Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

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

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"America's Defense Meltdown"

Meltdown Update
August 28, 2009  
On Aug. 26 CDI's Straus Military Reform Project Director Winslow Wheeler addressed the American Helicopter Society in Patuxent, Md. His presentation showed the budget and force structure data that demonstrate the predominant trends in the U.S. military services for the last few decades: namely that at record high levels of spending, our forces have become smaller, older and less ready to fight. Moreover, recent actions in the Pentagon and Congress will make all those trends worse.

Ex-Contractor Charged With Leaking Secrets -- Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON—A former State Department contractor allegedly leaked information from a "top secret" intelligence report on North Korea to a Fox News reporter, according to federal charges disclosed Friday.

A District of Columbia grand-jury indictment of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim accused him of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and false statements. The indictment was filed Aug. 19 and unsealed on Friday.

Read more ....

More News On The Case Of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim

U.S. analyst charged with leak to news reporter -- Reuters
Ex-State Department Contractor Charged With Disclosing Defense Information -- Bloomberg
State Department analyst charged with leaking information about North Korea -- The Telegraph
Justice Department Indicts Contractor in Alleged Leak -- Newsweek
Federal contractor charged with leaking top secret North Korea intel to Fox News -- Canadian Press

Former Soviet States Flush With "Dirty Bomb" Materials -- Global Security Newswire

Former Soviet States Flush With "Dirty Bomb" Materials -- Global Security Newswire

Saudi Arabian Uranium Enrichment? -- Arms Control Wonk

Faustian Bargains: Weinberg or Lovins?


Weinberg on Nuclear Safety


An exerpt from the article:
"Weinberg, whose integrity on nuclear safety was unquestionable, took environmentalists to task for their preference for fossil fuels over nuclear power. Weinberg stated,
Nuclear power plants and their subsystems have caused less damage to human health and to the environment, per kilowatt-hour, than have fossil-fueled central power stations. Thus Professor Lester B. Lave of Carnegie-Mellon University points out that from mining alone the damage imposed by coal is twelve-fold greater, per kilowatt-hour, than is that imposed by nuclear energy. (Professor Lave's argument is based on the fact that some 120,000 coal miners today receive about $300 per month compensation as the result of black lung disease.) C. Starr, M. A. Greenfield, and D. F. Hausknecht writing in Nuclear News, Oct. 1972, have compared the radioactivity hazard from nuclear plants with that from oil- or coal-fired plants. Their results show that to reach air quality standards for oxides of sulfur and nitrogen and radioactivity in Los Angeles County one could tolerate 160,000 nuclear plants of 1,000,000-kilowatt capacity, but only 10 oil-fired or 23 natural-gas plants of this size.

Granted that properly operating nuclear power plants and their sub-systems - including mining, transport and chemical reprocessing of used reactor fuel elements, and disposal of radioactive wastes - are benign and have been so demonstrated, are there concerns regarding the possibility that these systems may malfunction and cause hazard to people and to the environment? This is a perfectly legitimate question that deserves serious and thoughtful consideration; and it is this aspect of the matter that I shall address.

A properly operating nuclear power plant and its subsystems is and can remain as innocuous a thermal power plant as man has ever devised. The whole safety issue then centers around the possibility that a nuclear plant or its subsystems may malfunction so grossly as to cause damage to the environment or to people."

The costs of new nuclear from World Nuclear News by Jeremy Gordon

EDF Energy has promised to be a 'good neighbour' to the people of Sedgemoor, near the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant where the company wants to build two new reactors. In return for the power plant, Sedgemoor Council chief executive Kerry Rickards told the Bridgwater Mercury, "It's only right and proper that EDF contributes towards the facilities at Bridgewater Hospital – we could get a bigger and better hospital than currently planned." In addition to many local jobs and a £40 million ($60 million) per year boost to the local economy for 60 years of operation, EDF has specifically put aside £1 million for community investment. Rickards, however wants "a heck of a lot more than £1 million... We could also get more than one pool, or a much fancier pool than the one currently planned."
Enhanced by Zemanta

Building plants builds support in South Korea from World Nuclear News by Jeremy Gordon

Support for the nuclear power industry is rising in South Korea following the country's successful bid to construct four APR1400 reactors in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, August 27, 2010

Study of Coal Ash Sites Finds Extensive Water Contamination

Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers: "A study released on Thursday finds that 39 sites in 21 states where coal-fired power plants dump their coal ash are contaminating water with toxic metals such as arsenic and other pollutants, and that the problem is more extensive than previously estimated."
Read the Article
Enhanced by Zemanta

India's Nuclear Plan Advances

India's lower house approves nuclear-liability packagehttp://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704540904575451394292528652.html?mod=dist_smartbrief
The Indian parliament's lower chamber has cleared a civilian nuclear energy bill after the government agreed to triple accident-liability coverage to $321.5 million. The bill, which is expected to win approval from the upper chamber, is expected to ease implementation of a 2008 U.S.-India nuclear-cooperation deal that would provide India's scientists access to U.S. technology. The Wall Street Journal
Enhanced by Zemanta

Boehner: GOP ready to revive Yucca Posted by Steve Tetreault

Boehner: Yucca project will get support from GOP-led Congress
A Republican-controlled House of Representatives would back the revival of the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste repository in Nevada, said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. In an interview, the lawmaker said tons of waste remains stored at the country's nuclear facilities because the Yucca project can't move forward. "We've invested tens of billions of dollars in a storage facility that's as safe as anything we're going to find," he said. Las Vegas Review-Journal/The Political Eye bloghttp://www.lvrj.com/blogs/politics/Boehner_GOP_ready_to_revive_Yucca.html?ref=388
Enhanced by Zemanta

Energy use is way down - but wind surges

Study: Total energy use in the U.S. fell by 5% from 2008 to 2009http://money.cnn.com/2010/08/26/news/economy/energy_use/
Energy consumption in the U.S. declined by almost 5% to an estimated 94.6 quadrillion British thermal units in 2009, compared with 99.2 quadrillion BTUs in 2008. This marked the biggest known annual drop in the country's energy use, according to A.J. Simon, an analyst at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. However, renewable-energy use in the same period surged on a percentage basis, with consumption of wind power rising from 0.51 quadrillion BTUs in 2008 to 0.7 quadrillion BTUs this past year, the LLNL said. CNNMoney.com
Enhanced by Zemanta

Editorial: No spin: Windmills fail


    * Editorial: Wind lags far behind nuclear in efficiency
      Wind energy isn't competitive with other forms of energy, writes the Orange County Register editorial board. Windmills are expensive and operate at no more than 40% of their maximum production levels, while nuclear plants reach 95%, the editorial points out. The Orange County Register (Calif.)

