Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

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

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Danger of Israel's Nuke Hypocrisy By Robert Parry

The Danger of Israel's Nuke Hypocrisy

By Robert Parry

May 12, 2010

The United States finds itself in the curious position of going to the mat on behalf of Israel’s top security concern – preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb – while Israel and its supporters continue to insist that U.S. officials maintain Israel’s decades-old “ambiguity” about whether or not it possesses a nuclear arsenal of its own.
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This extraordinary double standard – demanding transparency from Iran, which doesn’t have the bomb and disavows wanting one, and protecting the secrets of Israel, which is believed to have one of the most sophisticated nuclear stockpiles on earth – has forced the Obama administration and many U.S. news organizations into logical and moral contortions.

The hypocrisy also is counterproductive, undermining whatever moral standing the United States might have in trying to strengthen safeguards that are considered important to prevent the nightmare scenario of some terrorist organization getting its hands on nuclear materials.

Despite those stakes, Israel’s Likud government and its neoconservative backers in the United States show no flexibility when it comes to acknowledging the existence of Israeli nukes or discussing the value of Israel accepting the nonproliferation standards that apply to other nations.

For his part, President Barack Obama has verbally stumbled through two questions when asked about his knowledge of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. In both cases, he clumsily maintained the practice of American presidents trying to keep Israel’s “secret,” a charade that dates back to Richard Nixon and has required the tacit collaboration of the mainstream U.S. news media.

Over the past four decades, Israel’s nuclear arsenal has been one of those inconvenient truths that everyone in power knows but agrees not to talk about. In that sense, it represents not only a glaring hypocrisy in the eyes of many around the world but also damages the U.S. democratic process by establishing a factual no-man’s-land where public debate fears to tread.

So, instead of news organizations like the New York Times demanding “all the news that fit to print,” you see a willful surrender of objectivity in favor of aligning with Israel’s desire for secrecy and double standards.

For instance, in a May 9 editorial, the Times demanded a toughening of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to punish countries that evade its prohibitions. The Times said this crackdown was a prerequisite for the United Nations punishing Iran with harsher sanctions.

“At a frightening time — when Iran and North Korea are defying the Security Council and pressing ahead with their nuclear programs, and terrorists are actively trying to buy or steal their own weapon — there has to be a law to make clear that proliferation will not be tolerated,” the Times said.
“The treaty is that law. But it is badly fraying.”

Double Standards

The Times said the nations of the world must come together and insist:

-- that “all treaty members accept tougher nuclear monitoring.”

--that penalties be imposed on “any state that violates its treaty commitments and then withdraws from the pact, as North Korea did.”

--that nuclear-fuel-producing nations, like the United States, guarantee supplies for other countries’ “peaceful energy programs.”

--that the United States and Russia make deep cuts in their own arsenals and “quickly draw other nuclear powers into arms reduction talks.”

--that “no more India-like exemptions from nuclear trade rules” be made “and that any state that tests a weapon would be denied nuclear trade.”

The Times noted that the special U.S. deal “to sell nuclear energy technology to India (which like Pakistan boycotted the nonproliferation treaty so it could develop weapons) enshrined unequal treatment.”

But the Times made no reference to the third rogue state that stayed out of the NPT so it could secretly develop nuclear weapons – Israel. The Times only made a backhand reference to that fact in a slap at Egypt for having the audacity to propose a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

“Egypt, which leads the Nonaligned Movement, is also playing games by pressing for a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East that seeks to force Israel to give up its nuclear arsenal. That is not going to happen any time soon.”

So, because Israel has no intention of relinquishing its nuclear weapons – or even acknowledging their existence – the Times suggested that another de facto special deal must be carved out.

But this “unequal treatment” favoring Israel not only gives it a pass on signing the NPT but comes with a special humiliation for senior U.S. officials, making them jump through hoops with verbal gymnastics to avoid even mentioning that Israel has nuclear weapons.

The Times concludes its editorial with a moral commandment that “all states need to ante up and reverse the treaty’s slide. The world’s security depends on it.”

All nations, it seems, but Israel.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Maybe nuclear power isn't so bad after all By John Horgan

Maybe nuclear power isn't so bad after all

By John Horgan

Toshiba eyes major investment in nuclear segment

Toshiba eyes major investment in nuclear segment
Toshiba seeks to spend $14 billion over the next three years to strengthen its nuclear and semiconductor businesses. Toshiba also expects to get orders for 39 nuclear power facilities by 2015, and it is developing fuel-supply and maintenance services. Google/The Associated Press

59 institutions share $15M in NRC grants

59 institutions share $15M in NRC grants
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it awarded $15 million in grants to 59 schools in an effort to improve nuclear education and increase the country's nuclear-power workforce. About $1.7 million was allocated for scholarships, with $4.8 million for fellowships and $6.3 million for faculty development. American City Business Journals/Atlanta

Senate's climate bill to include $54B in nuclear loan guarantees

Senate's climate bill to include $54B in nuclear loan guarantees
The energy-and-climate bill to be unveiled today by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., would approve $54 billion in federal loan guarantees for new nuclear projects. The measure would also provide a 10% tax credit for nuclear construction costs and permit the use of tax-exempt bonds for joint ventures for advanced nuclear facilities. Bloomberg Businessweek

Can the Mideast be nuke-free? Obama thinks so, but he's got to start by working on Israel

Can the Mideast be nuke-free?
Obama thinks so, but he's got to start by working on Israel
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
By Dan Simpson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Two important, concurrent policy lines of President Barack Obama are at risk of being snagged.

