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U.S. Appeals Court upholds order for Federal Government to remove plutonium from South Carolina

U.S. government ordered to remove deadly nuclear substance from South Carolina, BY EMILY BOHATCH, October 26, 2018


November 17, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, Legal, USA | Leave a comment

USA’s National Nuclear Security Administration under scrutiny, over plutonium pits

Watchdog groups seek review of plutonium plan, By Andy Stiny |, 2 Nov 18

    Three nuclear watchdog groups across the U.S., including Santa Fe-based Nuclear Watch New Mexico, are accusing the National Nuclear Security Administration of creating a plan to increase production of plutonium bomb cores in violation of an environmental law.

The agency has failed to hold a review and public hearings on the plan, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the groups say.

Along with NukeWatch, Savannah River Site Watch in South Carolina and Livermore, Calif.-based Tri-Valley CAREs sent an Oct. 31 letter to NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, alleging the federal agency “explicitly plans to expand plutonium pit production but has made no visible effort to begin the legally required National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.”

A spokeswoman for the NNSA said in an email Wednesday that “the pit production mission will be carried out in accordance with all applicable environmental and regulatory requirements.”

Plutonium cores, or “pits,” are the softball-sized components that initiate the detonation of a nuclear weapon. The NNSA announced in May that by 2030, 30 pits a year would be produced at Los Alamos National Laboratory and at least 50 a year at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

The watchdog groups’ letter says they are demanding an environmental review and public hearings because the agency has raised its projected production level above the currently sanctioned cap of 20 pits per year and also because it plans to establish pit production at a second site.

“Assuring the public’s ability to meaningfully comment is a key component of legal compliance,” the letter says.  The organizations are asking the NNSA to respond within 30 days.

November 3, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear weapons proliferation: other countries fear that Japan may use its piles of plutonium for weapons

Japan vows to cut its nuclear hoard but neighbours fear the opposite, Japan has amassed a large stockpile of plutonium and neighbours fear that the country may decide to build more nuclear weapons. By Motoko Rich, 25 Sept  2018 New York Times, More than 30 years ago, when its economy seemed invincible and the Sony Walkman was ubiquitous, Japan decided to build a recycling plant to turn nuclear waste into nuclear fuel.

September 26, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan | Leave a comment

The global nuclear nightmare of plutonium

REAL PLUTONIUM, Paul Richards shared a link. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch South Australia, 21 Sept 18

Global nuclear brotherhood driving weapons proliferation, they still haven’t anywhere to store;

* unspent & spent nuclear fuel, 
* excess radionuclides,
* redundant weapons arming material
* contaminated material and their
* respective short &
* long-term containment systems as canisters, or
* short-term storage, 200-litre drums.

Containers at worst need repacking in

* five years in case of the 200-litre drums, with best practice, every

* hundred years, and that is

* unless sealed five kilometres below

the surface or more, this repacking of nuclear waste containers is ad infinitum ∞

September 21, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium | 1 Comment

Plutonium a risk to humans and environment for thousands of years

Even if the optimism of the scientists and engineers is well-founded, it will still take almost two more decades for the vitrification plant to run at full bore. So it may be 2047—or later—before the ghosts of plutonium are finally laid to rest.

illustration by Abigail Malate, Staff Illustrator, American Institute of Physics

September 21, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

Nevada vows to fight plan to send plutonium to security site 

by Jeff Gillan , 9 Sept 18, Nevada’s elected officials reacted with alarm Thursday to a Department of Energy proposal to send a ton or more of weapons-grade plutonium to the Nevada National Security Site.

The security site, formerly known as the test site, has seen small amounts of plutonium before but that was for weapons testing.

This proposal, from the Department of Energy, would be the first time, according to Nevada officials, that plutonium would be stored here, potentially indefinitely.I have been made aware that @Energy intends to store plutonium in Nevada with no timeline for removal. I will fight this at every level,” Governor Brian Sandoval, R-Nevada, tweeted.

The plutonium up to a ton would be sent here by 2020 from South Carolina because a facility there has not been finished that would re-purpose the material. Another ton would be scheduled to be sent here in 2021.

“Doe is addressing South Carolina’s concerns by screwing Nevada,” tweets Congresswoman Dina Titus…….

Plutonium, at the security site, is a separate issue [from Yucca nuclear waste dump plan] . However, conservationists see another agenda by sending plutonium here.

“This is about a test run to see what storage and transportation of nuclear material looks like to Nevada,” says Andy Maggi, the Executive Director of the Nevada Conservation League.

State officials reacted to the proposal with alarm.

“Not only does shipping up to one metric ton of plutonium across the country likely present risks to those living along the proposed transportation routes, storing this material just a few miles from #LasVegas could threaten the health and safety of Nevadans and our tourism economy,” tweets Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada.

“I have serious concerns with (Department of Energy) Secretary Perry recklessly pushing this proposal forward without properly assessing the impact that transporting and storing up to one metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium would have on Nevadans’ health and safety. I urge DOE to conduct a full environmental analysis,” said Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada, in a statement.

Yucca Mountain will take years – if ever – to become operational. One worry is also that DOE could reclassify the plutonium as nuclear waste and send it to Yucca when it’s ready.

“That’s not an inconceivable scenario,” says Greg Lovato, the Administrator of Nevada’s Division of Environmental Protection.

In the meantime, Nevada plans to fight plutonium coming here.

“We’re looking at all legal options because we believe that the supplemental analysis issued by the department is insufficient for this type of activity,” says Bradley Crowell.

September 10, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, USA | Leave a comment

Plutonium remains in the ground below proposed Rocky Flats national wildlife refuge

Guardian 22nd Aug 2018 The nation’s newest national wildlife refuge, filled with swaying prairie
grass and home to a herd of elk, is slated to open next month just outside
Colorado’s largest city.

But seven Denver metro area school districts
have already barred school-sanctioned field trips to the preserve. A top
local health official says he would probably never hike there.

And a town is suing over what the soil might contain. “The threat posed by
contamination at Rocky Flats and its effect on visiting children appears to
be an issue of dispute amongst experts,” Lisa Flores, a Denver public
schools board of education member, told the Guardian.

“Until we have definitive assurances of child safety, we will exercise an abundance of
caution.” The 2,119-hectare (5,237-acre) Rocky Flats national wildlife
refuge, due to open this autumn, sits on land surrounding what once was a
nuclear weapons production facility. From 1951 to 1989, the Rocky Flats
Plant manufactured plutonium triggers – grapefruit-size spheres that,
when compressed by explosives, catalyze a nuclear reaction. Though the
area, about 20 miles north-west of Denver, has been cleaned up and declared
safe by the government, plutonium remains in the ground where the facility
once stood.

August 25, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, environment, USA | Leave a comment

Japan plans to reduce its 47.3 tons of stockpiled plutonium

IPFM 20th Aug 2018 , On 31 July 2018, Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) issued a new
policy paper, The Basic Principles on Japan’s Utilization of Plutonium,
which for the first time, stated that “Japan will reduce the size of its
plutonium stockpile.”
A similar statement was included in the new Strategic
Energy Plan (in Japanese) by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
(METI) that was adopted on 3 July by the Cabinet of the Japanese
government. Japan’s plutonium stockpile, according to the data released by
the JAEC at the same time as the new policy, is about 47.3 tons of
plutonium (as of the end of 2017), of which 36.7 tons is overseas (21.2
tons in UK and 15.5 tons in France) and 10.5 tons in Japan. The Rokkasho
reprocessing plant, with a design separation capacity of 8 tons of
plutonium per year, on which stated construction in 1993, is currently
planned to be completed in 2021. Plans call for the J-MOX plant to be
completed in 2022 to turn this plutonium into MOX fuel for light water
(LWR) nuclear power reactors.

August 24, 2018 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011, - plutonium | Leave a comment

Hanford Plutonium Finishing Plant clean-up to be restarted

Daily Mail 27th July 2018 , Work to demolish a former nuclear weapons production factory in Washington
state may resume in September, about six months after it was halted when
workers were exposed to radioactive particles, the U.S. Department oEnergy said Thursday.
The agency will implement extra safety measures for
workers demolishing the Plutonium Finishing Plant on the Hanford Nuclear
Reservation, which is near Richland. The plant was involved in producing
much of the plutonium for the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
Hanford officials
issued a report in late March that said a total of 42 Hanford workers
inhaled or ingested radioactive particles when they were exposed during
contamination events in June and December of last year. Radioactive
contamination was also found outside plant offices and inside two dozen
vehicles, the report said.

July 28, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, USA | Leave a comment

Japan has amassed enough plutonium to make 6,000 nuclear bombs

Economist 25th July 2018 Japan has now amassed 47 tonnes of plutonium, enough to make 6,000 bombs.
What is Japan doing with so much plutonium? Plutonium is at the heart of
Japan’s tarnished dream of energy independence. Spent fuel from nuclear
reactors can be reprocessed to extract plutonium, which is then recycled
into mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel. This was intended for use in Japan’s
reactors but most of its nuclear power plants have been offline since the
2011 Fukushima disaster.

Tougher safety checks have failed to reassure the
nuclear-phobic public that the reactors can be restarted. And Japan’s
nuclear-energy fleet is ageing. Taro Kono, Japan’s foreign minister, has
admitted that this situation is “extremely unstable”.

Japan’s status as a plutonium superpower is increasingly under scrutiny. The government
says it has no intention of building a bomb. But China and other countries
question how long it can be allowed to stockpile plutonium. Analysts worry
about a competitive build-up of plutonium in Asia.

Moreover Japan’s stock, which is weapons-grade, is reprocessed and stored in France and
Britain. It is moved across the world in heavily armed convoys. America
says those shipments and the storage of plutonium in civilian sites present
a potential threat to non-proliferation goals: they could be redirected to
make weapons, or targeted by terrorists. It is nudging its ally to start
reducing the hoard.

July 27, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan | Leave a comment

Japan, U.S. extend nuclear pact amid concern about plutonium stockpile

 KYODO NEWS 17 July 18  Japan and the United States extended on Tuesday a bilateral nuclear agreement that has served as the basis for Tokyo’s push for a nuclear fuel recycle policy.

The pact, which entered into force in July 1988, has authorized Japan to reprocess spent fuel, extract plutonium and enrich uranium for 30 years. As neither side sought to review it before the end of the term, it will remain effective, leaving Japan the only country without nuclear arms that is allowed to reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

But the passing of the initial 30-year period raises uncertainty over the future of the pact, now that it can be terminated anytime six months after either party notifies the other.

The United States is seen as concerned about Japan’s stockpiles of plutonium

………Japan has around 47 tons of plutonium, which is enough to produce about 6,000 nuclear warheads.

Of the 47 tons, around 10 tons were stored in Japan and the reminder in Britain and France as of the end of 2016, according to government data.

In early July, Japan clearly stated for the first time in its basic energy plan that it will trim the amount.

Spent fuel from nuclear reactors is reprocessed to extract uranium and plutonium, which is then recycled into fuel called mixed oxide, or MOX, for use in fast-breeder reactors or conventional nuclear reactors.

But following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, most of Japan’s nuclear power plants remain offline as they are required to pass newly established safety regulations……..

The Rokkasho plant, a key pillar of the country’s nuclear fuel recycling policy, will be able to produce around 8 tons of plutonium a year when fully operational.

July 18, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Questions: why does USA allow only Japan to reprocess plutonium?

Japan’s ‘plutonium exception’ under fire as nuclear pact extended  Beijing and Seoul question why US allows only Tokyo to reprocess, TOKYO — Japan’s nuclear cooperation agreement with the U.S. — the pillar of Tokyo’s nuclear energy policy — renews automatically on Monday after the current pact, which took effect in 1988, expires.

The agreement allows Japan to be the sole non-nuclear-weapons state to use plutonium for peaceful purposes and underlies the country’s policy of recycling spent nuclear fuel.

But the renewal comes at a time when Japan’s “plutonium exception” is increasingly under scrutiny. Instead of negotiating a new pact that could last several decades, Washington and Tokyo chose an automatic extension of the current agreement.

The agreement signed three decades ago stated that after the 30-year period expired, the terms would remain in force but could be terminated by either side with a six months’ notice. Japan worries that without a new long-term agreement, the country enters an “extremely unstable situation,” Foreign Minister Taro Kono has said.

Japan’s neighbors have cried foul over Japan’s plutonium exception. China has said it creates a path for Japan to obtain nuclear weapons. South Korea, which also has a nuclear cooperation agreement with the U.S., has pressed Washington hard to be granted similar freedom on fuel reprocessing.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia that are looking to develop their own nuclear programs have also protested.

Under President Barack Obama, Japan’s plutonium stockpiles — much of which is stored in the U.K. — drew uncomfortable attention in Washington. In March 2016, Thomas Countryman, the then-assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, told a Senate hearing that he “would be very happy to see all countries get out of the plutonium reprocessing business.”

President Donald Trump has shown less interest in preventing nuclear proliferation, but is committed to dismantling North Korea’s nuclear facilities and materials. Resolving the inconsistent treatment afforded Japan’s plutonium stockpile would make it easier to convince Pyongyang to give up reprocessing capabilities as part of its denuclearization, Countryman told Nikkei recently.

The Trump administration appears aware of these arguments. The National Security Council and State Department have requested that Japan reduce its stockpile and otherwise ensure its plutonium is used and managed appropriately. On July 3, Japan’s cabinet approved a new basic energy plan that includes reducing plutonium holdings, aiming to assuage American concerns.

But Japan’s mostly idled nuclear power industry makes working through the stockpile a challenge.At one point after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, all of the country’s reactors were offline. Nine have managed to restart under stricter safety standards adopted in the wake of the meltdowns, but only a few Japanese reactors can run on so-called mixed-oxide fuel containing plutonium.

Regulators have asked utilities such as Shikoku Electric Power and Kyushu Electric Power that are working to restart nuclear reactors to look into consuming plutonium fuel held by other power companies. But this would require potentially difficult negotiations with local governments.

One other option is to pay overseas countries that store plutonium on Japan’s behalf to dispose of them, but that would involve discussion on the international level.

“The only viable option is to explain to the world the steady efforts we are making toward reduction,” said an official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which is responsible for Japan’s energy policy.

So far, the U.S. has not called on Japan to abandon its plutonium entirely, or to speed up its reduction. And there is little chance the U.S. will end the cooperation agreement, as “Japan’s nuclear technology is indispensable to the American nuclear industry,” according to a Japanese government source.

But Tokyo worries that the Trump administration may apply the same transactional approach it has to other foreign policy issues to the question of Japan’s plutonium.

July 16, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Japan-US nuclear energy pact set to renew automatically in July 2018  (Mainichi Japan) 

July 16, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Japan nuclear agency urges measures to cut plutonium stocks–japan-nuclear-20180705-story.html MARI YAMAGUCHIAssociated Press

The annual “nuclear white paper” approved by the Atomic Energy Commission is an apparent response to intensifying pressure from Washington as it pursues denuclearization in North Korea. It says Japan’s fuel recycling program should continue, but minimize the amount of plutonium extracted from spent fuel for reuse in power generation to eventually reduce the stockpile.

Japan has pledged to not possess plutonium that does not have a planned use, but the promise increasingly sounds empty because of the slow restarts of Japanese power-generating reactors that can burn plutonium amid setbacks from the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Though Japanese officials deny any possible misuse of the material and reprocessing technology, the large stockpile of plutonium that can make atomic bombs also raises security concerns as the U.S. wants North Korea to get rid of its nuclear weapons.

Commission chairman Yoshiaki Oka said the effort to tackle the stockpile is Japan’s own initiative underscoring its commitment to a peaceful nuclear program, and not because of the U.S. Oka said he was not aware of any outstanding problem between the two countries over the plutonium issue, but that Japan is taking into consideration the importance of maintaining “relationship of trust with the U.S.”

The commission is compiling guidelines to better manage and reduce the plutonium stockpile. Measures would include some government oversight in setting a cap on plutonium reprocessing and a study into how to steadily reduce the plutonium processed abroad.

Oka declined to cite a numerical target, but he said reducing the stockpile is a “must.”

Japan has nearly 47 tons of plutonium — 10 tons at home and the rest in France and Britain, where spent fuel from Japanese nuclear plants has been reprocessed because Japan is not able to reprocess it into plutonium-based MOX fuel at home.

The amount is enough to make 6,000 atomic bombs, but at Japan’s Rokkasho reprocessing plant denies any risk of proliferation, citing its safeguards and close monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency .

After years of delay due to technical issues, the Rokkasho plant is in the final stages of safety approvals by the regulators ahead of its planned launch in 2021. Critics, however, say that starting up the plant only adds to the stockpile.

The plant at full capacity can annually produce 8 tons of plutonium, and burning that would require 16-18 reactors — a long shot given the slow pace of restarts and public resistance. Japanese utility operators are also opting to decommission aged reactors rather than making costly safety upgrades to meet the post-Fukushima standards.

Only four reactors have restarted since the Fukushima crisis, using stricter safety requirements and despite resistance of neighbors.

Another setback for Japan’s plutonium balance is a failure of Monju, a plutonium-burning reactor built as the centerpiece of Japan’s fuel recycling program. Monju had been suspended after a major accident in 1995 and is now being scrapped.

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July 6, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan | Leave a comment

A glut of plutonium pits. Oh great! USA can make more nuclear weapons

DOE considering new locations, weapons uses for some SRS plutonium By Colin Demarest

Jun 29, 2018

      ,In order to remove 1 metric ton of defense plutonium from South Carolina within two years, as a federal court has required, the U.S. Department of Energy is considering the plutonium’s nuclear weapon uses.

According to a June 13 progress report, the DOE and its National Nuclear Security Administration are re-examining the possibility of repurposing some Savannah River Site plutonium for “future defense programs.”

“Approximately 1 metric ton was identified for possible use by the weapons production program,” the report reads. “The amount of candidate programmatic material at SRS is limited; most of the surplus material is not suitable for weapons program use.”

  • The DOE’s prospective plan would shift the plutonium from SRS to another site, either for interim storage or plutonium pit production.

    Plutonium pits are nuclear weapon cores, often referred to as triggers.

    Potential out-of-state relocation sites for the 1 metric ton of plutonium have been identified, according to the DOE.

    The June report did not specify where. Site studies concluded in April.

    Environmental impact assessments for moving the plutonium, required by the National Environmental Policy Act, are already underway and could be completed by the end of 2018, the report notes.

    In 2017, a U.S. District Court judge ordered the DOE to remove 1 metric ton of plutonium from the state within two years, the result of a lawsuit launched by S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson. At the time, Wilson celebrated the ruling as a major win.

    The DOE has stated disposing 1 ton of plutonium via downblending, also known as dilute-and-dispose, would take until fiscal year 2025 to complete at current funding and operation levels. A court-received declaration made by Henry Allen Gunter, then a plutonium program manager and technical adviser at SRS, reinforced the DOE’s claim.

    More funding and more trained personnel, according to the June report, would speed things up.

  • But planning related to dilute-and-dispose – mixing plutonium with inert material for burial at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico – ceased in June due to another court order that protected the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility.
  • The defense- and weapons-use option, according to the DOE’s report, vastly undercuts the 2025 estimate: “Indeed, the department believes that it is possible that, if successful, this option might allow the department to meet the current two-year timeline imposed by the district court,” the report reads.

    According to the DOE, the plutonium is “safe and secure in its present location.” Moving it costs money and poses radiological, safety and security concerns, all of which are listed at the end of the report.

    Eventually, the plutonium would have to be moved to Los Alamos National Laboratory or back to SRS for pit production.

    On May 10, the DOE and the U.S. Department of Defense recommended a pit production mission for SRS, which muddies the waters a bit. Those plans have not yet been finalized.

    Los Alamos currently does not have enough room for the 1 metric ton, the DOE report states. Holding it at an interim location incurs additional costs.

    More information and detail, including timing, will be made available in December, the June report states.

June 29, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment