategy, proposed in 2010, calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by least 20 percent compared to 1990 levels and increasing the share of renewable energy in final energy consumption to 20 percent.

The researchers found that “progress in both carbon emissions reduction and in adoption of renewables appears to be inversely related to the strength of continuing nuclear commitments.”

For the study, the authors looked at three groupings. First is those with no nuclear energy. Group 1 includes Denmark, Ireland and Portugal. Group 2, which counts Germany and Sweden among its members, includes those with some continuing nuclear commitments, but also with plans to decommission existing nuclear plants. The third group, meanwhile, includes countries like Hungary and the UK which have plans to maintain current nuclear units or even expand nuclear capacity.

“With reference to reductions in carbon emissions and adoption of renewables, clear relationships emerge between patterns of achievement in these 2020 Strategy goals and the different groupings of nuclear use,” they wrote.

For non-nuclear Group 1 countries, the average percentage of reduced emissions was 6 percent and they had an average of a 26 percent increase in renewable energy consumption.

Group 2 had the highest average percentage of reduced emissions at 11 percent and they also boosted renewable energy to 19 percent.

Pro-nuclear Group 3, meanwhile, had their emissions on average go up 3 percent and they had the smallest increase in renewable shares—16 percent.

“Looked at on its own, nuclear power is sometimes noisily propounded as an attractive response to climate change,” said Andy Stirling, professor of science and technology policy at the University of Sussex, in a media statement. “Yet if alternative options are rigorously compared, questions are raised about cost-effectiveness, timeliness, safety and security.”

“Looking in detail at historic trends and current patterns in Europe, this paper substantiates further doubts,” he continued. “By suppressing better ways to meet climate goals, evidence suggests entrenched commitments to nuclear power may actually be counterproductive.”

The new study focused on Europe and Benjamin Sovacool, professor of energy policy and director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex, stated, “If nothing else, our paper casts doubt on the likelihood of a nuclear renaissance in the near-term, at least in Europe.”

Advocates of clean energy over on the other side of the Atlantic said the recent plan to close the last remaining nuclear power plant in California and replace it with renewable energy marked the “end of an atomic era” and said it could serve as “a clear blueprint for fighting climate change.”

Natural Resources Defense Council President Rhea Suh wrote of the proposal: “It proves we can cut our carbon footprint with energy efficiency and renewable power, even as our aging nuclear fleet nears retirement. And it strikes a blow against the central environmental challenge of our time, the climate change that threatens our very future.”

August 24, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Renewable energy, energy efficiency would create over 145,000 jobs in Alberta, Canada

green-collarAlberta could produce over 145,000 jobs by going green: report HTTP://EDMONTONJOURNAL.COM/BUSINESS/ENERGY/ALBERTA-COULD-PRODUCE-OVER-145000-JOBS-BY-GOING-GREEN-REPORT GORDON KENT April 22, 2016 Alberta could create more than 145,000 jobs by investing more heavily in renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transit, a report by three environmental organizations says.

The move would boost employment when oil prices have dropped, reduce carbon emissions and help shift the economy toward green industries, according to the report released Friday by Greenpeace, the Alberta Green Economy Network and Gridworks Energy Group.

“The government can start putting people back to work without having to wait for the price of oil to go back up,” co-author David Thompson said Friday, which was also Earth Day.

The report estimates 68,400 positions are available from energy efficiency upgrades on more than 183,000 older homes and other buildings, requiring spending of $1 billion over five years.

Another 30,000 to 40,000 places would come from building LRT lines at a cost of more than $3.6 billion, along with the unpriced expansion of bike lanes, sidewalks and other sustainable transportation.

As well, there could be 46,780 jobs created by 2020 by almost doubling the amount of wind power to seven per cent of the electricity grid, boosting solar and geothermal production, and improving energy efficiency and storage.

No price tag is attached to this development. The provincial budget calls for investing $6.2 billion raised by the new carbon levy in green infrastructure, renewable energy, energy efficiency and other work over five years.

Many communities are already shifting toward renewable power.

The Lubicon Lake First Nation of Little Buffalo, 465 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, put in an 80-panel, 20.8-kilowatt solar electricity system next to its health centre last summer. The Louis Bull First Nation at Maskwacis, 70 kilometres south of Edmonton, will start installing 340 solar panels on four public buildings next month, training residents to work in this field and cutting electricity bills, councillor Desmond Bull said.

The approximately $300,000 cost is being covered with money from the federal government.

The project is intended to help the environment as well as produce economic development, Bull said.

“There’s not really any template or model for how First Nations can move in this direction.”

City of Edmonton chief economist John Rose cautioned this week that governments need to be prudent about major investments in renewable energy, but Thompson said Alberta has big wind and solar resources.

“We can learn from the mistakes others have made … We can go down the tunnel and hopefully get less scratched.”

gkent@postmedia.com

twitter.com/GKentEJ

August 24, 2016 Posted by | Canada, employment, renewable | Leave a comment

Barack Obama’s climate change achievements

Obama solarObama’s science legacy: climate (policy) hots up President sidesteps Congress to curb US greenhouse-gas emissions. http://www.nature.com/news/obama-s-science-legacy-climate-policy-hots-up-1.20468 Jeff Tollefson 23 August 2016 Global warming was one of Barack Obama’s top priorities — and one of the most difficult to address, given strong opposition from Republicans in Congress. Yet he managed to help broker a global climate accord and push through regulations to curb greenhouse-gas emissions from cars, trucks and power plants.

“Obama has established a terrific climate legacy,” says David Doniger, who directs the climate and clean-air programme at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group in New York.

The president’s earliest actions capitalized on the global financial crisis. In February 2009, Obama signed economic-stimulus legislation that included nearly $37 billion for clean-energy research and development (R&D) at the Department of Energy. Four months later, with failing car companies seeking a federal bailout, the Obama administration proposed higher fuel-efficiency requirements and the first greenhouse-gas standards for passenger vehicles. Theregulations, which took effect in 2012, will nearly double the average fuel efficiency of vehicles by 2025, to around 23 kilometres per litre.

And after his campaign for a comprehensive climate bill failed in 2010, an emboldened Obamaused existing laws to issue regulations that curbed greenhouse-gas emissions, bolstered energy-efficiency standards and expanded energy R&D programmes.

But the president’s big push on climate came in advance of the United Nations climate summit in Paris in 2015. He committed the United States to reduce emissions by at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2025, and negotiated directly with countries such as China to build support for a global climate agreement. The final version, adopted on 12 December, aims to hold average global temperatures to 1.5–2 °C above pre-industrial levels.

“Paris is a major achievement for the world,” says Robert Socolow, a climate scientist at Princeton University in New Jersey. “I don’t think it would have happened without Obama.”

Yet Obama’s domestic achievements could be undone by legal challenges. In February, the US Supreme Court temporarily blocked a federal regulation to reduce emissions from existing power plants. The fate of that rule— the cornerstone of Obama’s plan to reduce emissions — could depend on the election in November. The Supreme Court is down one member and the next president will choose a replacement, who could decide whether the climate rule stands.

Some environmental experts say that Obama should have pushed harder for a comprehensive climate bill, rather than settling for piecemeal regulations. “All of these things are actually small bites at the apple that won’t achieve meaningful emissions reductions over time,” says Catrina Rorke, director of energy policy at the R Street Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington DC.

Others criticize Obama for encouraging a vast expansion of domestic oil and gas development, even as he sought to wean the country off coal and curb its greenhouse-gas emissions. “The administration is still trying to have it both ways,” says Stephen Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International, an advocacy group in Washington DC.

Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried oil from the Canadian tar sands to US refineries, and has said that some fossil fuels should be kept “in the ground”. But his administration continues to push an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy that leads to higher production of domestic fossil fuels, Kretzmann says.

Nonetheless, Obama has helped to change the conversation about global warming at home and abroad, says Doniger. “The next president needs to do more,” he says, “but did the Obama administration move the ball forward? They sure did.”

August 24, 2016 Posted by | climate change, politics, USA | Leave a comment

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