Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

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

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Is The U.S. Vulnerable To A Nuclear Attack?


New Report: U.S. Vulnerable to a Nuclear Attack -- American Power

See, "Report by the Joint Defense Science Board and the Threat Reduction Advisory Committee Task Force." And the related discussion thread here:http://www.acq.osd.mil/dsb/reports/NWE-National-Enterprise.pdf

    The United States is now woefully unprepared for any kind of nuclear attack ...

    and the Obama administration has taken steps to further reduce the nation's nuclear arsenal.

    The problem and the cause ...

Report: U.S. Vulnerable to a Nuclear Attack
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Iran to Step Up Nuclear Fusion Research from VOA News: Top Stories by Edward Yeranian

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Saturday that his country is stepping up its research on nuclear fusion in a bid to produce alternative sources of energy.  The announcement comes as world powers pressure Tehran to suspend its controversial nuclear activities. Salehi said Tehran plans to build an experimental nuclear fusion reactor and had hired 50 scientists to work on the project, and that $8 million had been allocated for what he called "serious" research.

Nuclear fusion is a process in which light atomic particles, such as hydrogen, are combined to form heavier particles that release a great amount of energy.  However, this type of atomic reaction has not been successfully developed for commercial power, despite five decades of intensive research.

In 2006, global powers agreed to spend more than $12 billion to build an experimental fusion reactor in the south of France.  That accord was signed by the United States, the European Union, China, India, Russia, South Korea and Japan.

Salehi, who has a doctorate from MIT, claimed that Iran's project would require intense effort, but could provide Tehran with large dividends in diversifying its sources of civilian energy. He says that nuclear fusion is a new technology, and that it needs intense effort to develop.  He adds that it will take 20 to 30 years to commercialize nuclear fusion, but that Iran will try to use its resources to achieve that goal sooner.

Nuclear fusion is also the technology behind thermonuclear explosions used in hydrogen bombs.  Such weapons are more powerful than ordinary atomic bombs, which rely on fission reactions.

Asghar Sediqzadeh, who was appointed to run Iran's new fusion research center, told Iranian television that it would take two years to conclude initial studies, followed by another 10 years to design and build a fusion reactor.
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Covert Action Suspected In Iranian Nuclear Troubles -- Global Security Newswire

Iran's uranium enrichment work has encountered a number of technical
difficulties in the last year, prompting experts to speculate over
what role clandestine interference might have played in the troubles,
the Financial Times reported yesterday (see GSN, July 22).

The U.N. Security Council and various governments have adopted
punitive measures aimed at pressuring Iran to halt uranium enrichment,
a process that could produce nuclear-weapon material as well as fuel
for civilian applications. Tehran has maintained its atomic ambitions
are strictly peaceful.

Read more ....http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20100723_4215.php

See also:

Suggestions of Iran nuclear sabotage
By James Blitz and Roula Khalaf in London and Daniel Dombey in Washington

Sabotage Slowing Iran Nuke Progress? CIA Won't Say
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Who Killed the Climate Bill? We asked the experts who is to blame.

Disarmament for Some Co-opting the Anti-Nuclear Movement By DARWIN BOND-GRAHAM

Nuclear power plans in the Gulf and beyond

Nuclear power plans in the Gulf and beyond

Nuclear energy and the global energy crisis — U.S.-Russian cooperation can help

Opinion: U.S., Russia should sign nuclear pact
The oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico is only the most recent symbol of a far-reaching global energy crisis. Coping with this economic, national security and environmental crisis will be one of humanity’s greatest challenges in the 21st century. There is no magic bullet: Every energy technology will be sorely needed — including nuclear energy.

Russia, the United States and other countries must cooperate to enable large-scale growth of nuclear energy around the world while achieving even higher standards of safety, security and nonproliferation than are in place today. This will require building a new global framework for nuclear energy, including new or strengthened global institutions.

Without such a new framework, unbridled competition in nuclear energy could pose grave risks. Even a single catastrophe — whether a Chernobyl-scale accident, a successful sabotage (a “security Chernobyl”) or, worse yet, a terrorist nuclear bomb — would doom any prospect for nuclear growth on the scale needed to make a significant contribution to coping with climate change.

It is time for the U.S. and Russia to forge a nuclear-cooperation deal that would boost the global growth of nuclear energy while improving safety standards and allaying security concerns, write Evgeniy P. Velikhov and Matthew Bunn in this column. It is better if the two countries, which together possess the world's largest contingent of nuclear resources, to work with rather than against each other, the writers argue. The Hill/Congress blog

US Senate panel OKs DOE funding bill with no Yucca Mountain money

The US Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a spending
bill for the Department of Energy that provides $10 billion in loan guarantee
authority for nuclear projects and, in keeping with the Obama administration's
request, eliminates funding for the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste
repository in Nevada.
Overall, the bill, which passed on a party-line vote, 17-12, would give
DOE $28.3 billion for fiscal 2011, just slightly less than the $28.4 billion
that the White House requested, but about $1.7 billion more than the
department's fiscal 2010 funding level.
Most of that increase would go to nuclear weapons programs overseen by
DOE's National Nuclear Safety Administration.
Most of the reductions below the White House's requested amounts came
from DOE's science research and nuclear environmental clean-up programs.
The nuclear loan guarantee authority is less than half of the $25 billion
in authority a House subcommittee gave DOE last week. The Obama administration
had requested $36 billion in nuclear loan guarantee authority.

NRC CIO: Agency has been a model for transparency

NRC CIO: Agency has been a model for transparency
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been committed to transparency for more than three decades, said Darren Ash, the agency's chief information officer. The agency strives to improve its transparency, he said, and he could help other agencies do the same. FederalNewsRadio.com

GLE confident as new laser process advances

The issue of whether NRC should be making nonproliferation evaluations etc. has not been resolved. Consequently I am posting the entire article:

Enriching uranium using laser technology. Sounds pretty advanced, doesn't it?
It will, in fact, be the technology's first commercial use if Global Laser Enrichment wins a license from regulators to build and operate such a plant in Castle Hayne.

Scrutiny continues of the plant's potential effects on the environment. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission held two hearings Thursday in Wilmington on its draft environmental impact statement on the project, and the regulator has shown confidence that the effect will be small.

But security is another factor that has drawn interest in recent days, and that involves more than guards at the gate.

Protecting against proliferation – as in nuclear proliferation – starts with the technology licensed to GE for commercial development, said Tammy Orr, CEO of Global Laser Enrichment. That's the company, under GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, that seeks to make laser enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel a successful, salable commodity.

The technology was classified by the U.S. and Australian governments in 2000, Orr said Thursday. The governments also signed the Silex Treaty, which continues to protect the technology, she added.

"We entered the process in 2006. At that time there were several government agencies involved to ensure that it was going to be acceptable for us to develop and deploy technology in the U.S.," she said.

"The decision was made that it was acceptable to move forward because all the protections were in place," Orr continued. "The protection regimes are established by the U.S. government and various agencies.

"We put in place a security program that meets the requirements and mostly exceeds the requirements of those regulations," she continued.

Orr said, however, that "there is discussion in the non-proliferation community about whether the NRC should become involved in non-proliferation.

"That's something that the government is going to address. Today this is an area where the government already has responsibility for across various agencies," she said.

Currently the NRC inspects facilities, after they have been built, for security of material, technology and the facilities themselves, said Roger Hannah, senior public affairs officer for the NRC who attended Thursday's environmental hearings.

But assessing proliferation concerns is not part of the regulator's licensing process, he explained.

Arms control advocates fear that commercialization of the technology could lead other countries to follow suit, raising concerns about the technology falling into the wrong hands, according to a report in the Washington Independent Wednesday.

"Countries like Iran ...have worked in the past to develop laser enrichment programs, and the experts fear successful commercialization of the technology in the U.S. would ... lead them to redouble their efforts," the article said.

But Hannah said everything that surrounds the laser technology and work on it is highly classified.

"We don't foresee any delays in the licensing process," Orr said. "We expect, based on NRC's most recent statements, we could complete the licensing effort by the end of next year."

Wayne Faulkner: 343-2329

NRC reports no abnormal events at US NPSs in fiscal 2009

NRC: U.S. nuclear stations had no abnormal events in fiscal 2009
No incidents involving a major risk to public health and safety occurred at commercial nuclear power stations between May 2009 and April of this year, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Nuclear Engineering International (7/23)

Russia to build nuclear reactors in India under nuke pact

NEW DELHI, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said here Friday that Russia will build nuclear reactors and supply fuel and waster disposal to India under the nuclear cooperation pact with New Delhi.

"Cooperation with India in nuclear energy will include building reactors, supply of the fuel and waste disposal," Putin said during a video-conferencing session with Indian businessmen.

