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At long last – some Australian politicians speak up for Australian Julian Assange

Barnaby Joyce joins calls to stop extradition of Assange to US, The Age, By Rob Harris, October 13, 2019 Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has joined calls for the Morrison government to try to halt Julian Assange’s potential extradition from Britain to the United States on espionage charges, as the WikiLeaks founder’s supporters intensify their campaign to bring him to Australia.

Mr Joyce joined former foreign minister Bob Carr in voicing concerns over US attempts to have the 48-year-old Australian stand trial in America, where he faces a sentence of 175 years if found guilty of computer fraud and obtaining and disclosing national defence information.

Also seeking to increase pressure on the federal government is actress Pamela Anderson, who is demanding to meet Prime Minister Scott Morrison to request he intervene in the case. She plans to visit Australia next month.

Assange’s supporters say they are increasingly concerned about his health and his ability to receive a fair trial in the US………

Mr Carr has challenged Foreign Minister Marise Payne to make “firm and friendly” representation to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, believing Australians would be “deeply uneasy” at a fellow citizen being handed over to the “living hell of a lifetime sentence in an American penitentiary”.

Mr Joyce, who in 2007 was the first Coalition MP to call for the then Howard government to act over the detention of Australian David Hicks in Guantanamo Bay, said his position was principled and he gave “no opinion of Mr Assange whatsoever”.

“If someone was in another country at a time an alleged event occurred then the sovereignty of the land they were in has primacy over the accusation of another nation,” Mr Joyce said.

“It would be totally unreasonable, for instance, if China was to say the actions of an Australian citizen whilst in Australia made them liable to extradition to China to answer their charges of their laws in China. Many in Hong Kong have the same view.”

Assange is serving a 50-week sentence in Belmarsh Prison in south-east London for bail violations after spending seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer allegations of rape and molestation in 2012.

In June, the then British home secretary, Sajid Javid, signed an extradition request after the US Justice Department filed an additional 18 Espionage Act charges over Assange’s role in obtaining and publishing 400,000 classified US military documents on the war in Iraq in 2010.

Mr Carr, the former NSW premier who served as foreign minister in the Gillard government, said he understood many people would have reservations about the “modus operandi” of Assange and his alleged contact with Russia.

“On the other hand, we have an absolute right to know about American war crimes in a conflict that the Australian government of the day strongly supported – we wouldn’t know about them except for Assange,” he said.

Mr Carr said the Morrison government should make strong representations to the US on behalf of an Australian citizen who “is in trouble because he delivered on our right to know”.

“I think the issue will gather pace and in the ultimate trial there’ll be a high level of Australian public concern, among conservative voters as much as any others.”……..

Mr Carr said the Morrison government should make strong representations to the US on behalf of an Australian citizen who “is in trouble because he delivered on our right to know”.

“I think the issue will gather pace and in the ultimate trial there’ll be a high level of Australian public concern, among conservative voters as much as any others.”…….https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/barnaby-joyce-joins-calls-to-stop-extradition-of-assange-to-us-20191013-p53080.html

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October 14, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, civil liberties, politics, politics international | Leave a comment

35,454 Petitioners call for scrapping of UK’s “regulated asset base” (RAB) funding for Sizewell nuclear project

Sizewell.
TASC 11th Oct 2019, Just one major problem with the Sizewell C plans is that nuclear new build projects have been largely a financial disaster. Almost every major nuclear project in the West has been plagued by delays and cost overruns: Some delays are in the order decades. Likewise, the cost overruns are of epic proportions.

Some new-build projects have had cost overruns that run into billions. Changing the funding method for the planned Sizewell C to a
regulated asset base model would shift the risk of rising costs from EDF to consumers, and could lead to even worse project planning because the existing RAB model would offer little incentive for EDF to build on-time and on-budget. EDFs investment is safe regardless, and we wind up footing the bill no matter how incompetently EDF proceeds.

http://www.tasizewellc.org.uk/index.php/submissions-and-reports/296-tasc-response-to-the-nuclear-regulated-asset-base-consultation

TASC 11th Oct 2019,Today, campaigners from Sizewell, Hinkley Point and Bradwell nuclear sites and consumer group SumOfUs will visit the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to deliver a 35,454-signature petition protesting the government’s proposal to subsidise new nuclear power plants by hiking energy bills.

