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Uncertainty about China’s nuclear power future

“……….Uncertainties for Nuclear Power, Carnegie Endowment, Mark Hibbs,  14 MAY 18  

China’s nuclear power wager might not indefinitely pay high dividends. Until now, the state has boosted the nuclear power industry with incentives that, in the future, may come under pressure. The electric power system is subject to reform in the direction of more transparent oversight and pricing that might disadvantage nuclear investments. President Xi Jinping supports state control of strategic economic sectors, but he also advocates market reforms that have helped lead Western nuclear power industries into crises.

The nuclear sector must withstand what Xi calls “new normal” conditions: a gradual slowing down of China’s economy, characterized by diminishing returns on capital goods investments and translating into rising debt and overcapacity. Nuclear investments may be affected by demographics, changes in electricity load profile, and technology innovations including emergence of a countrywide grid system able to wheel bulk power anywhere.

There is also political risk. Public support for nuclear power in China is volatile and may be low. Concerns since the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan have prompted Beijing not to proceed with long-established plans to build most of China’s future nuclear plants on inland sites. Should this policy continue into the 2020s, prospects for China’s nuclear construction sector will decline; indefinitely continuing nuclear construction at eastern coastal sites (where nearly all of China’s nuclear power is generated) may encounter resistance on economic, capacity, and political grounds.

Under Xi, China’s globalization continues but the state is assuming ever-greater liability. Political decisionmaking and corporate culture may not support an indefinite increase in the risk presented by more nuclear power investments. Some quasi-official projections before Fukushima that China by 2050 might have 400 or more nuclear power plants have been cut in half. Beijing’s risk calculus may reflect that China’s population would blame the Communist Party and the state for a severe nuclear accident. In a country with a patchy track record for industrial safety, said one Chinese planning expert in 2016, “The more reactors we have, the greater our liability.”

…….. If China merely replicates others’ collective past experience, it will reinforce the view that fast reactors and their fuel cycles are too risky, complex, and expensive to generate large amounts of electricity. 

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May 22, 2018 Posted by | China, politics | Leave a comment

China lands nuclear strike bombers on South China Sea islands

Prepared for battle: China lands nuclear strike bombers on South China Sea islands  CHINA raised global fears after sending nuclear bombs and warplanes above the South China Sea as part of a simulated training exercise with air force officials declaring the country is “preparing for battle”. Express UK, By LATIFA YEDROUDJ May 20, 2018  Air force personnel confirmed it had ”organised multiple bombers” to conduct “take-off and landing training” along islands and reefs in the South China Sea, as practise in light of a full-scale war.

May 22, 2018 Posted by | China, weapons and war | Leave a comment

EDF pinning its hopes for EPR nuclear reactor on the Taishan reactor, China

The French stress test for nuclear power, Ft.com 18 May 18

Years late and billions over budget the first European Pressurised Reactor is set to become operational. Its success is critical for France   Andrew Ward in London and David Keohane in Paris MAY 17, 2018   “…..  fuel loading at Taishan — one of the last steps before it starts producing electricity — carries wider significance beyond China.  Taishan, operated by China General Nuclear Power Corp, the state-owned energy company, is on course to become, within months, the first plant in the world to operate a European Pressurised Reactor — the Franco-German technology plagued by delays and cost overruns since it was designed in the 1990s. “The Taishan 1 fuel loading is a very important milestone,” says Xavier Ursat, head of new nuclear projects for EDF, the French state-backed utility which owns 30 per cent of the project. “It will bring a new image to the EPR.”