Enhanced by Zemanta

* Energy Dept. may spend about $1B to refurbish nuclear site

Idaho National Lab facility up for $1B makeover

Read more: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2010/08/26/1316100/inl-facility-up-for-1-billion.html#ixzz0xp56MRZq      

      The Department of Energy announced plans to upgrade equipment and refurbish buildings at the Idaho National Laboratory's Naval Reactor Facility, a project expected to cost about $1 billion. Wear and tear at the site, which has been used to store used nuclear fuel from reactors in U.S. Navy ships, could hamper its refueling and de-fueling capabilities, the department said. The Idaho Statesman
Enhanced by Zemanta



In "The Twilight of the Bombs," the fourth and final volume of his epic history of the nuclear era, author Richard Rhodes examines "how the dangerous post-Cold War transition was managed, who its heroes were, what we learned from it, and where it carried us."

Covering the years 1990-2010, from the collapse of the Soviet Union onward, much of the latest history is familiar.  But by focusing on nuclear weapons development, proliferation and testing, Rhodes fashions his own narrative arc, enriched by new interviews and insights.

In the end, he sees a hopeful trajectory of "nuclear limitation and foreclosure:  from Mikhail Gorbachev's and Ronald Reagan's initiatives to end the Cold War, to the voluntary disarming of the former Soviet republics and the security of nuclear materials, to the U.S. and Russia's deepening mutual arms reduction, to the up-and-down negotiations with North Korea that have nevertheless prevented another Korean war, to international diplomatic pressure brought to bear effectively on India and Pakistan, to the persistent march forward of negotiations toward treaties to limit nuclear testing and proliferation."  (However, Rhodes does not specifically address the case of Iran's nuclear program, as noted by Tim Rutten in an August 18 review in the Los Angeles Times.)

In the concluding pages of the book, Rhodes posits an analogy between previous campaigns to eradicate or limit disease and current efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, which he deems both necessary and feasible.  "In 1999, for the first time in human history, infectious diseases no longer ranked first among causes of death worldwide" thanks to the discipline of public health.  In a similarly efficacious way, he says, the ingredients of the analogous discipline of public safety against nuclear weapons "have already begun to assemble themselves: materials control and accounting, cooperative threat reduction, security guarantees, agreements and treaties, surveillance and inspection, sanctions, forceful disarming if all else fails."

"The Twilight of the Bombs" cannot match Rhodes' first volume on "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" for sheer mythological power, but it is fluidly and eloquently written.  The author's prose ranges widely, sometimes vertiginously:  In the book's Index, Scott Ritter comes right after Rainer Maria Rilke, the Ayatollah Khomeini is just above Nicole Kidman, and Sig Hecker of Los Alamos is separated from Jesse Helms by G.W.F. Hegel.

Mr. Rhodes (who I should say has been a consistent supporter of Secrecy News) ends the book with Acknowledgments, including a valentine to his wife:  "She, not thermonuclear fusion, makes the sun shine."
Enhanced by Zemanta

Generating Power from Electricity in the Air by Kevin Bullis

Generating Power from Electricity in the Airhttp://www.technologyreview.com/blog/energy/25671/?nlid=3437 by Kevin Bullis