The first is the need, which Mr. Obama feels acutely, to get a viable Middle East peace process under way. Only now, 16 months into his administration, in spite of valiant efforts on the part of his special envoy, former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, are indirect "proximity" talks starting between the Israelis and some of the Palestinians.

The second is the global policy of Mr. Obama to seek arms reductions, particularly limits on the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Specifically, he is in quest of an agreement to make the Middle East a nuclear-free zone. That is an old idea, but it is taking on new life with Mr. Obama's active involvement.

His administration would like to prevent Iran from joining the nuclear weapons club that now includes China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and, to a very limited degree, probably North Korea. China is laboring to get North Korea's Dear Leader Kim Jong-il to bring his nation back to the six-power talks -- China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea and the United States -- in pursuit of eliminating his nuclear weapons program.

Mr. Obama recently signed with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev an arms reduction agreement and seems dead set to earn his already-awarded Nobel Peace Prize by capping, getting rid of and preventing the development of various weapons of mass destruction.

But the Middle East nuclear-free zone idea hit a roadblock at a conference in New York last week when it ran headlong into an old pretension: Israeli ambiguity as to whether it possesses nuclear weapons, despite clear evidence that it does. Israel, along with nuclear powers India and Pakistan, has not signed the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; 189 countries have. These three do not wish to submit to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Israel does not acknowledge that it possesses nuclear weapons even though one of its prime ministers, Ehud Olmert, said it does in 2006, a prominent Israeli nuclear scientist also said so, and former President Jimmy Carter has stated categorically that it does, based on what he learned while in the White House.

Until now, American governments have protected Israel from the blowback of having, but professing not to have, nuclear weapons by casting vetoes in the United Nations Security Council and taking comparable actions in other forums. At last week's gathering, though, Egypt called Israel's hand, stating that a nuclear-free Middle East accord could not be reached -- in spite of U.S. desires to pin Iran to the mat through such an agreement -- until Israel's nuclear weapons were addressed.

Egypt's position is especially interesting given that it is generally believed that other countries of the Middle East, including Egypt itself, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Persian Gulf states, almost certainly possess or could easily purchase the technology necessary to add nuclear weapons to their arsenals if they decided to do so. This makes a mockery of Israel's idea that it can somehow maintain a monopoly on nuclear weapons in the Middle East, or that Iran's acquiring them would cross a new threshhold.

Nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, in the Middle East or anywhere else, makes all kinds of sense, period.

None of this takes away from the fact that any additional country acquiring nuclear weapons would be directly counter to Mr. Obama's major goal, not to mention one more unfortunate threat to world peace.

There is nothing per se wrong with any of these countries having or acquiring nuclear weapons if nuclear weapons are around and about in the region. The governments of none of the Middle Eastern countries named above appears at this point to be manifestly crazy, extreme in its policies or unstable. Still, from the day that one or more of them acquires nuclear weapons, whether they might be unleashed on the world would be subject to the possibility that their governments might become unstable or fall into the hands of dodgy forces, including Islamic extremists.

So what is needed at this point?

Israel needs to declare its nuclear weapons, then sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and accept IAEA inspections of its facilities. It is going to say it would not trust IAEA inspectors to keep its secrets, but the IAEA employs many U.S. inspectors whom Israel surely could trust to be conscientious.

With that barrier cleared away, a Middle East nuclear-free-zone treaty should be negotiated. Israel's weapons could be accepted in a grandfather clause, just as the nuclear weapons of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are now. Then, with Israel having joined the vast majority of nations that have signed the NPT, the international community could turn up the heat substantially on India and Pakistan, the other two recalcitrants, to also sign the treaty and accept IAEA inspections.

Mr. Obama and the United States at that point could start to feel good about having effectively reduced the continuing danger to the world from these awful threats to life. If anyone has any doubts about the importance of limiting nuclear weapons, they might look at footage of the 1945 U.S. attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It is customary to say that those attacks shortened World War II, reducing casualties overall -- which is almost certainly true -- but one should have no illusions about the horrendous means used to achieve that goal. This characteristic of nuclear weapons is the root of the effort to limit or eliminate them.


