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Plutonium in space – the danger in space probes

The final mission for Cassini, Enformable, 26 Apr 17, Karl Grossman Despite protests around the world, the Cassini space probe—containing more deadly plutonium than had ever been used on a space device—was launched 20 years ago. And this past weekend—on Earth Day—the probe and its plutonium were sent crashing into Saturn.

The $3.27 billion mission constituted a huge risk. Cassini with its 72.3 pounds of Plutonium-238 fuel was launched on a Titan IV rocket on October 17, 1997 despite several Titan IV rockets having earlier blown up on launch.

At a demonstration two weeks before in front of the fence surrounding the pad at Cape Canaveral from which Cassini was to be launched, Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, warned of widespread regional damage if this Titan IV lofting Cassini exploded on launch. Winds could carry the plutonium “into Disney World, University City, into the citrus industry and destroy the economy of central Florida,” he declared………

on an Earth “flyby” by Cassini , done on August 18, 1999, it wouldn’t have been a regional disaster but a global catastrophe if an accident happened.

Cassini didn’t have the propulsion power to get directly from Earth to its final destination of Saturn, so NASA figured on having it hurtle back to Earth in a “sling shot maneuver” or “flyby”—to use Earth’s gravity to increase its velocity so it could reach Saturn. The plutonium was only used to generate electricity—745 watts—to run the probe’s instruments. It had nothing to do with propulsion.

So NASA had Cassini come hurtling back at Earth at 42,300 miles per hour and skim over the Earth’s atmosphere at 727 miles high. If there were a rocket misfire or miscalculation and the probe made what NASA in its “Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini Mission” called an “inadvertent reentry,” it could have fallen into Earth’s atmosphere, disintegrating, and releasing plutonium. Then, said NASA in its statement, “Approximately 7 to 8 billion world population at a time … could receive 99 percent or more of the radiation exposure.”

The worst accident involving space nuclear power occurred in 1964 when a satellite powered by a SNAP-9A plutonium system failed to achieve orbit and fell to Earth, breaking apart and releasing its 2.1 pounds of Plutonium-238 fuel, which dispersed all over the planet. According to the late Dr. John Gofman, professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, that accident contributed substantially to global lung cancer rates……….

the U.S. Department of Energy working with NASA has started up a new production facility at its Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to produce Plutonium-238 for space use. Other DOE labs are also to participate.

Says Gagnon of the Maine-based Global Network: “Various DOE labs are rushing back into the plutonium processing business likely to make it possible for the nuclear industry to move their deadly product off-planet in order to ensure that the mining operations envisioned on asteroids, Mars, and the Moon will be fully nuclear-powered. Not only do the DOE labs have a long history of contaminating us on Earth but imagine a series of rocket launches with toxic plutonium on board that blow up from time to time at the Kennedy Space Center. They are playing with fire and the lives of us Earthlings. The space and the nuke guys are in bed together and that is a bad combination—surely terrible news for all of us.”

“The Global Network,” said Gagnon, “remains adamantly opposed to the use of nuclear power in space.” http://enformable.com/2017/04/the-final-mission-for-cassini/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Enformable+%28Enformable%29

April 28, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, safety, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Demolition of Hanford Plutonium Finishing Plant to begin soon

Teardown to begin soon at Hanford’s most contaminated building area http://www.tri-cityherald.com/news/local/hanford/article145749544.html  BY ANNETTE CARY acary@tricityherald.com 21 Apr 17,  Demolition should start within a few weeks on the most contaminated portion of the Hanford Plutonium Finishing Plant.

April 22, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, USA | Leave a comment

Delay in legal order to move plutonium stockpiled in South Carolina

MOX injunction delayed until at least July 31 http://www.aikenstandard.com/news/mox-injunction-delayed-until-at-least-july/article_01a4ce3c-25f5-11e7-9f5c-8fd2c77c42e0.html  By Michael Smith msmith@aikenstandard.com  Apr 20, 2017 

An injunctive order that would move plutonium disposition forward in Aiken County will have to wait until at least July.

U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs signed an order giving all parties until July 31 to develop a jointly written statement that will be used to frame the order. The previous deadline was April 21.

Childs previously ruled the U.S. Department of Energy failed to comply with an agreement to dispose of 1 metric ton of weapons grade plutonium by Jan. 1, 2016. South Carolina sued the DOE, the National Nuclear Security Administration, NNSA director Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz and former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz in February 2016, saying the defendants reneged on their obligations to dispose of plutonium or make $1 million a day “economic assistance payments.”

Childs ruled the federal government failed to dispose of plutonium as agreed, but refused to issue any financial sanctions. Her order asks all parties to develop a joint statement to determine exactly what the injunction will say.

The April 20 order to delay comes at the request of the DOE and its codefendants.

According to court documents, the DOE’s budget is only funded through April 28.

In addition, the DOE cited difficulty in coordinating with a number of program offices and officials, “a process which is complicated by the fact that a number of leadership positions at DOE are not presently filled.”

The motion goes on to say that settlement negotiations will continue. If an agreement can’t be reached by the deadline, then both parties will submit individual statements, court records state.

The DOE missed the Jan. 1, 2016 deadline because the mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel fabrication facility at the Savannah River Site in Aiken County isn’t built yet.

Once operational, MOX will convert plutonium stockpiles into fuel for commercial reactors. It’s presently about 73 percent complete, sources familiar with the project say.

The plutonium disposition is part of a nuclear deal with Russia, both nations agreed to dispose of 34 metric tons of defense plutonium. An NNSA news release from 2011 heralding the MOX deal said that’s enough plutonium to make 17,000 nuclear weapons.

Russia suspended, but didn’t withdraw from, the agreement in 2016. While not citing MOX directly, Russian President Vladimir Putin cited “unfriendly” practices by the U.S.

Both nations were supposed to begin disposition in 2018, the NNSA news release said.

April 22, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Cover-up of America’s nuclear waste disaster: Hanford, Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, Westlake…

Hanford, Oak Ridge, Los Alamos and West Lake provide only a snapshot of the wider picture. Consider the Rocky Flats Plant, a former nuclear weapons production site not far from Denver, Colorado.

“It’s a Cover-Up, Not a Clean-Up”: Nuclear Waste Smolders in Sites Across the US truth Out  March 30, 2017 By Daniel Ross, Truthout | Report Renowned wartime journalist Wilfred Burchett described the damage from the atomic bomb that flattened Hiroshima as “far greater than photographs can show.” When it comes to the enduring legacy of the Manhattan Project on home soil, the damage to the environment and human health is proving similarly hard to grasp.

The covert project to create the world’s first atomic weapon during WWII, coupled with the nuclear proliferation of the Cold War era, has left a trail of toxic and radioactive waste at sites across the nation that will necessitate, by some margin, the largest environmental cleanup in the nation’s history. The amount of money that has been poured into remediating the waste already is staggering. Still, it appears that the scale of the problems, and the efforts needed to effectively tackle them, continue to be underestimated by the authorities responsible for their cleanup.

Since 1989, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Environmental Management — the agency charged with cleaning up “legacy” radioactive waste — has spent over $164 billion disposing of nuclear waste and contamination, completing the cleanup at 91 of 107 sites across the country. And yet between 2011 and 2016, the DOE’s Environmental Management environmental liability grew by roughly $94 billion.

Though the president’s proposed 2018 budget siphons $6.5 billion into the DOE’s Environmental Management program, up slightly from $6.2 billion this year and last, that figure is still below the roughly $8.5 billion (after adjustment for inflation) the program received in 2003. It is also well below the amount required to effectively meet urgent issues head on, said Don Hancock, director of the Nuclear Waste Program at the Southwest Research and Information Center……..

The fight over what the final budget will look like has only just begun. But beyond these hovering questions marks is something much more concrete: the sheer magnitude of the legacy waste problem, which can be traced all the way back to that game-changing atomic project of the 1940s.

Hanford: Beset With Costly Overruns Continue reading

March 31, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

North Korea’s greatly increased plutonium stockpile

plutonium_04flag-N-KoreaNorth Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Under Kim Jong Un, Plutonium Stockpile Has Reached Unprecedented Levels, International Business Times,  BY  @TIMMARCIN ON 01/12/17 In the past two years, North Korea has steadily increased its supply of plutonium and now has enough for 10 nuclear warheads, according to a report this week from the South Korean Ministry of National Defense. In all, South Korea’s 2016 Defense White Paper found that the North had increased its supply of weapons -grade plutonium to 50 kilograms, up from 40 kilograms two years ago, the Korea Times reported. The plutonium was obtained by reprocessing spent fuel rods.

Under the dictatorial rule of leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea has focused on developing its nuclear arsenal. More recently, North Korea has worked toward developing a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that would be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The increased stockpile comes amid continued threats from Kim. In a New Year’s speech, Kim provoked the West — the United States and South Korea especially — and claimed an ICBM was nearing completion…….

Should the North develop a reliable ICBM, it would likely have the capability of reaching the United States. A working ICBM could still be a ways off, however…….http://www.ibtimes.com/north-koreas-nuclear-weapons-under-kim-jong-un-plutonium-stockpile-has-reached-2474439 

January 13, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The danger of plutonium being released at United States at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

plutonium_04Puget Sound’s ticking nuclear time bomb, Crosscut by , 10 Jan 17  “……“Command and Control” shows what can happen when the weapons built to protect us threaten to destroy us, and it speaks directly to Puget Sound citizens: Locally, we face a similar threat in Hood Canal with the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the United States at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

An accident at Bangor involving nuclear weapons occurred in November 2003 when a ladder penetrated a nuclear nose cone during a routine missile offloading at the Explosives Handling Wharf. All missile-handling operations at the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC) were stopped for nine weeks until Bangor could be recertified for handling nuclear weapons. Three top commanders were fired but the public was never informed until information was leaked to the media in March 2004.

The Navy never publicly admitted that the 2003 accident occurred. The Navy failed to report the accident at the time to county or state authorities. Public responses from governmental officials were generally in the form of surprise and disappointment.

The result of such an explosion likely would not cause a nuclear detonation. Instead, plutonium from the approximately 108 nuclear warheads on one submarine could be spread by the wind…… http://crosscut.com/2017/01/nuclear-accidents-bangor-accident-command-and-control/

January 11, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, Reference, safety, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The Different Dangerosity of Some Radioactive Elements.

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One night in July 2013, Xavier Nast, a French antinuclear activist, who many years before used to work at COGEMA, presently named AREVA, took the time to explain me the diffrence between some of the radioactive elements, in terms of their dangerosity.
 
As Xavier Nast told me, nothing is worth practical exercises to understand what is not always obvious at the first explanation.
 
Since the beginning of the Fukushima accident, everyone understands the situation as he/she perceives it, and everyone is right it is very serious indeed, but still we haven’t seen almost anything yet. And what we may risk to see and understand?
 
When sharing the “galette des rois”in France, some king cakes in the old days were stuffed with a a small gold coin (a gold Napoleon). If a greedy one swallowed it inadvertently, he will have to wait one to two days to recover it but his health will not be affected. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_cake
 
Imagine the coins gold plated and filled with actinides (highly toxic alpharadio transmitters) such as they all weigh 6 grams, have a diameter of 21 mm and the same visual appearance:
A) An Uranium 238 filled gold plated coin
B) A Plutonium 239 filled gold plated coin
C) A Plutonium 238 filled gold plated coin
D) A Polonium 210 filled gold plated coin
 
We will not see any difference in appearance and weight.
 
However the threshold for the lethal dose of an inhaled monolithic dust is:
0.835gram for A (Uranium 238)
0.000 000 4 gram for B (Plutonium 239)
0.000 000 001 6 gram for C (Plutonium 238)
0.000 000 000 007 gram for D (Polonium 210)
 
This means that the lethal dose of these coins could destroy:
6 lives for A (Uranium 238, there is a lot)
13,475,000 lives for B, more than Paris Metropolis population (Plutonium 239,there is a lot)
3,700,000,000lives for C, more than half of mankind (Plutonium 238 is rare)
850 billion lives for D, 120 times the world population. (Polonium 210 is very rare)
 
Yet these coins A, B, C and D have not caused you any damage after being swallowed, not even long after.Because they were all covered with a tenth mm of gold , which prevented the huge flow of alpha particles to destroy even just a little of your digestive tract.
 
Conclusion:alpha emitters radionuclides must remain CONFINED.
 
We therefore better have no nuclear plant to explode, especially one of those nuclear plants using MOX, as MOX fuel consists of 7% plutonium 239 mixed with depleted uranium, such as the ones we have many in France.
 
Knowing this, are you still willing for them to continue using their deadly nuclear technology? Do you still believe that civil nuclear is safe?

October 27, 2016 Posted by | - plutonium | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plutonium being collected in China and Japan? Fears of another nuclear arms race


Confronting plutonium nationalism in Northeast Asia,
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 
Fumihiko Yoshida , 30 June 16,   Although President Obama trumpeted his commitment to nuclear disarmament at this year’s Washington Nuclear Security Summit and more recently during his visit to Hiroshima, the White House has so far only discussed in whispers a far more pressing nuclear weapons-related danger—that Japan and China may soon be separating thousands of nuclear bombs worth of plutonium from nuclear spent fuel each year. If this level of production occurs, South Korea and other countries will likely try to go the plutonium route. If President Obama is to have a lasting legacy of nuclear threat reduction, his administration needs to do far more than it has to clarify just how harmful this plutonium proliferation would be to keeping peace in East Asia and the world.

Japan has already accumulated about 11 metric tons of separated plutonium on its soil—enough for about 2,500 nuclear bombs. It also plans to open a nuclear spent fuel reprocessing plant at Rokkasho designed to separate eight tons of plutonium—enough to make roughly 1,500 nuclear warheads a year—starting late in 2018. The Japanese plutonium program has raised China’s hackles. China’s new five-year plan includes a proposal to import a reprocessing plant from France with the same capacity as Rokkasho. Meanwhile, South Korea insists that it should have the same right to separate plutonium as Japan has.

Each of these countries emphasizes that it wants to separate plutonium for peaceful purposes. Yet in each country, there are skeptics who respond whenever this argument is made by a neighbor. China and South Korea suspect that Japan’s large stockpile of plutonium and its plans to operate the Rokkasho plant are designed to afford Tokyo some latent form of nuclear deterrence, i.e. a nuclear weapon option. A huge new Chinese commercial plutonium separation program could give Beijing an option to make far more nuclear weapons than it already has. It is unclear what Russia might make of all of this, or North Korea. One possibility is that either might use such “peaceful” plutonium production as an excuse to further expand its own nuclear arsenal. China might do the same as deterrence to Japan. If Seoul joined in, it would be even more difficult to cap North Korea’s nuclear program………

The Obama administration and Congress need to speak more clearly. As Countryman said, “(t)here is a degree of competition among the major powers in East Asia. It is a competition that in my view extends into irrational spheres…”

The United States can stop Japan from separating more plutonium and the spread of “plutonium nationalism” in East Asia only by bringing security issues to the front burner in politics and diplomacy. If the United States clearly announces that operations at Rokkasho constitute a security concern, Japan is almost sure to listen. Having the plutonium discussion between Japan and the United States is critically important; the Abe administration puts a high priority on security issues and is also very pro-United States.

Now is the time to speak clearly on these security issues—before China and Japan lock themselves into a plutonium production rivalry that will make cooperation between them and South Korea on pressing issues, including North Korea’s nuclear program, all the more difficult to secure. http://thebulletin.org/confronting-plutonium-nationalism-northeast-asia9617

July 4, 2016 Posted by | - plutonium, China, Japan | Leave a comment

U.S. would back a rethink of Japan’s plutonium recycling program: White House 

KYODO MAY 21, 2016 WASHINGTON – The United States would back a change to Japan’s nuclear fuel reprocessing program because there are concerns it may lead to an increase in its ally’s stockpile of unused plutonium, a senior White House official said. … (registered readers onlyhttp://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/05/21/national/politics-diplomacy/u-s-back-rethink-japans-plutonium-recycling-program-white-house/#.V0I7-zV97Gj

May 23, 2016 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan | Leave a comment

Dangerous, pointless nuclear race in East Asia

The plutonium plans of each of the three East Asian countries, reinforced by worst-case assumptions about the intentions of the others, are further destabilizing an increasingly unstable region.

The ultimate goal, however, should be to end the costly, dangerous, pointless industry of plutonium separation. The U.S. has pursued that goal since 1974, when India used plutonium from its nominally civilian breeder reactor development program to launch a nuclear weapons program. Since that time, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and other countries have abandoned their reprocessing programs and the United Kingdom has decided to do so as well.

A Little-Known Nuclear Race Taking Place in East Asia Is Dangerous and Pointless  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-von-hippel/nuclear-race-asia_b_9609116.html 5 Apr 16   Frank von HippelSenior Research Physicist, Emeritus, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University   Fumihiko YoshidaVisiting Scholar, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace   

plutonium238_1Plutonium was first produced and separated during America’s World War II nuclear weapons project. Its destructive power became apparent at the end of the war when, in one-millionth of a second, one kilogram of plutonium in the Nagasaki bomb fissioned and destroyed the city below.

Today, a number of countries — including France and Japan — are separating plutonium from the spent fuel of their reactors and building dangerous stockpiles of this weapon-usable nuclear material with no good economic purpose.

Japan, the only non-nuclear weapons state that separates plutonium today, has accumulated almost 50 metric tons. Last month, Japan shipped more than 700 pounds of mostly weapons-grade plutonium — enough for about 50 nuclear bombs — to a more secure location in the U.S. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been simultaneously pushing through a law to guarantee funding for a new spent fuel “reprocessing” plant designed to separate hundreds of tons of plutonium for use in reactor fuel.

Meanwhile, China’s new five-year plan includes a proposal to buy a reprocessing plant from France that will separate plutonium that will probably accumulate like Japan’s. And South Korea insists that it should have the same right to separate plutonium as Japan.

These plans and desires are troubling. As President Obama said during the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, “We know that just the smallest amount of plutonium — about the size of an apple — could kill hundreds of thousands and spark a global crisis … We simply can’t go on accumulating huge amounts of the very material, like separated plutonium, that we’re trying to keep away from terrorists.”

Nuclear scientists working on weapons in the U.S. during World War II had a vision that plutonium could have a peaceful use. They proposed a plutonium “breeder” reactor that would convert uranium-238 into chain-reacting plutonium whose fission could power civilization for millennia. During the 1960s, this vision infected the global nuclear energy establishment. Since the 1970s, industrialized countries havespent about $100 billion on attempts to commercialize breeder reactors. Fortunately, this effort failed. We now understand the increased dangers of nuclear terrorism and proliferation that would have resulted had plutonium, a nuclear weapons material, become a commodity like petroleum. Conventional reactors are fueled by low-enriched uranium that is not usable in weapons.

In the absence of breeders, however, France has been continuing to separate plutonium and using it to fuel some of its conventional reactors; Japan has been trying less successfully to do the same.

The plutonium-uranium “mixed oxide” fuel produced in this way costs 10 timesmore than the low-enriched uranium that is the primary fuel for conventional reactors. But France’s government insists that Électricité de France continue to fund the bankrupt government-owned company AREVA to separate plutonium from EDF’s spent fuel. Meanwhile, Japan’s government is obliging its utilities to separate more plutonium as well. Globally, including failed plutonium programs in Russia and the United Kingdom, a surplus of more than 250 tons of plutonium — enough for 30,000 Nagasaki-type nuclear weapons — has been accumulated in civilian plutonium programs.

How can one explain the continuing interest in France, Russia, Japan, China and South Korea in separating plutonium? Institutional inertia is most of the answer in France and Russia but, in East Asia, the original use of plutonium — nuclear weapons — is also a factor. In South Korea, demands that the nation should have the right to be able to separate plutonium peak after North Korean nuclear tests. Security experts in Japan also increasingly justify its plutonium program as providing a latent nuclear deterrent against North Korea and China. China’s nuclear energy establishment is still enthralled with breeder reactors, but some analystsworry that China could use the reprocessing plant it plans to buy from France to quickly build up its nuclear weapons stockpile to the same scale as those of Russia and the United States.

The plutonium plans of each of the three East Asian countries, reinforced by worst-case assumptions about the intentions of the others, are further destabilizing an increasingly unstable region.

The United States cannot dictate to any of these countries. But it has a lot of leverage by virtue of being South Korea and Japan’s most important military ally and its agreements on peaceful nuclear cooperation with both.

 The Agreement for Cooperation Between the Government of Japan and the Government of the United States of America Concerning Civil Uses of Atomic Energy can continue indefinitely, but either country can terminate it starting in 2018. On March 17, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman indicated that the U.S. was planning on using this leverage to force a discussion of Japan’s plutonium program. At the very least, the U.S. should demand that Japan focus on disposing of its already separated plutonium before separating more. After all, Japan’s Toyota invented the “Just-in-Time” system for minimizing inventories.

In the recently completed negotiations over the renewal of the U.S.-Republic of Korea Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation, the two countries kicked the issue of South Korea’s demand for the right to reprocess spent fuel down the road by launching a joint 10-year study of the “feasibility” of South Korea’s proposed program.

If the U.S. cannot convince France to hold off selling a reprocessing plant to China, it should at least insist that, as a part of the deal, both countries commit to “just-in-time” plutonium separation — that is, no stockpiling.

The ultimate goal, however, should be to end the costly, dangerous, pointless industry of plutonium separation. The U.S. has pursued that goal since 1974, when India used plutonium from its nominally civilian breeder reactor development program to launch a nuclear weapons program. Since that time, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and other countries have abandoned their reprocessing programs and the United Kingdom has decided to do so as well.

The U.S. must continue to press the holdouts.

April 6, 2016 Posted by | - plutonium, ASIA, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Plutonium shipped from Japan to go to Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), New Mexico

wastes-1Plutonium from Japan to be disposed of underground in New Mexico, Japan ship radiationTimes, KYODO APR 2, 2016   U.S.-bound plutonium that has recently been shipped out of Japan will be disposed of at a nuclear waste repository in New Mexico after being processed at the Savannah River Site facility in South Carolina, according to an official of the National Nuclear Security Administration.

“The plutonium will be diluted into a less sensitive form at the SRS and then transported to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for permanent disposal deep underground,” said Ross Matzkin-Bridger, who is in charge of the operation at the NNSA, a nuclear wing of the Department of Energy.

“The dilution process involves mixing the plutonium with inert materials that reduce the concentration of plutonium and make it practically impossible to ever purify again,” he said in a recent phone interview.

The official made the remarks ahead of the latest Nuclear Security Summit, sponsored by President Barack Obama, which began Thursday in Washington.

On Friday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan will give up more highly enriched uranium (HEU) as part of what Obama hailed as an unprecedented bid to tighten control over unused nuclear material…..

Japan received the plutonium and HEU fuels from the U.S, Britain and France from the late 1960s to early 1970s for research purposes in the name of “Atoms for Peace.” The nuclear fuel delivery, however, has generated controversy in South Carolina since it was reported that it was en route to the U.S. government-run SRS facility in the state.

South Carolina is “at risk of becoming a permanent dumping ground for nuclear materials,” Gov. Nikki Haley said in a recent letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, calling for the shipment to be stopped or rerouted…….

In the statement, the Japanese government made a new pledge to remove and transfer HEU fuels from the Kyoto University Critical Assembly (KUCA), another Japanese research institute, to the United States for down-blending and “permanent threat reduction.”…….

the materials recently transferred from Japan are only the tip of the iceberg. Currently, Japanese utilities possess over 47 metric tons of separated plutonium, which is equivalent to about 6,000 nuclear bombs http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/04/02/national/politics-diplomacy/plutonium-japan-disposed-underground-new-mexico/#.VwGXrZx97Gj

April 4, 2016 Posted by | - plutonium, USA, wastes | 1 Comment

US govt no longer worried about Japan’s plutonium stockpiling as weapons proliferation risk?

U.S. official changes stance on Japan’s nuclear policy http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002840098   By Seima Oki / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent , 29 Mar 16, WASHINGTON — U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman said in a press conference by telephone on Monday that Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle project, which reuses spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants to extract plutonium, does not raise concerns about nuclear nonproliferation, effectively changing his earlier position on the matter.

At a hearing of the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee on March 17, the assistant secretary in charge of international security and nuclear nonproliferation had voiced his concerns about Japan’s nuclear policy and said that it would be desirable for Japan to halt its nuclear fuel reprocessing project.

In the press conference, Countryman said that Japan was a pioneer in the civilian use of nuclear energy and that no other country was closer or more important as a partner to the United States than Japan.

Japan’s stockpiling of plutonium has been criticized by China at U.N. meetings and on other occasions. To this, Countryman said that Japan has been proceeding in a transparent manner, which was understandable to the rest of the world.

He also expressed his stance that the U.S. government will cooperate with Japan as an ally to wipe out anxiety in the international community.Speech

March 30, 2016 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Armed UK vessels secretly take weapons grade plutonium from Japan to USA

The Pacific Egret and its escort ship Pacific Heron are reportedly lightly armed UK flagged vessels and arrived in Kobe port from Barrow-in-Furness, England on March 4th. The Egret docked in Tokai for pre-transport logistics last week. Both ships after departing Tokai port will sail together most likely through the South Pacific to the east coast of the United States.

ship radiationNPT and Nuclear Security Risks’ Exposed by Secret Plutonium Shipment: NGOsMarch 18, 2016 Tokyo- (PanOrient News) A coalition of five non-governmental organizations warned today that a shipment of weapons-grade plutonium scheduled to
depart the port of the Japanese Tokai nuclear station in Ibaraki prefecture this coming weekend highlights the failure, but also the proliferation risks, of the current Japanese nuclear policy. 

A cargo of 331kg of plutonium will be loaded on to the Pacific Egret, an armed British nuclear transport ship, prior to departure under armed escort to the United States. It will be the largest shipment of separated plutonium since 1.8 tons of plutonium was delivered to Japan by controversial Akatsuki-maru in 1992. The two month voyage to the Joint Base Charleston-Weapons Station will then see the plutonium dumped at the Department of Energy Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina. The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, which is responsible for the shipment, has identified that storage in Japan poses a security risk justifying its removal.

The organizations, Citizen Nuclear Information Center (Japan); Green Action (Japan); Savannah River Site Watch (U.S.); CORE (England), and Greenpeace, said in a statement they condemn the shipment as a dangerous distraction from the major problem in Japan which is its overall nuclear energy policy, where over 9 tons of plutonium remains stockpiled and there are plans to produce many tons more during the coming decade. The representatives of the five organizations have worked together over the past quarter century against Japan`s plutonium and nuclear fuel cycle program.

 Two-hundred and thirty six kilograms of the Tokai plutonium was supplied to Japan from the UK, with 2 kilograms from France and the remainder from the U.S. for neutronic testing purposes at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency Fast Critical Assembly facility at Tokai-mura in Ibaraki, the statement said noting that the facility has been used as a basis for Japan`s failed fast breeder reactor program, in particular the MONJU reactor.For more than five decades, Japanese nuclear policy has been based on the production and use of plutonium as a nuclear fuel. However, “the failure” of both its breeder program and plans to use plutonium as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel in light water reactors, has led to Japan acquiring the largest stockpile of weapons usable plutonium of any non nuclear weapon state.

For the U.S. and Japanese government, the Tokai shipment will be mistakenly hailed as demonstrating their commitment to reducing the threat from fissile materials, the statement noted. Both Prime Minister Abe and President Obama plan to announce the ‘success’ of the removal from Japan, at the fourth Nuclear Security Summit from March 31st -April 1st in Washington, D.C., while Japan will be desperate to avoid any discussion of the proliferation and security threat posed by its plutonium fuel cycle program.

“If 331 kg of plutonium warrants removal from Japan on the grounds of its vulnerability and in the interests of securing nuclear weapons material, then there is no credible justification for Japan’s current program and future plans to increase its plutonium stockpiling. Hailing a shipment of hundreds of kilograms of plutonium as a triumph for nuclear security, while ignoring over 9 tons of the weapons material stockpiled in Japan and in a region of rising tensions, is not just a failure of nuclear non proliferation and security policy but a dangerous delusion,” said Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany, who is currently in Japan. ……..

The Pacific Egret and its escort ship Pacific Heron are reportedly lightly armed UK flagged vessels and arrived in Kobe port from Barrow-in-Furness, England on March 4th. The Egret docked in Tokai for pre-transport logistics last week. Both ships after departing Tokai port will sail together most likely through the South Pacific to the east coast of the United States.http://www.panorientnews.com/en/news.php?k=2485

March 19, 2016 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, reprocessing, safety, USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Failure of Japanese nuclear reprocessing plan. What to do with all that plutonium?

NPT and Nuclear Security Risks’ Exposed by Secret Plutonium Shipment: NGOs, March 18, 2016 Tokyo- (PanOrient News) “……..In total, Japan`s current stockpile is around 46,700 kg, of which 9,528kg is located in Japan, the remaining balance being stored in France and the UK. The shipment from Tokai port will reduce its stockpile to 9,197 kg. Less than 8kg is sufficient for one nuclear weapon. While the Tokai shipment consists of weapons grade plutonium, and the vast bulk of Japan`s remaining stockpile is designated reactor-grade plutonium, from a security and non proliferation perspective there is no practical distinction and reactor-grade plutonium is capable of being used for the manufacture of nuclear weapons — a point highlighted by Shigeru Ishiba, a former Liberal Democratic Party Defense Minister, when speaking in 2011 described Japan`s nuclear energy program as “a tacit nuclear deterrent”, the statement said.

Sellafield-reprocessingTwo reactors, Takahama 3 and 4, owned by Kansai Electric, began operation in January and February 2016 loaded with plutonium MOX fuel, with unit 3 operating with 24 assemblies containing 1,088kg of plutonium and unit 4 with 4 assemblies containing 184kg of plutonium. Unit 4 shutdown due to an electrical failure three days after start up, while unit 3 was forced to shutdown on March 10th following a court order. Both reactors remain shutdown and are subject of a court injunction preventing operation issued by the Otsu district court, Shiga prefecture on March 9th. They are expected to be non operational for many months. Of the 26 reactors under review by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), Ikata-3, Genkai-3 and Tomari-3 are all intended to operate with plutonium MOX fuel.

“On current plans, and if ever the Rokkasho-mura reprocessing plant begins operation, Japan`s program could yield as much as 93,000kg by 2025 – most of which will remain unused. The reactor program in Japan is in crisis with no credible program for either restarting most reactors or using large amounts of this plutonium. If ever there was a time to abandon its current doomed nuclear energy policy, it is now. The Obama administration in its last year has an opportunity to step up and actively reduce the spiraling proliferation dynamic in East Asia – this should be top of the agenda in Washington instead of being ignored. The next step is to challenge the basis of the U.S.-Japan nuclear cooperation agreement which runs to 2018 – approval for Japan to continue acquiring plutonium must be reversed,” said Burnie.

The Department of Energy has no plans for final disposal of the Japanese plutonium, which will be added to the existing stockpile of 13 tons at the SRS, demonstrating that the shipment is largely a commercial dumping operation to secure funds for the beleaguered weapons material production site near Aiken, South Carolina, as pointed out by Savannah River Site Watch, the organizations said…….  .http://www.panorientnews.com/en/news.php?k=2485

March 19, 2016 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, reprocessing, wastes | Leave a comment

Plutonium and ” fourth generation nuclear power”

Bill Gates’ Nuclear Pipe Dream: Convert Depleted Uranium to Plutonium to Power Earth for Centuries, Truth Out Tuesday, 15 March 2016 By Josh Cunnings and Emerson UrryEnviroNews | Video Report Cunnings: “………..EnviroNews Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry chatted with the esteemed nuclear industry expert and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen to explore whether Gates’ plan is a good idea or not.

plutonium_04Emerson Urry: Let’s go back to Bill Gates again, [and] the fourth generation nuclear power. I’ve heard him out there speaking about this, and essentially his ambition to, let’s say, convert Paducah, Kentucky [to plutonium]. What can you tell us about Paducah, Kentucky? We understand it went bankrupt a couple years back, and I think there is quite a bit of radioactive material still there. We’ve heard at one point in time it was also one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters from the Freon — not to mention having four allocated coal-fired power plants. What can you tell us about Paducah, Kentucky? What does the situation on the ground look like there, and how do you think they will deal with all that?

Arnie Gundersen: Paducah didn’t have centrifuges, it had gaseous diffusion, and there’s no need for the plant anymore, so the plant has to be decommissioned and destroyed. What’s happened is, the way they shut the plant down was, to be nice, sub-optimal. And what they allowed it to do was for all that uranium to cake inside the pipes. So, had they done it in a more orderly fashion, the plant could have been much cleaner when they went to shut it down — but they didn’t. So, the Paducah site is a very expensive cleanup that is going to take 20 or 30 years to decontaminate. You know, it’s like all of these bomb legacy sites — Hanford in Washington State…

Urry: … that has the plutonium leak in AY-102 correct? Which has that been ratcheted down? Have they been able to ratchet down AY-102?

Gundersen: No. Hanford is going to take 70 years and cost 110 billion dollars to clean up. So, here we are paying over half of a century for the legacy of building bombs for five years in 1940. And so, Paducah is another one of those sites. It was built to enrich uranium. Why did we do that? Because we had a bomb program. And now we’re stuck with these huge costs that are underfunded or unfunded by Congress. That plant is going to sit there for 30 years. It will create a lot of employment for a lot of people knocking it down, but it also is highly radioactive, and it’s got to be done so cautiously, and it’s a really difficult problem.

Cunnings: There’s no known disintegration of plutonium small enough that doesn’t possess the ability to cause cancer. To be clear, there is no safe amount to be exposed to whatsoever.

Plutonium, though a naturally occurring element was virtually non-existent on planet earth before the dawn of the nuclear age. Now, each of the roughly 400 uranium-powered nuclear reactors in the world create approximately 500 pounds of plutonium each year — or enough to create about 100 nuclear warheads each.

Coming from a “humanitarian” concerned with curing diseases, the notion that plutonium is the way to save ourselves from a runaway climate catastrophe seems the epitome of oxymoronic — utterly and woefully contradictory. But stay tuned for more on that topic, as in episode 14 of this series we examine whether or not we really need nuclear to solve the climate quandary.

But, in the meanwhile, let’s just say that Bill Gates’ nuclear ambitions go beyond mere ideas. He actually possesses financial holdings in one very dangerous situation indeed — a situation that is presently causing residents around St. Louis, Missouri to live under an all-out nuclear nightmare. And that scenario will be the topic of discussion in the next episode of our short series.

So please, tune in tomorrow for part three, where we explore the scary situation at hand in the Westlake Landfill in St. Louis, Missouri. Signing off for now, this is Josh Cunnings…… http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/35229-bill-gates-nuclear-pipe-dream-convert-mountains-of-depleted-uranium-to-plutonium-to-power-earth-for-centuries

March 16, 2016 Posted by | - plutonium, USA, wastes | Leave a comment