Few technologies are in greater need of a makeover. When work started on the first EPR as a joint venture of Areva of France and Siemens of Germany at Olkiluoto, Finland, 13 years ago, it was supposed to herald a new era of growth for atomic power. Instead, as construction timetables slipped and German support melted away, the EPR has become a symbol of the nuclear industry’s struggle to remain competitive. EDF, the main surviving corporate champion behind the EPR, is hoping that completion of Taishan will mark a turning point in efforts to convince sceptical investors, policymakers and potential buyers that the reactor can still be a success. At stake is the future of the wider French nuclear sector, which is relying on the EPR for long-term growth, at a time when the country’s dependence on atomic power is being questioned by President Emmanuel Macron ’s administration.
 Taishan is the furthest advanced of four EPR projects around the world and, at a mere five years late, the least delayed. Olkiluoto is due to come into service next year, a decade late and nearly three times over budget at €8.5bn. It is a similar story at EDF’s flagship Flamanville plant in France, which is seven years late and €7bn over budget. A further project involving two EPRs at Hinkley Point, south-west England, is not due for completion until the end of 2025, eight years after EDF once predicted it would be finished. These setbacks have plunged France’s nuclear industry into financial turmoil. Areva, battered by its losses at Olkiluoto, was last year folded into EDF in a state-brokered deal that amounted to a bailout of the sector. A €4bn capital raising by EDF last year improved its balance sheet but the company still had €33bn of net debt at the end of 2017, only a little less than its current market capitalisation.
No country has more invested in nuclear power than France, which generates 70 per cent of its electricity from the splitting of atoms. The EPR was designed to renew the country’s nuclear fleet as many of its existing 58 reactors approach the end of their operational lives, while also generating valuable export orders. But construction delays have been seized on by those — including some inside the Macron government — who want a decisive shift in French energy policy away from nuclear and towards renewable power. A policy “road map” is due by the end of the year setting out how fast France should pursue a government target to cut nuclear’s share of domestic electricity production to 50 per cent. Similar debates are under way in many countries where nuclear power is generated, as critics argue that its high costs, safety risks and radioactive waste can no longer be justified when the costs of wind and solar power are falling rapidly. ……….
 While the EPR was designed to be almost bomb and meltdown-proof, construction flaws have painted a less robust picture. France’s nuclear regulator, the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire, ruled last year that anomalies in the steel used at Flamanville meant the reactor’s lid, or vessel head, would need replacing — at significant expense — after just six years of operation. Separate defects have since emerged in the welding of steel pipes at the French plant. EDF is due to reveal within weeks whether it can still meet its latest timetable to be fully operational by November 2019. While the start-up of Taishan will be a welcome fillip, Flamanville remains the bigger test for EDF because of its 100 per cent ownership and because approval from the ASN — seen as a gold standard in nuclear regulation — bestows credibility on the technology internationally. ………
Setbacks at Flamanville have cast a shadow over the early stages of construction at Hinkley Point, where two EPRs are being built with an aim to meet 7 per cent of UK electricity demand. EDF insists that experience accumulated at Flamanville and Taishan will make Hinkley a smoother process. Avoiding delays in the UK will be crucial if EDF is to persuade international buyers — and its own shareholders, not least the French government — that the EPR’s teething problems are over. ………https://www.ft.com/content/7c68a702-57cb-11e8-bdb7-f6677d2e1ce8

May 19, 2018 Posted by | China, France, technology | Leave a comment

China marketing nuclear power to Uganda

China to help Uganda build nuclear power plants, Reuters Staff, 17 May 18 KAMPALA (Reuters) – China will help Uganda build and operate nuclear power plants under a deal signed last week.

Uganda has some uranium deposits and President Yoweri Museveni has said his government was keen to exploit them for potential nuclear energy development.

Eight potential sites have been identified in the country’s central, southwest and northern regions that could potentially host nuclear power plants, the government said on Thursday. It signed a deal with Russia last year to cooperate on nuclear power.

China is already a major investor in Ugandan infrastructure projects and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) signed a memorandum of understanding on May 11 to help Uganda build capacity “in the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes”, Uganda’s energy ministry said in a statement issued on Thursday……

Co-operation between CNNC and Uganda will involve the development of nuclear power infrastructure including the design, construction and operation of nuclear power plants.

In June last year Uganda signed a similar memorandum of understanding with Russian State Atomic Energy Cooperation (ROSATOM) to facilitate the two countries’ cooperation on nuclear power.