Putin, who is on a one-day visit to India, said that he sees nuclear power generation in India as a promising area of cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi.

"This is one of our major, far-reaching, promising areas of interaction," Putin said.

Easing concerns about safety of the Russian reactors, Putin said: "The new generation of nuclear reactors developed in Russia have been used in several sites in the Russian Federation and are considered among the safest in the world."

Ten nuclear reactors to use top technology

BEIJING, July 6 (Xinhaunet) -- China, which is currently building the largest number of nuclear power stations worldwide, is expected to use one of the most advanced technologies for constructing 10 of its nuclear reactors, an energy official said on Monday.

The technology, called AP1000 from US-based nuclear power company Westinghouse, is a third-generation nuclear system. Compared with other reactors already in use in China, those using the third-generation technology are considered to be safer and able to operate longer.

The AP1000 technology will be used on six reactors at three inland nuclear plants in Hunan, Hubei and Jiangxi provinces - the country's first batch of inland nuclear power projects.

The technology will also be applied for two pairs of reactors, one in Sanmen in coastal Zhejiang province, and the other in Haiyang, Shandong province, said the official who did not want to be named because of security issues.

Future inland projects are also set to use the same technology and Chinese authorities are considering the AP1000 as a standard, he said.

"The technology will upgrade China's nuclear power industry, which is seeing its fastest development now," the official said.

Construction of the projects will need final approval from the central government, he said.

The plan to use advanced technology for more nuclear reactors is in line with the rapid development of the country's nuclear power sector, analysts said. More at:

Senate Shelves Climate Legislation

Senate Shelves Climate Legislation

Senate Democrats shelved plans for climate legislation (LAT), probably ending hopes for broad action this year on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and other measures. The Senate will instead focus on a scaled-back plan focused on the BP oil spill, money for home-energy retrofits, and land and water conservation. See
Bowing to political reality, Senate Democrats drop broad energy bill
Majority Leader Harry Reid acknowledges there aren't enough votes and instead will offer a scaled-back measure focused on the gulf oil spill.

The Senate leadership's decision to shelve a cap-and-trade bill will weaken the U.S. bargaining position in world climate diplomacy, says CFR's Michael Levi. See Gloom Awaits U.S. Climate Diplomacy http://www.cfr.org/publication/22689/gloom_awaits_us_climate_diplomacy.html

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nuking Westphalia: Obama’s Deep Convictions Point to War With Iran by Walter Russell Mead

Romania 'counting on' Areva for nuclear power plant: report

Romania is counting on expertise from French nuclear group Areva to plan construction of its new nuclear power
station, Economy Minister Adriean Videanu told the Adevarul daily on Thursday.

"We should quickly take a decision about the second nuclear power station. That's why we're counting on the expertise of French specialists (from Areva) about the choice of a site," Videanu told the paper.

U.S. anti-drone weapon unveiled

U.S. defense giant Raytheon Missile Systems has unveiled a laser weapon capable of shooting unmanned aerial vehicles from a range of just less than 2 miles.

Mounted on a U.S. warship's missile defense system, the laser shot down four drones in secret tests off California in May, Raytheon touted in a statement this week.

The test entailed tracking the drones with sensors used as part of a Raytheon-built ship defense system and destroying the aircraft using a high-powered, fiber-optic laser.

The laser's 50-kilowatt beam can shoot down a drone traveling as fast as 311 miles per hour.

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TED 2010: Nuclear Proliferation Is This Year’s Inconvenient Truth

Pentagon Scientists Target Iran’s Nuclear Mole Men

Report Blasts Military For Not Being Nuke-Proof from Danger Room by Olivia Koski

If, by some chance, you end up surviving the nuclear apocalypse, don’t count on the U.S. military to be around to help you rebuild. Or don’t expect all its fancy electronics and communications equipment to work, at least.

That’s the strongly worded, rather ominous assessment from a joint Defense Science Board/ Threat Reduction Advisory Committee Task Force, which warns in a recent report that the military needs to wake up to its vulnerability to nuclear attack.

Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/07/report-blasts-military-for-not-being-nuke-proof/#ixzz0uSxrbpTr

Criticality for fast reactor from World Nuclear News by Jeremy Gordon

China has achieved criticality at its first fast neutron reactor, a small unit near Beijing, while plans are developing for a full scale fast reactor power plant in the country.

The Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) achieved sustained fission for the first time yesterday, said owner the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIEA). The reactor will go on to reach a thermal capacity of 60 MW and produce 20 MW in electrical power for the grid. The first sodium-cooled fast reactor in the country, it was built by Russia's OKBM Afrikantov in collaboration with OKB Gidropress, NIKIET and Kurchatov Institute.

Beyond this pilot plant, China onced planned a 600 MWe commercial scale version by 2020 and a 1500 MWe version in 2030 but these ambitious ideas have been overtaken by the import of ready-developed Russian designs. In October last year an agreement was signed by CIAE and China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC) with AtomStroyExport to start pre-project and design works for a commercial nuclear power plant with two BN-800 reactors with construction to start in August 2011, probably at a coastal site. The project is expected to lead to bilateral cooperation of fuel cycles for fast reactors, which promise to vastly extend the fuel value of uranium as well as reduce radioactive wastes.

Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Ambitions

Editor’s Note:

The United States and Saudi Arabia signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the area of peaceful civil nuclear energy cooperation in May 2008 during the visit of President George Bush to Saudi Arabia for meetings with King Abdullah. As described at the time by the White House:

“This agreement will pave the way for Saudi Arabia’s access to safe, reliable fuel sources for energy reactors and demonstrate Saudi leadership as a positive non-proliferation model for the region. The United States will assist the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to develop civilian nuclear power for use in medicine, industry, and power generation. The Government of the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will establish a comprehensive framework for cooperation in the development of environmentally sustainable, safe, and secure civilian nuclear energy through a series of complementary agreements.”

Carnegie Endowment Nuclear Policy Program Senior Associate Mark Hibbs, in today’s Q&A column, tackled seven key questions about the Saudi interest in a civilian nuclear energy program including consequences for regional security developments. We thank the Carnegie Endowment for providing insightful materials such as this that put important questions of the day in context.

Nuclear Reality in the Gulf: A Conversation with Anthony Cordesman

Editor’s Note:

Last month the United Nations approved a new round of sanctions against Iran in an effort to derail or inhibit its nuclear enrichment program. American diplomats worked for months to reach the point where 12 of 15 Security Council members would approve the measure, which President Obama called, “the toughest sanctions ever faced by the Iranian government.” However, there was little optimism the sanctions would achieve their intended purpose, getting Tehran to back down. Indeed, shortly after the vote Iran rejected the call to change course, as has been the case with the passage of three earlier sanctions measures.

The question of Iran’s nuclear program challenge to Gulf security is on the short list of topics for the U.S.-Saudi bilateral agenda. For an update on the Iranian nuclear issue and its impact on American and Saudi regional security interests we turned to Dr. Anthony H. Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS, a preeminent authority on Gulf affairs and a host of other critical national security questions.

In this SUSRIS exclusive interview with Cordesman we explored the state of the Iranian nuclear challenge, UN sanctions, Saudi perspectives, American courses of action and regional consequences. We also were treated to a preview of his new book on the strategic partnership with Iraq. We thank Dr. Cordesman for his prolific contributions to the dialogue on these critical issues and for spending time with SUSRIS to share them with you.

Neocons Versus Nonproliferation by Matthew Yglesias, American Prospect

The tenuous fate of the new START treaty shows the continuing power of neocons within the Republican Party.

Nuclear power plants 'by 2025'

EDF may allocate half of RTE to nuclear costs fund

France's Electricite de France might set aside half of its interest in Reseau de Transport d'Electricite to establish a fund for the decommissioning of its nuclear facilities and storing of nuclear waste. The half-interest in RTE is worth more than $2.58 billion, a source said. Reuters

US will work with Pakistan on civil nuclear energy: Clinton

Clinton: U.S. to assist Pakistan on nuclear power
The U.S. vows collaborate with Pakistan on civilian nuclear energy, said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. "It took years to do it with India. But we are committed to pursuing it and trying to overcome the obstacles that might stand in the way," Clinton said.

Nuclear Licensing Process Raises Proliferation Concerns-NRC Not Required to Assess Proliferation Risks When Approving New Technology NRC Not Required to Assess Proliferation Risks When Approving New Technology

Arms-control advocates raise concerns about GE project
Arms-control supporters are urging the U.S. to determine the proliferation risks associated with GE Hitachi's uranium-enrichment facility, which will use laser technology, as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviews its license request. "What we've really been looking for is just someone to take this into account before moving forward with the technology," said Miles Pomper, a senior research associate with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. The Washington Independent (Washington, D.C.)