Senate's climate bill to include $54B in nuclear loan guarantees from NEI SmartBrief

Senate's climate bill to include $54B in nuclear loan guarantees
from NEI SmartBrief

Terrorists Could Acquire Australian Nuclear Waste for "Dirty Bomb," Expert Says -- Global Security Newswire

Terrorists Could Acquire Australian Nuclear Waste for "Dirty Bomb," Expert Says -- Global Security Newswire

An expert has warned that relocating unwanted nuclear material to a proposed national repository in Australia could make the waste vulnerable to seizure by extremists, the Sydney Morning Herald reported today (see GSN, May 11, 2009).

The proposal would open a trove of material usable in a radiological "dirty bomb" to theft during transit, said John Large, a British nuclear analyst who has consulted for government and private groups. The plan would involve the land-based transfer of radioactive material over great distances to the proposed site, located at Muckaty station in Australia's Northern Territory.

China-Pakistan Nuclear Agreement Scrutinized in U.S.

Jordan narrows down search for bidder in first nuclear plant

Jordan narrows down search for bidder in first nuclear plant
Three foreign companies have been included in the shortlist to construct Jordan's first nuclear plant, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Khaled Toukan said. The chosen company will supply technology for a Generation III reactor and will act as a strategic partner in running the facility, he added. The Jordan Times

Executive: Demand for uranium will remain strong in long term

Executive: Demand for uranium will remain strong in long term
Long-term demand for nuclear fuel will continue to be "strong and robust," driven by an increase in consumption in China and India, according to Energy Resources of Australia. "We're entering a period where many of the world's developing and developed countries are looking to invest in projects," company executive Greg Sinclair said. Bloomberg

Constellation expects loan promise for nuclear project

Constellation expects loan promise for nuclear project
Constellation Energy Group executives are hoping they will soon receive a loan guarantee to build a new reactor at their Calvert Cliffs facility in Maryland. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said without additional funding from Congress, he cannot accept all of the applications for nuclear reactor construction loan guarantees his department is currently considering. American City Business Journals/Baltimore

Nuclear energy can help U.S. curb foreign-oil dependence

Nuclear energy can help U.S. curb foreign-oil dependence
The U.S. can reduce its reliance on foreign oil by using nuclear energy, and there is no other non-oil option that can deliver what nuclear can, according to this newspaper editorial. The country can seek other energy sources, but there is greater promise in nuclear as a key power source, the editorial argues, and lawmakers should begin working on funding new nuclear projects and addressing where and when to safely store used nuclear fuel. The Buffalo News



Monday, May 10, 2010

Analyst: Indian bill would help entry of U.S. nuclear companies

Analyst: Indian bill would help entry of U.S. nuclear companies
A proposal introduced in the Indian Parliament on Friday would make nuclear operators liable for accidents and impose a $110 million limit on compensation claims. "This bill is crucial for American companies, which don't have sovereign backing, unlike their Russian and French counterparts," said Debashish Mishra, an analyst at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Bloomberg Businessweek

Tanzania's uranium resources interest Areva

Tanzania's uranium resources interest Areva
Areva is interested in developing Tanzania's uranium deposits as that country seeks to explore nuclear energy, said Judy Nwokedi, a senior vice president at the French company. Tanzania reportedly has at least 54 million pounds of uranium oxide deposits and hopes to begin extraction by next year. Reuters

Kerry and Lieberman to unveil climate bill on Wednesday

Kerry and Lieberman to unveil climate bill on Wednesday
Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., plan to unveil their climate legislation Wednesday despite calls from Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, to hold off after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs supported immediate action on the bill. "I think the president would believe that now more than ever is the time to act," Gibbs said. But Graham wants the Senate to "pause the process and reassess where we stand" after the "catastrophic" spill. The bill is unlikely to pass without Republican support, although Kerry and Lieberman say they have made progress toward getting the 60 votes they need. Reuters

TEPCO to buy 10% stake in South Texas Project

TEPCO to buy 10% stake in South Texas Project
Tokyo Electric Power has signed a contract with Nuclear Innovation North America for a stake in two new nuclear units at the South Texas Project using boiling-water reactors. The utility, also called TEPCO, is known for its use of the reactors. It will purchase $125 million of newly issued shares for a stake of 10%, with the option to buy another 10% stake in about one year. NINA is owned by NRG Energy and Toshiba. The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones Newswires (5/10) , The Dallas Morning News



Dominion picks Mitsubishi's design for Va. nuclear project

Dominion picks Mitsubishi's design for Va. nuclear project
Mitsubishi Heavy Industry's Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor technology has been chosen for Dominion Resources' proposed nuclear facility in Virginia. Dominion started a competitive bidding process in search of an engineering-and-construction partner last year. "Mitsubishi provided the most attractive value for our customers," Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell said. Reuters

New reports on nuclear policy prepared by the Congressional Research Service


New reports on nuclear policy prepared by the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following (all pdf).

"The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions," May 3, 2010.

"2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference: Key Issues and Implications," May 3, 2010.

"Securing Nuclear Materials: The 2010 Summit and Issues for Congress," April 16, 2010.