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Susan Fenton https://www.reuters.com/article/us-uganda-energy/china-to-help-uganda-build-nuclear-power-plants-idUSKCN1II219

May 18, 2018 Posted by | AFRICA, China, marketing | Leave a comment

China ‘supports North Korean shift from nuclear to economy’

Foreign Minister Wang Yi backs plans announced by Kim Jong-un as China expresses wish for cooperation, despite its support of UN sanctions  Laura ZhouSCMP, 03 May, 2018  Beijing will support North Korea’s efforts to rebuild its economy, China’s foreign minister has said as the North pledged to suspend nuclear testing and prioritise economic growth.

Wang Yi said in his meeting with North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho that the two allies would strengthen strategic communications and China would “continue to play a due and positive role in the political process for political settlement of the peninsula issues”, a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry said.

On the first day of his two-day visit to Pyongyang on Wednesday, Wang reaffirmed the pledge to deepen traditional relations between the neighbours, made by President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during Kim’s visit to Beijing in March.

“Traditional friendship between China and North Korea is the mutual good fortune of the two sides, and it is a strategic choice to inherit and develop the traditional friendly relations,” Wang was quoted as saying.

“China would work together with North Korea … to enhance communications and coordination between the political and diplomatic departments of the two sides, and push forward practical cooperation on economy and trade.”

Ri told Wang that Kim values the traditional friendship with China, and that North Korea would like to keep close communication with China on denuclearisation and the peace process on the peninsula, according to the statement by the Chinese foreign ministry.

The visit by Wang has come at a time when Beijing and Pyongyang have been working to repair the relations that were strained by Kim’s repeated nuclear tests and Beijing’s support for a series of stringent UN sanctions.

…….

Lu Chao, a Korean affairs expert at Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said that China’s support of economic development in North Korea was in response to Kim’s pledge to give up nuclear weapons and shift to economic development.

“This is not contradicting the UN sanctions, because the support, as well as the recent improvement in the bilateral relations between China and North Korea, only came on condition that North Korea agrees to give up its nuclear weapon programme and move to develop its economy,” Lu said.

“So far, the bans remain effective and China would follow the sanctions.” http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2144485/china-supports-north-korean-shift-nuclear-economy

May 4, 2018 Posted by | China, politics international | Leave a comment

The heavy health and environmental toll of rare earths mining in China

Rare-earth mining in China comes at a heavy cost for local villages https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/aug/07/china-rare-earth-village-pollution Pollution is poisoning the farms and villages of the region that processes the precious minerals, Guardian,  Cécile Bontron, 7 Apr 18,

From the air it looks like a huge lake, fed by many tributaries, but on the ground it turns out to be a murky expanse of water, in which no fish or algae can survive. The shore is coated with a black crust, so thick you can walk on it. Into this huge, 10 sq km tailings pond nearby factories discharge water loaded with chemicals used to process the 17 most sought after minerals in the world, collectively known as rare earths.

The town of Baotou, in Inner Mongolia, is the largest Chinese source of these strategic elements, essential to advanced technology, from smartphones to GPS receivers, but also to wind farms and, above all, electric cars. The minerals are mined at Bayan Obo, 120km farther north, then brought to Baotou for processing.

The concentration of rare earths in the ore is very low, so they must be separated and purified, using hydro-metallurgical techniques and acid baths. Chinaaccounts for 97% of global output of these precious substances, with two-thirds produced in Baotou.

The foul waters of the tailings pond contain all sorts of toxic chemicals, but also radioactive elements such as thorium which, if ingested, cause cancers of the pancreas and lungs, and leukaemia. “Before the factories were built, there were just fields here as far as the eye can see. In the place of this radioactive sludge, there were watermelons, aubergines and tomatoes,” says Li Guirong with a sigh.

It was in 1958 – when he was 10 – that a state-owned concern, the Baotou Iron and Steel company (Baogang), started producing rare-earth minerals. The lake appeared at that time. “To begin with we didn’t notice the pollution it was causing. How could we have known?” As secretary general of the local branch of the Communist party, he is one of the few residents who dares to speak out.

Towards the end of the 1980s, Li explains, crops in nearby villages started to fail: “Plants grew badly. They would flower all right, but sometimes there was no fruit or they were small or smelt awful.” Ten years later the villagers had to accept that vegetables simply would not grow any longer. In the village of Xinguang Sancun – much as in all those near the Baotou factories – farmers let some fields run wild and stopped planting anything but wheat and corn.

A study by the municipal environmental protection agency showed that rare-earth minerals were the source of their problems. The minerals themselves caused pollution, but also the dozens of new factories that had sprung up around the processing facilities and a fossil-fuel power station feeding Baotou’s new industrial fabric. Residents of what was now known as the “rare-earth capital of the world” were inhaling solvent vapour, particularly sulphuric acid, as well as coal dust, clearly visible in the air between houses.

Now the soil and groundwater are saturated with toxic substances. Five years ago Li had to get rid of his sick pigs, the last survivors of a collection of cows, horses, chickens and goats, killed off by the toxins.

The farmers have moved away. Most of the small brick houses in Xinguang Sancun, huddling close to one another, are going to rack and ruin. In just 10 years the population has dropped from 2,000 to 300 people.

Lu Yongqing, 56, was one of the first to go. “I couldn’t feed my family any longer,” he says. He tried his luck at Baotou, working as a mason, then carrying bricks in a factory, finally resorting to selling vegetables at local markets, with odd jobs on the side. Registered as farmers in their identity papers, the refugees from Xinguang Sancun are treated as second-class citizens and mercilessly exploited.

The farmers who have stayed on tend to gather near the mahjong hall. “I have aching legs, like many of the villagers. There’s a lot of diabetes, osteoporosis and chest problems. All the families are affected by illness,” says He Guixiang, 60. “I’ve been knocking on government doors for nearly 20 years,” she says. “To begin with I’d go every day, except Sundays.”

By maintaining the pressure, the villagers have obtained the promise of financial compensation, as yet only partly fulfilled. There has been talk of new housing, too. Neatly arranged tower blocks have gone up a few kilometres west of their homes. They were funded by compensation paid by Baogang to the local government.

But the buildings stand empty. The government is demanding that the villagers buy the right to occupy their flat, but they will not be able to pass it on to their children.

Some tried to sell waste from the pond, which still has a high rare-earth content, to reprocessing plants. The sludge fetched about $300 a tonne.

But the central government has recently deprived them of even this resource. One of their number is on trial and may incur a 10-year prison sentence.

This article originally appeared in Le Monde

April 9, 2018 Posted by | China, RARE EARTHS | Leave a comment

China expanding its nuclear marketing overseas, with the help of Bill Gates

 

Chinese nuclear giant continues to expand overseas cooperation, 2018-03-03  Editor: Xiang Bo BEIJING, March 3 (Xinhua) — China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), one of the country’s two leading nuclear power companies, is stepping up its overseas cooperation, the chairperson said Saturday.

Progress is being made in cooperation with CNNC’s local partners in countries like Pakistan, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Ghana and the United States, CNNC chairperson Wang Shoujun said on the sidelines of the annual session of the country’s top political advisory body…….

Last year, the CNNC signed a joint venture agreement with TerraPower, LLC to form the Global Innovation Nuclear Energy Technology Co., Ltd. to work together on the Travelling Wave Reactor technology, marking a new stage in China-U.S. nuclear cooperation, Wang added. ……http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-03/03/c_137013831.htm

April 2, 2018 Posted by | China, marketing | Leave a comment

China’s progress in nuclear power is not as sure as it used to be

Is China losing interest in nuclear power?  China Dialogue Feng Hao  19.03.2018  Slowing demand for electricity and competition from renewables have halted new reactor approvals.Globally, the outlook for new, large nuclear reactors is gloomy, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook. A lot of countries have backed away from nuclear power in recent years due to concerns over public safety, cost and the complex challenge of getting plants built.