Business groups make pitches on energy legislation Energy package faces calendar deadline By: Dave Flessner

Analysis Triples U.S. Plutonium Waste Figures

The amount of plutonium buried at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State is nearly three times what the federal government previously reported, a new analysis indicates, suggesting that a cleanup to protect future generations will be far more challenging than planners had assumed.

Pu Waste & Hanford

Way back in 2004, workers began carefully excavating several burial grounds near the Hanford Site’s 300 Area. One of their discoveries had the feel of an archeological find:

A safe was encountered during the excavation of the 618-2 Burial Ground that contained a very pure form of Plutonium-239 on the interior surfaces and possibly in various liquids contained in the safe. The safe appears to be legacy waste from research performed in the 1940s. A metal beaker containing plutonium residue (with high Pu/Am concentration) was also uncovered in the stockpiles of waste from the 618-2 excavation.

That find, and a number of other contaminated bits and pieces, made the news; you can see more photos of the safe and its contents here.

It was yet another reminder to the public that the Cold War legacy is more than nuclear arsenals and treaties; there’s a significant, extremely complex environmental legacy as well.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Prospect For Space Arms Control

Inventory of Nonproliferation Orgs & Regimes from Nonproliferation Updates UPDATED Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations & Regimes

A regularly-updated public reference covering all international organizations, treaties, & agreements relevant to WMD disarmament and nonproliferation.

North Korea Tensions Overshadow Regional Forum U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announces new sanctions against Pyongyang amidst ASEAN hopes to help restart dialogue on issue

Tensions concerning North Korea are expected to overshadow meetings in Vietnam between foreign ministers of Asia Pacific and Western nations. The forum is set to begin as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced new sanctions against Pyongyang for its nuclear program. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is hoping to help restart dialogue on the issue.

Foreign ministers with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will meet with representatives from 16 other nations and the European Union to discuss security issues and cooperation.

South and North Korea are seeking diplomatic support on the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in March that killed 46 sailors.

Seoul says North Korea torpedoed the ship – a claim backed by an international investigation. But Pyongyang denies it is responsible for the attack.

The issue has stalled six-nation efforts to return to negotiations to end North Korea's nuclear program.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan told journalists the Southeast Asian ministers hope the regional forum will encourage dialogue for a return to six-party talks. He said the fact that North Korea's foreign minister is attending the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) after a 10-year absence is, what he called, a very significant symbol.

"ASEAN has been saying that look, all six of you are in ARF,” Surin said. “Why not make use of the forum; why not make use of the mechanism and process here. And that is what the ASEAN foreign ministers have been trying to do."

The six nations involved in the nuclear talks are China, the United States, Japan, Russia, and North and South Korea.

A cold-blooded look at the CANDU: problems and opportunities

“Look what happened to the CANDU,” a senior official at Rosatom, the Russian nuclear conglomerate, recently told Platts. “It’s a good reactor, but nobody is building it.” Why the post mortem, for a reactor that at six a.m. today was cranking out 62.6 percent of Ontario’s electricity? Because, said the official, a Rosatom analysis indicates that if you want to be a profitable reactor vendor, your worldwide installed capacity must be at least 100,000 megawatts. Toshiba-Westinghouse has that, so does Areva. Soon, says the Rosatom official, Russia will too. AECL, which makes the CANDU, has only around a quarter of that putative requirement … read more

India Nuclear Power Corp Implementing 36 Projects

Nuclear Power Corp. of India is planning to develop at least 36 nuclear projects that would be capable of generating about 34 gigawatts. The projects, which include collaborative projects with the U.S., Russia and France, are expected to be finished during the next 10 years, said Finance Director Jagdeep Ghai.

NPCIL currently operates 19 nuclear plants, has seven under construction and has a capacity of 4,560 MW. It has already set a target of achieving a 63,000 MW capacity by 2032.

The company is so far India's only nuclear power plant operator. The federal government restricts private firms and other state-run companies from setting up such projects for security and safety reasons.

NPCIL is building two reactors of 1,000 MW each at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu with Russian components. The two reactors will be built within a year, after which four more reactors will be put up, Mr. Ghai said.

Another six Russian reactors are planned for construction at Haripur in the West Bengal state, he said.

Administration officials and utility executives meet to salvage climate bill

“We all left that meeting today saying we’re going to continue to work on these things,” said one utility official regarding the Browner meeting. “But you can’t do these things in 10 days.”

Kerry, Lieberman say they need more time on carbon talks

Kerry, Lieberman say they need more time on carbon talks

Reid Struggling With Energy Bill Deadline, Democrats Say

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is struggling to meet a self-imposed deadline for passing energy legislation, his fellow Democrats say, and they expressed doubt the measure could be approved before Congress takes its month- long August recess.

Reid previously said he was close to announcing the bill’s details and aimed to open Senate debate on the measure next week. During Senate Democrats’ weekly luncheon yesterday on Capitol Hill, though, lawmakers said Reid told them the bill remained far from finished.

“Frankly, I’m having trouble with this one,” Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who caucuses with the Democrats, quoted Reid as saying

. Reid didn’t confirm the comment to reporters after the lunch and was noncommittal about the measure’s timing. He said he would make a decision about that “in the near future,” and that he plans to meet with Senate Democrats tomorrow for talks on the matter.

“We’re really not quite where I can determine what I think is best for the caucus” in terms of proceeding on the bill, he said.

The bill Reid is drafting is a stripped-down version of legislation that passed the House last year and stalled in the Senate. President Barack Obama continues to press Congress to pass an energy bill that, among other provisions, addresses issues raised by the BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As the November elections approach, though, the prospects for passing major legislation through Congress typically decrease.

Lieberman Plan

Lieberman, co-author of a plan to cap carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that may be included in Reid’s bill, said Democrats should consider delaying a vote on the legislation rather than “force ourselves to be constrained by an artificial schedule.”

Lieberman said he met yesterday with board members of the Edison Electric Institute, a Washington-based group that represents American Electric Power Co., Southern Co. and other utility companies, and they “pleaded for more time” to negotiate the measure’s details.

Last week, Reid told reporters he had assembled a “rough draft” of a bill that would address offshore oil and gas drilling, “clean energy” production, fuel savings and energy- related tax incentives.

Reid said the bill may also require cuts in carbon dioxide and other pollution from power plants. Much of the package draws from legislation already approved by Senate committees.

Seeking Republicans

Yesterday, Reid told reporters he’s still trying to find “two or three” Republicans who would agree to back such a bill. Their support is necessary to overcome the prospect of the Republican Senate leadership stalling action on the measure.

Some Republicans have said they were unhappy with Reid’s plan to move the legislation through the Senate before the August recess.

“He’s waiting until we have like two or three days to tackle a subject that usually takes seven or eight weeks,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican.

The timing question also remains unsettled among Democrats, who are “still having a debate and lively discussion” on what the bill should include, Senator Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, said in an interview.

Whether to require cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that scientists have linked to climate change remains a sticking point among Democrats. Lieberman and Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, are pressing Reid to add their plan for such cuts to the legislation.

Scaled-Back Plan

Kerry and Lieberman’s plan would scale back earlier cap- and-trade systems, in which companies would buy and sell a declining number of carbon dioxide pollution rights, that would cover most of the U.S. economy. Their proposal would apply to the power plants that produce roughly one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Some Democrats, including West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller, Iowa’s Tom Harkin and Arkansas’ Mark Pryor, doubt a cap-and- trade plan can pass. The proposal is a “pretty tough sell,” Senator Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat, told reporters.

Such a plan “would weigh on some states heavier than others” due to different levels of coal-fired electricity in different regions, Bayh said. Indiana generates more than 90 percent of its electricity from coal, according to Energy Information Administration data. In Lieberman’s Connecticut, coal fuels less than 5 percent of electricity generation.

Lieberman, who has said he would like to see debate on an energy bill continue into September, said lawmakers should consider dealing with the question of carbon dioxide limits between November’s election and the January swearing-in of new members of Congress.

“I know there’s a certain awkwardness in a lame-duck session, but these are big and important issues,” he said.

Murray adds $50M for Hanford

* Murray: White House stance on Yucca Mountain is misguided

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., added $50 million to the proposed fiscal 2011 Energy Department budget to fund the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state. Murray also wants to boost funding for the licensing of the Yucca Mountain project as the country's nuclear-waste repository. "I believe the Obama administration made a serious mistake when it zeroed out funding for Yucca Mountain," she said. The Bellingham Herald (Wash.)

