Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

Major Energy and Environmental News and Commentary affecting the Nuclear Industry.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

When It Comes To Nuclear Enrichment, What Are The Iranians Thinking?

When It Comes To Nuclear Enrichment, What Are The Iranians Thinking?
from War News Updates by Bookyards
Another Puzzle in Iran After Nuclear Fuel Is Moved -- New York Times

WASHINGTON — When Iran was caught last September building a secret, underground nuclear enrichment plant at a military base near the city of Qum, the country’s leaders insisted they had no other choice. With its nuclear facilities under constant threat of attack, they said, only a fool would leave them out in the open.

So imagine the surprise of international inspectors almost two weeks ago when they watched as Iran moved nearly its entire stockpile of low-enriched nuclear fuel to an above-ground plant. It was as if, one official noted, a bull’s-eye had been painted on it.

Why take such a huge risk?

Read more ....

My Comment: When it comes to Iran there is one simple rule that everyone should follow .... do not trust them. Iran has a terrible history in the international arena of diplomacy and respecting the sovereignty of other countries and negotiated agreements. Death to America and threatening the annihilation of Israel in every speech and demonstration tends to get dry after a while ... but they are listed as a state sponsor of terror for a reason and every threat and comment made by the regime in Tehran must be taken seriously. So .... moving their nuclear fuel may be a puzzle to the New York Times .... but trust me .... there is a very blunt reason on why they are doing this ..... it is just that we have not figured it out yet.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Another Puzzle in Iran After Nuclear Fuel Is Moved

Another Puzzle in Iran After Nuclear Fuel Is Moved
from NYT > Home Page by By DAVID E. SANGER
Officials in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East have been trying to determine why Iran moved much of its low-enriched nuclear fuel out in the open, where it could easily be attacked.


Russia planning to offer investors 49% stake in nuclear project

Russia planning to offer investors 49% stake in nuclear project
Russia is willing to offer investors a 49% interest as well as long-term supply deals in the country's first nuclear plant since the Soviet period, Rosatom said. The company is holding discussions with multiple European companies for the project. The Moscow Times/Bloomberg


Ariz. lawmakers drop bill to identify nuclear energy as renewable

Ariz. lawmakers drop bill to identify nuclear energy as renewable
Protests from a number of solar companies have prompted Arizona's Legislature to drop a bill that would have placed lawmakers in charge of the state's renewable-energy standard. Provisions in the proposed measure included declaring nuclear a renewable-energy source. American City Business Journals/Phoenix


My comment: This is where the nuclear industry falls short in its PR/long range business planning activities: They should be cultivating a coalition with the Solar Boys, rather than competing against them.

W. Va. lawmakers vote down bill to lift nuclear-construction ban

W. Va. lawmakers vote down bill to lift nuclear-construction ban
A Senate panel in West Virginia rejected legislation seeking to lift a moratorium on the construction of nuclear plants. The bill would have erased language in state code prohibiting new nuclear facilities until a waste-storage facility is built. "We are a coal and natural gas state," said state Sen. Richard Browning, who opposed the measure. WBOY-TV (Clarksburg, W.Va.)


My Comment: I wouldn't expect anything else from a coal state.

Nuclear must be developed to meet rising energy demand

Nuclear must be developed to meet rising energy demand
Carbon-free and cost-competitive nuclear power must be developed alongside renewable sources to better meet the country's growing energy needs, according to this opinion article. Renewable power sources such as wind and solar will not be enough to meet baseload demand, the writer argues, as well as being expensive compared with other sources in terms of cost per megawatt-hour. The Olympian (Olympia, Wash.)


Feds cite progress in N.M. uranium-enrichment plant

Feds cite progress in N.M. uranium-enrichment plant
Louisiana Energy Services' uranium-enrichment site worth $3 billion is nearly operational. Centrifuges at the facility will generate enriched uranium for commercial nuclear plants once the facility has received Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval. KVIA-TV (El Paso, Texas)/The Associated Press


TVA to consider converting plutonium into fuel for nuclear plants

TVA to consider converting plutonium into fuel for nuclear plants
The Tennessee Valley Authority will consider using weapons-grade plutonium as nuclear fuel at its facilities after it struck a deal with the National Nuclear Security Administration to study the concept. Although the utility still needs to secure federal approval for the plan, the agreement moves it closer toward converting nuclear warheads into an electricity-generating source. Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tenn.)