The petition calls on the government to scrap plans to subsidise the nuclear industry through a “regulated asset base” (RAB) funding model, under which consumers would be forced to pay a surcharge on their energy bills for new nuclear power projects such as Sizewell C in Suffolk and Bradwell B in Essex.

http://www.tasizewellc.org.uk 

October 14, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | Leave a comment

Senate to probe Philippine’s nuclear energy program

Senate to probe Philippine’s nuclear energy program, Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) – October 14, 2019 – MANILA, Philippines — The Senate committee on energy will look into the status of the country’s nuclear energy program as the Duterte administration is set to decide on a recommendation to tap nuclear fuels for stable power supply, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said yesterday.

Gatchalian, chairman of the committee, filed a resolution for an inquiry on the status of the Department of Energy (DOE)’s Nuclear Energy Program Implementing Organization (NEPIO) in pursuit of his call for transparency in the government’s nuclear initiatives.

“A comprehensive, transparent and public discussion must be made on the merits of a national nuclear program taking into consideration the social, economic, environmental and technical effects and requirements of such a program,” he said.

He added that the development of a nuclear power program in any country requires three phases marked by a specific milestone and the completion of 19 infrastructure requirements, which necessitate specific actions during each of these three phases as indicated in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s milestones in the development of a national infrastructure for nuclear power.

The Philippines, according to the senator, is currently completing phase one, which commenced when the DOE issued Department Order 2016-10-0013 in 2016, creating the NEPIO, which is tasked to explore the development and inclusion of nuclear energy in the country’s electric power supply.

Phase two requires preparation for the contracting and construction of a nuclear power plant after a policy decision has been made, and its milestone is an invitation to bid or negotiate a contract for the power plant.

Meanwhile, phase three details the activities necessary to implement the first nuclear power plant, and its milestone is the commissioning and operation of such activities……..

The senator made the call during the hearing on the DOE’s proposed 2020 budget.

He pushed for the scrutiny of the nuclear energy program after a memorandum of intent was signed by Philippine and Russian officials during President Duterte’s visit to Moscow last week “to jointly explore the prospects of cooperation in the construction of nuclear power plants in the Philippines.”

A proposal to build a floating nuclear power plant in the country was also forwarded by Russia.

One of world’s worst nuclear disasters occurred in 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which was blamed on a flawed Soviet reactor in Ukraine, at the time part of the Soviet Union.https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/10/14/1960013/senate-probe-philippines-nuclear-energy-program#Yu0jW87Rhm5T2TgI.99

October 14, 2019 Posted by | Philippines, politics | Leave a comment

The nuclear industry looks to Trump to bail them out

US nuclear, uranium mining industries hope for Trump bailout  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/us-nuclear-uranium-mining-industries-hope-for-trump-bailout/2019/10/09/3a857ff2-eaca-11e9-a329-7378fbfa1b63_story.html By Ellen Knickmeyer, Felicia Fonseca and Mead Gruver | AP, October 9 19

WASHINGTON — A plea from uranium mining companies and nuclear power plant operators for tax breaks and other federal financial boosts is going before President Donald Trump, as his administration studies reviving the U.S. uranium industry in the name of national security.

Trump is scheduled to receive recommendations Thursday from a task force of national security, military and other federal officials about ways to revive U.S. uranium mining, which has lagged against global competition amid low uranium ore prices.

Uranium is a vital component for the country’s nuclear arsenal, submarines and nuclear power plants. U.S. uranium users get about 10% of their supply from domestic sources, the federal Energy Information Administration has said. Most of the rest comes from Canada and Australia, followed by Russia and former Soviet republics.

U.S. uranium mining interests have pushed Trump to require uranium users to get 25% of what they use from domestic suppliers, saying the global market is vulnerable to geopolitical turmoil. Trump rejected the quota idea this past summer and gave the task force 90 days to come up with other ideas.

An Aug. 18 letter from the Nuclear Energy Institute industry group laid out the sector’s requests, including a recommendation for the Defense Department to procure more domestic uranium for military needs and for subsidies for electric utilities or uranium producers for the production of up to 3 million pounds (1.4 million kilograms) of partially processed uranium yearly.

Nuclear power plants, which have been suffering in the U.S. marketplace against cheaper natural gas and renewables, also are seeking assistance. Plant operators and utilities had opposed the production quota sought by mining interests.

“There are reactors out there that are financially in difficulty,” Matthew Wald, a Nuclear Energy Institute spokesman, said this week. “We would like to see a thriving domestic uranium industry … We don’t want something that will raise the costs of domestic reactors.”

If the Trump administration ever imposes sanctions against Russia, that could limit the U.S. uranium users can get from that country, said Curtis Moore, a spokesman for Colorado-based Energy Fuels Inc., a uranium mining company.

“Do we really want to put our energy security and national security in the hands of our adversaries? That’s just not smart policy,” Moore said.

But conservation groups and other opponents said the U.S. has enough uranium stockpiled to supply decades’ worth of defense needs. They argue the availability of high-quality imported uranium from close allies, including Canada, means more taxpayer support for the industry is unnecessary.

U.S. uranium producers want “the federal government to prop up their industry through enormous subsidies and self-serving quotas,” plus easing of environmental protections and the opening of more public land for mining, said Randi Spivak, public lands program director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“It’s not a national security issue,” she said.

The nuclear power industry is “trying to leverage the ‘America First’ moment to get more government financial support for the operating fleet,” said Edwin Lyman, a nuclear expert with the Union for Concerned Scientists advocacy group.

Other industry requests to a working group made up of representatives from the Pentagon and agencies including the Commerce and Energy departments include vastly expanding a U.S. uranium reserve that could be tapped in times of supply disruption.

The American Assured Fuel Supply Reserve established in 2011 currently has six so-called “reloads” of low enriched uranium. A nuclear plant needs reloading with processed fuel at least every two years. The U.S. over the next seven to 10 years should expand the reserve to 30 reloads, or 25 million tons of partially processed uranium ore, the industries say.

Some uranium mining companies also have said Trump should reconsider his July decision not to limit imports by reserving 25% of U.S. uranium use for domestic producers.

The administration already has done plenty to ease environmental and other regulations and at this point, only tariffs and quotas would “move the needle” to help the industry, said Travis Deti, director of the Wyoming Mining Association, which represents the state’s mining companies.

Most uranium in the U.S., including all of it from Wyoming, is mined by pumping a solution of water and chemicals into uranium-bearing deposits underground. The water is then pumped to the surface and ore is extracted.

One of the richest known reserves of uranium ore spans parts of northwestern New Mexico. Previous booms in what was once known as the uranium capital of the world occurred during the 1950s and again in the 1970s. Environmentalists have been fighting to prevent future mining in the region and in Arizona around the Grand Canyon.

Amber Reimondo of the Flagstaff, Arizona-based Grand Canyon Trust says she fears moves to boost domestic uranium mining could end protections put in place during the administration of President Barack Obama for uranium-bearing lands outside Grand Canyon National Park.

Uranium mining in the Southwest during the atomic age left a legacy of death and disease, Reimondo said. Hundreds of uranium mines that dot the Navajo Nation, for example, have not been cleaned up. The tribe, whose reservation extends into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, banned uranium mining and transport on its lands in 2005.

“When people talk about past uranium mining, they talk about it as if the problem is in the past, as if people aren’t still living with the consequences of uranium contamination and that uranium contamination can be segregated in some bubble when it just inherently lasts for longer than any of us can fathom,” she said. “We shouldn’t be meddling in that.”

Fonseca reported from Flagstaff, Arizona and Gruver reported Cheyenne, Wyoming. Associated Press writer Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City and Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico contributed to this report.

October 10, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

EDF’s Flamanville nuclear project – more costs, more delays

EDF adds further €1.5bn to Flamanville nuclear plant costs https://www.ft.com/content/fc6a8610-ea5e-11e9-a240-3b065ef5fc55  French energy group also confirms latest delay to opening of long-awaited project.

David Keohane in Paris 9 Oct 19, French energy giant EDF announced increased costs to its long-troubled flagship nuclear project at Flamanville on Wednesday as it confirmed delays to the opening of the plant due to faulty weldings. The company said construction costs would rise by €1.5bn to €12.4bn and the loading of nuclear fuel would be delayed until the end of 2022, which had previously been scheduled for the end of 2019 with commercial activity starting in 2020. The group, which is 83.7 per cent owned by the French government, had flagged the delays at the plant in north-western France to the end of 2022 during its half-year results in July. Flamanville was originally expected to cost €3.3bn and start operations in 2012.

Analysts at Morningstar said that the increase in costs was in line with estimates but warned “the worst-case scenario has not gone away totally” — alternative more expensive plans — since EDF had to get approval for its repair proposals by the end of 2020. This involves the use of remotely operated robots. Flamanville is considered a litmus test for the next-generation European Pressurised Reactor technology. One EPR is already up and running in China, but Flamanville remains the bigger test for EDF because it is 100 per cent owned by the company and the French regulators are known to be exacting. There are two other EPR projects being built in Europe: The Olkiluoto project in Finland, which is more than a decade late, and the UK’s Hinkley Point, which EDF warned in September would cost an extra £2.9bn to complete.

The news comes as EDF pushed back the formal presentation to the government of an internal reorganisation plan, called Project Hercules, which had been due by the end of the year, at the request of French president Emmanuel Macron.  Project Hercules will create a government-owned mother company, EDF Bleu, containing the nuclear assets as well as hydroelectric assets. Bleu’s main subsidiary, EDF Vert, will house renewable energy, the networks and the services businesses and will be listed, with some 20 per cent to 40 per cent sold to raise funds.

The quid pro quo for the reorganisation, as seen by EDF, is a new regulated price for nuclear energy, assuming it can be agreed with Brussels. However, Project Hercules has been deferred due to delays in discussions with Europe. In an internal email to staff sent late last week, EDF chief executive Jean-Bernard Lévy said “a reorganisation without better regulation would not be enough to give EDF the financial means to play its role in the investments necessary for the success of [France’s] energy transition”.

October 10, 2019 Posted by | France, politics | Leave a comment

Scrutiny on Britain’s nuclear plans: small modular reactors uncompetitive

UK nuclear: a Golden Egg or Poisoned Chalice?  UK nuclear power isunder intense scrutiny as costs balloon on the controversial Hinkley Point C station in southwest England

October 5, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | Leave a comment

Nuclear company EDF denounced by France’s economy minister as a “state within a state”

Times, 30 Sept 19  President Macron’s economy minister has accused the French state-owned
company building Britain’s new nuclear plant of “unacceptable” failings as he threatened sweeping change at the group.
Bruno Le Maire said yesterday that the French nuclear sector was like “a state within a state” and he
denounced cost overruns and delays in the construction of the Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor in Somerset and similar projects in Flamanville in Normandy and Olkiluoto in Finland. “We will not accept this drift month after month, year after year,” Mr Le Maire said.
His words appeared to weaken the position of Jean-Bernard Lévy, 64, who was given a second
four-year term as chief executive of EDF by Mr Macron in February. Mr Le Maire said that he had ordered an independent audit into the French nuclear industry, which provides about 75 per cent of nation’s electricity, and into the decision to build a new generation of the increasingly questioned European pressurised reactors in Britain, France, Finland and China.
 The conclusions will be delivered on October 31, he said. The audit will interest Whitehall, given that the EPRs being built in Somerset are supposed to supply 7 per cent of Britain’s electricity. EDF said last week
that Hinkley Point C would cost £3 billion more than expected and may not meet its latest launch date of 2025, which is already eight years late.
The glitches at Hinkley Point C come after setbacks at Flamanville, which initially was due to come on stream in 2012 at a cost of €3.3 billion, but which will not now be linked to the grid until 2022 at the earliest at a cost of at least $10.9 billion. The Finnish plant was scheduled to be operational in 2009, but is still not complete.
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/2a8ccefa-e2e8-11e9-bc3e-661ff0438ed9

October 4, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | 2 Comments

Australian government warned about taxpayer burden if it chooses nuclear power

Nuclear inquiry hears cost, health risks   https://www.9news.com.au/national/environment-groups-front-nuclear-inquiry/79884d6e-f161-4624-9bac-b6f283d96598    By AAP Oct 1, 2019  Taxpayers would be bear the brunt of a potential nuclear energy industry in Australia, a parliamentary committee has been told.

Environment groups began the inquiry on Tuesday in Melbourne, a day after the committee was told the potential economic benefits of more uranium mining.
The various witnesses implored the bipartisan committee not to overturn Australia’s moratorium on nuclear energy, pointing to the huge health, environmental and financial risks.
Anti-nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia Jim Green said a potential industry would have to be propped up with subsidies because investors would steer clear of such a risky investment.
“Nuclear companies would descend on Canberra to try to gouge as much taxpayers’ money as they could possibly get from the federal government,” he said.
Dr Green told the politicians to be wary of submissions talking up emerging small modular reactors, particularly when calling them clean energy. “There isn’t even one prototype operating anywhere in the world,” Mr Green said.
The committee should also be sceptical about a company’s financial estimates of building them, he added.  “Add a zero onto the end and there’s a good chance your estimate will be better.”
The committee is looking at whether nuclear power is a feasible, suitable and palatable solution for Australia’s future energy needs.
The inquiry has so far been told a huge range of facts and figures – at times contradictory – from a wide spectrum of groups, industries and individuals.
Margaret Beavis from the Medical Association for Prevention of War highlighted that nuclear waste has to be stored for about 10,000 years.  “The Egyptian pharaohs were about 5000 years ago,” Dr Beavis added.
The environment groups pointed to a joint submission with scores of other civil society bodies including unions, indigenous representatives, health and faith groups.The submission represents millions of Australians who want a renewable energy future, not a radioactive one, the committee heard.
The inquiry will take place in Adelaide on Wednesday before a hearing in Perth on Thursday.