Renewable energy: Wind, solar aren't solutions

Opinion: U.S. needs nuclear to meet its energy needs
Nuclear, natural gas and clean-coal technology are the keys to meeting the country's energy needs, writes Mike McBride in this letter to the editor. Such sources are cheaper and more efficient than are solar and wind power, he argues. The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)

Vt. legislative panel releases revised nuke report

Entergy is told to change "corporate culture" for Vt. plant

A Vermont legislature-appointed committee advised Entergy to revamp its "corporate culture" if it seeks to operate the Yankee nuclear plant beyond its shutdown date in 2012. The panel, which was established to study Yankee's reliability, also concluded that the facility can be safely operated past that date provided the company properly maintains equipment. Google/The Associated Pr

Senate panel OKs DOE funding bill, cuts nuclear loan guarantees

Senate panel OKs DOE funding bill, cuts nuclear loan guarantees

A Senate Appropriations panel on Tuesday approved a spending bill that contains less than half the loan guarantees for nuclear projects than was endorsed in the House version. The Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development subcommittee voted to provide $10 billion for nuclear loan guarantees, in contrast to the $25 billion that the House panel approved last week. "I wish it could be higher, but I recognize the budget constraints," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., the subcommittee's chairman. Platts

Clapper: Military Intel Budget to be Disclosed

U.S. Signals New N. Korea Sanctions

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced at a news conference in Seoul that Washington will impose new sanctions on North Korea (BBC), targeting the sale and purchase of arms and luxury goods. See US announces new sanctions against North Korea

In a gesture also meant to signal intensifying pressure on North Korea (NYT)
before meetings with their counterparts in South Korea, Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveled to the Korean Peninsula's demilitarized zone. See also U.S. to Impose More Sanctions Against North Korea,

President Obama's nominee for Director of National Intelligence (Bloomberg)
, James Clapper, added to the warnings, telling the Senate Intelligence Committee the United States may be entering “a dangerous new period” with North Korea marked by Pyongyang's military provocations designed to advance the state's political goals. See U.S. Spy Chief Nominee Clapper Sees Rising Danger in North Korea Relations,

This new CFR Independent Task Force, U.S. Policy Toward the Korean Peninsula,

report says North Korea's continued provocations pose a serious threat to its neighbors and that the United States must lead intensified efforts to achieve the north's denuclearization.

This CFR Crisis Guide explores the military, economic and nuclear proliferation dimensions of the ongoing conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

Uranium Fuels the Present and Future from IAEA

Growing concern about global warming, driven by the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, prompted governments around the world to recognise nuclear power as a viable production option for competitively priced, clean baseload electricity.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Uranium resources for at least a century

Worldwide uranium resources, production and demand are all increasing, according to the latest edition of the Red Book. However, total identified uranium resources will last for over 100 years at current consumption rates.

The amount of uranium identified that can be economically mined rose to some 6.3 million tonnes, a 15.5% increase compared with the last edition of Uranium 2009: Resources, Production and Demand - commonly known as the Red Book - published every two years by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The high-cost category (under $100 per pound of U3O8) was reintroduced into the new edition of the Red Book for the first time since the 1980s in response to the generally increased market prices for uranium in recent years (despite the decline since mid-2007), as well as increasing mining costs and expectations of increasing demand as new nuclear power plants are being planned and constructed.

The NEA commented: "Although total identified resources have increased overall, there has been a significant reduction in lower-cost resources owing to increased mining costs."

"The recognition by an increasing number of governments that nuclear power can produce competitively priced, baseload electricity that is essentially free of greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with the role that nuclear can play in enhancing security of energy supply, increases the prospects for growth in nuclear generating capacity, although the magnitude of that growth remains to be determined," the NEA noted.

IAEA projections for the future of nuclear power see it expanding from 375 GWe today to between 500 and 785 GWe by 2035. Such growth would cause an increase in uranium demand from 66,500 tonnes per year to between 87,370 and 138,165 tonnes.

"Even in the high-growth scenario to 2035, less than half of the identified resources described in this edition would be consumed," the NEA concluded. "The challenge remains to develop mines in a timely and environmentally sustainable fashion as uranium demand increases. A strong market will be required for these resources to be developed within the time frame required to meet future uranium demand."

Worldwide exploration and mine development expenditures in 2008 totalled over $1.6 billion, an increase of 133% compared to updated 2006 figures, despite declining market prices since mid-2007. Most major producing countries reported increasing expenditures, as efforts to identify new resources and bring new production centres online moved forward.

"As observed in the past, increased investment in exploration has resulted in important discoveries and the identification of new resources," the NEA said. "It is foreseen that, if market conditions improve further, additional exploration will be stimulated leading to the identification of additional resources of economic interest."

"While the status of supply and demand is considered from today's technologies perspective, it should be recognised that the deployment of advanced reactor and fuel cycle technologies can positively affect the long-term availability of uranium and could conceivably extend it to thousands of years," the NEA noted.

Israel to deploy new anti-missile system in November

Israel will deploy in November its anti-missile system designed to combat threats from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, the defence ministry said on Monday.

"The Iron Dome interceptor, in conjunction with air force and anti-aircraft systems, successfully downed a large number of threats in fully operational mode," the ministry said in statement.

"The first two batteries will become operational in November 2010," it said adding that "the defence ministry will soon place orders for additional batteries."

The system is designed to intercept short-range rockets and artillery shells, of which Hamas and the Hezbollah have fired thousands at Israel in the past.

The system is expected to be first deployed along the border of Hamas-run Gaza from where a daily barrage of home-made rockets fired at the Jewish state prompted Israel to launch a devastating 22-day offensive on December 27, 2008.

It will then be deployed on Israel's border with Lebanon, where the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah fired some 4,000 rockets into northern Israel during a 2006 war. Israel believes Hezbollah now has an arsenal of some 40,000 rockets.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak praised the developers for the short timeframe in which they had managed to make the system operational.

"We will act to actively deploy the batteries in the field as soon as possible," he said in the statement.

In May, US President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve giving Israel 205 million dollars to develop the system, on top of the billions of dollars in aid it gives Israel each year.

The Iron Dome will join the Arrow long-range ballistic missile defence system in an ambitious multi-layered programme to protect Israeli cities from rockets and missiles fired from Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Syria and Iran.

A third system specifically aimed at countering medium-range missiles is still in development.

US 'concerns' over Pakistan-China nuclear deal: Clinton

US 'concerns' over Pakistan-China nuclear deal: Clinton

ASEAN wants capability to monitor nuclear weapons: diplomat
Hanoi (AFP) July 19, 2010 - ASEAN wants to develop the capability to detect atomic weapons so it can effectively implement a treaty aiming to keep the region free of nuclear arms, a diplomat said Monday. The diplomat said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is also striving to deal with potential nuclear disasters, as some members consider the use of nuclear energy for civilian purposes. "We would like to have the capacity to monitor the presence of nuclear weapons in our territories," including on warships transiting the region's waters, the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The region does not currently have the right training or equipment to verify whether nuclear weapons are in its ports or passing through its waters, he added. The Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone treaty commits ASEAN states "not to develop, manufacture or otherwise acquire, possess or have control over atomic weapons". It also prohibits the storage or transit of nuclear weapons in ASEAN, which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The treaty prevents the testing of any nuclear device and dumping of radioactive waste in the region, including in members' territorial waters. "Even if you are a declared nuclear weapons free zone, if you don't have the capability to implement it, then there's no use," said the diplomat, a member of the commission that ensures compliance with the treaty. The commission met in Hanoi on Monday as part of the annual meetings of ASEAN foreign ministers. The diplomat said allegations aired by a Norwegian-based news group, the Democratic Voice of Burma, that Myanmar was trying to begin a nuclear weapons programme with the help of North Korea were not discussed at the Hanoi meeting.
by Staff Writers
Islamabad (AFP) July 19, 2010
The United States has conveyed its "concerns" to Islamabad over China's sale of two civilian nuclear reactors to Pakistan, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a press conference Monday.

Washington has already sought clarification from Beijing on the deal to build two new 650-megawatt reactors in Pakistan's Punjab province, saying it must be approved by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

"We believe that the NSG, which has recently met to examine the sale that you are referring to, has posed a series of questions that should be answered because as part of any kind of transaction involving nuclear power, there are concerns by international community, Pakistan knows that," said Clinton.

"We have conveyed them (concerns), other members of the NSG conveyed them and we look forward to answers of those questions posed," she told reporters in the Pakistani capital.

The deal was revealed in the British press in April and comes after China in 2004 entered the NSG, a group of nuclear energy states that forbids exports to nations lacking strict International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

The United States in 2008 signed a landmark nuclear agreement with Pakistan's arch-rival India and some analysts believe that lay the ground for the deal with China.

Pakistan has pressed the United States for a nuclear deal similar to India's.

Clinton on Monday said "intensive discussion" had begun to explore a civil nuclear deal with Pakistan, but outlined issues to be addressed including rigorous controls over the export of nuclear information and material.