Thursday, February 25, 2010

What to do about tactical nuclear weapons from Web Edition | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Pavel Podvig

What to do about tactical nuclear weapons from Web Edition | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Pavel Podvig

Since the United States and Russia might soon sign a new treaty that limits their strategic nuclear weapons, it's natural to wonder about Washington and Moscow's tactical nuclear weapons, which the treaty won't cover. The hope is that the momentum for a nuclear-weapon-free world, the renewed U.S.-Russian negotiations, and the ongoing review of the U.S. nuclear posture and NATO strategic concept will help make progress on reducing nonstrategic nuclear arsenals--an issue that has been largely neglected for more than a decade.


EU Plans Massive Sanctions against Iran

EU Plans Massive Sanctions against Iran
Hans-J├╝rgen Schlamp, Der Spiegel
The EU is preparing tough sanctions against Iran's energy and financial sectors, according to a confidental list of proposals drawn up for EU foreign ministers and obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE.
Full Article

Iran Wants to Discuss Japan Offer to Enrich Uranium: Report

Iran Wants to Discuss Japan Offer to Enrich Uranium: Report
Agence France-Presse
Iran will study a Japanese offer to enrich uranium for Tehran to allow it access to nuclear power for peaceful purposes, an Iranian politician was quoted as saying in Tokyo Thursday.
Full Article

Obama Urges Russia to Help Gain Treaty

Obama Urges Russia to Help Gain Treaty
Barry Schweid, Associated Press
STARTPresident Barack Obama weighed in Wednesday to try to hasten the conclusion of a new nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, urging President Dmitry Medvedev to help accelerate its completion.

White House official told The Associated Press that Obama telephoned the Russian leader and found him in accord on the need to press their negotiators to complete the elusive pact, which would sharply reduce their arsenals of long-range nuclear weapons.
Full Article

South Carolina seeks to block termination of Yucca Mountain project

South Carolina seeks to block termination of Yucca Mountain project
The White House's plan to terminate the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste-storage project in Nevada has prompted South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster to take legal action to prevent it. South Carolina wants to ensure that the license proceedings for the project continue, "so that the [used] fuel and other nuclear material now being temporarily stored in our state will be safely placed in the Yucca Mountain repository," he said. Reuters

Obama should resolve regulatory hurdles for new nuclear plants

Obama should resolve regulatory hurdles for new nuclear plants
Though President Barack Obama vocalized support and gave the government's financial backing for the revival of the country's nuclear industry, he still needs to address the slow process of approving new projects, according to this editorial. It is time he calls for a regulatory overhaul to make nuclear a leader in green energy, the editorial argues. The News & Advance (Lynchburg, Va.)


U.S. signs nuclear-cooperation deal with UAE

U.S. signs nuclear-cooperation deal with UAE
The U.S. struck an agreement to assist the United Arab Emirates and expand its civilian nuclear energy program. The deal establishes a framework for the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration to help its counterparts in the UAE. BusinessWeek.com/The Associated Press


Vt. Senate vote won't stop Entergy's bid to relicense nuclear plant

Vt. Senate vote won't stop Entergy's bid to relicense nuclear plant
Entergy said it won't give up plans to have its Vermont Yankee nuclear plant relicensed for two decades. This comes after Vermont's Senate voted to close down the plant once its license expires in 2012. "We remain determined to prove our case to the legislature, state officials and the Vermont public," the company said. Reuters


Nuclear Weapons in Germany: Broaden and Deepen the Debate

Nuclear Weapons in Germany: Broaden and Deepen the Debate
Germany George Perkovich explains that arguments against the withdrawal of all U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany on the basis of nuclear deterrence obscure the broader challenge of reinvigorating NATO and extending deterrence against lower-scale threats.

START is Key to Reducing the Nuclear Threat

START is Key to Reducing the Nuclear Threat
STARTThe risks associated with Russia’s vast nuclear arsenal still pose the single greatest existential threat to the United States. Matthew Rojansky and Ambassador James Collins explain that a treaty to replace the expired START agreement is an essential step toward managing those risks.