Idaho Samizdat: Nuke Notes: 16th Nuclear Blog Carnival

Idaho Samizdat: Nuke Notes: 16th Nuclear Blog Carnival


16th Nuclear Blog Carnival by Dan Yurman

16th Nuclear Blog Carnival


This post is a wrap up of highlights from a round robin of nuclear energy blogs. The Carnival is hosted each week at a different blog site.
beachchairIt’s quiet the week before Labor Day, but there’s always some nuclear news.
At Next Big Future Brian Wang has an interesting update on the Pebble Bed reactor project. It is over in South Africa, but R&D on the technology is alive and well at the University of California – Berkeley. Prof. Per Peterson is trying to get it commercialized by 2020 and can achieve over 50% burn and set the stage for LFTR, IFR or fission/fusion hybrids.
Barry Brook at Brave New Climate also visited to Prof Per Peterson and Prof Jasmina Vujic at the Nuclear Engineering Department of UC Berkeley to talk about advanced reactor research.
In more news about advanced reactor R&D, Brian Wang reports the Russian government has allocated the equivalent of $3.6 billion in this field over the next decade.
Casting a wider net to include current reactor technologies, Wang reports India approved the construction of two new 700 MWe PHWRs at Kakrapar in Gujarat state. They are expected to start operating in 2012.
finish the jobAt NEI Nuclear Notes Dave Bradish continues his fine series of analyses on the benefits of nuclear energy. This week he looks at employment and job creation comparing nuclear energy to hydro, coal, wind, and solar.
NNadir is posting at NuclearGreen. He reports that residual heat from four VVER reactors could be piped 40 Km to the Czech town of Brno. He says the the supply should also be very reliable. There have been no unplanned shutdowns at Dukovany's four reactors in the last ten years.
A nuclear reactor is a terrible thing to waste. Rod Adams writes at Atomic Insights that refurbishing the Zion plant in Illinois would make a lot more sense than decommissioning it. EnergySolutions has been hired by plant owner Exelon to do the work which will take ten years and cost $900 million.
Kirk Sorensen at Energy from Thorium is deep into the technology, and measurement, of uranium enrichment for use in commercial nuclear power plants. Bring your calculator.
The Democratic primary for governor in Vermont, which is a five way race, is still too close to call writes Meredith Angwin at Yes Vermont Yankee. Why should you care? The reason is State Rep Peter Shumlin,the arch-druid of anti-nuclear forces in Vermont, is leading the pack by 178 votes. A recount is expected because the margin among candidates is less than 2% of the vote.
At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus reflects on modern urban life without electricity following a thunderstorm in the Washington, DC, area that took it out. She asks people to remember where the juice comes from the next time they flip the switch. Will it be there if you rely on windmills?
Nucler renaissanceAt Areva’s North American Next Energy blog, Jarret Adams casts a skeptical eye on an essay by Carl Pope, director of the Sierra Club, on Huffington Post. Pope says nukes don’t add up.
Adams asks how Pope can think that when nuclear energy’s revival already is well under way with more than 50 new plants under construction worldwide. More than 20 of these new reactors are being built in China alone.
Steve Hedges writing at Nuclear Town Hall agrees. He notes that financial analysts at Standard & Poors published this note:
“In other countries, new nuclear construction is in full swing. Many have adopted nuclear generation as an integral energy source option; about 60 nuclear plants with various reactor technologies are currently under construction around the world, and many more are in the advanced development and planning stages.”
He also reports that S&P even has positive words for Europe where “a steady stream of new reactors in Europe and Asia has established a relatively cheap supply chain and a skilled labor force there.”
In the U.S. TVA has just committed $248 million for 2011 to continue the re-start of construction of its Bellefonte reactor in Scottsboro, Ala. Read all about it at CoolHandNuke. TVA has successfully re-started a reactor at Browns Ferry and will complete work on one at Watts Bar in 2012.
At Idaho Samizdat, Dan Yurman writes that taxes and liability issues tie nukes in knots in Germany and India. If these two countries want nuclear energy, they have a strange way of showing it. India’s parliament finally passed the liability measure after protracted debate. It will open Indian markets to U.S. firms. Germany’s nuclear utilities now want to issue government backed bonds to pay for investment in alternative technologies instead of paying a tax on fuel rods. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bringing Israel's Bomb Out of the Basement By AVNER COHEN and MARVIN MILLER Published: August 25, 2010

In the shadow of the Holocaust, Israel made a determined and ultimately successful effort to acquire nuclear weapons. Just as fear of genocide is the key to understanding Israel’s nuclear resolve, that fear has also encouraged nuclear restraint. After all, if Israel’s enemies also acquired the bomb, the small Jewish state might well face destruction. Moreover, the specter of killing large numbers of innocent people was morally unsettling.
This combination of resolve and restraint led to a nuclear posture known as opacity, which is fundamentally different from that of all other nuclear weapons states. Israel neither affirms nor denies its possession of nuclear weapons; indeed, the government refuses to say anything factual about its nuclear activities, and Israeli citizens are encouraged, both by law and by custom, to follow suit.

Israel ponders a nuclear Iran from It is 6 Minutes to Midnight | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Avner Cohen

Of all the international nuclear-related challenges facing Israel, the most urgent and important is the possibility of a nuclear Iran.1 Israel's intense response to Iran tells us much about Israel's own existential predicament. The consensus in Israel is that the advent of a nuclear Iran, albeit depending on what this would mean exactly, would pose an unprecedented threat to Israel. For the first time, Israel would confront a hostile state in the region that possesses nuclear weapons.