The father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, confessed in 2004 to sending nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea, although he later retracted his remarks.

"Export controls, and the problem with Mr. AQ Khan raises a red flag for people around the world and not just in the USA, because we can trace the export of nuclear information and material from Pakistan through all kinds of channels to many different countries. That is an issue," Clinton told a town hall meeting in Islamabad.

Clinton also criticised Pakistan for standing in the way of a proposed international treaty to prohibit the further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices.

"I just want you to understand that we are fulfilling our commitment to pursue this... but it is not a one-way street," she said.

"There has to be an awareness that certain questions that people have in their minds... must be addressed," Clinton added.

Israel to deploy new anti-missile system in November
Jerusalem (AFP) July 19, 2010 - Israel will deploy in November its anti-missile system designed to combat threats from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, the defence ministry said on Monday.

"The Iron Dome interceptor, in conjunction with air force and anti-aircraft systems, successfully downed a large number of threats in fully operational mode," the ministry said in statement.

"The first two batteries will become operational in November 2010," it said adding that "the defence ministry will soon place orders for additional batteries."

The system is designed to intercept short-range rockets and artillery shells, of which Hamas and the Hezbollah have fired thousands at Israel in the past.

The system is expected to be first deployed along the border of Hamas-run Gaza from where a daily barrage of home-made rockets fired at the Jewish state prompted Israel to launch a devastating 22-day offensive on December 27, 2008.

It will then be deployed on Israel's border with Lebanon, where the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah fired some 4,000 rockets into northern Israel during a 2006 war. Israel believes Hezbollah now has an arsenal of some 40,000 rockets.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak praised the developers for the short timeframe in which they had managed to make the system operational.

"We will act to actively deploy the batteries in the field as soon as possible," he said in the statement.

In May, US President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve giving Israel 205 million dollars to develop the system, on top of the billions of dollars in aid it gives Israel each year.

The Iron Dome will join the Arrow long-range ballistic missile defence system in an ambitious multi-layered programme to protect Israeli cities from rockets and missiles fired from Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Syria and Iran.

A third system specifically aimed at countering medium-range missiles is still in development.

Climate change choices will shapeshift the world: report

Climate change choices will shapeshift the world: report

First half 2010 hottest ever, but is it climate change?
Paris (AFP) July 20, 2010 - The first six months of 2010 brought a string of warmest-ever global temperatures, but connecting these dots to long-term climate change patterns remains frustratingly difficult, experts say. Not only was last month the hottest June ever recorded, it was the fourth consecutive month in which the standing high mark was topped, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Indeed, 2010 has already surpassed 1998 for the most record-breaking months in a calendar year.

As a block, the January-to-June period registered the warmest combined global land and ocean surface temperatures since 1880, when reliable temperature readings began, NOAA said. Arctic ice cover -- another critical yardstick of global warming -- had also retreated more than ever before by July 1, putting it on track to shrink beyond its smallest area to date, in 2007. On the face of it, these numbers would seem to be alarming confirmation of climate models that put Earth on a path towards potentially catastrophic impacts.

Without steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the global thermometer could rise by 6.0 degrees Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels, making large swathes of the planet unlivable, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned. Voluntary national pledges made after the Copenhagen climate summit in December would likely cap that increase at 3.5 C to 4.0 C (6.3 F to 7.2 F), still fall far short of the 2.0 C (3.6 C) limit that most scientists agree is the threshold for dangerous warming. But making a direct link between year-on-year variations in the weather and changes in climate -- best measured in centuries -- is simply not possible, scientists say.

"When we are looking at the scale of a season or a few months, we can't talk about trends related to climate change," Herve Le Treut, head of France's Laboratory of Dynamical Meteorology, said by phone. "The problem is knowing whether these numbers fit into a long-term evolution, and that only becomes apparent over at least two or three decades." For scientists, he said, it would be like trying to figure out which way the tide is moving by watching only a few waves lapping at the shoreline. A hotter-than-average 2010 is due at least in part to the influence of periodic El Ninos, which disrupt weather patterns in the equatorial Pacific, Le Treut and other experts point out.

"We now know that the year following an El Nino will be globally unusually warm," said Andrew Watson, a professor at the University of East Anglia in Britain. "1998 was such a year. It's clear that 2010 will be very close to 1998 and quite possibly it will beat it," he said in an e-mail exchange. At the same time the long-term trend of warming is unmistakable, and at least one figure from last month can be said to add to the mounting evidence that climate change is firmly upon us. June was the 304th consecutive month with a global surface temperature above the 20th-century average, the NOAA reported.

The most recent month to dip below that average was February 1985, more than a quarter century ago. "Taken in isolation these figures say nothing about climate change," said Barry Gromett, spokesman for Britain's national weather and climate centre, the Met Office. "But if taken in the context of 2000-2010 being the warmest decade on record, and this set be another near record or record warm year, then this is further evidence that the climate is warming," he told AFP.
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) July 20, 2010
Global efforts to beat back chronic hunger and disease afflicting more than a billion people could come to naught unless merged with the fight against climate change, says a report released Tuesday.

The choices governments and businesses make today on how to confront global warming will determine what the world looks like in 2030, warns the report, laying out four scenarios for the future.

"Without urgent action, climate change threatens to undo years of work tackling poverty in the developing world," said Stephen O'Brien, Britain's international development minister.

Entitled "The Future Climate for Development," the government-backed study predicts low-income nations will be hit first and hardest by climate-related impacts no matter how major economies evolve.

The four visions elaborated in the report all seem plausible, and none are wholly wretched or rosy.

But for the planet's most vulnerable denizens, the wrong decisions now in Washington, Beijing and Brussels could spell the difference between relative prosperity and abject misery 20 years hence.

In the first scenario, some resource-rich poor nations prosper by 2030 as the world continues down the path of smoke-stack, carbon-intensive development.

But when slashing greenhouse gas emissions becomes a planetary imperative, these fragile economies suffer most.

A 2026 climate treaty calls for severe sanctions -- even military intervention -- for countries belching too much C02, and the UN makes finding a technical fix for rising temperatures a top priority.

African nations that followed in the West's development footsteps now demand that rich countries -- including China -- pay a "carbon debt." The world is teeming with climate refugees.

Another "business as usual" scenario, called "coping alone," sees the global community come unglued amid economic stagnation after a Middle East war has driven oil above 400 dollars a barrel.

The effort to slow global warming has been abandoned and development aid has largely collapsed, leaving the poorest, resource-starved countries to fend for themselves.

Some states have merged into regional blocs, while others have disintegrated into warring factions.

Food security is a worldwide concern, and vegetarianism a global moral movement.

"The greater good" vision presents a world in which scarcity has led to state-run resource management in poor countries not just for energy, but for water, food and access to fertile soil.

When done equitably, most people are getting enough to get by.

But the cost in individual liberties is high: birth control is mandatory, identity cards monitor individual resource consumption, companies sell services to help people stay within carbon quotas.

Products boasting "ecosystem integrity" are no longer a trend but a necessity.

In Africa and Eurasia, insects have replaced meat as a key source of protein for hundreds of millions of people.

Tensions between rival resource blocs, redrawn from the post-colonial boundaries, are intense, spilling over into violent conflict.

Finally, there is the "age of opportunity," the only scenario in which low-income countries could be said to prosper.

Boosted by a 0.05 percent levy on international financial transactions, once-poor nations have spearheaded a low-carbon revolution and leapfrogging high-carbon technologies.

Sun-drenched Africa and parts of central Asia provide 40 percent of the world's solar energy.

Many multinationals have moved operations to low-income countries, attracted by cheap labour and low-carbon energy.

High-consumption Western lifestyles have become less attractive, and in many states power has devolved to regions and communities, sometimes bringing benefits, but also leading to control by local mafia and warlords.

Smallholder cooperatives linked to global supply chains have become the dominant agricultural model.

Culture in Africa is thriving -- the Mali Film Festival gets as much Web coverage as Cannes.

Drawing from more than 100 experts worldwide, the report was prepared by the NGO Forum for the Future.

We Are Not Ready by Bob Herbert

We were told by oil industry executives and their acolytes and enablers in government that deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico would not cause the kind of catastrophe that we’ve been watching with an acute and painful sense of helplessness for the past three months. Advances in technology, they said, would ward off the worst-case scenarios. Fail-safe systems like the blowout preventer a mile below the surface at the Deepwater Horizon rig site would keep wildlife and the environment safe.

Americans are not particularly good at learning even the most painful lessons. Denial is our default mode. But at the very least this tragedy in the gulf should push us to look much harder at the systems we need to prevent a catastrophic accident at a nuclear power plant, and for responding to such an event if it occurred.

Right now, we’re not ready.