More on START:
Don't Stop with START [proliferation analysis]

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Moniz named to Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future

Moniz named to Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future

MIT Energy Initiative Director Ernest Moniz has been named to the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, which will provide recommendations for developing a safe, long-term solution to managing the nation’s used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste, the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) announced today.

Moniz currently serves as a member of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Moniz served as DoE undersecretary from October 1997 until January 2001. From 1995 to 1997, he was associate director for science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President. Moniz is also director of MIT’s Laboratory for Energy and the Environment. He is the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems at MIT, where he has been on the faculty since 1973. He has served as head of the Department of Physics and as director of the Bates Linear Accelerator Center.

The commission, which will be chaired by former Congressman Lee H. Hamilton and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, will produce an interim report within 18 months and a final report within 24 months.

For more information about the commission and its members, visit the DOE’s web site at http://www.energy.gov/news/8584.htm.

Thailand's power-development plan to include nuclear

Thailand's power-development plan to include nuclear
Thailand is considering nuclear energy as part of efforts to reduce its dependence on costly oil and gas imports. "At the moment, they are proposing five to seven nuclear reactors into the power development plan," said Tara Buakamsri, a campaign director for Greenpeace. Voice of America

Official: South Africa is planning to build a fleet of nuclear plants

Official: South Africa is planning to build a fleet of nuclear plants
South Africa intends to construct multiple nuclear plants to resolve the country's power problems and curb its carbon footprint, said Nelisiwe Magubane, director general at the ministry of energy. The facilities will replace old coal-power stations, she added. Reuters

Federal support for nuclear plant building seen as a "breakthrough"

Federal support for nuclear plant building seen as a "breakthrough"
The Dallas Morning News writes that President Barack Obama's plan to guarantee loans for nuclear plant construction is a "breakthrough" for an industry that has "languished as the result of exaggerated fears of meltdowns, waste-disposal controversies and financial concerns." The newspaper's editorial board argues that any national clean-energy policy is just "window dressing" without the inclusion of nuclear power. The Dallas Morning News


Exec: Offer of cheap power contingent on renewal of Vt. plant license

Exec: Offer of cheap power contingent on renewal of Vt. plant license
Entergy is prepared to offer cheaper power rates from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant if it secures federal and state clearance for the facility's continued operation beyond 2012. "One of the things we want to do to show Vermont that we care is we want to take 25 megawatts of electricity and we want to put it aside at 4 cents a kilowatt-hour," said Curt Hebert Jr., executive vice president of Entergy. The Washington Post/The Associated Press

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Official: Russia prepared to invest $2.6B for Bulgarian nuclear plant

Official: Russia prepared to invest $2.6B for Bulgarian nuclear plant
Russia has agreed to work with Bulgaria for the construction of a nuclear plant in Belene this autumn, Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said. Russia is also prepared to spend nearly $2.6 billion over two years to finance the project, which has experienced delays. SETimes.com (Europe)/ITAR-TASS


UAE appoints former U.N. official to chair nuclear panel

* UAE appoints former U.N. official to chair nuclear panel
Former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has been appointed to head a nuclear advisory board in the United Arab Emirates. The board will hold meetings twice a year and will assist the country in its nuclear energy ambitions, according to a report. The Wall Street Journal


U.S. should consider building nuclear breeder reactors, experts say

U.S. should consider building nuclear breeder reactors, experts say
The Obama administration's more than $8 billion in loan guarantees are for nuclear technologies that do not address concerns about fuel availability and nuclear-waste disposal, experts said. Speaking at the University of Arizona, Tom Blees and Leonard J. Koch said that the U.S. should instead develop breeder reactors that can run on uranium and spent nuclear fuel. Their use would extend the fuel supply and reduce the problem of radioactive-waste disposal. Green Valley News and Sun (Ariz.)


Monday, February 22, 2010

Iran to Build More Enrichment Plants

fro>Iran to Build More Enrichment Plants by By ALAN COWELLA

senior Iranian official said on Monday that his country planned to build 10 more nuclear enrichment plants, two of them within the next year.


FAS Arms Sales Monitoring Project Releases New Missile Watch

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) announces the release of the newest edition of Missile Watch, a quarterly publication produced by the Arms Sales Monitoring Project.

Missile Watch tracks the illicit proliferation and use of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles and international efforts to combat this threat.