October 4, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, business and costs, politics | Leave a comment

UK energy chief advises that Hinkley Point nuclear project should be scrapped

Telegraph 28th Sept 2019   Scrap Hinkley Point: nuclear plant is expensive and out of date, says Ovo Energy chief, Britain’s next nuclear power plant should be scrapped because it is wastefully expensive and out of date, according to the boss of Ovo Energy. The industry should instead look to the future with ever-cheaper renewable energy, said Stephen Fitzpatrick, the founder and chief executive of the group that will soon be the UK’s second-biggest supplier as Ovo acquires SSE’s consumer business.

“We should just call it a day. I thought at the time the deal was struck at £92.50 per megawatt
hour (MWh), inflation-linked, that it was a bad deal for customers. Unfortunately the technology, the design it is based on, is unproven,” he said. “Looking at the cost for customers of renewables, solar, and wind, the cost just keeps coming down. The cost for nuclear keeps going up.

It strikes me that this does not represent value for money for consumers, never more so than this week when the cost went up by £2.9bn.” The Hinkley Point C reactor will cost up to £22.5bn to build as costs keep rising above initial plans.

Mr Fitzpatrick would prefer the industry to invest in restructuring the energy network to handle more renewables, including the variable supply of wind and solar. This could be handled in
part with a “smart network” using batteries to handle shifting supply and demand.

“If you think about the £39/MWh that was achieved at the last auction for offshore wind, and when Hinkley Point goes live it is going to be about £100 more per MWh some time in the late 2020s,” he said. “If we make smart decisions and focus on value for money and what is best for the end consumer, I am quite sure we can keep costs [of decarbonising thenetwork] under control.”  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/09/28/scrap-hinkley-point-nuclear-plant-expensive-date-says-ovo-energy/

September 30, 2019 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

The 2019 World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR)

The 2019 World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR) has been published on 24. Sept. 2019
and is available now – FREE – for download on the WNISR website:
www.worldnuclearreport.org/IMG/pdf/wnisr2019-lr.pdf (low resolution)
www.worldnuclearreport.org/IMG/pdf/wnisr2019-hr.pdf (high resolution)
The report includes a chapter on Nuclear and Climate Change, and clearly opposes the narrative that nuclear power might help ‘to safe the world from climate change’.
Summary on page 24 f, an extensive view on nuclear and climate change p 228 – 256.
Quote from the conclusion:
Whatever the rationales for continuing and expanding nuclear power, for climate protection it has become counterproductive, and the new subsidies and decision rules its owners demand would dramatically slow this decade’s encouraging progress toward cheaper, faster options, more climate-effective solutions.
The WNISR 2019 also deals with SMRs – Small Modular Reactors,
with a summary on page 19, and a country by country analysis p 200 – 208, closing with a devastating conclusion on SMRs.
The lauch of the 2019 WNISR comes just days before the IAEA’s ‘Climate Conference’

International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power“, 7–11 October 2019, Vienna, Austria
and a counter-conference:Climate Crisis – Why nuclear is not helping
www.global2000.at/events/conference-climate-crisis

7. and 8. October 2019 at ARCOTEL Kaiserwasser, Vienna
(just accross the street from the IAEA conference).
The 2018 WNISR will be presented at the counter-conference by Mycle Schneider.
take care,

September 30, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics | Leave a comment

Will Brexit mean a race to the bottom, in UK’s environmental protection standards?

Herald 29th Sept 2019, Scotland’s Brexit secretary has written to the UK Government over fears it is backing out of environment protection commitments after leaving the EU which would leave it in a “race to the bottom”.
The Prime Minister wrote to European Council president Donald Tusk last month to say the Government wanted to move away from so-called level playing field commitments. Mike
Russell MSP has now written to Michael Gove demanding to know why the Government wishes to move away from these alignment regulations.
He is also seeking assurances that the Government will “respect” the devolution settlements. Russell said: “A no-deal Brexit would be a catastrophe for jobs and living standards. But it is clear now that the type of deal the UK Government wants would open the door to the downgrading of environmental protections and employment rights which millions of people take for granted.
“The UK Government must not use the threat of no-deal to force through a disastrous hard Brexit deal. If Brexit happens we have said that when it is in Scotland’s interests we will work with the UK and other devolved administrations on common policy frameworks. “But we cannot allow any bid to impose GM crops or to weaken our world-leading action on protecting the environment.
It’s time for the Tories to come clean with people about their true intentions for regulations post-Brexit.

https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/17934543.fears-uk-government-race-bottom-environment-protection/

September 30, 2019 Posted by | environment, politics | Leave a comment

Corporate greed, fighting over America’s extravagant $85 billion nuclear missile program

Boeing, Northrop spar over $85 billion nuclear missile program  With Northrop poised to become the Defense Department’s primary provider of ballistic missiles, Boeing has launched an aggressive lobbying campaign, 

There was an $85 billion elephant in the room at this year’s Air Force Association conference, an annual trade show where thousands of uniformed airmen rub shoulders with suit-clad defense contractors hawking the latest advanced weaponry.

Those entering the conference hotel in National Harbor, Md., were welcomed by an enormous blue banner splashed with the Northrop Grumman logo and the words “LEGENDARY DETERRENCE” ― a not-so-subtle reference to the company’s ballistic missile ambitions.

Northrop is poised to take over a massive Air Force nuclear weapons program called Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, or GBSD, which will call on a team of contractors to replace the U.S. military’s aging stock of Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. But Boeing’s Arlington-based defense business, which has handled the Minuteman program since 1958, has launched an aggressive lobbying campaign in defense of its interests.

Northrop “is on a path to a sole-source opportunity,” Boeing GBSD Program Manager Frank McCall warned in an interview Wednesday on the floor of the trade show.

“There has never been a time in the history of the Minuteman when the Air Force wasn’t supported by both companies,” he said, adding that he thinks the Pentagon is taking “a winner-take-all approach” that is “unprecedented in the history of intercontinental ballistic missiles.”

The ground-based missiles make up one leg of the U.S. nuclear triad, which aims to be ready to deliver warheads at a moment’s notice from air, land or sea. They are meant to deter other countries from launching a nuclear strike by sending a message that any first-mover will be destroyed immediately.

The different components of the triad are extremely expensive to build and keep at the ready. For the new ground-based missiles, the Pentagon faces a difficult dilemma as it tries to get the best solution for the best price.

The Air Force had hoped to evaluate multiple competing options. But Boeing, thought to be the only viable competitor aside from Northrop, says it won’t participate unless the Air Force changes its approach.

With Boeing out, the Northrop-led team appears to be the Pentagon’s only option, something that could make it hard for the government to negotiate a fair price.

It is a common dilemma facing Defense Department weapons buyers, who have the impossible task of running a competitive marketplace when there are, at best, two or three potential suppliers for the most expensive weapons systems. The U.S. defense industry has consolidated to a worrying degree in the decades since the Cold War, officials and analysts say, with a handful of dominant suppliers exerting tremendous influence.

A White House report released last year found 300 cases in which important defense products are produced by just a single company, a “fragile” supplier, or a foreign supplier.

There is big money at stake for Boeing and Northrop: Defense Department estimates for the long-term cost of the program range between $62 billion and $100 billion. Both companies have formidable lobbying operations, spending $7.2 million and $8.3 million, respectively, on Washington lobbyists in 2019.

Boeing’s stewardship of the Minuteman program brought it roughly 600 defense contracts totaling $8 billion in the first 30 years of the programs, according to estimates provided by the company. Northrop has traditionally taken a secondary role handling complex systems integration.

In 2017, Northrop and Boeing were awarded contracts worth $349.2 million and $328.6 million, respectively, to develop their own version of a next-generation replacement for the Minuteman. In July, the Air Force asked each company to submit a proposal, hoping to compare the two missile designs and negotiate a fair price.

Boeing quickly threw a wrench into that plan, announcing July 25 that it would walk away from the competition because the Air Force’s request for proposals allegedly favored Northrop.

Boeing’s concerns stem from Northrop Grumman’s 2017 acquisition of a company called Orbital ATK for $7.8 billion. Orbital ATK ― which operates as a Northrop Grumman business unit called Innovation Systems ― is a dominant producer of rocket motors that power ballistic missiles. Aerojet Rocketdyne, the other U.S. manufacturer of rocket motors, also is working with Northrop.

Boeing has taken its case to the Pentagon, as well as to the Federal Trade Commission, but has failed to block the deal.

“We continue to stand ready to support this important program,” wrote Leanne Caret, president of Boeing’s Arlington-based defense business, in a July 23 letter seen by The Washington Post. “As we have discussed, we believe there are other procurement structures that could provide this capability more rapidly at less cost, and we will look for ways to leverage the work … to help support this critical national security mission.”

Boeing later approached Northrop about the possibility of teaming up but was rejected, a Boeing official said. So it came as little surprise Monday when Northrop released the list of companies it is teaming up with, and Boeing isn’t on it.

Air Force officials stood by their approach but declined to comment on how they will proceed.

“We are very open to a variety of proposals. … We are open to teaming relationships. We just don’t want to dictate,” Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, told reporters Monday. “We think it should be decided by industry and what they think is best value.”

Soon afterward, Boeing countered that it is pursuing a multifaceted advocacy and lobbying campaign asking the government to force Northrop to collaborate.

“We believe it is a path to a better weapons system solution that will allow us to field the solution more quickly than either company could handle on its own,” said McCall, the Boeing official.

Analysts expressed concern over the current arrangement, in which Northrop will almost certainly be the only bidder. Whether Boeing’s proposal will resolve the problem is less clear.

“I would much rather see a direct competition between Northrop and Boeing,” said Dan Grazier, a former Marine Corps captain working at the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group. “The best practice for any acquisition system would be a solid, honest, competitive prototyping, where the government can weigh competing options and get a competitive price.”

September 22, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Donald Trump talks gibberish about nuclear weapons then announces trip to Mars

Jimmy McCloskey, Metro UK 20 Sep 2019  Donald Trump spouted a stream of gibberish about the US’s nuclear arsenal at a press conference Friday. The President of the United States told reporters at the White House: ‘Nobody can beat us militarily. No-one can even come close. ‘Our nuclear was getting very tired..Now we have it in, as we would say, tippy-top shape. ‘Tippy top. We have new and we have renovated and it’s incredible. We all should pray we never have to use it.’ Trump was speaking in response to questions about the US’s military capability amid increasing tensions between America and Iran…….

The president tore up his precedessor Barack Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal which saw Iran agree to wind down its attempts to build a nuclear weapon and have economic sanctions lifted against it in return. Meanwhile, Trump also announced plans to send US astronauts to Mars on Friday – and said they’d be stopping off on the moon en route. Speaking at the joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Trump said: ‘We’re going to Mars.
‘We’re stopping at the moon – the moon is actually a launching pad, that’s why we’re stopping at the moon.’ Trump explained plans to charge space tourism entrepreneurs like Tesla founder Elon Musk and Amazon owner Jeff Bezos to use US launchpad facilities to help fund the planned missions.   https://metro.co.uk/2019/09/20/donald-trump-talks-gibberish-nuclear-weapons-announces-trip-mars-10782103/

September 20, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Canada’s Conservative and Liberal politicians in the service of the nuclear lobby, not the Canadian people

Conservatives and Liberals advance corporate Canada’s nuclear dreams, http://www.rabble.ca/columnists/2019/09/conservatives-and-liberals-advance-corporate-canadas-nuclear-dreams   Ole Hendrickson September 18, 2019

Ignoring the advice of her own expert panel, Trudeau’s environment minister Catherine McKenna has exempted more projects and further gutted Canada’s environmental assessment regime.

The Trudeau government’s controversial Impact Assessment Act (Bill C-69) and its key regulation (the Physical Activities Regulations, better known as the “project list”) came into force on August 28 — slipped through during the summer season.

In 2012 the Harper government slashed the number of projects requiring environmental assessment, arguing that only the biggest projects have an impact on the environment.

Under the Impact Assessment Act, many nuclear projects can now proceed unimpeded by impact review requirements to assess effects on the environment, health, social or economic conditions; effects of malfunctions or accidents; or impacts on the rights of Indigenous peoples.

The Harper government’s 2012 project list did require assessment of new uranium mines or mills. The new list requires assessment only if a uranium mine or mill has a capacity over 2,500 tonnes per day.

The 2012 list required assessment of new nuclear reactors. The new list allows reactors generating up to 200 million watts of heat to be built anywhere without assessment. 

Furthermore, the new list allows nuclear waste storage facilities to be built on the sites of any of these so-called “small modular reactors” without assessment.

This paves the way for a Canadian landscape dotted with mass-produced nuclear reactors — the vision of a “roadmap” released by Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi in November 2018.

Canada’s nuclear industry giants — Cameco and SNC-Lavalin — were deeply involved in these developments. The nuclear industry has long been the darling of the federal government.

Cameco operates the world’s largest uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan, the world’s largest commercial uranium refinery in Blind River, Ontario, and the Port Hope, Ontario uranium conversion facility. But it has been losing global market share to facilities in Kazakhstan.

Competition is fierce. Uranium markets dried up after the Fukushima disaster. Rapid growth of renewables has virtually halted reactor construction.

Under a secret 10-year, multi-billion-dollar contract put in place during the fall 2015 election period, the Harper government gave SNC-Lavalin, in alliance with two U.S. companies, ownership of “Canadian Nuclear Laboratories” (then a subsidiary of the Crown corporation, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited).