Opinion: Oil companies can learn safety measures from nuclear

Oil companies should consider adopting the safety procedures of the nuclear industry to avoid a recurrence of an accident like the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, writes John C. Ringle, an Oregon State University professor emeritus of nuclear engineering, in this opinion column. A good place to start would be for oil producers to form a group similar in function to the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations, which focuses on operational safety, Ringle adds. The Oregonian

GE, Tennessee Valley Authority sign $116M contract

General Electric signed a five-year, $116 million deal to help the Tennessee Valley Authority handle scheduled outages at its nuclear and steam plants. GE also struck a long-term contract with Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction to design a steam-turbine generator with bigger output for South Korea's nuclear facilities. Bloomberg Businessweek/The Associated Press (

Areva negotiating two more EPR reactors with China: CEO

Areva negotiating two more EPR reactors with China: CEO
Areva negotiating two more EPR reactors with China: CEO

by Staff Writers
Aix-En-Provence, France (AFP) July 2, 2010
French nuclear group Areva, which already building two third-generation European Pressurized Reactors (EPR) in China, is negotiating further reactors with Beijing, the company's CEO said Friday.

"The EPR has been the biggest contract with China in euros. We are negotiating with the Chinese for further EPRs," chief executive Anna Lauvergeon said on the margins of a conference in Aix-en-Provence southern France.

Areva and French partner EDF are building two of the reactors in southern China which Areva sold to Beijing in November 2007 for eight billion euros (10 billion dollars), including fuel.

They are due to come on line at the end of 2013 and in 2014.

Two other EPRs are currently under construction worldwide. One in Finland and another in northwestern France.

Nuclear Power Market Outlook For Developing Countries

Nuclear Power Market Outlook For Developing Countries
New York NY (SPX) Jul 09, 2010 - Nuclear power contributed about 15% to the total world electricity generation in 2009 with an installed capacity of 373GW. There are currently 436 nuclear reactors in operation in 30 countries worldwide. The US is the largest producer of nuclear power generating 31% of the total global nuclear generation followed by France, Japan and Russia. Nuclear power is an important source of power fo ... more

Philippines considering nuclear energy: Aquino

Philippines considering nuclear energy: Aquino
Manila (AFP) July 12, 2010 - The Philippines may turn to nuclear energy to solve power shortages in the impoverished nation, President Benigno Aquino said Monday. "We are studying the possibility of using nuclear energy as a source of power," Aquino, who took office on June 30, told reporters. "I'm awaiting the department of energy secretary's recommendations." He said the technology could come from South Korea, wit ... more

Nuclear Plants Operate At Exceptional Levels To Stabilize Grid

Nuclear Plants Operate At Exceptional Levels To Stabilize Grid

Nuclear Plants Operate At Exceptional Levels To Stabilize Grid

File image.
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jul 13, 2010
As the Eastern United States suffered through record-breaking triple-digit temperatures threatening brownouts and blackouts, the nation's nuclear power plants posted an average operating capacity of 97 percent July 4-7.

Eighty-five reactors across the country ran at 100 percent operating capacity during the entire week. One hundred two of the nation's 104 nuclear power plants were operational this week, with two plants offline for refueling and maintenance work.

"The reliability of nuclear energy facilities in not only powering America's economy, but also in cooling homes and offices in extreme conditions, was vital to the stability of our electric grid," said Alex Marion, vice president of nuclear operations for the Nuclear Energy Institute.

The nation's 104 nuclear power plants operating in 31 states have a combined generating capacity of 100,755 megawatts of electricity, enough to meet the electricity needs of more than 60 million Americans.

Saudi nuclear drive gains momentum

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (UPI) Jul 14, 2010
Saudi Arabia's decision last week to sign a nuclear cooperation pact with France marks a major step forward for a pan-Arab drive toward nuclear power, even as the United States strives to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Jordan is talking with Areva of France and Mitsubishi of Japan, among other companies, to acquire the technology required to build the Hashemite kingdom's first nuclear power generating plant.

Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates, which is the Arab state furthest down the path of developing nuclear energy, issued licenses to the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. to start preparing a site for a nuclear power facility. In December, the Emirates awarded a South Korean consortium a $20.4 billion contract to build and operate four 1,400-megawatt nuclear power plants.

All told, 13 Middle Eastern states, including Egypt, have announced plans -- or dusted off old plans -- to build nuclear power stations since 2006.

This is causing unease in Washington even though they have all declared that their objective is to boost electricity generation to meet a rapidly growing demand.

"Oil producers are burning up reserves simply to keep pace with power demand that is growing by 7 to 8 percent every year in some (Persian) Gulf states," the Financial Times observed.

All say they have no intention of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. But there is concern that once they've mastered the technology they'll seek to counter Iran's alleged push to acquire such weapons by doing so themselves.

"The region looks around and they find all the non-Arabs have a nuclear program or are on their way," Mustafa Alani of the Gulf Research Center in Dubai told the Financial Times. "They look at India, Pakistan, Israel and now Iran."

"There's a feeling this region made a mistake when they opted for zero nuclear energy for the last 40 years and the Iranian program was a wake-up call. The intention is civilian but you need the know-how at least."

Lurking behind this rationale is a general, and seemingly growing, sense that U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is unable or unwilling to take on Iran over its contentious nuclear program.

The Sunni-led Arab states, those in the gulf in particular, see Shiite-dominated Iran determined to become the regional colossus and without the conviction of U.S. protection, they feel extremely vulnerable and exposed.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdallah, "fears that his country's historically closest ally is naive, and dangerously so, for putting so much faith in diplomacy," says British analyst Simon Henderson, an expert on Saudi Arabia with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"Despite the official blandishments, there are clear indications that under Abdallah, and especially since 2001, Saudi Arabia has put distance into its relationship with the United States Â…

Alliance To Commercialize First Generation III++ SMR Nuclear Plant

Washington DC (SPX) Jul 16, 2010 - Babcock and Wilcox Nuclear Energy and Bechtel Power Corporation have announced they have entered into a formal alliance to design, license and deploy the world's first commercially viable Generation III++ small modular nuclear power plant. Based on B and W mPower small modular reactor (SMR) technology, this new alliance, to be known as Generation mPower, brings together two recognized and ... more

France supports Mitsubishi taking stake in Areva: Fillon

Tokyo (AFP) July 16, 2010 - France is open to a plan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) of Japan to take a stake in French nuclear giant Areva, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Friday. Fillon supports the idea of "cooperation between Areva and Mitsubishi... in particular on the new nuclear reactor Atmea," a joint venture between the companies to develop and market a new reactor, Fillon said. "France is ... more

China to build new nuclear power plant: state media

Beijing (AFP) July 19, 2010 - China has approved plans to build a nuclear power plant in the southwestern region of Guangxi, state media reported Monday, as Beijing makes good on a pledge to boost renewable energy sources. The first phase of the project in Fangchengchang city will involve investing 24 billion yuan (3.5 billion dollars) in two Chinese-made 1.08 gigawatt reactors, the People's Daily said, citing local gove ... more

S 'concerns' over Pakistan-China nuclear deal: Clinton

US 'concerns' over Pakistan-China nuclear deal: Clinton
Islamabad (AFP) July 19, 2010 - The United States has conveyed its "concerns" to Islamabad over China's sale of two civilian nuclear reactors to Pakistan, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a press conference Monday. Washington has already sought clarification from Beijing on the deal to build two new 650-megawatt reactors in Pakistan's Punjab province, saying it must be approved by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG ... more

Monday, July 19, 2010

Amiri Told CIA Iran Has No Nuclear Bomb Program

Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service: "Contrary to a news media narrative that Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri has provided intelligence on covert Iranian nuclear weapons work, CIA sources familiar with the Amiri case say he told his CIA handlers that there is no such Iranian nuclear weapons programm, according to a former CIA officer."

Nuclear investment vital to emission targets from World Nuclear News by Jeremy Gordon

An early and radical reform of UK electricity markets is needed to provide a framework to secure large-scale private sector investment in nuclear energy in the UK, consultancy group KPMG has warned. Such investment, it says, will be needed for the country to meet its ambitious emission reduction targets.

China Passes U.S. as World's Biggest Energy Consumer

Czech Temelin nuke plant switches from US to Russian fuel

Czech Temelin nuke plant switches from US to Russian fuel
Prague (AFP) July 16, 2010 - The Temelin nuclear power plant in the southern Czech Republic will gradually switch from US to Russian fuel over the next year, its spokesman Vaclav Brom told AFP on Friday. "Russia's TVEL offered the best conditions in a 2006 tender. We are loading the first fuel to the reactor of the first unit right now," he said. The 2,000-megawatt plant run by Czech state-run power producer CEZ had ... more

Lawrence E. Joseph, "Apocalypse 2012" The Solar 'Katrina' Storm That Could Take Our Power Grid Out For Years

John Kappenman, 55, an obscure electrical engineer from Duluth, Minnesota, is determined to save civilization from the mother of all blackouts. If he succeeds, the daily life of billions around the world will continue undisrupted. But if he fails, we may well suffer on a scale that makes even World Wars seem trivial in comparison.

Over the past thirty years, Kappenman has accumulated a vast and compelling body of evidence indicating that sooner or later a major blast of EMP (electromagnetic pulse) from the Sun, a space weather Katrina, will knock out the electrical power grid and bring society to its knees.

"Historically large storms have a potential to cause power grid blackouts and transformer damage of unprecedented proportions. An event that could incapacitate the network for a long time could be one of the largest natural disasters we could face," he declares. A bluff, friendly man, half science nerd, half overgrown farm boy, Kappenman insists that solar EMP blasts the size of those that occurred in 1859 (before society was electrified) and 1921(before the power grid had developed to the point where it played any significant role) would today result in large-scale blackouts lasting for months or years.

Kappenman was a major contributor to the landmark report, Severe Space Weather Events: Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts, published by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in December, 2008. Founded by Abraham Lincoln during the height of the Civil War, the NAS is the closest thing there is to a Supreme Court of scientific opinion for the United States, and much of the rest of the world.

"Electric power is modern society's cornerstone technology, the technology on which virtually all other infrastructures and services depend... Collateral effects of a longer-term outage [such as would almost certainly result from a massive space weather event] would likely include, for example, disruption of the transportation, communication, banking, and finance systems, and government services; the breakdown of the distribution of potable water owing to pump failure and the loss of perishable foods and medications because of lack of refrigeration. The resulting loss of services for a significant period of time in even one region of the country could affect the entire nation and have international impact as well," says the NAS report.

As examined extensively in my book, AFTERMATH, (Broadway/Random House, July, 2010) more than 100 million Americans could be affected by this blackout for months or years. Recovering from a future severe magnetic storm would cost $1 to $2 trillion per year-- ten to twenty times the cost of Katrina. Of course, the damage would be immeasurably worse if such a massive, protracted catastrophe were to touch off social unrest sufficient to undermine the agencies and institutions in charge of the reconstruction effort.

Unlike most doom prophecies, this one has potential for a happy ending. As examined further on, there is a comparatively quick and economical way to defend against solar EMP. " Sunblock for the grid" recommendations are at the core of the GRID bill, HR-5026, passed UNANIMOUSLY by the U.S. House of Representatives this June. No mean feat in today's poisonously partisan climate. But the true day of reckoning will probably come later on this summer in the United States Senate, where things are not looking very good at all.

The World's Largest Lightning Rod

The world's power grids, of which the United States has the most extensive, have in essence become giant antennas for space weather blasts. Just as a lightning rod attracts any lightning bolts that might otherwise strike a roof, the power grid, which is designed specifically to be extremely efficient at conducting electricity, attracts space weather bolts. Problem is that, unlike lightning rods, the power grid is gravely vulnerable to such shocks.

So how would a solar blast keep your toilet from flushing? By disrupting the power grid system at its weakest point: the transformer. Transformers receive power from high voltage transmission lines which in turn receive their power from substations directly connected to the main power plant, be it coal, oil, gas, hydroelectric or nuclear. High voltage transmission lines, the ones held up by those big Y-shaped metal trellis structures that can be seen stretching along the highway, carry the current as far as 300 miles. The farther the distance, the higher the voltage required, just as more water pressure would be required to produce a steady, reliable stream of water out of a long hose than out of a short one. (Volts are essentially units of pressure, while amps are units of volume. The simplest analogy is to water: volts would measure how hard the water rushes out of the hose, amps would measure how much water is flowing.) The power from the transmission lines is fed into the transformers, whose job is to then step it down from the level of hundreds of thousands of volts to tens of thousands of volts, then split the current into several directions via a device known as a "bus." The bus sends the electricity through the network of power lines one sees everywhere held up by utility poles. Transformers in communities then drop the voltage down to levels used in homes and businesses, so the flow of electricity requires transformers at many points in the network and if transformers are damaged, then no electricity can flow.The power lines feed into businesses and homes, most of which rely on electric pumps to supply the water necessary to flush one's toilet, unless, of course, the electricity has been shorted out.

Transformers in the United States operate at levels as high as 765kV or 765,000 volts in the United States and up to 1000kV in China. Transformers in Europe typically use lower voltages, in the 400KV range. At one point, the Swedish electrical utility was considering upgrading to 800KV but protests from groups concerned about the human health impacts of the new ultra-high voltage lines put the kibosh on that. Right for the wrong reason, one might observe. The higher the voltage processed by a transformer, the narrower the tolerance for error and the more vulnerable it is, therefore, to the extra electrical jolt that would come from the GIC's (geomagnetically induced currents,) caused by solar EMP.

According to Kappenman's research, a repeat of the geomagnetic storm that occurred in 1859 or 1921 would see the copper windings and leads of the 350 or so of the highest voltage transformers in the United States melt and burn out. These transformers connect nearly one third of the entire US power grid infrastructure, damage levels of unimaginable proportions from any other threat. Transformers weigh over 100 tons apiece and usually cannot be repaired in the field, and because of their size they cannot be flown in from overseas factories where they are now made. In fact, most transformers damaged by space weather incidents cannot be repaired at all, and need to replaced with new units. Currently, the worldwide waiting list for transformers is about three years, and about half of those made fail either in test or prematurely while in service.

"We've been stacking risk multipliers on top of risk multipliers. The scientific community has developed a false sense of security regarding the power industry. We've got to preserve our capability and prevent wide spread catastrophic damage to this vital infrastructure!" declares Kappenman.

So why haven't we been zapped yet? There was no power grid to zap to speak of until 1950's. Before then, each city had its own generators, but there was no significant swapping of power from one city to the next. Today, megawatt loads zip instantaneously around the North American grid. The growth of what is known as open access transmission, whereby larger and larger amounts of energy are whizzed around the grid to meet consumer demand, makes it all the likelier that a sudden and unexpected injection of GIC electrical energy could blow out the system. Stressing the power grid with heavier and heavier loads, while good for profits and energy savings, does seem like tempting fate, given the looming danger of solar EMP assaults.

Sleeping through the Wake-up Calls

"We have already slept through at least one wake-up call, the geomagnetic storm of 1989," Kappenman contends.

On March 13,1989, two solar blasts each about a tenth the size of the ones that hit in 1859 and 1921 knocked out the Hydro-Quebec electrical utility, causing it to go from fully operational to complete shutdown in 92 seconds. On the computer simulation, the blast looks like giant red, toothy mouths taking bites out of the top of the Northern Hemisphere. Millions of customers in Quebec lost power but within nine hours power was restored. No big deal in the grand scheme of things. True, a number of nuclear, oil and coal-powered plants as far away as Los Angeles subsequently reported transmission anomalies, but nothing blew up, although one large transformer at a Nuclear plant in New Jersey melted.

Another wake-up call came on Halloween, October 31, 2003. Kappenman was testifying before the Environment subcommittee of the House of Representatives Science Committee on the impact of the blackout of August 14, 2003 and potential impacts for severe space weather. The August 2003 blackout, not space weather related, is believed to have cost between $4 billion and $10 billion in repairs and collateral economic damage. As luck would have it, the day of Kappenman's testimony turned out also to be a day of a powerful solar storm, known in space weather circles as Halloween 2003.

"During breaks in the Committee meeting, I was frantically sending out email advisories about the storm," Kappenman recalls.

The solar flares for the Halloween 2003 event was much more powerful than the March 1989 storm, but its impact was less severe because it struck mostly at the poles, and did not swoop down as far south into populated areas. Nonetheless, Halloween 2003 did cause a brief blackout in Malmo, Sweden, and also fried fourteen 400 KV transformers in southern South Africa. In part because of the difficulty in recovering from the Halloween 2003 transformer burnout, South Africa has since had enormous problems supplying electricity to its customers, to the point where basic commerce and security have been impaired.

Kappenman's Halloween 2003 testimony regarding solar EMP did result in his receiving partial funding by the US Congressional Electromagnetic Pulse Commission, though the commission lost its funding in late 2008. Since then, Kappenman has struggled financially, depending on the odd consulting assignment, and grateful that his wife, Lisa, earns enough to support them and their seven year-old son.