The newest issue of Missile Watch highlights a number of very critical issues and developments, all of which have potentially profound implications for international security. Key stories include:

* FAS has confirmed that a planeload of North Korean weapons seized in Thailand contained five crates of MANPADS. The information, which was included in a recent Thai government report, appears to confirm North Korea as an illicit source of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles.

* A long-awaited report on the feasibility of installing anti-missile systems on commercial airliners will be delivered to Congress this month, FAS has learned. Congress’ reaction to the report will reveal whether lawmakers still favor equipping US airliners with the systems – a multi-billion dollar proposal.

* The UN Security Council recently placed an arms embargo on Eritrea. Eritrea is a source of dozens, possibly hundreds, of surface-to-air missiles to the militant Somali group, al Shebab. A spokesman for al Shebab announced their intentions to come to the aid of the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, which was responsible for the recent failed Christmas day attack on a US-bound airliner.

* Recent reports suggest most armed groups continue to rely on older first and second generation infra-red seeking missiles. These missiles are often more difficult to use and have a greater chance of malfunctioning.

To read the full Issue of Missile Watch, click here.

UK plans first nuclear fusion power plan Jonathan Leake


From The Sunday Times
February 21, 2010

UK plans first nuclear fusion power plan
Jonathan Leake

BRITISH scientists have drawn up plans to build the world’s first nuclear fusion power station. They say it could be pouring electricity into the National Grid within 20 years.

Nuclear fusion, the power that lies at the heart of the sun, offers the prospect of clean, safe, carbon-free power with a minimum of radioactive waste. But despite decades of research the technical problems have seemed insurmountable.

This weekend, however, Research Councils UK (RCUK), which oversees the British government’s spending on science and technology, has said it believes that many of those obstacles are close to being overcome.

It wants to commit Britain to a 20-year research and construction plan that would see a fusion power station in operation around 2030. Didcot in Oxfordshire is among the sites under consideration for the so-called Hiper project.

“The potential of fusion energy to contribute to the future global energy system is sufficiently large that it should be pursued in the UK,” said a report published by RCUK.

It also follows the recent start-up of America’s National Ignition Facility, in California, which has been designed to demonstrate the principle of laser fusion. There, 192 giant lasers have been installed, collectively capable of generating 500 trillion watts — 1,000 times the power of the US national grid — for a fraction of a second.

That energy will be focused on a tiny fuel pellet of frozen hydrogen which, in theory, should be compressed and heated to 100mC — so hot that the atoms within it start to fuse.

“The world is watching and waiting to see what happens at NIF,” said the report, calling this “a seminal moment” in the development of fusion.

Mike Dunne, project co-ordinator for Hiper, agreed. “The NIF laser is performing well — they have already achieved fusion reactions but so far they are putting in much more energy than they are getting out.

“The crucial test will come this autumn when they ramp up the power. In theory they should start generating more power than they put in and if that happens it will be a clear demonstration to the world that laser fusion is ready to be harnessed. So far the signs are very good.”

The Americans designed NIF for a very different purpose from power generation. Its aim is to simulate nuclear explosions so scientists can carry out weapons research. This means that it can trigger only one fusion explosion at a time.

Dunne’s vision for Hiper is to feed a continual stream of fuel pellets into the reactor, blasting them with lasers in rapid succession to generate a constant stream of nuclear fusion explosions.

“The lasers will crush the 2mm pellet to a hundredth of its size in a billionth of a second, making it 10 times hotter than the middle of the sun,” he said.

Under such conditions the hydrogen atoms that make up the fuel are ripped apart, creating a “plasma” of electrons and hydrogen nuclei which collide and interact at high speed.

Some of these collisions result in the nuclei fusing, forming another element called helium and ejecting a neutron, a sub-atomic particle, which hurtles outwards at high speed.

When the neutrons reach the wall of the fusion chamber they pass through it but are absorbed by a blanket of lithium, heating it up. This heat is then captured and used to make steam that can in turn be used to drive a turbine.

The RCUK report, written by a group of independent fusion experts, suggests such a plant would be big enough to generate large amounts of power. “We think the first demonstration should be around 500MW, comparable to a commercial power station,” said Dunne.

Britain has the infrastructure and the workforce needed for nuclear fusion because it hosts the JET fusion facility at Culham in Oxfordshire.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges for the Hiper team will be creating an international consortium to join Britain on the project, which would cost several billions of pounds.

In theory RCUK can take the decision on such projects without government approval because it has full responsibility for the way it spends its money, but in reality it would need to work closely with ministers.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “This is something that we would look at as long as it is in the framework of a global project.”

Lord Mandelson ready to go nuclear Government close to signing a £170m agreement


From The Sunday Times
February 21, 2010

Lord Mandelson ready to go nuclear
Government close to signing a £170m agreement with

LORD MANDELSON is close to sealing a £170m government-backed deal for a nuclear manufacturing facility just days after Corus mothballed its steel plant on Teesside.

The business secretary has been leading talks between Sheffield Forgemasters, the engineering firm, and Westinghouse, the nuclear reactor maker, for months about arranging a financing package for a 15,000-tonne press that would be used to make pressure vessels and castings for nuclear reactors.

Today these are made by a handful of highly specialised facilities, all located in Japan.

The deal with Sheffield, which gained notoriety in the 1990s when it was embroiled in the “Supergun affair” over arms sales to Iraq, would secure a critical piece of infrastructure for a new generation of nuclear reactors in Britain.

Mandelson is under pressure after the Teesside closure left 1,600 industrial workers jobless. He hopes to make an announcement on the Sheffield deal as soon as this week. This could be delayed as final details were still being worked out this weekend but a broad outline has been agreed.

The government is expected to put up roughly half of the £170m project cost in cheap loans structured to comply with European Union rules on state aid. Westinghouse would contribute £50m, in the form of an upfront payment for reactor components, and the EIB would provide a smaller portion. Final investment would be subject to further due diligence.

The business department declined to comment.

Mandelson’s role in the talks is a reflection of his effort to involve the government more intimately in industrial policy. Nuclear is at the centre of Whitehall’s plans to reshape energy infrastructure and meet climate-change targets. At least six reactors are expected to be built over the next two decades — all by foreign-owned utilities.

The government has encouraged them to invest here but has pushed to keep as much work as possible in Britain. The programme is expected to create thousands of construction jobs. Sheffield Forgemasters’ history dates back to the 18th century. It ran into financial trouble in the early 2000s but has since been turned round by Tony Pedder, its chairman, who took over after a tough time running Corus.

The Sheffield negotations are part of a wider lobbying campaign among companies angling for a share of the nuclear building boom.

EDF, the French state-owned utility that bought British Energy last year, expects to build up to four new reactors. It has teamed up with Centrica, owner of British Gas, to share the cost.

Rivals Eon and RWE have formed a joint venture called Horizon Nuclear Power and intend to build at least two plants.

They will be able to use one of two reactor designs, the AP1000 from Westinghouse, and the EPR from Areva, the French state-owned group, that are being reviewed by the Nuclear Industry Inspectorate, the regulator.

EDF is expected to use Areva’s design. Eon and RWE, however, remain uncommitted and are thought to be under pressure from the government to go with Westinghouse so that the country is not reliant on a single design.

The first new reactor is not expected before 2017 and industry experts say the timeline is already slipping. This is due in part to wrangling between industry and government over subsidies.

Utilities are lobbying for a mechanism that ensures a minimum price for power so they can be sure they will be able to recoup the large upfront building costs. The government has said from the outset that it will not subsidise the industry.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

General Atomics Proposes a Plant That Runs on Nuclear Waste

General Atomics Proposes a Plant That Runs on Nuclear Waste
from WSJ.com: US Business
General Atomics will launch a 12-year program to develop a new kind of small, commercial nuclear reactor that could run on spent fuel from big reactors.


Nuclear ETFs: Small Reactors Make a Big Impact

Nuclear ETFs: Small Reactors Make a Big Impact
from SeekingAlpha.com: Home Page by Tim Iacono
Tim Iacono submits:

The Obama administration has touted nuclear energy as part of the next step in America’s clean-energy future. An innovative nuclear energy firm has developed a smaller, economically viable nuclear plant that may revitalize the nuclear industry and related ETFs.

Nuclear energy already accounts for 20% of U.S. energy consumption. After a lull that has lasted two decades, the sector is poised to see a major revival.

Complete Story