The contract allows the alliance to carry out commercial activities — including small nuclear reactor development — at the federal government’s heavily subsidized research facility in Chalk River, Ontario.

According to the federal lobbyist registry, Neil Bruce, former president of SNC-Lavalin, met with Michael Binder, former president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), to discuss “environment, climate, energy, infrastructure” on July 12, 2018.

The following week, on July 19, Tim Gitzel, president and CEO of Cameco, met with Christine Loth-Brown, a vice-president in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), and with Jason Cameron, a CNSC vice-president. On July 26, Gitzel again met with these same two people, plus another CEAA vice-president. For that meeting he was accompanied by Pierre Gratton, president of the Canadian Mining Association.

On November 11, 2018, Gratton met with the following people, at the same time: Rumina Velshi, president, CNSC; Ron Hallman, president, CEAA; Christyne Tremblay, deputy minister, Natural Resources Canada; and Stephen Lucas, deputy minister, Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Canada’s senior bureaucrats gutted environmental assessment after this series of meetings.

The SNC-Lavalin affair has ripped the veil off the domination of Canada by a corporate oligarchy. Government departments, regulatory bodies such as the CNSC and CEAA (now the “Impact Assessment Agency”), and elected officials behave like corporate lapdogs.

The Conservatives handed the federal government’s nuclear research facilities over to SNC-Lavalin and its partners, along with a juicy multi-year, multi-billion-dollar contract. The Liberals pulled out all the stops so SNC-Lavalin could continue to hold federal contracts, despite fraud and corruption charges.

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi released a road map promoting new nuclear reactors.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna exempted these reactors and their wastes from impact assessment.

The 2015 Liberal election promise to restore public trust in environmental assessment has been broken.

Ole Hendrickson is a retired forest ecologist and a founding member of the Ottawa River Institute, a non-profit charitable organization based in the Ottawa Valley.

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Canada, politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties | 1 Comment

Close nuclear talks with Saudi Arabia – U.S. senators urge Trump administration

U.S. senators urge Trump administration to end nuclear talks with Saudis https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-saudi-nuclearpower/us-senators-urge-trump-administration-to-end-nuclear-talks-with-saudis-idUSKBN1W329R, Timothy Gardner   WASHINGTON (Reuters) 18 Sept 19,  – Two Democratic U.S. senators on Wednesday urged Trump administration officials to halt talks with Saudi Arabia on building nuclear reactors after weekend attacks that halved the country’s oil output and increased instability in the Middle East.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry told reporters on Tuesday at a nuclear power conference in Vienna the United States would only provide Saudi Arabia with nuclear power technology if it signed an agreement with a U.N. watchdog allowing for intrusive snap inspections.

But Saudi Arabia has resisted agreeing to strict nonproliferation restrictions, known as the gold standard, that would block it from enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel, potential pathways to making a nuclear bomb.

Senators Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Perry urging the administration to discontinue recent talks with the kingdom about nuclear power development.

The lawmakers have been concerned about Saudi Arabia’s reluctance to agree to the gold standard, after de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said last year his country does not want nuclear weapons but will pursue them if its rival Iran develops one.

Sharing nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia, especially without adequate safeguards, will give Riyadh the tools it needs to turn the Crown Prince’s nuclear weapons vision into reality,” said the letter from Markey and Merkley, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

The State Department and Energy Department did not immediately comment.

In a Sept. 4 letter to Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, who was replaced by Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman on Sunday, Perry said an agreement on nuclear power “must also contain a commitment by the kingdom to forgo any enrichment and reprocessing for the term of the agreement.”

But the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, did not clarify the length of the “term” the kingdom would have to forgo those practices or whether it covered U.S. origin uranium or uranium from other countries.

A nonproliferation expert said the administration wants to convey the idea it supports the gold standard, but the ambiguity means it remains unclear if it does.

Why would you even consider helping the kingdom build nuclear reactors after the attack on an energy facility?” said Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Washington-based Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. “What makes you think building another energy facility that’s radioactive is smart?”

Perry has said that if the United States does not work with Saudi Arabia, other suppliers such as China and Russia could help the kingdom develop nuclear power.

But some lawmakers say if China or Russia helped the kingdom develop nuclear power without adequate nonproliferation safeguards Washington has the tools to counter that.

Riyadh plans to issue a multi-billion-dollar tender in 2020 to construct its first two nuclear power reactors, with U.S., Russian, South Korean, Chinese and French firms involved in preliminary talks.

In February, Markey and Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, joined lawmakers in the House of Representatives in introducing legislation that would increase congressional oversight over any civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Tom Brown and David Gregorio

September 19, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment