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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Yet more corruption in the nuclear industry!

corruptionFlag-USAAnother nuclear weapons contractor pays millions to settle charges of illegally diverting federal funds https://www.publicintegrity.org/2016/12/21/20559/another-nuclear-weapons-contractor-pays-millions-settle-charges-illegally-diverting?utm_content=buffer6a076&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=publici-buffer

Allegations of illegally spending federal funds to lobby for new funds now encompass contractors working at six of the eight U.S. nuclear weapons sites By Patrick Malone, December 21, 2016 
This article has been co-published with USA Today/Gannett.

A $67.5 million payment by a major nuclear weapons contractor to settle claims that it illegally spent federal funds is the latest in a series of settlements stemming from allegations that firms making bombs and cleaning up the resulting debris are using federal money improperly to win support for continued weapons-related work.

Altogether, the three companies that have made such settlement payments since 2013 are involved in the operation of six of the eight active sites in the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons program. Actions by the Energy Department’s contractors — including any misspending — have substantial impact, since contract work consumes roughly 90 percent of the department’s total budget.

The lobbying activities at the heart of the latest settlement helped one of the contractors win a $45 million award for additional cleanup work. Although work on energy generation and consumption garners more public attention and President-elect Donald Trump has nominated an oil-state politician — former Texas governor Rick Perry — to become the department’s new top manager, such nuclear weapons-related work accounts for nearly two-thirds of all the department’s activities.

The latest case emerged from a civil lawsuit that accused two companies of performing substandard work at a nuclear weapons-related waste site and said one of them had improperly spent government funds to lobby for more. The companies declared on Nov. 23 they would settle the allegations by making payments, mostly to the federal government, for a total of $125 million, a massive amount for alleged Energy Department-related malfeasance.

The settlement involves work by Bechtel National Inc. and its parent Bechtel Corp., and URS Corp. and its subsidiary URS Energy and Construction Inc., which together have been trying to clean up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington. That’s where raw uranium was enriched into fuel for nuclear bombs during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War.

The firms have denied doing anything improper. But the settlement is part of an emerging pattern.

Lockheed Martin Corp., which operates one of three U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories – Sandia, agreed in August 2015 to pay $4.7 million to settle a complaint by the Justice Department that it used federal funds to lobby for a no-bid contract extension. Last Friday, it lost that effort when the Department of Energy selected a different contractor team, led by Honeywell International, to run Sandia for up to a decade, beginning next year. Meanwhile, Fluor Corp. paid $1.1 million in April 2013 to settle accusations that it used federal funds to lobby government agencies for more business at its Hanford training facility.

January 23, 2017 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Acadenics, volunteers, hasten to preserve climate data against climate information suppression by Trump

truthFlag-USAThe Scramble to Protect Climate Data Under Trump Fearing what might happen to the data that catalogues the details of climate change in an administration with so many climate deniers, researchers rush to save it. Inside Climate News Lisa Song   and Zahra Hirji, 22 Jan 17  More than 250 people gathered at the University of Pennsylvania last week for Data Rescue Philly, one of the latest examples of a grassroots effort to save environmental and climate  change data that scientists fear could vanish under the Trump administration’s many climate deniers.

January 23, 2017 Posted by | climate change, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Accounting scandal at Toshiba – ruinous overpayment for an American nuclear firm

corruptionToshiba admits to a ruinous overpayment for an American nuclear firm Its share price plunged by 40% in three days as investors worried about its financial viability, The Economist, Jan 7th 2017 | TOKYO THE probe in 2015 into one of Japan’s largest-ever accounting scandals, at Toshiba, an electronics and nuclear-power conglomerate that has been the epitome of the country’s engineering prowess, concluded that number-fiddling at the firm was “systemic”. It was found to have padded profits by ¥152bn ($1.3bn) between 2008 and 2014. Its boss, and half of the board’s 16 members, resigned; regulators imposed upon it a record fine of $60m.

Now its deal-making nous is in doubt too. In December 2015—the very same month that it forecast hundreds of billions of yen in losses for the financial year then under way, as it struggled to recover from the scandal—Toshiba’s American arm, Westinghouse Electric, bought a nuclear-construction firm, CB&I Stone & Webster. One year on, on December 27th, Toshiba announced that cost overruns at that new unit could lead to several billions of dollars in charges against profits.

 Its shares fell by 42% in a three-day stretch as investors dumped them, fearing a write-down that could wipe out its shareholders’ equity, which in late September stood at $3.1bn. Moody’s and S&P, two ratings agencies, announced credit downgrades and threatened more. Toshiba’s explanation for how it got the numbers so wrong on a smallish purchase is woolly. But it is clear that missing construction deadlines on nuclear-power plants can send costs skyrocketing. Its projects in America, and in China, are years behind schedule. Mycle Schneider, a nuclear expert, says that in America, as elsewhere, engineering problems are compounded by a shortage of skilled manpower. Few plants have been built there recently.

Part of the $229m that Westinghouse paid for CB&I Stone & Webster included $87m of goodwill (a premium over the firm’s book value based on its physical assets). It is that initial estimate that is now being recalculated.

Toshiba had looked to be bouncing back from its accounting nightmare………

Toshiba’s central part in a plan by the government of Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, to pep up growth by exporting nuclear-power technology to emerging countries may help. In June Westinghouse clinched a deal in India to build six new-generation AP1000 reactors, Toshiba’s first order since the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in 2011. Toshiba is also involved in that site’s costly and complex clean-up. Some think that Japanese banks, known for keeping zombie firms on life support, will stand behind it, come what may. Shares in Toshiba’s two main lenders, Sumitomo and Mizuho, slid last week after the profit warning. Investors expect more big bank loans or a debt-for-equity swap, which allows a bank to turn bad loans into shares.

The consensus on Toshiba’s latest screw-up is that a long-standing culture of poor management is to blame…..http://www.economist.com/news/business/21713896-its-share-price-plunged-40-three-days-investors-worried-about-its-financial

January 6, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Further French inquiry in AREVA’s nuclear manufacturing scandal – could affect UK’s Hinkley Point project

truthflag-franceFrench watchdog deepens probes into Areva nuclear parts Concerns about quality and documentation could have knock-on effect on Hinkley Point Rt.com JANUARY 4, 2017 by:  in Paris

Investigators are widening probes into potentially faulty nuclear reactor components made at a factory operated by Areva, the struggling French manufacturer, after the problems contributed to multiple shutdowns of power plants last year.

Julien Collet, deputy director of the ASN, France’s nuclear regulator, said he wanted to “go much further” with investigations into Areva’s components, including one probe into the falsification of documents that certified the quality of certain parts.

Separately, the ASN is expected to issue a report this year about issues with components made by Areva for a new nuclear power plant at Flamanville in France. The report’s findings could have an impact on the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in the UK, which is due to use the same technology as Flamanville.

 The ASN is leading investigations into two scandals relating to Areva’s supply of components for France’s existing nuclear power stations.

First, French investigators said in June that some steel components made at Areva’s Le Creusot factory — notably parts used in steam generators — had excessive carbon levels, which could make them vulnerable to cracking.

Second, Areva announced in May that it had found evidence suggesting employees had doctored quality-assurance documents relating to many different nuclear reactor components made at Le Creusot for up to 40 years.

Both affairs have contributed to French nuclear power plants run by EDF, the utility, being shut down last year………

Overseas regulators are monitoring events in France. David McIntyre of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it was concerned by the revelations about doctored documents at Le Creusot, which has supplied some components to US nuclear power plants……..

Beyond Areva’s potentially faulty components in France’s existing nuclear power stations, there is another — potentially even larger — issue looming.

In 2014, the reactor vessel at the planned new nuclear power plant at Flamanville — which was made at Areva’s factory in Chalon/Saint-Marcel — was found to have potentially critical structural weaknesses as a result of excessive carbon levels……….

Any significant problems with the vessel could be catastrophic for EDF, as redoing this important piece of the plant would mean restarting much of the construction work, which is already billions of euros over budget and years late.

“If the reactor vessel is deemed faulty, it would be a disaster,” said Denis Florin, founder of Lavoisier Conseil, a consultancy.

Flamanville is a flagship project for EDF, using European Pressurised Reactor technology that is also earmarked for the Hinkley Point C power plant in the UK.

Any further delays at Flamanville could pose problems for Hinkley. This is partly because the financial support package the UK government has offered for Hinkley is premised on Flamanville being operational by 2020.

If Flamanville’s reactor vessel is found to be flawed, it could push back the completion date — currently scheduled for the end of 2018 — beyond 2020.

EDF has said it does not plan to use the UK financial support package, as it is financing the project from its own balance sheet, but this could still rob the company of room for manoeuvre should Hinkley face problems.

Additional reporting by Kana Inagaki in Tokyo https://www.ft.com/content/2baf6270-c36a-11e6-81c2-f57d90f6741a

January 6, 2017 Posted by | France, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

The abandoned remains of China’s secret nuclear city ‘404’

Inside 404: Video footage reveals abandoned buildings inside once-busy nuclear city, news.com.auDECEMBER 28, 2016 CHILLING footage has emerged showing the abandoned remains of a Chinese city used to build nuclear bombs known only as ‘404’.

December 30, 2016 Posted by | China, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

The nuclear industry’s Legacy of Lies and Cover-Ups makes its revival unlikely

NUCLEAR-LIES1Legacy of Lies and Cover-Ups Leaves Nuclear Energy Revival Elusive http://www.ecowatch.com/nuclear-energy-accidents-2165717823.html By Paul Brown

There have been three well-documented major nuclear accidents in the last 60 years, each one accompanied by official lies and cover-ups. There have been other less well-known serious accidents that have been so effectively hushed up that decades later there are only the sketchiest details available.

The legacy of these disasters is a deep distrust of the industry by many voters. In some leading industrial countries this has led to governments being forced to abandon nuclear power altogether, while others face such strong opposition to new stations being built that they have abandoned the idea, although they still keep the old ones operating, at least for now.

This checkered history of the industry matters. It has caused a global split. While many scientists and politicians concerned about climate change believe that nuclear power is vital if governments are to meet their commitments to curb dangerous global warming, just as many do not.

The opposition is based on the belief that the industry has lost all integrity and credibility and that renewables are a cheaper, safer and all-round better bet. This view is reinforced by the inability of the industry to deal with its waste. Renewables can easily be recycled, but nuclear waste remains dangerous for thousands of years, leaving future generations to pay for it.

But it is the three major disasters that are at the root of this fierce debate. They happened over a span of 60 years and all had different causes. But all followed a familiar pattern.

The first was at Windscale in north-west England in 1957, when a plutonium-producing reactor caught fire. The second was Chernobyl on the border of Ukraine and Belarus in 1986: the top blew off one of the reactors and there was a serious fire. The third was at Fukushima in Japan in 2011, when an earthquake and a tsunami caused meltdowns at three reactors.

Official Concealment

All three accidents had startling similarities in the official reaction. In each case the governments involved, the nuclear regulators and plant owners tried to hide the scale of the disaster from the public who were most in danger. In each case this resulted in unnecessary exposure of the population to harmful radiation.

Second, the possible long-term health effects to the people involved were hotly disputed. In each case this took the form, both at the time and ever since, of governments and the industry playing down the health risks.

There is still an argument about whether the Windscale fire caused a leukaemia cluster in children in the neighborhood. After Fukushima, governments and the industry claim, very few or no deaths at all resulted. Expect the argument to continue for decades.

Third has been the underplaying of the enormous cost and intractable nature of trying to clean up the mess. For example, people who are evacuated are told the move is only temporary, when it could last for decades, possibly generations.

Again, the official estimate for “compensation” for the Fukushima accident rose from ¥5.4 trillion (£40bn) to ¥8 trillion (£70bn), a fact only slipped out at the end of November 2016, nearly five years after the accident.

Technically Insurmountable

In each case, even after the Windscale accident 60 years ago, the clean-up of the actual nuclear pile that caught fire has several times started and then been abandoned as too difficult. They are not expected to be completed for decades.

There is no hope of cleaning up Chernobyl or Fukushima this century. A new concrete shell over Chernobyl to replace the existing crumbling structure should be in place by 2017 at a cost of €2.1—but this is designed only as a temporary structure, to last 100 years.

Governments tried hard to cover up what happened. At Windscale, the British government subsequently admitted it had deliberately covered up the seriousness of the accidents to keep its nuclear weapons program on track.

In Chernobyl’s case it was the sky-high radiation readings from as far away as Scandinavia and Germany that led the Soviets to admit what had happened. Thirty years later the real health effects of the accident are hotly disputed.

Thousands of children have had their thyroids removed and there have been many birth defects and cancers. Belarus, worst hit by the disaster, is anxious to play down the long-term effects to avoid frightening potential foreign investors in the country.

The nuclear industry has been trying hard to put all this in the past. In response to public concerns it has come up with a whole series of “safer” designs for nuclear power stations. As a result, some countries like Finland and Britain are encouraging the building of a new generation of French, Japanese, Chinese and American designs.

This time, however, it is not just safety that is at issue. For the last 35 years not a single nuclear power station in the west has been built to time or on budget. It undermines the claim that nuclear power will be able to compete with other fuels on price. It has repeatedly been shown that, without government subsidy, nuclear power cannot survive.

The latest evidence for this is the two new power stations being built in Finland and France. Both are nearly 10 years behind schedule and have more than doubled in cost.

The original claims that the price of the electricity the stations would produce would be competitive cannot be true. Wholesale prices must already have more than doubled before a single watt of power has been produced.

Yet, despite this track record, the nuclear industry hopes to keep on growing and claims it is expecting to do so—and many governments continue to pour money into research and development. They do so in the hope that one day nuclear power will provide a safe and economically viable method of producing electricity.

So far, however, there is no sign of the long-predicted nuclear renaissance. The costs of a safe design continue to increase as the industry and governments attempt to live down the legacy of misleading the public for the last 60 years. It seems that if the climate is to be saved from overheating, we shall have to do this without the aid of new nuclear power.

December 28, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Australia’s Lucas Height’s nuclear reactor security boss arrested for unauthorised documents and illegal gun

secret-agent-AustSMH, 24 Dec 16, Eamon Duff. A security consultant who held a “top secret” government clearance inside Australia’s only nuclear facility has been arrested and charged with the
illegal possession of “official secrets” and an unauthorised weapon.

Until February last year, Anthony Rami Haddad was manager of security and operations at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor, safeguarding the site against theft, diversion and sabotage.

However, following  a stint in the Middle easrt where he worked on another nuclear security project, he returned hom eto Sydney, and last month became entangled in an unrelated investigation being run by the Australian Federal Police’s fraud and anti-corruption team.

A fortnight ago, Haddad appeared before Sydney’s Downi8ng Centre Local court, where he pleaded guilty to unauthorised receipt of official secrets under the Commonwealth crimes Act.

He has yet to enter a plea for a second charge, ppossessing an unauthorised prohibited firearm. His barrister, Nikolaos Siafakas, will apply to have the outstanding matter dealt with under section 32 of teh Mental Health Act……..

According to ANSTO documents, Haddad’s many responsibilities at Lucas Heights included the “mamagement of security operations” at the onsite Little Forest radioactive waste dump and its “seamless integration” into the facility’s “wider” protective security systems.

Haddad will reappear in court on February 7  http://www.smh.com.au/national/lucas-heights-security-boss-anthony-haddad-charged-over-official-secrets-gun-20161223-gthdwv.html

December 26, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, incidents, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

ISIS and nuclear Armageddon? – Exclusive to nuclear-news.net

arclightISIS and nuclear Armageddon? – Exclusive to nuclear-news.net

“…However we look at it, as we hear the PR call for more and/or better nuclear weapons, the issue of nuclear weapons grade materials escaping from countries like the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Pakistan etc and also the possibility of theft from large nuclear reprocessing complexes in the west like Sellafield, La Hague, Hanford, Negev Nuclear Research Center etc means that huge resources will have to be spent defending these places that will not be accounted for in costing nuclear power and reprocessing to the tax payer with no guarantee that corrupt practices now or in the future will not circumvent them…..”

elephant-terror-in-room1.gif

 

Following the article (Link ref 1 below) I picked up from India and posted to nuclear-news.net, I shared it to Fukushima 311 Watchdogs (F311W) . As an Admin on F311 W I later checked the statistics and found a small number of posts not getting any hits. Its as though they were being blocked. I had discovered in 2013 that this was possible and did a video (Link ref 2 below) showing that evidence.

I then did a video (Link ref 3 below) showing the issue of the blocked posts on the Uranium story and also showed that the Uranium story was being ignored by all the western Main Stream Media and that Google was blocking the nuclear-news.net story About 5 hours after posting the video the Google block to the nuclear-news.net story became unblocked.