If Israel Attacks Bruce Riedel

IN A secret special national intelligence estimate (SNIE) in 1960, the American intelligence community concluded that “possession of a nuclear weapon capability . . . would clearly give Israel a greater sense of security, self-confidence, and assertiveness.” For almost half a century since, Israel has possessed a nuclear-weapons monopoly in the Middle East, a monopoly it has fought hard to preserve.
Israel has never acknowledged publicly that it is a nuclear-weapons state, but it has also never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Now the Arabs, led by Egypt, are demanding that Israel do so or they will sabotage the future of the NPT regime. They rightly argue that Washington has a double standard when it comes to Israel’s bomb: the NPT applies to all but Israel. Indeed, every Israeli prime minister since David Ben-Gurion has deliberately taken an evasive posture on the issue because they do not want to admit what everyone knows. Now that era may be coming to an end, raising fundamental questions about Israel’s strategic situation in the region.
Perhaps never before has the government in Jerusalem felt under greater threat than with the Iranian atomic program. The temptation is to attack. It is an exercise in futility with likely disastrous results. The United States should take steps to assure Israel’s deterrence remains strong, as this is the only way to both prevent an Israeli assault on Iran in the short term and to contain Tehran in the future.
FOR ANYONE in doubt of Israel’s nuclear capabilities, first a few facts. Israel’s longtime pursuit of the bomb is fairly well known; recent scholarship in Israel has clarified the details further still.
In 1952, Ben-Gurion set up the Israel Atomic Energy Commission—just four years after independence—and concluded a deal with France a few years later to secretly build the Dimona nuclear reactor. Shimon Peres, today Israel’s president, was the key negotiator and architect of the deal. By 1960, as the declassified SNIE shows, the CIA had uncovered the project and was convinced that “plutonium production for weapons is at least one major purpose of this effort.” President John F. Kennedy tried to persuade Israel to forego the bomb without success.
The program moved quickly, and as of 1974 the U.S. intelligence community believed “that Israel already has produced and stockpiled a small number of fission weapons.”1 Press reporting about the Israeli program became common in the 1970s.
An Israeli employee at Dimona, Mordechai Vanunu, told the London Sunday Times in 1986 that it was a bomb factory. He was then kidnapped by the Mossad and imprisoned in Israel. Vanunu revealed that the Dimona plant had produced enough plutonium to construct between one hundred and two hundred nuclear weapons. Some who interviewed him even suggest that Israel may have found his revelations a useful but deniable way to confirm the existence of its nuclear arsenal.2
The size of Israel’s stockpile today (agreed upon by most think tanks around the world) is estimated at around eighty to one hundred nuclear weapons by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ annual survey of global nuclear arsenals. They can be delivered by aircraft or by multistage Jericho ballistic missiles. We are talking about a well-armed atomic state.
ISRAEL’S POSSESSION of the bomb has given it the self-confidence and assertiveness that the U.S. intelligence community expected it would in 1960. Prime minister after prime minister has been willing to take risks knowing Israel has the ultimate deterrent.
Research in Israel suggests Egypt’s concern about the Dimona bomb was an important factor in Cairo forcing a crisis with Israel in May 1967. Publicly alarmed by the Dimona project, Egypt’s reconnaissance flights over the nuclear site helped set the stage for the Six-Day War. And though it is very difficult to document just how much the bomb factored in decisions such as the Israeli preemptive strike on Egypt that June which won the war less than an hour after its start, or the decision in October 1973 not to preempt the Egyptian and Syrian attack on Yom Kippur, since Israeli leaders carefully avoid any discussion of their nuclear arsenal or its role in their strategy, it is obvious that possession of a nuclear capability must be a factor in the thinking of any state’s leaders in developing their strategy and plans.
It is also abundantly clear that Israel’s nuclear capability has not kept its enemies from attacking. Iranian-backed terrorist groups Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank have both fired rockets into Israel in two recent wars despite the country’s possession of nuclear weapons that could obliterate them all. This too is no surprise. Other atomic-weapons states, including America, have found that their nuclear deterrents do not prevent conventional war or terrorism. But they can prevent massive retaliation.
The Israelis have threatened to use their capability at least once. In 1991, on the eve of the first Gulf War, then–Israeli Deputy Chief of Staff Ehud Barak told King Hussein of Jordan to pass the following message to Saddam Hussein at a secret meeting in England: “If one single chemical warhead falls on Israel, we’ll hit Iraq with everything we have got. . . . look at your watch and forty minutes later an Iraqi city will be reduced to ashes.”3 It worked. Saddam fired conventionally armed warheads at Tel Aviv, Haifa and Dimona, but no chemicals.
ISRAEL SEES its nuclear monopoly as a key factor in its security. Successive Israeli governments have thus ensured that no other state in the Middle East becomes nuclear armed. Time and again, the challenge arises; time and again, the Israelis thwart the attempt. Egypt certainly tried to develop a bomb, but a combination of technical constraints, Israeli sabotage operations and the Soviets’ unwillingness to share technology prevented the Egyptian program from advancing. President Anwar el-Sadat largely abandoned the effort once he made the decision to seek peace with Israel. Iraq was next.
On June 7, 1981, the Israeli air force attacked and destroyed Saddam’s nuclear reactor at Tuwaitha in Operation Babylon, setting back its nuclear-weapons program several years. Ironically, Tuwaitha was also French supplied, and King Hussein saw the Israeli aircraft overfly his yacht on their way to and from the site. Two days later, Prime Minister Menachem Begin said publicly that “we shall not allow any enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction.” The Begin doctrine would be accepted by his successors.
Though the Iraqi nuclear program was delayed, it was not eliminated, and so the Israelis helped to hamper it once again. After the liberation of Kuwait, the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discovered that Iraq had recovered from the Israeli attack and had developed a highly advanced, secret centrifuge-enrichment project. Over the next several years Israel provided considerable intelligence assistance to UNSCOM and the IAEA as these agencies systematically destroyed the Iraqi program. By 1995, Israel was the most important single contributor among the dozens of UN member states that supplied information to UNSCOM according to those (myself included) who were involved in supporting the UN effort.4 Such assistance was entirely appropriate and consistent with Israel’s responsibilities as a UN member state, but it also helped ensure Israel kept its monopoly on the bomb.
On September 6, 2007, the Israeli air force struck once more and destroyed a nuclear facility in Al Kibar, Syria. The Israeli government said almost nothing about the attack at the time and very little since. Unlike Begin, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not make it a public issue, and for their own reasons neither did the Syrians.
The CIA released a remarkable video about the facility in April 2008. According to the video, Al Kibar was a North Korean–built, gas-worked, graphite-moderated nuclear reactor intended to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. It was a clone of North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor; only North Korea has built such a facility. Al Kibar was the product of a decade-old Syrian-Korean nuclear partnership, meaning it began under former-President Hafez al-Assad and continued under his son Bashar, the CIA reported. The video made use of both satellite and ground photography as well as other unspecified sources of information. The reactor was externally complete by August 2007. The video reported that since September 2006, Syria had taken great steps to conceal and cover up what was eventually destroyed by the Israelis.
The only exception to the rule is Pakistan—the one Muslim state which has developed a nuclear arsenal. But in this case we are talking about a geographically distant country, and one that has never participated in military operations against Israel. Islamabad developed its bomb primarily during the era of Mohammad Zia ul-Haq’s dictatorship in the 1980s, when it was closely allied with the United States and fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. A. Q. Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb, has claimed that Zia warned Israel that if it tried to interfere with Pakistan’s program he would destroy Tel Aviv. When Islamabad did test its bombs in 1998, it tried to argue that Israel was on the verge of attacking its nuclear facilities and the tests were in self-defense. The charade of blaming Israel fooled no one.
ISRAEL NOW faces the biggest-ever challenge to its monopoly on the bomb in the Middle East from Iran. For Israel, Tehran is a dangerous opponent, close and threatening. There is a virtually unanimous consensus in Israel that Iran cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. From left to right, Israelis see an existential threat to their very survival. Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum in Jerusalem in 2007 that Iran is a “crazy,” even suicidal, state that will be prepared to sacrifice millions of its own citizens in a nuclear exchange with Israel.
Though other Israeli leaders are more cautious, even they are strongly determined to keep Israel’s monopoly on nuclear weapons. Ephraim Sneh, former deputy defense minister and a much-decorated retired general in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), notes that “the most salient strategic threat to Israel’s existence is Iran.” They fear Israel’s strategic room for maneuver in the region would be constrained by an Iranian nuclear deterrent. The success of Hezbollah and Hamas in the last few years has only added to Israeli concern.
It is clear from statements of Israeli military and intelligence officials and numerous press leaks that planning for a military operation to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is well under way in Israel. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said that “the things that we do behind the scenes, far from the public eye, are far more important than the slogan charade,” implying that Israeli covert capabilities are already hard at work trying to cope with the Iranian threat, and preparing to attack it if they must. It is impossible to know what those plans entail in detail without access to the IDF’s classified documents, but Israelis say the mission is not an impossible one.
It is certainly a challenging one. Distance alone makes Iran a much more difficult target than Iraq or Syria. The most direct route from Israel to Iran’s Natanz facility is roughly 1,750 kilometers across Jordan and Iraq. The alternatives via Turkish airspace (over 2,200 kilometers) or Saudi airspace (over 2,400 kilometers) would also put the attack force into the skies of American allies equipped with American fighter aircraft. Moreover, unlike Iraq and Syria, but like Pakistan, the Iranian program is dispersed throughout several facilities and sites around the country, some of which are underground and hardened. An attack might require multiple missions over several days. Israel would have to assume some aircraft and pilots would be lost.
Though Israel is giving diplomacy and sanctions time to change Iranian behavior, few in Jerusalem expect the soft approach to work. Most also doubt the United States will use force. America already is engaged in two wars in the Middle East, and all the disadvantages of an Israeli attack apply to an American one as well. To keep its monopoly on the bomb Israel may well choose to strike.
AN ISRAELI attack on Iran is a disaster in the making. And it will directly impact key strategic American interests. Iran will see an attack as American supported if not American orchestrated. The aircraft in any strike will be American-produced, -supplied and -funded F-15s and F-16s, and most of the ordnance will be from American stocks. Washington’s $3 billion in assistance annually makes possible the IDF’s conventional superiority in the region.
Iran will almost certainly retaliate against both U.S. and Israeli targets. To demonstrate its retaliatory prowess, Iran has already fired salvos of test missiles (some of which are capable of striking Israel), and Iranian leaders have warned they would respond to an attack by either Israel or the United States with attacks against Tel Aviv, U.S. ships and facilities in the Persian Gulf, and other targets. Even if Iran chooses to retaliate in less risky ways, it could respond indirectly by encouraging Hezbollah attacks against Israel and Shia militia attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, as well as terrorist attacks against American and Israeli targets in the Middle East and beyond.
America’s greatest vulnerability would be in Afghanistan. Iran could easily increase its assistance to the Taliban and make the already-difficult Afghan mission much more complicated. Western Afghanistan is especially vulnerable to Iranian mischief, and NATO has few troops there to cover a vast area. President Obama would have to send more, not fewer, troops to fight that war.
Making matters worse, considering the likely violent ramifications, even a successful Israeli raid would only delay Iran’s nuclear program, not eliminate it entirely. In fact, some Israeli intelligence officials suspect that delay would only be a year or so. Thus the United States would still need a strategy to deal with the basic problem of Iran’s capabilities after an attack, but in a much more complicated diplomatic context since Tehran would be able to argue it was the victim of aggression and probably would renounce its NPT commitments. Support for the existing sanctions on Iran after a strike would likely evaporate.
The United States needs to send a clear red light to Israel. There is no option but to actively discourage an Israeli attack. There is precedent for Washington telling Israel not to use force against a military threat. In the 1991 Gulf War, President George H. W. Bush pressed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir not to target Iraqi Scud missile launchers that were attacking Israel. Most importantly, Bush refused to give the Israelis the iff codes (encrypted signals to identify aircraft as “friend or foe”) and approval to enter Iraqi airspace, thereby indicating that Israeli aircraft would be flying into harm’s way. Israel’s preferred option of a limited ground-force incursion into western Iraq was also turned down. Of course, in 1991 we were at war with Iraq and committed to stepping up our own attacks on Iraqi Scuds, but the point remains—America does have influence and it should be wielded.
PERSUADING ISRAEL not to attack Iran really means convincing Israel that now is the time to give up its regional nuclear monopoly. If we are going to do so, that means enhancing Israel’s deterrence posture. This is the only way Israel can feel (and will be) safe from an Iranian nuclear threat.
Iran will be subject to the same deterrence system that other nuclear-weapons states have accommodated since 1945: it will try to use its nuclear status to intimidate non-nuclear-weapons nations but will avoid conflict that could escalate into an atomic exchange with another nuclear power. Without doubt, throughout its history the Islamic Republic has behaved very disagreeably, but it has been careful to avoid taking actions that would lead to catastrophic consequences.
In the defining event of modern U.S.-Iran relations, for example, the hostage crisis of 1979–1981, Tehran acted in ways that were in clear violation of international law, but when it perceived a given course would provoke a massive violent American response, it desisted. In the summer of 1980 Iranian leaders repeatedly threatened to put the American hostages on trial for espionage. President Jimmy Carter made clear that any trials would produce a military response and Iran retreated. In the 1988 undeclared naval war in the Persian Gulf between the United States and Iran over reflagged Kuwaiti tankers, Iran attacked U.S. Navy ships but was careful to keep the conflict from escalating into a full-scale war. When the USS Vincennes inadvertently shot down an Iran Air civilian airliner, Ayatollah Khomeini sensed the conflict was getting out of control and agreed to a cease-fire with Iraq and the United States.
Throughout the Iran-Iraq war, Tehran also chose to avoid actions that would cross WMD thresholds. It was Iraq that first used chemical weapons on the battlefield, not Iran, and it was Iraq that first used missiles against Iranian cities. In the mid-1990s, when the United States determined Iran was behind the terrorist attack on the U.S. Air Force barracks at Khobar, Saudi Arabia, and warned Iran that any further attacks would prompt military retaliation, Iran desisted from carrying out operations on American military facilities in the Gulf and elsewhere. Today Iran is careful to limit its support of anti-American insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan to low-intensity conflict and asymmetric warfare to avoid a major American military response. Contrary to Netanyahu’s cries, Iran is not a crazy state. A nuclear security guarantee to Israel, if backed by a credible arsenal, will deter Tehran.
IN SUCH a dire (but manageable) situation, the United States needs to bolster Israel’s capabilities now. The administration should take another look at extending the American nuclear umbrella. It is an idea that has long been floated. At the Camp David summit in 2000, then–Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak first raised the idea of a U.S.-Israeli mutual-defense treaty to provide Israel with a nuclear guarantee against Iran while sitting in a meeting with then-President Bill Clinton and two note takers (me and an Israeli). Clinton was positive about the idea if the summit succeeded. The proposal died when the Israeli-Palestinian peace process collapsed. But it is worth taking another look. And it is a policy prescription not too difficult to employ.
Of course, Israel’s own nuclear arsenal should be sufficient to deter Iran, but an American nuclear guarantee would add an extra measure of assurance to Israelis. If the United States guarantees Israel a nuclear umbrella, then Iran knows no matter what damage it may inflict on Israel, Washington will be able to retaliate with overwhelming force. Iran would have no delivery system capable of striking back at the U.S. homeland. It would be the target of both whatever residual capability Israel retained and the vast American nuclear arsenal. That is a deterrent indeed.
It would be made even stronger if the administration could develop a multinational nuclear deterrent for Israel by making Israel a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Under Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty, an attack on any member is an attack on the whole. As a NATO member, Israel would automatically enjoy the same nuclear umbrella as the existing twenty-eight members. Israel is already a member of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue and conducts limited military exercises with several NATO partners besides the United States, notably including both Greece and Turkey.
Of course, getting Israel into NATO would be a very hard sell, as many of the European allies believe Israel has done too little to bring about peace with its Arab neighbors and would probably condition support for Israeli membership on concrete and public moves toward a final peace agreement. European public opinion is increasingly wary of enlarging NATO in any direction, and many would find Israel an unattractive ally which could commit Europeans to fighting Arabs and Persians. In the wake of May’s Gaza flotilla incident, Turkey might veto Israeli membership.
This is why, in the meantime, the administration should go another step and actually assist Israel in developing its own second-strike capabilities further. Already the United States has been deeply involved in building Israel’s defense against an Iranian missile strike. For almost two decades the Pentagon has been working closely with Israel to perfect the Arrow anti-tactical ballistic-missile (ATBM) system. The two countries have shared extensive technology on the question of ATBMs, including integrating Israel into the most advanced American early-warning radar systems to provide the earliest possible alert of an incoming attack. This defensive cooperation should be continued and enhanced.
The next step would be to ensure Israel has the delivery systems that would safeguard a second-strike capability. The F-15I probably already does so for the immediate future, but it is worth examining the wisdom of providing the F-22 stealth aircraft to the IDF as an even-more-sophisticated attack system that would be able to assure Israel’s deterrence far into the future. Prime Minister Barak raised this issue with President Clinton at the Camp David summit in 2000, and it too should be reexamined. We might look at providing Israel with advanced cruise-missile technology or even nuclear-powered submarines with missile capabilities to enhance its capacity to launch from platforms at sea.
THE ERA of Israel’s monopoly on nuclear weapons in the Middle East is probably coming to an end. Israel will still have a larger arsenal than any of its neighbors, including Iran, for years if not decades. It will face threats of terror and conventional attack, but it already faces those. With American help it can enhance its deterrence capabilities considerably. It has no reason to lose its self-confidence. But to avoid the potential for all-out war not only between Israel and Iran but also between the United States and the Islamic Republic, Washington needs to act now. Only by enhancing Israel’s nuclear capability will America be able to strongly and credibly deter an Israeli attack on Tehran’s facilities.
The clock is ticking on the IDF’s plans. And the lives of hundreds, if not millions, are at stake.

Bruce Riedel is a senior fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. A career CIA officer, he has advised four presidents on Middle East and South Asian issues in the White House on the staff of the NSC.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Iran Proposes Consortium With Russia To Produce Nuclear Fuel

ran has proposed formation of a consortium with Russia to produce fuel in both the countries for its first nuclear power plant built with the Moscow's technical support.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told the country's official news agency IRNA on Thursday that the Russian government was studying an Iranian proposal for joint fuel production. He proposed to start the consortium under Russian license.

A nuclear power plant built by Russia's state-run atomic energy corporation ROSATOM in the Gulf port of Bushehr became operational last week.

Russia has agreed to supply fuel for the plant and take back the post-production waste until 2020 to avoid any misuse for proliferation purposes. The Bushehr nuclear facility will be an Iran-Russia joint venture for three years, after which Tehran will hold the sole ownership.

ROSATOM says it could take six months for the reactor to become fully operational.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Kiriyenko Sees Nuclear Renaissance

Kiriyenko Sees Nuclear Renaissance

TORONTO — Rosatom said Tuesday that the number of nuclear power plants globally will double by 2030 in a “nuclear renaissance.”
“We would like to double in size also,” chief executive Sergei Kiriyenko said in an interview after speaking to investors in Toronto.
Uranium demand will double or triple as more governments turn to nuclear energy, Kiriyenko said. Prices will climb even as production increases, he said.
“I don’t think the price will skyrocket, but the tendency is growth,” he said.
Rosatom is seeking more sources of uranium so that it can supply fuel to the reactors it is building for foreign clients. The company said in May that it was ready to invest $1 billion to develop deposits in Namibia, the fourth-biggest producer. In June, Rosatom’s uranium holding ARMZ unit agreed to acquire a controlling interest in Toronto-based Uranium One for $610 million in cash, plus stakes in two Kazakh mines.
Rosatom has no plans to lift its stake in Uranium One to more than 51 percent. It will keep the Canadian company publicly traded as that will help secure more financing, Kiriyenko said in his speech to investors.
The Russian company and Uranium One are in talks on “prospects for development of our joint company,” Kiriyenko said in the interview. “If those talks succeed, there may be need for more borrowing.”


Enhanced by Zemanta

Areva, Westinghouse Nuclear Reactor Designs Likely to Win U.K. Approval

Enhanced by Zemanta

Safe and Secure: Protecting Our Nuclear Energy Facilities

Nuclear power plant.Image via WikipediaA six-minute, streaming video clip presenting the security measures in effect at nuclear power plants, including a regimen of armed guards, patrols, detection equipment, and physical barriers, as well as the design of the plant itself. In addition, company security directors and plant security officers share their expertise in keeping our nation's nuclear plants secure.

Download a high- or low-resolution version of the video or watch the streaming version below or on NEI's YouTube channel.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Nakhai: Bushehr Plant Going Hot by Behrad Nakhai on Juan Cole's Blog

Bushehr logoImage via Wikipedia

Nuclear engineer Behrad Nakhai writes in a guest editorial for Informed Comment
A brief overview of Bushehr nuclear power plant startup (Simplified)
Finally, nuclear fuel loading of Bushehr nuclear power plant started on Saturday 21 August 2010, aided by the Russians. In technology, Russia has always trailed US, although they have somehow been able to keep up with the final products, albeit at inferior levels.
Russia has a less stringent safety standard than the West, particularly US. Under strenuous circumstances, the lower safety standard could elevate minor events to major and serious events. Two serious weaknesses of the relaxed standards are quality control and adherence to the procedures. In US, the procedures are taken very seriously, even though they often seem silly to an untrained individual. It is not uncommon to see “turning the light switch on/off” as part of the procedure. The purpose of such minute details is to leave nothing to chance, memory, or interpretation. Every step MUST be retraceable and documented. Violation of any of the steps can lead to disciplinary and punitive actions, including dismissal. The importance of the procedures cannot be overemphasized. Lack of adherence to the procedures and quality control were the “reasons” for the accident at Chernobyl. Fortunately, the same type of accident cannot occur in VVER–an entirely different design –, although a sever accident can completely damaged the reactor much like the Three Mile Island reactor, but likewise without casualties or causing any damages to the surrounding areas. It should be noted that lack of proper training was the fundamental cause of the accident at Three Mile Island. Fortunately, detailed training and retraining are now mandatory at nuclear power plants in US.
The other weakness in Russian technology is in instrumentation and control. Their systems are not as advanced and fine tuned as those in US. To make up for these deficiencies, either the margins must be increased, which in turn affects the plant efficiency, or safety margin be compromised which affects the plant safety.
The fact that Bushehr’s components come from different vendors is not a cause for concern–components and parts for most US nuclear power plants come from different vendors. However, the fact that these components come from different vendors with different standards and practices is somewhat worrisome. In technology, the whole system is as good as its least dependable component. Nuclear grade manufacturing is quite different from non-nuclear grade manufacturing, you cannot cut corners. One bad actor could lead to serious consequences.
It is encouraging to know that Russian technicians and operators will be co-operating Bushehr plant for at least the first three years. This will give Iran the time to develop and institute a robust training program for Iranian operators and technicians while on the job.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Counter-Frames in Action: Is Nuclear Power a Rip-Off or a Climate Solution? Matthew C. Nisbet

Perhaps the most effective frame used by opponents of nuclear energy is that it is simply not "cost effective."  Not only is it wasteful, argue opponents, but government subsidies are a leading example of the big-money influence of industry lobbyists. As the Sierra Club's Carl Pope told Big Think in a 2008 video interview: "This is not an energy source, it's a way to hijack the treasury...This is a huge rip off."
Building public support for re-investment in nuclear energy, I wrote earlier this week, turns on a re-framing of the issue. As I described in a paper published last year, opponents of expansion have a powerful and resonant framing arsenal that they draw upon.
Yet several comments in response to my post I think point to the seeds of an effective counter frame. As does the view expressed by fmr. EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman, who places nuclear energy in the larger context of energy independence and climate change.
Watch Carl Pope discuss the issue in the video below.  Following that, I have posted a comment from earlier this week along with video of a 2008 Big Think interview with Christine Todd Whitman.  What do readers think?  How do we move beyond the heat on the issue and open a space for substantive discussion and informed decision-making?  Are statements like Pope's helpful or a hindrance to this goal? What do you think of the counter-arguments?

The Real Costs of DOD Petroleum Dependence -- Natural Security Blog

DoD Petroleum Dependence Is Costly

U.S. Air Force airmen assigned to the Air Force Reserve Command's 459th Air Refueling Wing refuel a C-17 Globemaster III over Joint Base Andrews, Md., Aug. 14, 2010. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Amber Russell
Yesterday The Washington Post reported that US gasoline prices have hit an 8-month low. The article reports that “the sagging commodity market price for gasoline is good news for American motorists, promising a mild easing in pump prices. It also marks the end of a summer of relative stability for retail gasoline prices, which have fluctuated by about 20 cents per gallon since the beginning of the year and have stayed in an 8-cent range for the past 69 days.” But the drop in oil prices may ultimately prove to be a bad thing for America’s energy policy, and particularly for the way that DOD shapes its energy strategy.

Read more ....


Timeline: Weapons Technology -- New Scientist Explore the history of war and weapons with our timeline of weapons technology.

Throughout history, societies have put their best minds to work creating new weapons (Image: Sipa Press / Rex Features)
Throughout history, societies have put their best minds to work creating new weapons (Image: Sipa Press / Rex Features)

Please note, many of the technologies are difficult to attribute, and historical dates are often approximate.

Read more

Atlantic: The Point of No Return Jeffrey Goldberg

September 1, 2010

In the gap between Washington’s and Jerusalem’s views of Iran lies the question: who, if anyone, will stop Iran before it goes nuclear, and how? As Washington and Jerusalem study each other intensely, here’s an inside look at the strategic calculations on both sides—and at how, if things remain on the current course, an Israeli air strike will unfold.