"I would say the odds are against us," he acknowledged when we first met in April, 2009. Then he choked up a bit. "It's the social breakdown... During Hurricane Andrew, which only affected several counties in Florida, the worst hit areas, without any electricity or anything, the National Guard, all they could do was leave jugs of fresh water at intersections and hope people would come take them... In the case of space weather the impact areas would cover major portions of the US at the same time, Oil and water pumping would cease, natural gas, too. There would be no ability to refuel a vehicle... rail transport, no ability to supply meaningful support from neighboring unaffected regions, because those regions would be extremely remote. No one keeps fuel at their factories any more, just-in-time manufacturing took care of that. You can't just restart a nuclear power plant. For one thing, you need the operators to show up."

Sunblock for the Grid

It turns out that the grid can be protected from solar EMP devastation by outfitting it with surge suppressors, much like the ones that protect our computers and plasma televisions at home. In a nutshell, solar EMP blasts hit the Earth and discharge massive electrical currents into the planet's surface, some of which current surges back up and into the grid. Surge suppressors placed between the surface and the transformer would protect the transformer from the space weather-induced electrical currents coming up from the ground.

Each surge suppressor would be about the size of a washing machine, and would cost $40,000-$50,000 apiece; with some 5,000 transformers in the North American grid, that works out to $250 million or so, according to Kappenman's reckoning. Let's say this estimate is overly optimistic and that the inevitable cost overruns occur. Even if the final price tag for protecting the power grid from space weather attacks ends up being more in the $500 million range, that's less than 0.3% of what it cost to bail out AIG for gambling on toxic mortgages, or 1.0% of what Bernie Madoff is said to have bilked from his investors. Given that electrical industry revenues in the United States totaled approximately $368.5 billion in 2008, according to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, a one-time space weather security surcharge of less than 0.2% should amply fund the surge suppressor project. With around 115 million households in the United States, this surcharge would work out to less than $5 per.

Money is not the problem. Indeed, resistance to the surge suppressor program is less about budget than the culture of the power industry, an antiquated crazy quilt of public and private companies, commissions and authorities, regulated state by state, though often serving multi-state consumer bases, with technical specifications vetted by a variety of different professional organizations. The reason for this mishmash is that the North American power grid was not constructed as such, but rather is composed of local and regional power systems that have coalesced into a grid over the past century.

The real impediment, one might observe, is the resistor built into the psyche of the electrical utility industry, which spends only between 0.3% and 2% of its revenues, depending on the estimate, on research and development. This meager proportion puts it almost dead last compared to other major American industries, less than the pet food industry according to Wired.com magazine. Computer and pharmaceutical manufacturers reinvest 10% or more of their revenues or more in R&D.

The utility industry's objections to implementing a space weather defense program are thus more inertial than economic. Why go to all the trouble of preventing a space weather blackout when no (serious) one has ever happened, at least not in the United States? Then, there's the commonsense reluctance to complicate a system that has thus far functioned so admirably. Inserting surge suppressors would also require installing high speed switching circuits to bypass the transformers when necessary, yet another "moving part" that could potentially break down. Aggravating matters further is the inescapable fact that the more complex the network, the less control grid operators have over it.

"We have had no recognition of this potential space weather problem in our power grid network design codes, though we do take into consideration many other environmental factors such as wind, ice, lightning and seismic disturbances," says Kappenman, who draws an analogy between securing the power grid in this manner and adding seismic retrofits to buildings before the hazards of earthquakes were fully understood.

Once installed, the surge protector system should be capable of preventing at least 70%-75% of space weather-related power grid failures in the event we were hit by the equivalent of the great geomagnetic storms of 1859 and 1921. Such protection would mean the difference between major inconvenience and societal collapse. In 2008, the surge suppressor program was recommended to Congress by Electromagnetic Pulse Commission which, as noted, has since lost its funding.

The House-Senate Compromise

But Kappenman never gave up. After thousands of hours of lobbying, presenting and cajoling, mostly at his own expense, Kappenman's plan caught fire in spring, 2010, when it was understood less as a matter of federal regulation than as essential to national security. The fantastic news is that the House of Representatives bill, HR-5026, known as The GRID Act, was approved unanimously by the full House when it came to the floor on June 9, 2010. The bill enables the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to mandate protection of the power grid from both man-made and solar EMP. Utilities are authorized to recoup such costs by adding a minor surcharge to their bills.

The not-so-fantastic news is that the corresponding Senate measure, S-1462, known as the ACELA, American Clean Energy Leadership Act, is a vast, highly controversial amalgam of energy-related initiatives, essentially the Obama administration's energy bill. However, the Senate bill currently makes no mention of protecting the grid from EMP, only from cyber-attacks.

Kappenman, raised Roman Catholic and still bearing respect for his religion's moral teachings, does not confide in me the content of his prayers. I'd have to suspect, though, that he'd be thankful if the House-Senate compromise included the Senate bill's jurisdiction over the entire power grid, and the House bill's language protecting the grid from solar and man-made EMP, he would drop to his knees and thank the good Lord above.

Whatever legislation passes must do so before the fall elections and a new Congress takes over in the January, 2011. Otherwise the process has to start all over again. But what's the rush? It turns out that the next red zone, the next time solar EMP storms peak in frequency and ferocity will, by scientific consensus, commence in late 2012. Mayan prophets and New Age doomsayers harkening to that perhaps fateful year would not be surprised to further learn that the current solar cycle climaxing in 2012 bears an uncanny resemblance to the one that produced the 1859 mega-blast, a repeat of which would almost certainly destroy our way of life for years, perhaps decades, to come. On the marked similarity between the 1859 and 2012 solar cycles, even Kappenman, who generally puts no stock in 2012-related oojie-boojie, agrees.

Mayhem aside for a moment, wouldn't we kick ourselves all the way to hell if the power grid did go down, and along with it, our society, for lack of surge suppressors, a simple, affordable, un-grandiose, quick-fix?

House appropriations panel rejects Yucca Mt. amendment

Move to allocate $100M for Yucca Mountain is blocked
A U.S. House subcommittee on Thursday voted, 10-6, to strike down an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have kept the Yucca Mountain project in Nevada going in fiscal 2011. The proposal by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., would have provided the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with $100 million to move forward with the project's licensing process. Platts (7/16)

Let’s go nuclear

Opinion: Time for Vermont to embrace nuclear
The time-consuming debate on the pros and cons of the renewable-energy sources, such as solar, wind or wood, is keeping Vermont from developing a long-term energy strategy, writes Don Keelan. Don't ignore nuclear, Keelan argues, which can meet the standard of "dependability, inexpensive, long-term availability, clean and safe." Bennington Banner (Vt.)

Don't let politics drive a nuclear-waste decision

Editorial: Yucca should not be taken off the table
The government should not eliminate Nevada's Yucca Mountain site from consideration without even finding out if it passes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's standards, as doing so would indicate that politics trumped policy, according to this editorial. Even the Energy Department, which is seeking to terminate the project, admitted that there was nothing wrong with the application and that the site posed no threat. The Washington Post (7/19)

Plutonium disposal strategy debated 13 metric tons of material to be processed By Rob Pavey Staff Writer

Feds seek disposal options for excess plutonium
The Energy Department is reviewing the possibilities for disposal of 13 metric tons of plutonium that was excluded from processing at the mixed-oxide fuel facility at the Savannah River Site. "What we're looking at is the disposition path for plutonium that doesn't currently have a disposition path," said department spokesman Jim Giusti. The Augusta Chronicle (G

Apostolakis disqualifies himself from Yucca vote

Commissioner George Apostolakis recused himself from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's looming decision on the Yucca Mountain project in Nevada, citing a possible conflict. He said he led a committee for Sandia National Laboratories that studied the project from 2007 to 2008. Las Vegas Review-Journal/Stephens Washington News Bureau

The United States Is Going Nuclear

* NEI: Jobs, electricity created out of Cold War waste

Between creating jobs and generating power, the way of our future is nuclear.

In a videotaped interview with Lux Capital managing partner Josh Wolfe, Nuclear Energy Institute vice president of communications Scott Peterson says, "You look at nuclear energy and the ability of this industry to start the electricity demand that we see -- 23 percent between now and 2030 -- and doing it with a low carbon footprint."

Strikingly, one tenth of the power that fuels our electronics is coming from Russian warheads through a program called Megatons to Megawatts. Wolfe notes that half of the United States' uranium comes from these Russian warheads and nuclear produces 20% of the country's electricity.

"That's exactly right," Peterson retorts. "So warheads that were aimed at our cities are now powering our cities."

Take that Cold War Russia.
A program that salvages uranium from Russian warheads for use in nuclear plants in the U.S. provides about 10% of electricity in the U.S., Lux Capital managing partner Josh Wolfe points out in this article and video interview with Scott Peterson of the Nuclear Energy Institute. "That's exactly right," Peterson says. "So warheads that were aimed at our cities are now powering our cities." Forbes/Great Speculations blog (7/14) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story