I then checked out the stats on the video (Screenshot ref 4 below) and saw that some parties in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were interested in that post. Also i noted that Pakistan came up on the stats earlier but with no observable clicks (maybe Pakistan Secret Service computer whizz kids were trying to cover their tracks?). It looks like ISIS are seeking and succeeding in their efforts to acquire nuclear materials

So, what did I conclude with on all this? Firstly a non story about Donald Trump was beginning to go “viral” and in this Post Truth world I wondered why? The USA and Russia had already said they would be renewing and expanding their nuclear weapons arsenal and also with “safer” mini nukes earlier on in the year.

The fact that many outlets in India were posting articles on the story led me to think that the western Trump Tweet story was being manufactured to hide the Indian story that was going viral there.

Also, Mordechai Vannunu was having his latest court case in Israel and the judgment is going to be made in the next few weeks. So, there are two good reasons for the swamping of the internet on “other” nuclear stories to hide these two important facts. In Fact i had just done an article that described how large PR companies managed to manufacture narrative in a Post Truth world.

So, what is so important on the Thane Uranium Black market story? Firstly, the details of the purity of the Uranium. The Indian Police had done some homework and had the purity and the cost of the Uranium and this was in the article i posted. But the costs was in RS Core and the conversion from that to US Dollars was not easy.

So I did the conversion and also checked the upper level of purity (which was “85 percent” pure) and compared that to the purity of US nuclear weapons grade Uranium 238 (which is 93 percent). Now it has to be said that the Indian article did not specify U235 or U238 but when judging purity of Uranium it is valued at the amount of U238 with the rest being U235. So it was looking likely we were talking nuclear weapons grade uranium but with a slightly lower value than the US standard.

So was this rejected weapons grade uranium or was it a lower standard of uranium for nuclear weapons? I do not think we will see the actual tests to confirm the particular isotope of uranium but it does beg the question, How safe are all the hundreds of thousands of tons of high and intermediate level waste and the millions of tons on low level waste and how easy it is for terrorists to get hold of it? Why make more when we have such a problem already? We need to secure this material and shut down the sprawling sites that already exist! Someone please tell the IAEA to stop promoting nuclear as it is just too dangerous!

Enriched uranium is a critical component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency attempts to monitor and control enriched uranium supplies and processes in its efforts to ensure nuclear power generation safety and curb nuclear weapons proliferation. From Wiki

“…However we look at it, as we hear the PR call for more and/or better nuclear weapons, the issue of nuclear weapons grade materials escaping from countries like the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Pakistan etc and also the possibility of theft from large nuclear reprocessing complexes in the west like Sellafield, La Hague, Hanford, Negev Nuclear Research Center etc means that huge resources will have to be spent defending these places that will not be accounted for in costing nuclear power and reprocessing to the tax payer with no guarantee that corrupt practices now or in the future will not circumvent them…..”

Wind, Solar, Hydro electricity are looking like much saner options with all the above in mind.

There is also the issue of transparency and Human Rights as we see countries with nuclear weapons currently criminalising activists (as we see in France) and energy developers and innovators (as we see in the UK).

In a recent Atlantic Alliance meeting (from March 2016), I heard them say that European left leaning peace and social justice citizens would need to be reigned in as they were “doing the work of Putin whether they knew it or not” We are living in dangerous times and the left and right peace activists need to come together to make a change. Some food for thought for the coming year perhaps?

Have a great Christmas and a good nuclear free New Year

Namaste

Shaun McGee

Sources for article

French Human Rights abuses regarding nuclear energy

France, Areva and the case of the Uranium book burning!

This internal investigation which makes the management of EDF tremble!

Greenpeace France reacts to EDF/Government threats with a threat!

My article on Post Truth and Science Media Journalism here;

https://nuclear-news.net/2016/12/23/lonnie-clark-and-shaun-mcgee-on-nuclear-media-reporting-in-a-post-truth-society/

Ref 1

Thane police (India) seize 9 kg of radioactive depleted uranium

Ref 2

Over 4 million Dollars of Depleted Uranium being sold on Black market #UNSCEAR #IAEA -Censored

Ref 3

Naomi Wolf Facebook blocked in Europe, The Guardian article of Lee Rigby censored

Ref 4

screenshot-from-2016-12-24-000255

December 24, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Arclight's Vision, secrets,lies and civil liberties | 1 Comment

Science under threat, as Trump demands lists of climate science workers

censorshipA dark time is coming to American climate science

Trump questionnaire recalls dark history of ideology-driven science, Skeptical Science 21 December 2016 by By Paul N. Edwards, Professor of Information and History, University of Michigan

President-elect Trump has called global warming “bullshit” and a “Chinese hoax.” He has promised to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate treaty and to “bring back coal,” the world’s dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuel. The incoming administration has paraded a roster of climate change deniers for top jobs. On Dec. 13, Trump named former Texas Governor Rick Perry, another climate change denier, to lead the Department of Energy (DoE), an agency Perry said he would eliminate altogether during his 2011 presidential campaign.

Just days earlier, the Trump transition team presented the DoE with a 74-point questionnaire that has raised alarm among employees because the questions appear to target people whose work is related to climate change.

For me, as a historian of science and technology, the questionnaire – bluntly characterized by one DoE official as a “hit list” – is starkly reminiscent of the worst excesses of ideology-driven science, seen everywhere from the U.S. Red Scare of the 1950s to the Soviet and Nazi regimes of the 1930s.

The questionnaire asks for a list of “all DoE employees or contractors” who attended the annual Conferences of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – a binding treaty commitment of the U.S., signed by George H. W. Bush in 1992. Another question seeks the names of all employees involved in meetings of the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon, responsible for technical guidance quantifying the economic benefits of avoided climate change.

It also targets the scientific staff of DoE’s national laboratories. Continue reading

December 24, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Illegal lobbying by USA nuclear weapons firms

money-lobbyingNuclear weapon firms pay to settle illegal lobbying cases http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/12/21/nuclear-weapon-firms-pay-settle-illegal-lobbying-cases/95609254/

Altogether, the three companies making these settlement payments since 2013 are involved in the operation of six of the eight active sites in the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons program. Actions by the Energy Department’s contractors – including any misspending – have substantial impact there, since contract work consumes roughly 90 percent of its total spending.

Although work on energy generation and consumption garners more public attention and President-elect Donald Trump has nominated an oil-state politician – former Texas governor Rick Perry – to become the department’s new top manager, nuclear weapons-related work accounts for nearly two-thirds of all the Energy Department’s activities.

The latest case emerged from a civil lawsuit that accused two companies of both performing substandard work at a nuclear weapons-related waste site and said one of them had improperly spent government funds to lobby for more. The companies declared on Nov. 23 they would settle the allegations by making the payment, mostly to the federal government, for a total of $125 million, a massive amount for alleged Energy Department-related malfeasance.

The settlement involves work by Bechtel National Inc. and its parent Bechtel Corp., and URS Corp. and its subsidiary URS Energy and Construction Inc., which together have been trying to clean up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington. That’s where raw uranium was enriched into fuel for nuclear bombs during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War.

The firms have denied doing anything improper. But the settlement is part of an emerging pattern.

Lockheed Martin Corp., which operates one of three U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories – Sandia, agreed in August 2015 to pay $4.7 million to settle a complaint by the Justice Department that it used federal funds to lobby for a no-bid contract extension, while Fluor Corp. paid $1.1 million in April 2013 to settle accusations that it used federal funds to lobby government agencies for more business at its Hanford training facility.

Worries about the mission being underminedBesides overseeing the Hanford cleanup, Bechtel and URS (now owned by a company called AECOM) help operate the other two U.S. nuclear weapons labs — Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore, which perform the bulk of U.S. nuclear weapons design work. Altogether, the firms that have reached the settlements since 2013 are involved with operations at Los Alamos and Sandia in New Mexico, Livermore in California, the Pantex Plant in Texas, the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee.

The recent settlement “demonstrates that the Justice Department will work to ensure that public funds are used for the important purposes for which they are intended,” Benjamin C. Mizer, principal deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s civil division, said in a written statement released on Nov. 23.

Money allocated by Congress for Hanford  “is intended to fund the Department of Energy’s important mission to clean up the contaminated Hanford nuclear site, and this mission is undermined if funds are wasted on goods or services that are not nuclear compliant or to further lobbying activities,” Mizer said.

Both Bechtel and AECOM in written statements said the settlements were made to avoid messy litigation and keep the waste plant project moving. “We have performed our work…ethically and professionally,” Bechtel National Inc. spokesman Fred deSousa said in a written statement, without going into details.

In its own written statement, AECOM — which acquired URS in 2014 — complained that the Department of Justice joined the whistleblowers’ “unwarranted lawsuit against URS” based on events that preceded AECOM’s acquisition of the company. “We take our responsibilities as a government contractor very seriously and have a demonstrated track record of serving our customers with honesty and integrity,” the company’s statement said.

The Justice Department’s involvement in the case originated in civil allegations of mismanagement and wrongdoing in Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Isolation Plant project, commonly called “WTP.” Under its contract with the Energy Department, Bechtel designed and is constructing machinery to convert nuclear-tainted wastes there into a stable, glassy substance suitable for safe disposal.

Three whistleblowers — Walt Tamosaitis, Donna Busche and Gary Brunson — filed a lawsuit on Feb. 4, 2013, accusing Bechtel and URS bosses of mismanagement and misappropriation of funds over a dozen years that together cost the government more than $1 billion. They also said safety lapses at the site, motivated by a desire to meet Energy Department deadlines and collect financial bonuses, were serious enough to risk a nuclear accident.

The whistleblowers’ complaint triggered an investigation by the Energy Department’s Office of Inspector General, which collected emails sent between Bechtel’s project leaders, the company’s top congressional lobbyist for nuclear projects, and Energy Department employees. The whistleblowers’ attorneys subsequently obtained the emails through the civil discovery process and incorporated them into an amended complaint. The Justice Department, in turn, used the complaint as the basis for its own investigation of Bechtel and URS.

Getting $45 million in new work

In the complaint, the whistleblowers said that when they originally lodged accusations of mismanagement – several years earlier — Bechtel project leaders launched a coordinated lobbying campaign to defend itself and also to collect new revenues for additional work on the waste treatment plant project. It then billed the department for the costs of this lobbying, the complaint said.

In an email sent by one Bechtel manager to another — along with a chart detailing the work that the company could say the additional revenue would finance — the manager said “in reality if we did not receive the additional $50m … most of these activities would still likely happen,” according to the whistleblowers’ complaint. The company subsequently got $45 million added to its contract.

The full emails detailing these actions have not been publicly released, by either the government or the plaintiffs, because the messages are part of an investigation that remains “open and ongoing,” according to Felicia Jones, spokeswoman for the Energy Department Office of Inspector General. She declined to say whether her colleagues consider the whistleblowers’ description of the emails accurate.

The Justice Department’s statement affirmed that it had “alleged that Bechtel National Inc. and Bechtel Corp. improperly claimed and received government funding for lobbying activities.” But Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Nava declined to comment about the whistleblower’s account of specific emails.

Lobbying Congress for new work isn’t against the law. But billing the government for lobbying is, according to the federal Byrd Amendment, approved by Congress in 1989. Court records state that Bechtel will pay $67.5 million of the settlement, and AECOM will pay $57.5 million; the amount of money that will go to the whistleblowers – who are entitled to a portion of any funds they help the government recover — has not been determined yet.