It is possible that at some point in the next 12 months, the imposition of devastating economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran will persuade its leaders to cease their pursuit of nuclear weapons. It is also possible that Iran’s reform-minded Green Movement will somehow replace the mullah-led regime, or at least discover the means to temper the regime’s ideological extremism. It is possible, as well, that “foiling operations” conducted by the intelligence agencies of Israel, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western powers—programs designed to subvert the Iranian nuclear effort through sabotage and, on occasion, the carefully engineered disappearances of nuclear scientists—will have hindered Iran’s progress in some significant way. It is also possible that President Obama, who has said on more than a few occasions that he finds the prospect of a nuclear Iran “unacceptable,” will order a military strike against the country’s main weapons and uranium-enrichment facilities.

But none of these things—least of all the notion that Barack Obama, for whom initiating new wars in the Middle East is not a foreign-policy goal, will soon order the American military into action against Iran—seems, at this moment, terribly likely. What is more likely, then, is that one day next spring, the Israeli national-security adviser, Uzi Arad, and the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, will simultaneously telephone their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon, to inform them that their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has just ordered roughly one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran—possibly by crossing Saudi Arabia, possibly by threading the border between Syria and Turkey, and possibly by traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft. (It’s so crowded, in fact, that the United States Central Command, whose area of responsibility is the greater Middle East, has already asked the Pentagon what to do should Israeli aircraft invade its airspace. According to multiple sources, the answer came back: do not shoot them down.)

In these conversations, which will be fraught, the Israelis will tell their American counterparts that they are taking this drastic step because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people. The Israelis will also state that they believe they have a reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years. They will tell their American colleagues that Israel was left with no choice. They will not be asking for permission, because it will be too late to ask for permission.
Full Text of Document
Enhanced by Zemanta

Iran Goes Nuclear from SWJ Blog by SWJ Editors

Iran Goes Nuclear:
An Analysis of the Bushehr Nuclear Plant and Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks
by Renanah Miles
Download the Full Article: Iran Goes Nuclear
Iran won’t swerve first and Russia will do as Russia pleases are, perhaps, the intended takeaways from Sunday’s ceremony opening the Bushehr nuclear power plant. The event itself was uncharacteristically subdued, factual, just one more tick on the clock counting down to Iran going nuclear. But in light of Bushehr, it’s a very different announcement made two days prior that is most worth considering: Resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks next month. Progress in the talks is critical to buying Israel, America and wary Arab states strategic room to maneuver with Iran.
With impeccable timing, the news preempted the spotlight from Bushehr, and will likely do so again in September. The planned start date for the talks – September 2 – is purportedly linked to the expiration date of the Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank at the end of September, an incendiary issue that if resumed would likely burn bridges to negotiation yet again. If talks start on time though, it will handily refocus attention off another Iranian milestone the same weekend – Bushehr is scheduled to become operational Sunday, September 5.
Download the Full Article: Iran Goes Nuclear
Renanah Miles is a student in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University. From 2007-2008, she deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The views in this article are her own. They do not reflect the official views of the United States Government.

Russia's Newest Nuclear Sub Starts Sea Trials

File image.

Moscow, Russia (RIA Novosti) Aug 26, 2010 Russia's newest strategic nuclear-powered submarine, the Borey-class Yury Dolgoruky, started a series of sea trials in the White Sea, the Sevmash shipyard said on Thursday. The trials are part of the manufacturer's test program and depending on their outcome, official state testing will begin, a Sevmash spokesman said.
The submarine, a 23-billion ruble ($755 million) project, is expected to be armed with the troubled Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

Kuwait concerned over Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant from Nuclear Weapons, Proliferation and Policy Doctrine

Kuwait City (AFP) Aug 24, 2010 - Kuwait has expressed safety concerns over Iran's new nuclear reactor on the opposite side of the Gulf, fearing fallout from possible leaks, the official news agency KUNA reported. "Kuwait's concern is based on fears of any leaks due to natural causes that may have future consequences," foreign ministry undersecretary Khaled al-Jarallah said, quoted by KUNA late on Monday.
Kuwait is the nearest country to the Russian-built nuclear plant in the Iranian city of Bushehr, located like Kuwait in the northern Gulf.
Iran loaded the Bushehr facility with nuclear fuel last Saturday and the United States said there was no "proliferation risk" from the civilian plant because of Russian involvement.
A number of Kuwaiti MPs, however, have called on the government to take precautionary measures against any incident from Iran's first nuclear plant.
But Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters at his weekly press conference on Tuesday that the Bushehr plant adheres to "high standards" and had the seal of approval of the UN nuclear watchdog.
"Due to the high standards with regards to safeguards in the Bushehr nuclear power plant, there should be no concern about it," he said. "The International Atomic Energy Agency has approved the safeguards in the Bushehr plant."
Enhanced by Zemanta

Egypt announces site of planned nuclear plant

Cairo (AFP) Aug 25, 2010 Egypt announced on Wednesday it would build its planned nuclear powerplant on the Mediterranean coast of el-Dabaa which it hopes will start production in 2019, the state news agency MENA reported. Presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad said President Hosni Mubarak had decided in a meeting that the reactor would be located in el-Dabaa, on the coast west of the port city of Alexandria.
The meeting was "extremely important and represents a transition on the path to implement a strategic programme to ensure power supplies and peaceful uses for nuclear energy," the agency quoted Awad as saying.
Enhanced by Zemanta

India’s nuclear liability plans under fire

India Nuclear power plants map. source : http:...Image via Wikipedia

India’s national nuclear power company and major business associations have attacked the government’s proposed nuclear liability law, claiming it would jeopardise the benefits of India’s groundbreaking 2008 civil nuclear deal with the US.
Leading industry bodies said the measure would throttle the country’s fledgling nuclear power industry by deterring private companies from supplying nuclear equipment to India.

Enhanced by Zemanta