March 27, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, China, politics | Leave a comment

China to develop its first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

Defense NewsMike Yeo , 2 Mar 18  MELBOURNE, Australia — One of China’s largest shipbuilders has revealed plans to speed up the development of China’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, as part of China’s ambition to transform its navy into a blue-water force by the middle of the next decade.

March 2, 2018 Posted by | China, weapons and war | Leave a comment

China’s nuclear weapons modernisation is relatively small: China not wanting to attack USA

Is China Really Threatening America with Nuclear Weapons? , National Interest, Asia Times, 20 Feb 18 China, according to the Federation of American Scientists, has 270 warheads in its nuclear arsenal.

The Washington-based research group’s estimate has never been challenged by the Pentagon. It compares with an official tally of 4,480 nuclear warheads for the US. Unlike the American side, China also renounces “first use” of nuclear weapons and holds that its ability to retaliate is sufficient to deter attack.

 Why, then, is Beijing’s modernization of its nuclear arsenal — something that Washington is also doing — considered a major security threat requiring a sharp turn in US policy regarding the use of nuclear weapons?

That’s part of the reasoning behind the Pentagon’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review(NPR) issued on February 2. The document is a benchmark US statement on nuclear policy and is drawn up by new presidents. The Trump administration’s first policy position on the issue focuses on creating new nuclear deterrents to Russia and China, while addressing North Korean and Iranian nuclear ambitions.

……..  critics contend the latest NPR reverses years of bipartisan consensus on the use of US nuclear weapons. The review also gives the go-ahead to develop low-yield tactical nukes and sub-launched cruise missiles in the first roll-out of new US nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War. It also expands the circumstances under which the US would consider using nukes to include “non-nuclear strategic attacks” such as cyberattacks.

……….Chinese not on nuclear ‘alert’

Gregory Kulacki, the China project manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a Washington-based science advocacy group, argues that Trump’s NPR is surfacing at a time when China isn’t preparing to fight a nuclear war with the US. He says his talks with Chinese nuclear strategists indicate they don’t believe such an attack from the US is possible because the Americans know a sufficient number of Chinese missiles would survive to launch a nuclear counter-strike.

……… China, for its part, has urged the US to drop its “Cold War mentality” and not misread its intentions in modernizing its nuclear forces following the NPR’s release.

Miscalculation leading to war

Kulacki notes in his article that Chinese strategists have one worry: they fear the US might miscalculate by thinking it could escape full nuclear retaliation by using a massive first strike along with an anti-missile shield that can down any Chinese missiles that a pre-emptive attack would miss.

US negotiators, he says, are exacerbating such fears by declining to assure their Chinese counterparts that a US first strike is “off the table.”

 China’s relatively modest nuclear modernization efforts, according to Kulacki, are designed to ensure that enough of its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) can survive a pre-emptive US attack and penetrate US missile defenses.

“In the absence of a no first-use commitment from the United States, these improvements are needed to assure China’s leaders their US counterparts won’t take the risk of attacking China with nuclear weapons,” Kulacki says in his piece………http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/china-really-threatening-america-nuclear-weapons-24565

 

February 21, 2018 Posted by | China, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Chinese and USA officials scuffled over the “nuclear football”

Nuclear football’ scuffle broke out during Donald Trump’s visit to China , ABC News 20 Feb 18 

A scuffle broke out between Chinese and US officials over the “nuclear football” — the briefcase containing the US nuclear launch codes — during a visit to Beijing by US President Donald Trump last year, according to media reports.

Key points:

  • Report says Chinese official tackled to ground
  • Secret Service confirms scuffle but not tackle
  • Chinese not believed to have taken possession of briefcase

US news website Axios said multiple sources confirmed an incident in which Chinese officials tried to block a military aide with the briefcase from following Mr Trump into the Great Hall of the People, despite the aide being required to stay close to the President at all times.

The report said when Mr Trump’s chief of staff Mike Kelly attempted to intervene, a Chinese official tried to grab him before a US Secret Service agent tackled the Chinese official to the ground.

The Secret Service did not initially deny the incident took place, but in a tweet said reports that a host nation official was “tackled” to the ground were “false”.

The federal law enforcement agency later confirmed an incident had taken place……..

The “nuclear football” is a leather briefcase that contains the codes needed to launch a nuclear strike while away from fixed command centres.

It is carried by a rotating group of military officers near the President whenever he is travelling. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-20/scuffle-broke-out-over-nuclear-football-during-trumps-china-trip/9463976

 

February 21, 2018 Posted by | China, incidents | Leave a comment

China again stresses its policy of No First Use of Nuclear Weapons

China reiterates non-first-use principle of nuclear weapon http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-02/18/c_136982260.htm Source: Xinhua| 2018-02-18  Editor: Mengjie 

MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) — A senior Chinese diplomat said Saturday that China is committed to the principle of non-first-use of nuclear weapon, expressing concerns about the danger of nuclear development at present at the ongoing Munich Security Conference (MSC).

“China maintains a very small nuclear arsenal, and China follows the policy of self-defense and minimum deterrence,” said Fu Ying, a veteran diplomat and now chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature.

“China is also committed to the principle of non-first-use of nuclear weapon, and no-use of nuclear weapon against any nuclear state at any circumstances and no-use of nuclear weapon against nuclear-free zones,” she added.

Fu made the remarks at an MSC panel discussion about the nuclear security, on which some participants expressed their concerns over nuclear proliferation at present.

“I share and express the concern about the danger, about the risk of the nuclear development,” said Fu, who added that so far after many decades, the world has managed to prevent a major nuclear war, but obviously the challenges and dangers are growing.

She noted that it is important that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely China, United States, Russia, Britain and France, should continue their efforts and continue to take responsibility to maintain global strategic stability, to safeguard non-proliferation regime, and to continue the nuclear disarmament.

China is also in support of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), added Fu.

She also called for efforts to upgrade global security governance.

“We need to think about how to upgrade global security governance to reflect that highly integrated global economy,” said Fu.

“China supports and advocates the idea of common securities for all,” she said, stressing that China proposes and is committed to building a community with shared future for mankind.

February 19, 2018 Posted by | China, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Chinese state sponsored physics experiment prompts questions over nuclear salted bombs 

 http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/inventions/chinese-state-sponsored-physics-experiment-prompts-questions-over-nuclear-salted-bombs/news-story/b84298fdae3416dcd00fc8cbde775fd7 15 Feb 18

AN experiment backed by the Chinese government has raised concerns about its ambitions to reboot a devastating bomb dreamt up during the Cold War.

Nick Whigham  @NWWHIGHAM  STATE-sponsored experiments at an ion research facility in China have raised questions about the potential they could be used to build a devastating bomb dreamt up during the Cold War but never seen.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences recently announced that scientists had successfully fired superheated beams of a radioactive isotope of tantalum, a rare metal that can be added to warheads with potentially devastating consequences.

The experiment was carried out at the Institute of Modern Physics in Lanzhou in the north of the country, in part to “meet a critical strategic demand of China’s national defence,” researchers said.

Those responsible reportedly confirmed the project had potential military applications but would not elaborate.

At the centre of the physics experiment tantalum. The rare metal is used as a minor component in alloys and electronics but when you learn it’s named after Tantalus, a villain from Greek mythology, you know it must have some potentially nasty uses.

It is part of a group of heavy metals that could theoretically be added to a nuclear warhead to increase the release of radioactive fallout, causing lasting environmental contamination and rendering a large area uninhabitable in the near future.

Such a thing is known as a “salted bomb”.

These bombs can use elements like gold, cobalt or tantalum to produce a radioactive isotope that maximises the fallout hazard from the weapon rather than generating additional explosive force.

The term refers to the way such bombs are manufactured but also takes its name from the phrase “to salt the earth”, meaning to render the soil unable to host life for years to come.

No salted bomb has ever been atmospherically tested, and as far as is publicly known none have ever been built, according to the online Nuclear Weapon Archive.

But some believe the new research by Chinese scientists could be applied to make such a bomb, or at least be used for other military applications such as shooting the tantalum beam at China’s own military equipment to test its durability in extreme events.

This potential prompted Hong Kong newspaper, the South China Morning Post, to hypothesise that China could be “rebooting a nuclear doomsday device”.

It’s highly unlikely that a salted bomb is the end goal of its latest experiment, but two experts told the Post that they believe the experiments could be used for future military applications such as a laser-like device to achieve targeted damage.

Han Dejun, a professor of nuclear science and technology at Beijing Normal University, said of the tantalum accelerator experiment: “The most likely application that I can think of is in nuclear research.

“By generating a powerful beam of tantalum ions we can observe how the metal interacts with other elements and change form in high-speed collisions. It simulates what will happen in a real nuclear reaction.”

Beijing National Space Science Centre associate researcher Cai Minghui said: “In theory, the particle beam of a heavy element such as tantalum can be used as a directed energy weapon.”

Meanwhile a third expert from China’s Arms Control and Disarmament Association said the likelihood the research could lead to the Chinese Communist Party stockpiling salted bombs was “very low”.

“These are highly immoral weapons,” he said.

A COLD WAR CREATION

The idea of a salted bomb was initially proposed by Hungarian-American physicist Leo Szilard during the Cold War.

The scientist was instrumental in the beginning of the Manhattan Project. Along with Albert Einstein, he helped write a letter to US president Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraging him to begin building the atomic bomb.

The British did test a kind of salted bomb that used cobalt as an experimental radiochemical tracer in September 1957. The device was exploded underground in the Maralinga range in Australia, however the experiment was regarded as a failure and not repeated.

The US also tested a dirty bomb in an open field in 1953. While dirty bombs use conventional explosives rather than nuclear devices, the weapon was loaded with 30kg of the same isotope used in the Chinese test, releasing a lethal dose of gamma rays over the target area, according to a declassified US Defence Technical Information Centre document.

China doesn’t want to fall behind in nuclear technology and research. But given the serious environmental consequences and the threat of the spread of contamination from the detonation of salted bombs, it is highly unlikely it would seek to resurrect such devices.

A NEW NUCLEAR MINDSET

Compared to the United States and Russia, China has a maintained a relatively small nuclear arsenal since its first nuclear test in 1964.

At last count, the Communist Party was estimated to contain just 270 warheads, compared to the 6800 held by the US and Russia’s 7000, according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

However the Asian superpower has stepped up the quantity and quality of its nuclear arsenals in recent years.

According to Science and Global Security website, Beijing is estimated to have between 14 and 18 tons of highly enriched uranium and 1.3—2.3 tons of weapon-grade plutonium stockpiled. This enough for anywhere between 750 and 1600 nuclear weapons

In November, China unveiled a next-generation nuclear weapon that is said to be able to strike “anywhere in the world”.

The nuclear warhead, called the Dongfeng-41, will be capable of reaching distances of at least 12,000km — putting the US well into the line of target. With a speed of up to Mach 10 (around 12,000kp/h), it can carry up to 10 nuclear warheads.

The weapon is scheduled to enter China’s arsenal this year.

February 17, 2018 Posted by | China, weapons and war | Leave a comment

China again delays building Westinghouse-designed AP1000 nuclear reactor, because of safety worries

China nuclear reactor delayed again on ‘safety concerns’ https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/12/china-nuclear-reactor-delayed-again-on-safety-concerns.html

  • Fuel loading at the world’s first Westinghouse-designed AP1000 nuclear reactor on China’s east coast has been delayed due to “safety concerns” — the latest in a long line of setbacks for the project.
  • Officials with the U.S.-based Westinghouse had expected fuel loading to start last year, and it would have been followed by around six months of performance tests before the reactor could go into full operation in 2018.

Fuel loading at the world’s first Westinghouse-designed AP1000 nuclear reactor on China’s east coast has been delayed due to “safety concerns” — the latest in a long line of setbacks for the project, the China Daily reported on Tuesday.

The third-generation reactor, located in Sanmen in Zhejiang province, was originally expected to make its debut in 2014.

Officials with U.S.-based Westinghouse had expected fuel loading to start last year, and it would have been followed by around six months of performance tests before the reactor could go into full operation in 2018.

 But fuel loading has now been suspended as China tries to ensure the project meets the highest possible safety standards, the China Daily said, citing a spokesman with the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).

Westinghouse was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters on Tuesday.

Westinghouse, owned by Japan’s Toshiba, signed an agreement in 2007 to build four AP1000 reactor units at two sites in China, hoping the projects would serve as a shop window for the firm.

But the company filed for bankruptcy last March, hit by billions of dollars of cost overruns at four nuclear reactors under construction in the United States.

China was originally seen as the lifeline for the global nuclear sector, with the country keen to approve dozens of new reactor projects to ease its dependence on polluting coal-fired electricity.

China is currently targeting total installed nuclear capacity of 58 gigawatts by the end of 2020, up from 35.8 gigawatts by the end of last year. It also said it would aim to have another 30 gigawatts under construction by the end of the decade.

But the pace of planned nuclear construction in the country was scaled back in 2011 in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

Delays to the Sanmen and Haiyang AP1000 projects, as well as the French-designed European Pressurised Reactor units at Taishan in Guangdong province, have held back the sector, and no new nuclear project has been approved in China in two years.

China’s nuclear firms are currently building their own homegrown third-generation reactor design known as the Hualong One.

February 14, 2018 Posted by | China, safety | Leave a comment

Artificial intelligence to enhance the thinking skills of nuclear submarine commanding officers,

China’s plan to use artificial intelligence to boost the thinking skills of nuclear submarine commanders
Equipping nuclear submarines with AI would give China an upper hand in undersea battles while pushing applications of the technology to a new level, 
SCMP, Stephen Chen,  05 February, 2018,  China is working to update the rugged old computer systems on nuclear submarines with artificial intelligence to enhance the potential thinking skills of commanding officers, a senior scientist involved with the programme told the South China Morning Post.

A submarine with AI-augmented brainpower not only would give China’s large navy an upper hand in battle under the world’s oceans but would push applications of AI technology to a new level, according to the researcher, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the project’s sensitivity.

“Though a submarine has enormous power of destruction, its brain is actually quite small,” the researcher said.

While a nuclear submarine depends on the skill, experience and efficiency of its crew to operate effectively, the demands of modern warfare could introduce variables that would cause even the smoothest-run operation to come unglued.

For instance, if the 100 to 300 people in the sub’s crew were forced to remain together in their canister in deep, dark water for months, the rising stress level could affect the commanding officers’ decision-making powers, even leading to bad judgment.

An AI decision-support system with “its own thoughts” would reduce the commanding officers’ workload and mental burden, according to the researcher……….

Up till now, the “thinking” function on a nuclear sub, including interpreting and answering signals picked up by sonar, a system for detecting objects under water by emitting sound pulses, has been handled almost exclusively by human naval personnel, not by machines.

Now, through AI technology, a convolutional neural network undergirds so-called machine learning. This structure underpins a decision support system that can acquire knowledge, improve skills and develop new strategy without human intervention.

By mimicking the workings of the human brain, the system can process a large amount of data. On a nuclear submarine, data could come from the Chinese navy’s rapidly increasing observation networks, the submarine’s own sensors or daily interactions with the crew…….. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2131127/chinas-plan-use-artificial-intelligence-boost-thinking-skills

February 5, 2018 Posted by | China, technology, weapons and war | Leave a comment