Charles Curtis, who oversaw the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons work from 1994 to 1997 while serving as undersecretary and then deputy secretary, said he was not aware of any improperly-funded lobbying during his tenure. But he expressed surprise that multiple contractors within the past three years have been caught doing it. “These are for-profit enterprises. They can use their shareholders’ money for lobbying, but to use congressionally appropriated money [is] a diversion of funds,” Curtis said. “It’s not only unethical … it’s illegal.”

 Three years ago, it was the Fluor Corporation and its subsidiary Fluor Hanford Inc., which at the time held the contract to manage the Hanford site, that agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle a separate complaint that its officials lobbied with government money from 2005 to 2010 to drum up business for a federally funded training facility there.   Loydene Rambo, a Fluor employee, triggered the settlement by filing her own whistleblower suit, based on what she described as records of the lobbyists being paid with federal funds. She received a $200,000 reward, and Fluor denied any wrongdoing.

The Justice Department’s August 2015 settlement with Lockheed Martin Corporation, which runs Sandia, similarly followed improper billing of the government for a more complex and elaborate lobbying effort to extend its management contract, according to a special investigation report released by the Energy Department Office of Inspector General. Lockheed agreed to pay $4.7 million in 2015 to settle the Justice Department’s complaint about the billing. Like Fluor before it and Bechtel and URS since, Lockheed Martin in a written statement denied it had done anything wrong.

Asked by the Center about how the lobbying settlements have affected the department’s relationship with its nuclear weapons contractors, Energy Department spokeswoman Bridget Bartol said in an email that “the Department has taken and will continue to take vigorous action against any contractor who spends federal funds on improper lobbying activities.”

Bechtel remains the primary contractor on the WTP project, and Lockheed Martin still holds the contract to operate Sandia National Laboratories.

Cleanup of the Hanford site was authorized 25 years ago, and as of 2000 it was expected to cost $4.3 billion and be completed in 2011. The Department now estimates it may not be fully operational until 2037, according to pleadings filed in federal court by government lawyers defending the Energy Department in a lawsuit brought by the state of Washington to force an acceleration of the cleanup. If the job is funded at its current level of about $690 million a year until 2037, the cost would exceed $15 billion.

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is mindful of the project’s problems and growing price tag. A recent memo to top Energy Department officials from the transition team he appointed asked them to describe “your alternatives to the ever increasing WTP cost and schedule, whether technical or programmatic.”

The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, investigative newsroom in Washington, D.C. More of its national security reporting can be found here.

 

December 24, 2016 Posted by | Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Mystery of the uranium disappearance from Pennsylvania

secret-agent-SmWhat Lies Beneath In the 1960s, hundreds of pounds of uranium went missing in Pennsylvania. Is it buried in the ground, poisoning locals—or did Israel steal it to build the bomb?

BY SCOTT C. JOHNSON FOREIGN POLICY, 20 DEC 16 As a kid in the 1960s, Jeff Held thought that having a nuclear company in his backyard made life more exciting in Apollo, Pennsylvania. About 2,400 people lived alongside the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC), the town’s main employer. Held’s neighborhood subsisted on atomic lore: Just 33 miles down the road in Pittsburgh, the Westinghouse Corporation had helped construct the world’s first nuclear submarine, and in Apollo, NUMEC consequently manufactured the requisite nuclear fuel, a source of stirring pride minted by the Cold War

To Held, the plant, its lights flickering over the western edge of town on the banks of the Kiskiminetas River, was “kind of neat.” When one of the town’s radiation monitors went off, children would dash through neighbors’ backyards to reach the facility—it was housed inside a refurbished steel mill with dirt floors, big windows, and dozens of smokestacks—to see what had happened.

As Held grew older, the plant that inspired his boyish thrill evolved into something more puzzling, and more sinister. NUMEC closed its doors in 1983, and in the mid-1990s, the federal government swooped in and declared several city blocks contaminated. Various agencies rolled in with bulldozers, razed the plant, and carted off the radioactive pieces, barrel by barrel, for disposal. Ever since, Apollo’s residents have been grappling with fears that NUMEC poisoned their town.

One bitterly cold day this January, Held—now 53 and Apollo’s mayor—drove me north on State Route 66, which cuts along one side of the old NUMEC site. A green chain-link fence outlines the desolate acreage where the factory once stood. Held, a stout man with a graying beard, gestured up a hill toward several decaying Victorian houses. The residents, he said, have suffered from various cancers: lung, thyroid, prostate, brain. They have argued that years of radiation soaking into their soil, air, water, clothes, and homes had led to their afflictions. To date, owners of the NUMEC property have shelled out tens of millions of dollars in compensation to locals who’ve filed suit.

Apollo’s woes didn’t end with those payouts, however. Held told me that events shifted, alarmingly, one day in September 2011, two years before he was elected mayor. That’s when he saw several white SUVs, with blue U.S. Homeland Security decals emblazoned on their sides, stationed on the road just five miles north, in Parks Township. As he drove up the road, Held said, men with high-caliber military assault rifles milled around. It looked like a Hollywood blockbuster about a terrorist attack.

In Parks, a second NUMEC facility had produced plutonium starting in 1960, but it also had served another purpose: nuclear disposal. From 1961 to 1970, the corporation dug at least 10 shallow trenches, spread across about 44 acres, into which it dumped radioactive waste; some locals speculate that other companies around the country shipped their waste to Parks to be buried too. Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) had been put in charge of cleaning up the site in 2002, under congressional authorization, the process didn’t begin until almost a decade later—right before Held encountered the madness on the road.

In October 2011, the USACE announced that excavation activities at the site were suspended. The work was halted after Cabrera Services, a Connecticut-based contractor hired to clean up Parks, mishandled materials, which the company acknowledged. The following year, the USACE uncovered an unexpected variety of “complex” radioactive contaminants in the ground, but it didn’t say all of what it had found or how much of it. In a December 2014 report, the USACE noted that among the contaminants it expects to find are several “radionuclides of concern,” including americium-241, radium-228, uranium-235, and various types of plutonium, which, under the right conditions, could be used as ingredients for a dirty bomb. It seems the material buried at Parks is more dangerous than anyone had previously imagined.

The USACE immediately ceased the excavation and established a 24-hour patrolled security perimeter that’s still in effect today. Bidding for a new cleanup contractor starts this summer, and the work, now forecast to begin in 2017, is expected to cost roughly half a billion dollars—10 times the original estimate in 2002.

The nuclear mess in Parks could hold clues to yet another mystery in this Pennsylvania community, one that has bedeviled nuclear analysts for decades. Beginning in the early 1960s, investigators from the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the agency that regulated U.S. nuclear facilities at the time, began to question how large amounts of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium had gone missing from NUMEC. Any nuclear site had a certain amount of loss, from seepage into walls and floors, for instance. In fact, between 1952 and 1968, lax standards at 20 of the country’s commercial nuclear sites resulted in an apparent loss of 995 kilograms (2,194 pounds) of uranium-235. But investigators found that at NUMEC, hundreds of pounds went missing, more than at any other plant.

NUMEC’s founder, Zalman Shapiro, an accomplished American chemist, addressed the concern in 1978, telling Arizona Congressman Morris Udall that the uranium simply escaped through the facility’s air ducts, cement, and wastewater. Others, such as the late Glenn Seaborg, the AEC’s chairman in the 1960s—who had previously helped discover plutonium and made key contributions to the Manhattan Project—have suggested that the sloppy accounting and government regulations of the mid-20th century meant that keeping track of losses in America’s newborn nuclear industry was well near impossible. Today, some people in Apollo think that at least a portion of the uranium might be buried in Parks, contaminating the earth and, ultimately, human beings.

But a number of nuclear experts and intelligence officials propose another theory straight out of an espionage thriller: that the uranium was diverted—stolen by spies working for the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. In the 1960s, to secure nuclear technology and materials, Israel mounted covert operations around the world, including at least one alleged open-ocean transfer of hundreds of pounds of uranium. Some experts have also raised questions about Shapiro himself. He had contacts deep within Israel’s defense and intelligence establishments when he ran NUMEC; several of them even turned up at his facility over time and concealed their professional identities while there.

Fifty years after investigations began—they have involved, at various times, the AEC and its successors, Congress, the FBI, the CIA, and other government agencies—NUMEC remains one of the most confounding puzzles of the nuclear era. ……….

Today, many people in the nuclear and intelligence communities are still convinced that a diversion occurred. “I tend to think it happened,” Stockton told me. “In fact, I’m damn sure it happened.” But the believers also concede that the evidence against Shapiro remains largely circumstantial; the nail in the coffin, they say, would be a confession from the aging founder of NUMEC or the release of a yet-to-be-identified document that would show definitive proof…….http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/03/23/what-lies-beneath-numec-apollo-zalman-shapiro/

December 24, 2016 Posted by | Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Australian government subsidising Giant Indian conglomerate Adani’s coal project despite its web of tax avoidance

13a47-corruptionAdani’s Galilee Basin complex corporate web spreads to tax havens, ABC News 21 Dec 16  Stephen Long It is an intriguing corporate web that spreads from North Queensland, across Asia to the Caribbean.

Giant Indian conglomerate Adani, which plans to build one of the world’s largest coal mines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, has set up a complex network of companies and trusts in Australia which are owned in one of the world’s major tax havens, the Cayman Islands.

The Adani Group is also attempting to shift ownership of the existing Abbot Point coal port — which it bought for $1.8 billion — to a Singaporean company ultimately owned in the Cayman Islands.

An exhaustive search of company filings and documents across the globe has cast light on this opaque structure of ownership and control.

It has alarmed environmental activists and legal experts, who fear it could make it harder to gain compensation from Adani in the event of an environmental disaster from Adani’s planned mine and port expansion on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.

“I’ve been a businessman for most of my life, as well as an environmental activist, and the risks are great,” said Geoff Cousins, former Optus CEO and chairman of the George Paterson advertising agency, now a board member of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“With these kinds of approvals of big mining operations or port operations, you always get a set of conditions that the Government puts on.

“But those conditions aren’t worth anything if, when something goes wrong, you try to find the company responsible and either it has no money or if it has money it’s in a tax haven and you can’t reach it.”

It is a view echoed by David Chaikin, a professor of business law at the University of Sydney.

“The advantage of having the money in tax havens is that you are able to conceal the source of money, the use of money, and also to minimise tax,” he said.

Coal infrastructure owned through opaque structures

As well as building Australia’s biggest coal mine in north Queensland, Adani is planning a huge expansion of the existing coal terminal at Abbot Point, near Bowen, to ship coal across the Great Barrier Reef to India — turning it into one of the world’s biggest coal ports.

It also wants to build a new railway linking the mine, about 400 kilometres inland, to the port.

All the planned developments are based on corporate structures involving tax havens.

Control of the railway — which the Federal Government is preparing to support with a $1 billion publicly subsidised loan — ultimately resides in the Cayman Islands, one of the world’s most notorious and secretive tax havens………

Transferring ownership of the critical port infrastructure to a Caymans Islands’ company “means it will be unregulated, unaccountable,” Tim Buckley, director of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analytics told the ABC.

“It will be non-transparent to the Australian Government as to what is going on, who owns it, who are the directors. To me it is a matter of national security.”

Companies and trusts created by Adani for the proposed Carmichael mine are ultimately owned by Adani Enterprises, a publicly-listed company in India, but the control flows via a company registered in the tax haven of Mauritius, Adani Global Ltd.

A $5 billion fund the Federal Government set up for the development of northern Australia, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility or NAIF, is considering a request from Adani for a $1 billion subsidised loan for its rail development.

The NAIF refused to disclose which Adani entity had applied for the finance when approached by the ABC.http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-21/adani-corporate-web-spreads-to-tax-havens/8135700

December 21, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

The death of Karen Silkwood

text-from-the-archivesSilkwood,KKaren Gay Silkwood (February 19, 1946 – November 13, 1974) was an American chemical technician and labor union activist known for raising concerns about corporate practices related to health and safety of workers in a nuclear facility. Following her mysterious death, which received extensive coverage, her estate filed a lawsuit against chemical company Kerr-McGee, which was eventually settled for $1.38 million. Silkwood was portrayed by Meryl Streep in Mike Nichols‘ 1983 Academy Award-nominated film Silkwood.

She worked at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site plant near Crescent, Oklahoma, United States. Silkwood’s job was making plutonium pellets for nuclear reactor fuel rods. This plant experienced theft of plutonium by workers during this era. She joined the union and became an activist on behalf of issues of health and safety at the plant as a member of the union’s negotiating team, the first woman to have that position at Kerr-McGee. In the summer of 1974, she testified to the Atomic Energy Commission about her concerns.

For three days in November, she was found to have plutonium contamination on her person and in her home. That month, while driving to meet with David Burnham, a New York Times journalist, and Steve Wodka, an official of her union’s national office, she died in a car crash under unclear circumstances.

Her family sued Kerr-McGee on behalf of her estate. In what was the longest trial up until then in Oklahoma history, the jury found Kerr-McGee liable for the plutonium contamination of Silkwood, and awarded substantial damages. These were reduced on appeal, but the case reached the United States Supreme Court in 1979, which upheld the damages verdict. Before another trial took place, Kerr-McGee settled with the estate out of court for US $1.38 million, while not admitting liability. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Silkwood

Questions Still Remain In Suspicious Death Of Karen Silkwood

December 17, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear Whistleblowers Report Criminal Acts by Multiple US Government Agencies; Affidavit Ties Lockheed-Martin to Karen Silkwood’s Death.

Silkwood,Ktext-from-the-archives

Mining Awareness +

Nuclear Whistleblowers Proof of Criminal Acts by Multiple Government Agencies“, 3 Hour Video here: http://youtu.be/x1usmYI-v88 Partial summary of case below Affidavit. (This video gets more interesting as it goes along and is worthwhile, though so long we didn’t finish it. It also discusses Silkwood’s death.)

Today, February 19th, Texas born Karen Silkwood would have been 70 years old. Instead she was killed in 1974, at age 28, in a car crash while en route to meet with a New York Times reporter, and a US AEC (NRC-DOE) official.[1] She reportedly had “discovered evidence of spills, leaks, and missing plutonium…“, [2] as well as defective fuel rods, at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron Facility in Oklahoma. She had just left a union meeting, and “another attendee of that meeting later testified that Silkwood had a binder and a packet of documents with her… Silkwood’s relatives, too, confirmed that…

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December 17, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Global review of nuclear reactors, following news of cover-up of AREVA’s manufacturing flaws

secret-agent-Smareva-medusa1Coverup at French Nuclear Supplier Sparks Global Review Inspectors say Areva unit’s files suggest manufacturing flaws in critical parts were covered up for decades, WSJ,  By MATTHEW DALTON and INTI LANDAURO in Paris and REBECCA SMITH in San Francisco, Dec. 13, 2016

Inspectors from the U.S. and other countries are investigating a decadeslong coverup of manufacturing problems at a key supplier to the nuclear power industry, probing whether flaws introduced in a French factory represent a safety threat to reactors world-wide.

Inspectors from the U.S., China and four other nations visited ArevaSA’s Le Creusot Forge in central France earlier this month to examine the plant’s quality controls and comb through its internal records.

A string of discoveries triggered the newly expanded review: First, French investigators said they found steel components made at Le Creusot and used in nuclear-power plants across France had excess carbon levels, making them more vulnerable to rupture. Then, the investigators discovered files suggesting Le Creusot employees for decades had concealed manufacturing problems involving hundreds of components sold to customers around the world.

The disclosure of flaws covered up by Le Creusot led to two reactor shutdowns this summer in France, and in September authorities ordered Areva to check 6,000 manufacturing files by hand, covering every nuclear part made at Le Creusot since the 1960s.

“I’m concerned that there keep being more and more problems unveiled,” said Kerri Kavanagh, who leads the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s unit inspecting Le Creusot. Regulators are considering returning to Le Creusot or inspecting Areva’s Lynchburg, Va., offices to deepen their probe of the plant, a U.S. official said.

On Wednesday, Paris prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation into whether Le Creusot’s activities were fraudulent and dangerous, according to a spokeswoman for prosecutors.

“What we see now at Le Creusot is clearly unacceptable,” said Julien Collet, assistant general manager at France’s Nuclear Safety Authority.

Areva executives have acknowledged the records falsifications and blamed them on a breakdown of manufacturing controls spanning many decades at Le Creusot. Areva has since tightened its controls and is cooperating with the regulators’ reviews, company officials said…….

Beyond France, regulators are trying to determine whether other nuclear facilities that relied on components from Le Creusot are safe. Finnish inspectors visiting the forge last week said they learned of potential flaws in a component slated for a reactor in the southwestern island of Olkiluoto. In the U.S., the NRC has identified at least nine nuclear plants that use large components from Le Creusot……..

Last week’s inspection has turned up a concern with one of Areva’s next-generation reactors, the European Pressurized Reactor under construction in Finland, versions of which are also planned for plants in China, France and the U.K…….http://www.wsj.com/articles/problems-at-nuclear-components-supplier-spark-global-reviews-1481625005

December 14, 2016 Posted by | France, safety, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment