Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

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

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I've got a nuclear reactor in Yongbyon to sell Jimmy Carter

Audio: The Future of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle from CSIS

In the coming decades, nuclear power is poised to grow quickly in some parts of the world and could grow significantly here in the United States. Key decisions are pending, however, on how to structure that growth. MIT has completed a 3-year study on the Future of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle to address two overarching questions: (1) What are the long-term desirable fuel cycle options and (2) What are the implication for near-term policy choices?
On Thursday, September 16, the study co-chairs: Professor Ernest J. Moniz, Director of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) and Professor Mujid Kazimi, Director of the MIT Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems;  and Dr. Charles Forsberg, Executive Director of the MIT Fuel Cycle Study discussed the report's findings and recommendations.http://csis.org/multimedia/audio-future-nuclear-fuel-cycle?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CSIS+%28NEW+%40+CSIS.ORG%29&utm_content=Google+Reader
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Nuclear Issues To Be Featured In Obama UN Speech

The spread of nuclear weapons is expected to be one of the main issues U.S. President Barack Obama addresses when he speaks to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday (September 23). 

When President Obama takes his turn speaking to the United Nations, many of the topics he covers will be familiar, according to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

He said Friday nuclear proliferation will be high on the list. "Many of the issues that we talked about last year at the United Nations remain on the docket-concern about Iran, concern about North Korea," he said.

In his 2009 U.N. address, Mr. Obama put Iran and North Korea on notice for their nuclear activities. "But if the governments of Iran and North Korea choose to ignore international standards; if they put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability and the security and opportunity of their own people; if they are oblivious to the dangers of escalating nuclear arms races in both East Asia and the Middle East, then they must be held accountable," he said.

In the year that followed, there were no public signs that North Korea was ready to return to the six-party talks on its nuclear program.  Pyongyang walked away from those talks in April, 2009.

The United Nations imposed a fourth set of sanctions on Iran in June for refusing to stop enriching uranium.  The U.S. accuses Iran of consistently violating U.N. sanctions.

The U.S. has made greater progress in the past year in working with Russia to shrink the two former Cold War rivals' nuclear arsenals, one of the main points in the president's U.N. speech last year. "We will pursue a new agreement with Russia to substantially reduce our strategic warheads and launchers," he said.

Mr. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the New START treaty last April in Prague.  The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the treaty on Thursday.  The agreement still requires ratification from the full Senate and the Russian Duma.

Robert Gibbs said Friday this treaty will also figure prominently in Mr. Obama's U.N. address. "We go having made progress yesterday on a START treaty that we still believe that the Senate will ratify before the end of the year and mark an important accomplishment on both nations' path towards reducing our stockpile of nuclear weapons," he said.

As the president pledged last year, his administration has also completed a new Nuclear Posture Review and hosted a summit on securing nuclear material, so-called loose nukes.  But the U.S. Senate has not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
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Recycling offers solid solution for America's nuclear sector Updated: Friday, October 02, 2009, 11:33 AM Plain Dealer guest columnist Plain Dealer guest columnist By Alan S. Hanson


As the United States moves toward a low-carbon energy future, many wonder how we should best manage the waste from America's nuclear power sector, which is by far the nation's largest source of carbon-dioxide-free electricity. Recycling nuclear fuel is a proven solution that makes waste management easier, conserves natural resources, is cost competitive and reduces proliferation concerns. 

More at article

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Recycling Still Offers Solid Near Term Option for U.S. By David Jones, Vice President, Used Fuel Management

Recycling used fuel from America’s nuclear power plants, using technology available in the near term, represents a solid option for the United States. As we have stated before, recycling nuclear fuel is a proven solution that makes waste management easier, conserves natural resources, is cost competitive and reduces proliferation concerns.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology study issued a study yesterday on The Future of the Nuclear Fuel that included a number of sound recommendations, such as the creation of a quasi-government organization to implement a used fuel management strategy. However, its conclusion regarding near-term recycling merely kicks the tough decisions down the road and largely ignores the benefits it could provide.
The finding that near-term recycling is not necessary because there is no shortage of uranium resources misses the mark. It begs the question of why are we recycling glass or paper? Are we recycling glass because there is a shortage of natural resources for making new glass? No. Are we recycling paper because it is cheaper? No.
Additionally, the recommendations do not support a sustainable nuclear fuel cycle approach that supports nuclear growth scenarios. It recommends storage of used fuel for up to a century while R&D programs help answer the question “Is used fuel a waste or a resource?”—This is contrary to what is being done in nearly every other country where this question is addressed up front as a matter or policy.
The report also recommends the U.S. offer fuel leasing to other countries—but seems to fail to recognize the credibility issue of this concept. How can we expect to demonstrate leadership to the world on used fuel management when we cannot decide ourselves if used fuel is a waste or a resource?
The U.S. government already has contracts to take back commercial used fuel from U.S. electric utilities. The utilities and their customers that have contributed over $30 billion to the Nuclear Waste Fund for this service are suing the government over breach of these contracts. How can we build public acceptance for a fuel leasing arrangement with other countries when we cannot demonstrate the will to address our own inventories?
Because the conclusions of the MIT study are based on technical and economic bases, they cannot truly be considered “interdisciplinary” as the title suggests. The motivations of other nations, such as France, Japan and the United Kingdom, to recycle are not purely economic but also are informed by questions of energy security, resource conservation, public acceptance and others that reside in the social sciences.
We have confirmed that used fuel can be stored effectively at U.S. plant sites for decades, but recycling offers a safe, competitive and more sustainable alternative. That is why nearly every nation with a significant nuclear power sector, with the exception of the United States, has embraced recycling.
AREVA is the world leader in the nuclear fuel cycle and has decades of experience recycling used fuel for its customers around the world. Over the past 25 years, AREVA has safely and successfully recycled more than 24,000 metric tons of used fuel.
Click here for more on AREVA’s views on the potential for recycling in the U.S.
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IAEA approves site for Egypt's first nuclear plant Cairo, Sep 18 (IANS/RIA Novosti):

Location of El Dabaa village on the map of Egy...Image via Wikipedia

The UN nuclear watchdog IAEA has approved an Egyptian site to host the country's first nuclear power plant.

The site in El Dabaa is about 295 km from Cairo, and corresponds to all international requirements, IAEA experts said Saturday. Egypt is set to construct four nuclear power reactors by 2025, with the first of them to be put into operation in 2019
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Securing critical digital assets at nuclear power plants

It’s 10 PM. Do you know what the computers at your reactor are doing right now?
In an often cited incident, in January 2003 the Davis Besse nuclear power plant in Ohio was affected by the “Slammer” computer worm for five hours.  Although the plant was shut down at the time, and a redundant system safety system was not affected, the incident raised concerns across the nuclear industry about the arcane field of computer cyber security. 
Cyber attacks are a lot more than just Halloween pranks. They are carried out by criminals seeking to blackmail businesses or to steal intellectual property.  In case of nuclear power plants, the risks of compromised digital control systems by a cyber attack are all too real.
The issue is of critical importance for new nuclear plants that will be built in the U.S. and globally. The renewed emphasis is due to the fact that control rooms will use digital systems to operate the plants. The fact that digital instrument and control systems are now state-of-the-art makes them targets by hackers from our nation’s enemies.
The Wall Street Journal reported in April 2009 that “cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid” and left behind software to take control of it.  In May 2009 the Wall Street Journal reported that the nation’s power plants are being targeted by “well organized” efforts to break into control centers for the nation’s power plants and electric grids. 
In both reports defense officials cite Russia and China as the source of the cyber stalking incidents.  Diplomats from both countries denied the charges in statements to the WSJ.
Government response to cyber threats
What is the government doing about the threats?  The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to pushing the nation’s 104 nuclear power plants to complete cyber security plans which will be amendments to the utility licenses to operate the reactors.  The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly “quietly dispatching teams” to test power plant cyber security. 
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the federal government has launched a new program called “perfect citizen” to detect cyber attacks on power plant and their grids. The surveillance will be carried out by the National Security Agency.   The WSJ reported that defense contractor Raytheon Corp. won a $100 million contract to set up the initial phase of the system.
The computer industry isn’t impressed with this response pointing out the reason digital systems that control the nation’s electricity grid are vulnerable is because they are old.  Instead of wrapping the systems in the digital equivalent of idiot mittens experts says, the federal government should be pushing nuclear utilities to develop the most secure systems possible and helping them with technology from government labs. 
Making digital control systems resilient
Part of that is already happening. This week (August 10-12) the Idaho National Laboratory will host a major conference (flyer) on “resilient control systems.”  It turns out that keeping computers safe at a nuclear power plant takes a lot more than just putting up a firewall and calling it good.  Here’s what the lab is talking about.
  • Human Systems – Human reliability analysis that provides information on ergonomics, workload, complexity, training and experience. The analysis may be used to characterize and quantify human actions and decisions.
  • Data Fusion – Various data types associated with proper operation or performance of critical infrastructure, including cyber and physical security, process efficiency and stability, and process compliancy.
  • Cyber Awareness – Because of the human element of a malicious actor, traditional methods of achieving reliability cannot be used to characterize cyber awareness and resilience. Novel techniques in characterizing wellness and randomizing system response to the adversary are needed.
  • Complex Networked Control Systems – Understanding how control systems become more decentralized and their ability to characterize interactions, performance and security while ensuring resilience.
What’s a nuclear reactor plant owner to do?
The NRC’s has published stringent requirements for the protection of critical digital assets (CDAs) or as the NRC calls then “digital computers and communications networks.”  The Nuclear Energy Institute is working with its members and the NRC to develop technical, management, and operational controls.
Technical controls are things that can be done to actually secure CDAs.  Management controls are policies to insure the cyber security work will be done.  Operational controls are what actually happens at the plant.
The cyber security plan required by the NRC must do four things.
  • ensure the capability for timely detection and response to cyber attacks
  • mitigate the consequences of such attacks
  • correct exploited vulnerabilities
  • restore the affected systems, networks and equipment.
In another case of the old rule that ‘you can never do one thing,’ cyber security measures have to be analyzed to make sure they don’t result in the types of risks they are designed to prevent.  You could lock down the computer systems so tightly the plant could not insure that the reactor could not be operated in a reliable matter.  This outcome would create a safety risk which also gets the NRC’s attention.
What's in a cyber security plan?
When utilities develop their cyber security plans they start with an assessment. The outcome is a “gap analysis” that looks at the existing digital assets of the reactor and the non-safety or business systems of the utility.  The gaps are reviewed and the utility’s IT Department develops a plan to meet the NRC’s requirements.  Implementation measures can also include changes to physical security of the plant, training personnel to detect and respond to cyber attacks including incident reporting. 
A key challenge for utilities is developing cyber security measures for computer systems that were developed before the Internet age. Simply isolating them from other plant system isn’t good enough.  On one hand, it is fearsomely expensive to replace the systems, and on the other, they can’t be operated outside the new security rules.  One approach is to develop a second layer of security, like an envelope or wrapper, which has up-to-date measures, and then control access to the legacy systems through the wrapper. It’s a lot cheaper than “rip and replace.”
Human social behavior is a target
The human side of cyber security is the most complex.  For example, many businesses ban access to social media sites like Facebook because they are breeding grounds for malware mayhem.  Computer malware can be found lurking on the Internet which takes up residence on a personal computer capturing keystrokes to collect login IDs, passwords, credit cards numbers, and all manner of sensitive information. 
According to Kiplinger Magazine for August 3, "nearly 30% of corporate computer users admitted to checking social network sites while at work last year, up from 15% the year before.”
“Essentially, users are volunteering to be infected,” says David Perry, global director of education at Trend Micro Inc., a provider of Internet-security software."
Mobile devices are part of the package
Mobile devices are also at risk.  The next time you fire up your mobile device you might ask the question who are you really talking to?  
Utilities increasingly rely on mobile platforms to manage their workforce having replaced aging pager systems. The phones are now just as vulnerable to outside infection and some malware can target the phones just because they are on.  Worse, NRC’s IT staff have said it’s has been proven that cell phones can be hacked and used against the owner even when they are off.
The BBC reported that in July 2009 the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country that is planning to build four new nuclear reactors, an update for Blackberry users turned out to be spyware. The update was prompted by a text message from UAE telecom firm Etisalat, saying it would improve performance.
Blackberry maker Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) said in a statement that "Etisalat appears to have distributed a telecommunications surveillance application.”
“Independent sources have concluded that it is possible that the installed software could then enable unauthorized access to private or confidential information stored on the user's smartphone."
The concern over the spyware came to light when users started reporting problems with their phones. Etisalat is a major telecommunications firm based in the UAE, with 145,000 Blackberry users on its books according to the BBC. The spyware’s victims reportedly included the phones of foreign nationals hired by the UAE to mange the process of acquiring and building the reactors as well as ensuring the safety and security for the plants.
More recently, the UAE has sought to ban the use of Blackberry phones calling them a security threat.
It is a scary world in the new world of digital control systems.  The nuclear industry is responding to the threats, but there is more work to do.
# # #http://www.coolhandnuke.com/Cool-Hand-Blog/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/45/Securing-critical-digital-assets-at-nuclear-power-plants.aspx
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US wants big, revolutionary energy storage systems Renewable energy places many challenges on electrical grid

Seal of the United States Department of Energy.Image via WikipediaLooking for a major new ways to harness wind, solar and other evolving renewable energy, the US Department of Energy today issued a call for advanced large-scale energy storage system technology.
The DOE said the goal of its solicitation is to identify and prove new concepts for applied research in materials chemistry, battery components, battery designs and any technologies that will lead to breakthroughs in grid energy storage.
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Such technology will be focused on novel materials, electrodes, electrolytes, membranes and other components, along with new concepts for ultra low cost, high efficiency and long lasting energy storage systems. Emphasis is placed on highly innovative research proposals in areas that have the potential to have strong impact on large-scale energy storage in the future, the DOE stated.
The DOE went on to say the variable and stochastic nature of renewable sources makes solar and wind power difficult to manage.  To effectively use the intermittent renewable energy and enable its delivery, large-scale electrical energy storage is required. For example, storage systems operating near an intermittent, renewable wind energy source can smooth out wind variability and, if of sufficient scale, store off peak wind energy, the DOE stated.
Big energy storage is an effective tool to improve the reliability, stability, and efficiency of the envisioned electrical grid of the future.  This grid will be significantly impacted by new demands, such as plug-in electrical vehicles, increased use of renewable energies, and smart grid controls. Large scale storage technology could shave the peaks from a user or utility load profile, increase asset utilization and delay utility upgrades, decrease fossil fuel use and provide high levels of power quality, while increasing grid stability. In addition, distributed energy storage near load centers can reduce congestion on both the distribution and transmission systems, the DOE stated.
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Boeing gets $89M to build unmanned aircraft that can stay aloft for 5 years DARPA’s Vulture program getting off the ground

This is the most up-to-date DARPA logo.Image via WikipediaOne of the more unique unmanned aircraft took a giant step toward reality this week when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) inked an agreement with Boeing to build the SolarEagle, a plane capable of remaining at heights over 60,000ft for over five years. Boeing says the first SolarEagle under the $89 million contract could fly as early as 2014.
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The SolarEagle is built under DARPA's Vulture program.  The idea is to build a single aircraft that could support traditional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance functions over country-sized areas - while at the same time providing an unblinking eye over a critical target, monitoring that target night and day, day in and day out, month after month - providing unprecedented high-value intelligence. Vulture aircraft will also be able to provide communications capabilities available today only from geostationary satellites - offering opportunities for new, more flexible, expandable and relocatable communication architectures at a fraction of the cost of dedicated satellite capabilities. The challenges with Vulture include developing solar cell, energy storage, and reliability technologies that will allow the aircraft to operate continuously, unrefueled for over 44,000 hours, DARPA stated.
Under the Vulture II agreement, Boeing will develop a full-scale flight demonstrator, including maturation of the critical power system and structures technologies. Key suppliers for the program include Versa Power Systems and QinetiQ.
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MIT researchers rethink the nuclear fuel cycles, Yucca Mountain - September 16, 2010

MIT researchers rethink the nuclear fuel cycles, Yucca Mountain (blogs.nature.com)


nuclear-reactor-babcock-wilcox_1.jpgThe Massachusetts Institute of Technology is issuing a new analysis of nuclear energy issues today, this time focusing on fuel cycles and what to do about that pesky issue of radioactive waste. The United States would do well to take a step back, reorganize and then proceed with a more open-ended technology-neutral nuclear energy policy, the report suggests, knowing that spent reactor fuel can be safely stored until a viable long-term solution is identified.
Building on an earlier analysis, released in 2003 and updated last year, the report starts out with a simple assessment: uranium supplies are sufficient to power the industry for much of the century without recycling or reprocessing. This holds true even with a potential expansion of nuclear power, which would be based on the same once-through fuel cycle deployed in current reactors.
Creating a series of interim storage sites would allow the Department of Energy safely consolidate spent nuclear fuel and meet its legal obligations to industry (shipments to Yucca Mountain were supposed to begin more than a decade ago). In the meantime, the United States can take a more comprehensive look at longer-term storage solutions, looking to countries such as Finland, Sweden and France that have had more luck in building public support for their repositories.

One key lesson is that the nation should plan to actively manage its nuclear waste for roughly a century. This serves multiple purposes. Allowing the waste to cool down (literally) makes permanent storage easier, and just knowing that a change of course is possible if problems arise should alleviate public concerns about something going awry. Moreover, such an approach would allow the nation to benefit from any future technologies that might come from a solid research and development programme.
"We don’t know whether spent fuel is a waste or a resource," Charles Forsberg, executive director of the MIT study, said in an interview prior to today's release of the report in Washington. "If it’s the resource, it may be the most valuable resource we own."
In 2006, former President George W. Bush tried to revive nuclear reprocessing through the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. That program hit a wall in Congress, however, due to concerns about expense and nuclear proliferation.
The MIT study highlights multiple options for meeting this goal in the decades to come and says it's too early to commit to any one of them. But substantially shifting the current nuclear technology paradigm would take several decades or more, Forsberg says, so it's important to get started now. The study recommends a $1-billion nuclear R&D programme that invests in the full suite of technological options while revamping nuclear infrastructure in the DOE complex.
These recommendations come as the administration of Barack Obama seeks to define a viable path forward on nuclear waste, having abandoned the permanent geologic repository at Yucca Mountain. Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Energy Future is looking at the same issues and is expected produce a draft of its recommendations next year.

All Things Nuclear Insights on Science and Security Fact, Fiction and Faith: The Endless Debate Over Reprocessing | by Ed Lyman

My testimony before the Reactor and Fuel Cycle Technology Subcommittee of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (the “BRC”) elicited a predictable and depressing reaction from certain corners of the blogosphere. I informed the Subcommittee that although UCS does not oppose nuclear energy per se, we do oppose reprocessing spent nuclear fuel because of the security, safety and proliferation risks that it poses. I then presented the Subcommittee with a summary of the rationale behind our position, complete with numerous technical references. The UCS position was in direct opposition to that of four of the six members of the panel I was on (representing AREVA, General Electric-Hitachi, Westinghouse and Energy Solutions), who all supported spent fuel reprocessing and “recycling” strategies of one sort or another.
My testimony appears to have given certain bloggers heartburn. Rod Adams of Atomic Insights saw fit to criticize my competence, my understanding of technology and my use of what he called “unsubstantiated statements and vague references.” Yet he was unable to actually point to anything specific in my testimony that he could contradict. Instead, he posted a video clip of my presentation and invited his loyal readers to defend the faith by “dissecting” my testimony.
I would be more than happy to engage Mr. Adams’ readers in a technical debate on these issues, so I thought, frankly, that this was a fine idea. However, two weeks later, it appears that Mr. Adams’ gambit has backfired. Out of twenty comments, only one actually professes any knowledge of any of the references that I cited. Most simply repeat unsubstantiated assertions themselves. Some claim that I must have misinterpreted the references but did not actually bother to look them up. Several are ad hominem attacks on me or UCS. A couple actually agree with some of the points I made. All in all, not a very impressive showing. In fact, I found only two statements that merit a response. Below, I respond to those statements.
Mr. Adams and his readers should rest assured that every statement I make is supported by direct references and transparent analysis. In the future, I’d appreciate that observers interested in a technical debate actually consult my written works and references before throwing darts.
There are three main points to my testimony.
1. Reprocessing spent nuclear fuel has only a marginal impact on the volume of high-level waste requiring disposal in a geologic repository, while significantly increasing the volume of other forms of nuclear waste also requiring secure disposal.

Some reprocessing advocates argue that the technology can reduce the volume of high-level nuclear waste requiring disposal in a geologic repository. On the Atomic Insights blog, Lars Jorgensen says that it is “easy” for any recycling system to significantly reduce waste volume.

However, reprocessing actually increases, not decreases, the total volume of long-lived nuclear waste that must be stored and eventually buried in a geologic repository  It only slightly reduces the volume of high-level nuclear waste that must be disposed of in a repository, as required by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. At the same time, it significantly increases the volume of “greater-than-class-C” low-level waste, which cannot be legally disposed of in near-surface low-level waste facilities and would therefore need to be buried in a geologic repository as well. In addition, reprocessing increases the volume of low-level waste that must be disposed of in NRC-licensed near-surface facilities. Only one new low-level waste facility has been licensed in the United States in decades, and no policy (not to mention a repository) exists for disposal of GTCC LLW.
According to Argonne National Laboratory data cited by the Energy Department’s 2008 Global Nuclear Energy Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, compared to the once-through cycle, a fast-reactor-based reprocessing and recycle system would increase the total volume of radioactive waste by a factor of about seven. In particular, reprocessing would generate, in terms of volume,
  • Seven times as much Class A, B and C low-level waste (LLW)
  • 166 times as much greater-than-class-C LLW (over 8,000 cubic meters annually on average)
  • only 25% less high-level waste (HLW)
The last data point conflicts with public statements being made by AREVA, which continues to claim that “recycling reduces by 75% the volume of high-level waste that must be sent to a repository.” However, this assertion is not even supported by AREVA’s own data. According to a 2009 presentation to the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, Dorothy Davidson of AREVA indicated that the volume of reprocessing waste requiring geologic disposal (vitrified high-level waste and compacted hulls and end pieces) was 10 cubic feet per metric ton heavy metal of initial spent fuel reprocessed (10 ft3/MTHM). In the same presentation, Davidson claimed that this should be compared a spent fuel volume of 45 ft3/MTHM, so that reprocessing results in a more than four-fold decrease in waste volume.

However, this latter figure is incorrect. As Table S.3-1 shows, the volume of light-water reactor spent fuel is actually closer to 15.8 ft3/MTHM (0.45 m3/MTHM). Therefore, the HLW volume per MTHM according to AREVA’s own data is only about 37% less than the initial volume of spent fuel – a much less impressive reduction than the 75% cited by AREVA, and one much closer to the Argonne/DOE estimate. Apparently, this discrepancy stems from the fact that AREVA did not directly compare the volume of HLW to the volume of spent fuel, but compared the volume of HLW to the volume of the spent fuel waste disposal package that was originally considered for the Yucca Mountain repository, which had a significant amount of empty space. This is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

But in any event, heat load, not volume, is typically the limiting factor in a geologic repository. If plutonium and other transuranic elements such as americium are removed with very high separation factors, the heat load of the residual waste will be reduced. However, unless the actinides that are removed from the spent fuel are actually destroyed through fission in a reasonable period of time, they will have to be stored for an indefinite period (posing many of the same concerns as indefinite interim storage of spent fuel), and eventually will have to be disposed of in a repository. Yet as the discussion in the next section indicates, reprocessing and transuranic recycle systems are not capable of significantly reducing total actinide inventories in a reasonable period of time. 

2. Reprocessing and recycling spent nuclear fuel, whether in thermal or fast reactors, cannot effectively reduce the total quantity of hazardous radionuclides like plutonium and other transuranic elements that would require disposal in a repository.

Numerous studies have shown that fast reactor (FR) recycle systems are very slow and inefficient in actually fissioning transuranic elements, even if they operate in burner mode with very low conversion ratios. A recent study by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Electricit√© de France (EdF) examined the impact of phasing in a fast reactor system operating in tandem with light-water reactors (LWRs) (35 percent FRs and 65 percent LWRs) and operating at a conversion ratio of 0.5, while keeping constant the total U.S. nuclear generating capacity. [1] The study found that the total inventory of plutonium and other transuranics would increase to over 1500 metric tons - roughly three times today’s inventory - and would remain essentially constant after that. Thus the system is simply not capable of reducing the total transuranic inventory, and the popular image that such a system can “burn up” nuclear waste is simply not accurate.

The EPRI study also compares the transuranic inventory in the system to the inventory that would accumulate in spent fuel if the U.S. continued with the once-through cycle. The analysis finds that the system would have to operate for 70 years just to reduce the total inventory of transuranics in the system by 50 percent relative to the once-through inventory. To reduce the inventory by 90 percent would require continuous operation for 632 years. Thus the system of reprocessing plants, fuel fabrication plants, fast reactors and associated facilities would have to operate over a period spanning many generations – and be rebuilt many times – before it could achieve a significant reduction in actinide inventory and a significant decrease in repository heat load compared to the once-through cycle. The paper concludes that “the analysis for the specific [recycling] scenario considered shows that it would take many decades, even centuries, for significant waste management benefits to materialize.” This is consistent with the one of the conclusions of the MIT study “The Future of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle,” released earlier this week – namely, that the choice of fuel cycle would make “little difference” in the total transuranic inventory in this century.

Proposals that require the essentially indefinite reprocessing and recycling of spent fuel do not provide a suitable foundation of nuclear waste management because they are inconsistent with the “intergenerational equity” principle. This principle, which underlies the rationale for a geologic repository for nuclear waste, includes the provisions that (1) those who generate the wastes should take responsibility, and provide the resources, for the management of these materials in a way which will not impose undue burdens on future generations; and (2) that a waste management strategy should not be based on a presumption of a stable societal structure for the indefinite future, nor of technological advance; rather it should aim at bequeathing a passively safe situation which places no reliance on active institutional controls.

A system that would require hundreds of years of costly and complex operations to achieve only a modest reduction in repository space requirements is not consistent with these principles. Some reprocessing advocates argue that nuclear materials that are in the fuel cycle – that is, in reactors, fuel fabrication plants, and above-ground storage facilities – need not be counted as wastes. This is only true, however, as long as the system is running. If it shuts down for any reason, these materials will require secure disposal. Thus our generation would be bequeathing to future generations the obligation of keeping the system going, without regard to cost or risk. This is clearly inconsistent with intergenerational equity.
3. Advanced reprocessing technologies do not significantly reduce nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism risks relative to current reprocessing technologies that produce separated plutonium.

Energy Secretary Chu has spoken of the proliferation risks associated with conventional reprocessing technology, as practiced in France and Japan, and has expressed confidence that the U.S. can develop alternatives that are “proliferation-resistant.” One of the goals of the Bush Administration’s Global Nuclear Energy Partnership program (GNEP) was also to develop so-called proliferation-resistant reprocessing technologies that did not produce “separated” plutonium.

However, a study conducted by the nuclear weapons labs reviewed the entire suite of technologies that were under study, including modified aqueous reprocessing and pyrometallurgical processing (“pyroprocessing”), with regard to their potential for reducing proliferation concerns. [2] The study found that the products of these processes, mixtures of plutonium and other actinides such as neptunium, americium and curium, are attractive for use in nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices. It concluded that there is no “silver bullet” technology that would eliminate the safeguards and security issues associated with reprocessing, and also that “none of the proposed flowsheets examined to date justify reducing international safeguards or physical security protection levels. All of the reprocessing or recycling technologies evaluated to date still need rigorous safeguards and high levels of physical protection.”

It should be noted that this study only analyzed the direct usability of these materials in nuclear weapons without further processing. It did not consider the potential for theft and off-site purification of these materials. As we and our colleagues have noted at length elsewhere, alternative reprocessing technologies under consideration do not confer significant self-protection against theft.

If stolen, these materials could be readily processed to produce even more attractive materials for weapons use.

One of the Atomic Insights blog post replies (Steve Darden, September 3), claimed that I misrepresented Bathke’s study. Darden asserted that the statements I made regarding the study’s conclusions with regard to subnational groups (terrorists) actually applied only to state-level actors. However, Darden is wrong. If he had actually read any of Bathke’s reports, he would have learned that the so-called Figure of Merit (FOM1) that I used “is applicable for evaluating the attractiveness of SNM or ANM for a sub-national group, for most of the less advanced proliferant nations, or for a technically advanced proliferant state.”
The other Figure of Merit (FOM2), which Mr. Darden asserts is designed for a “sub-state level actor,” is actually intended only “for a very few relatively unadvanced proliferant nations that desire a reliably high yield.” Thus Mr. Darden is wrong in attacking me for “abusing such metrics.”
[1] A. Machiels, S. Massara and C. Garzenne, “Dynamic Analysis of a Deployment Scenario of Fast Burner Reactors in the U.S. Nuclear Fleet,” Proceedings of the Global 2009 Conference, Paris, France, September 8-11, 2009, pp. 2567-2574. Also cited in the testimony of J. Kessler, EPRI, to the July meeting of the Reactor and Fuel Cycle Technology Subcomittee of the Blue-Ribbon Commission.
[2] C. Bathke et al., “An Assessment of the Attractiveness of Material Associated with a MOX Fuel Cycle From as Safeguards Perspective,” 50th Annual Meeting of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management, Tucson, AZ, July 2009.
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Dealing With the Issues of Nuclear Energy Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy

Given the importance of nuclear energy, it is critical we continue to work with the international community. In Vienna next week, I will offer ideas for how we can promote an international "fuel bank" to encourage the peaceful use of nuclear power.
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Senator Crapo Questions OMB Director nominee about nuclear load guarantee hold ups

At yesterday’s (Thursday 16th) Senate hearing on Jacob Lew’s nomination for White House Office of Management and Budget Director Senator Crapo urged Lew to be prepared to resolve the longstanding budgeting disagreement that has held up federal loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants.  During his questioning of Lew, Senator Crapo said   "We've had unnecessary bureaucratic holdup from what appears to be infighting between DOE and OMB," Crapo said. "Something's wrong, because we cannot seem to get proper and timely movement forward on the process."
You can view Senator Crapo’s comments on 55:20 on this link: http://www.senate.gov/fplayers/CommPlayer/commFlashPlayer.cfm?fn=budget091610&st=945

Cybersecurity consensus: 'We haven't done enough' Obama, officials cite public-sector efforts

Cybersecurity Consensus: 'We Haven't Done Enough' -- Washington Times

Obama, officials cite public-sector efforts.

President Obama on Wednesday briefly dropped by and addressed a meeting at which industry figures were being updated on U.S. cybersecurity efforts, acknowledging more progress was needed on the issue but blaming George W. Bush administration efforts as inadequate.

The meeting was led by White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and was attended "by an array of cybersecurity stakeholders from across the country," a statement from the White House said.

Read more ....

More News On Cyber Security

White House Issues Cybersecurity Report -- Information Week
White House just getting started on cybersecurity -- GCN
Obama Urges Collaboration to Defend U.S. Cyber -- GovInfo
A Brief Check-In on Cyber Security -- The Atlantic
Obama to update Bush-era cybersecurity directive -- Federal Computer Week
Analysis: President attends high-level cyber meeting -- Federal News Radio
Navy Imposes Cybersecurity Training Rules -- Information Week
Is the NSA's 'Perfect Citizen' the Ultimate Spying Tool? -- FOX News
NSA Launches 'Perfect Citizen' Cybersecurity Program -- TMCNet
NSA's "Perfect Citizen" Program: Big Brother or Cybersecurity Savior? -- Daily Tech
The Right to Bear Cyber-Arms -- Defense Tech
How To Stop Cyberattacks: Diplomacy. Well, Maybe. -- The Danger Room
Code Cracked! Cyber Command Logo Mystery Solved -- Danger Room
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Are U.S. Cybersecurity Plans Lagging? from War News Updates by War News Updates Editor

U.S. Cybersecurity Plans Lagging, Critics Say -- Washington Post

More than a year after President Obama made a White House speech proclaiming that the protection of computer networks was a national priority, the federal government is still grappling with key questions about how to secure its computer systems as well as private networks deemed critical to U.S. security.

The administration unveiled a cyberspace policy review last year, and Obama appointed a White House cyber coordinator to synchronize the government's efforts in December.

Read more ....
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Blog Post: Fukushima to Restart Using MOX Fuel for First Time from Nuclear Power Industry News Edited By Tom Lamar

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said it was preparing to restart the 784 megawatt No.3 reactor at its Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant on Friday, at which it is set to burn so-called mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for the first time.Fukushima Nuclear Plant
Fukushima is a nuclear power plant located in the town of Okuma in the Futaba District of Fukushima Prefecture. With 6 operating units located on site, Fukushima is one of the largest nuclear plant sites in the world. Fukushima is the first nuclear plant to be constructed and run entirely by TEPCO.
Asia's biggest utility said if all goes as planned, the reactor will start generating power on Sept. 22 and begin commercial operations on Oct. 26.
It had shut the reactor at the northern Japan plant for planned maintenance on June 19.
During the shutdown, TEPCO prepared for uranium dioxide as well as MOX fuel to be burned at the reactor, making it the first time the company will use the recycled fuel.
Other power companies have started using the recycled fuel as part of Japan's goal to move towards a closed cycle where it recycles its own spent fuel and then burns recovered uranium and plutonium as MOX fuel.
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India to Start Talks with Major US Nuclear Suppliers

Syria Pressed to Allow Nuclear Inspections from GSN Daily News

The United States and European Union said yesterday Syria must allow U.N. inspectors to revisit a suspected nuclear reactor facility leveled in a 2007 Israeli airstrike, Reuters reported (see GSN, Sept. 13).
(Sep. 17) - International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano, shown Monday at a meeting of his organization's 35-nation governing board. Western powers yesterday encouraged the U.N. nuclear watchdog to invoke its right to conduct a special inspection of a suspected Syrian nuclear site if Damascus continues denying the agency access to the area (Joe Klamar/Getty Images).
International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano in a new report said Damascus continued to block agency requests to inspect the Dair Alzour site. Monitors have been barred from the area since a June 2008 visit turned up traces of uranium that some experts believe point to nuclear tests geared toward improving abilities to gather weapon-grade plutonium from used nuclear reactor fuel.
The Obama administration would endorse the U.N. nuclear watchdog's use of "all tools" available in investigating Syria's nuclear operations, said Glyn Davies, Washington's ambassador to the agency.
"Unfortunately and with growing concern, information related to Syria's clandestine nuclear activities is deteriorating or has been lost entirely due to Syria's refusal to cooperate," Davies said in released remarks, echoing the IAEA report's suggestion that evidence could disappear from the site with time.
"Necessary information concerning the Dair Alzour site is deteriorating or at risk of being lost entirely," the European Union added, calling on Damascus to permit a new IAEA audit of the site (Westall/Dahl, Reuters, Sept. 16).
If the Middle Eastern government continued to bar IAEA officials from the area, the nuclear agency should "consider all available measures and authorities to pursue the verification assurances the international community seeks," the Associated Press quoted Davies as saying. The official was referring to the agency's right to conduct a special inspection of any site in the country with little advance warning (George Jahn, Associated Press/Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 17).
A "number of countries" were raising the possibility of the agency carrying out such an inspection, the U.S. ambassador said at a private meeting in August, according to Reuters. "We strongly support the (IAEA) secretariat's use of all tools at its disposal to verify Syria's compliance with its safeguards obligations," he said.
Syrian Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohammed Badi Khattab countered that the Vienna-based organization had "ample proof" that the Dair Alzour facility was not involved in atomic work.
Repeating his country's assertion that uranium traces at the site had been left by the bombing, Khattab urged the U.N. nuclear watchdog to investigate Israel as the source of the particles.
Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh added: "We are looking forward to receiving the reports of swipe samples from the launcher of (the) missile in Israel ... before the source of contamination is cleaned up or destroyed by the Israeli regime" (Westall/Dahl, Reuters, Sept. 16).
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U.S. Detonates Explosives in Plutonium Study from GSN Daily News

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban TreatyImage via Wikipedia
The United States on Wednesday conducted an underground non-nuclear test detonation in Nevada to study the behavior of plutonium, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Aug. 13).
The event, code-named "Bacchus," was the 24th subcritical test conducted since 1997 at what is now called the Nevada National Security Site. It was first such experiment since the "Unicorn" detonation on Aug. 30, 2006, at the installation, previously known as the Nevada Test Site, the National Nuclear Security Administration indicated (see GSN, Aug. 24).
Subcritical tests, which do not involve fission chain reactions that produce nuclear explosions, are key to ensuring the dependability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, according to U.S. officials.
In the latest study, Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers detonated conventional explosives surrounding a cache of radioactive material in a uniquely built sphere, NNSA spokesman Darwin Morgan said. The test, conducted in a vault roughly 1,000 feet below the earth's surface, produced no nuclear reaction and emitted no radioactivity, he said.
Opponents of subcritical tests contend the experiments go against the purpose of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a pact Washington has yet to ratify (see GSN, July 27; Ken Ritter, Associated Press/Reno Gazette-Journal, Sept. 16).
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U.S., Partners Prepare New Posture on North Korea

The United States, South Korea and Japan are working to develop a new strategy for engaging with North Korea amid worries that the present program of strong military posturing and economic pressure could result in military conflict with the aspiring nuclear power, the Washington Post reported today (see GSN, Sept. 16).
Washington and its allies are concerned that a policy of "strategic patience" -- waiting for heightened international sanctions to force the North to return to multilateral nuclear negotiations -- could lead to fresh attacks on South Korea or the ratcheting up of Pyongyang's efforts to spread weapons of mass destruction.
U.S. and Asian officials said the basic aspects of a new posture toward the North were coming together with Washington, Seoul and Tokyo in agreement on wanting Pyongyang to issue condolences over the deaths of 46 sailors killed in a March sinking of a South Korean warship. The South had originally demanded that North Korea admit it was behind the sinking of the Cheonan and apologize for the attack.
"This has to be done in a way that addresses the grievances of the South Koreans," a high-level Obama administration official said.
Less certain is whether there will be an allied demand that North Korea take concrete steps to disable its nuclear program prior to returning to the six-party talks which also include China and Russia.
"There are two legs of the stool so far," an informed source said. "Sanctions and military exercises. But [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] views talking with the North as the indispensable third. If you just continue sanctions and exercises, that's a road to war."
More at link.
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U.S. Missile Defenses Aimed at Russia, Minister Asserts

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said yesterday that regardless of Washington's assertions to the contrary, U.S. missile defenses are targeting his country, ITAR-Tass reported (see GSN, Sept. 15).
"They tell us their missile shield is not aimed against us, but we tell them our calculations show it is aimed against us," Serdyukov said following a meeting in Washington with his U.S. counterpart, Robert Gates.
Moscow has maintained criticisms over U.S. plans to build a missile shield in Europe employing land- and sea-based versions of the Standard Missile 3 system as a safeguard against Iranian short- and medium-range missiles. Russia has questioned whether the proposed missile shield -- already scaled down from a Bush-era plan -- would undercut its own nuclear deterrent.
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As "New START" Goes to Senate Floor, Panel Strikes Compromise on Missile Defense

As "New START" Goes to Senate Floor, Panel Strikes Compromise on Missile Defense

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday passed a Republican-drafted ratification resolution in favor of the "New START" nuclear arms control agreement on a 14-4 vote, but only after lawmakers hammered out a fresh compromise on missile defense (see GSN, Sept. 16).
(Sep. 17) - U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), shown last year, yesterday successfully proposed an amendment to the "New START" nuclear arms control treaty ratification measure that would seek additional protection from ballistic missile attack. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the amended ratification text (Mark Wilson/Getty Images).
"We hope this can get to the full Senate as rapidly as possible," committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said after the panel approved the U.S.-Russian pact. "It's our hope that can happen quickly, before the end of the year, and we will work to try to make that happen."
With a Democratic majority sitting on the 19-member panel, its approval of New START was never in doubt. Kerry won backing for the treaty from all 10 other Democrats and also garnered support from three committee Republicans: Senators Richard Lugar (Ind.), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Johnny Isakson (Ga.).
Republicans voting "no" on the ratification resolution were: Senators Jim Risch (Idaho); John Barrasso (Wyo.); Roger Wicker (Miss.); and James Inhofe (Okla.).
The White House has teamed with Kerry to cultivate as many Republican votes on the Senate floor as possible, with the aim of assuring the two-thirds majority required for ratification.
That effort last month prompted Kerry to delay the committee vote, allowing additional time for undeclared members to further review the treaty text and supporting documents (see GSN, Aug. 4). The Obama administration answered hundreds of questions from lawmakers and sent more than 20 officials to testify at a dozen hearings to make the case for the agreement.
Under New START, signed by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April, the two sides agree to reduce their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to a level of 1,550. Under a prior treaty, Washington and Moscow had previously moved to cap warheads at 2,200 by the end of 2012.
The New START agreement also would limit strategic delivery vehicles to 700, with an additional 100 allowed in reserve. The accord replaces the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expired Dec. 5 of last year.
The Democratic effort to sway fence-sitters -- buoyed by months of New START support from Lugar, the panel's ranking member -- continued even as what was billed as a one-hour committee session yesterday stretched into its third hour, punctuated by brief recesses for unrelated votes on the Senate floor.
Senators yesterday offered more than a dozen amendments to Lugar's draft of the resolution, which the committee opted to use in place of an earlier version authored by Kerry. Of the amendments submitted, just two passed committee and the remainder were either voted down or withdrawn.
DeMint on Missile Defense
Missile defense has become a hot-button issue associated with the New START agreement, with Republicans pushing to ensure the treaty does not limit U.S. defenses in any meaningful way and the Obama administration insisting that it simply does not. Meanwhile, Russia has issued a unilateral statement saying that any substantial expansion of Washington's missile shield could trigger Moscow's withdrawal from the accord.
Midway through yesterday's deliberations, an amendment sponsored by Senator Jim DeMint drew some spirited debate. The South Carolina Republican wanted the resolution -- which already asserted that the New START agreement would pose no significant limitations on U.S. missile defense plans -- to include additional text assuring that even a more ambitious defensive shield would be allowable under the pact.
His draft wording stated that the U.S. government has "a paramount obligation" to protect its citizens against nuclear attack, and that "policies based on 'mutually assured destruction' or intentional vulnerability are contrary to this obligation and therefore unacceptable over the long term."
DeMint was referring to the virtual standoff between nuclear adversaries, such as the United States and Russia, in which each of the atomic arsenals counters the other in a deterrence posture. His proposed amendment went on to "commit" the United States to constructing a "layered missile defense system capable of countering missiles of all ranges."
The wording ran counter to U.S. policy -- embraced by Democratic and Republican presidents over more than a decade -- to limit national missile defense to a system capable of absorbing an attack from just a small number of missiles, such as an accidental launch from Russia or a limited strike from North Korea.
DeMint insisted that anything short of a nearly impenetrable shield that could protect the nation from an all-out Russian attack is ultimately unacceptable, and he objected to the New START agreement's formula for offensive-missile parity between Washington and Moscow.
"I think what this amendment says is what all of us are saying, that this treaty does not limit our ability and that we will develop a defense system, as we [build] capability over time, to defend our people against Russian attacks," DeMint said.
Kerry said it has become a widely accepted expert view that a full-scale U.S. defensive shield would not only be cost-prohibitive, but also could prompt Russia to build more offensive missiles to overwhelm and break through Washington's system. DeMint would hear nothing of it, though.
"This is a clarifying moment here," he said. "The strategy of this administration and this majority is apparently a continuation of mutual assured destruction, which in my mind is a direct violation to our constitutional oath of office to protect and defend the people of the United States.
Though GOP treaty-supporters Corker and Isakson praised DeMint's amendment, committee Democrats unleashed a biting rejoinder to the South Carolina senator's apparent doubts about their national security bona fides.
"Moving forward with this treaty is paramount in order to protect and defend the people of this nation," said Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.). "I think the DeMint amendment is not helpful and I'm going to vote against it."
"No president of either party has advocated a massive missile defense system that would provoke Russia since before the Cold War [ended]," said Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).
"I just want to ask you, Senator DeMint," she said. "Are you suggesting that if we vote against your amendment, that we in some way are not defending this country, and don't believe that we should defend this country against our enemies? Because if that's what you're suggesting, senator, then I personally resent that."
"It's not my intent to offend anyone," DeMint responded, "but to try to make sure that there is an understanding that this START agreement does not defend the people of the United States."
Despite the acrimony, committee members agreed to seek consensus on the DeMint amendment. However, that was only after Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) defected from party unity in supporting of the proposed missile defense text. He noted that he had been a Reagan administration defense leader who endorsed building a robust shield.
Kerry asked DeMint whether he would be willing to vote in favor of New START if the committee could agree on some wording changes to his amendment, a question that elicited laughter from the audience.
"I very well could," said DeMint, surprising many in the room. "It's a fair question."
A recess in the hearing quickly followed, allowing senators to confer across the aisle. A number of senior administration officials joined them behind closed doors, including chief treaty negotiator Rose Gottemoeller, Defense Department policy deputy James Miller, and Ted Warner, the defense secretary's representative at the New START talks.
Upon re-emerging, Kerry announced they had worked out a bipartisan deal with DeMint. However, when it came time to vote on his amendment, the South Carolina Republican was notably absent from the room.
"Anybody have any idea where Senator DeMint is?" asked Kerry, who was then assured by colleagues that the vote could proceed without him.
The committee went on to accept the missile defense amendment in a unanimous voice vote. DeMint also failed to return before the New START won final committee passage, leaving in question whether he will throw his support behind the treaty.
What allowed for the Democrats' dramatic shift on the DeMint amendment?
Though the new wording was not released, "essentially [the amendment] is no longer taking the form of an understanding, but it is a declaration," Kerry told reporters after the committee adjourned. "There were [also] some key language changes that we think better frames the transformation that we're all looking for, away from mutual assured destruction [and] towards something that doesn't rely on the destruction of our population to protect us."
Additionally, "the linkages of strategic defense to strategic offense [were] clarified in a way that I think satisfies that we're not threatening anybody with what we may or may not do," explained the panel chairman, noting that the amended resolution text would be distributed soon.
The new wording "commits us to continue to develop the ability to be able to protect our people and to have a robust missile defense system," Kerry said. "Most of us feel that Senator Lugar's language that he offered did that sufficiently. We wanted to make sure that this was in keeping with that language, and I think we came up with a compromise where everybody was comfortable that it didn't do violence to that, but it did express the views that Senator DeMint hoped to express."
The compromise might prove pivotal in landing the floor votes of some conservative Republicans -- who have hammered the administration for months on their missile defense concerns -- or at least that is the Democratic hope.
"I think we can find common ground in that, and we did," Kerry said.
The other approved amendment, sponsored by Risch, addresses delivery system modernization in text negotiated by senators from both parties. Kerry urged committee members to vote for the measure, and it passed in a unanimous voice vote.
The legislation now moves to the Senate floor, though it remains unclear when the chamber will agree to allot time for debate and a tally. The ratification language must pass the Senate by at least 67 votes, as well as win approval by the Russian legislature, before entering into force.
Republican Support
"I personally believe we will have the votes to ratify this," Kerry told reporters yesterday. He called the 14-4 bipartisan tally "a very significant vote" and said "it augurs very well for the Senate debate as a whole."
All eyes are now on Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who said in a July 8 essay that most of his colleagues would find the agreement "relatively benign." However, he also raised questions about the treaty's verification provisions; implications for missile defense and conventional "prompt global strike" systems; and prospects for Obama administration funding for nuclear-weapon maintenance and facilities.
A spokesman for Kyl told the "PBS NewsHour" this week that the senator -- a minority whip who is widely seen as carving out a national security leadership role in the chamber apart from Lugar's more moderate stance -- would not reveal his position on New START ratification until after the committee vote.
Early rancor over the Lugar version and the amendments subsequently adopted by committee could actually help the prospects for treaty ratification, according to one issue expert.
"If Kerry is not totally happy with the Lugar resolution, if the administration is uncomfortable with parts of the Lugar resolution, and if the arms control community is unhappy with parts of the Lugar resolution as well, it makes it easier for Republications to say they have their pound of flesh," said John Isaacs, executive director of the Council for a Livable World. "Anything reasonable that encourages Republicans to vote for ratification is a positive step forward."
Once it goes to debate on the Senate floor, lawmakers might propose attaching additional text changes to the resolution (see GSN, July 27).
"As far as I'm concerned, what will get us 67 votes that does not the constrain the ability for us to have the treaty to go forward -- and doesn't cause problems for the Russians as they ratify it -- I assume is something we could go along with," Ellen Tauscher, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said at a Sept. 10 roundtable discussion with reporters.
In a White House conference call with journalists on Tuesday, administration officials said they hope the chamber keeps any new language in the resolution to a minimum.
"What we would clearly prefer is that we have a relatively clean resolution of support for the treaty," said Miller, the Pentagon's principal deputy undersecretary for policy. "We understand the Senate's issues and concerns with respect to missile defense and conventional prompt global strike, and investment as well."
Some Republicans have questioned whether the agreement limits the Defense Department's ability to deploy conventionally armed strategic delivery systems that could quickly strike targets anywhere around the world, but the Pentagon has said the accord does not tie its hands (see GSN, March 19).
Speaking Tuesday, Tauscher said any such language attached to a ratification resolution should remain consistent with treaty provisions so that the pact does not have to be renegotiated with Moscow.
An important factor in ultimately bringing the treaty into force is "how the Russians react" to any new language the Senate adds to the ratification legislation, she said during the telephone press conference. "It's very important that we have a clean resolution so that there are no ramifications for how the Russians manage their ratification process," Tauscher said.
Intelligence Issue
Republican panel member Risch revealed yesterday that the Obama administration had just briefed lawmakers on a classified intelligence matter that he found disturbing enough to inhibit his vote in favor of New START.
"Yesterday the intelligence community brought to us some very serious information that directly affects what we're doing here, not only the actual details of this but actually whether or not we should debate going forward with this," Risch said.
Kerry called it "inappropriate" to discuss the sensitive matter in public, and none of the senators disclosed the nature or topic of the particular intelligence. Obama administration officials similarly refused to discuss the matter, though some played down the relevance of the intelligence to the debate over New START.
"The conclusion of the intelligence community is that it in no way alters their judgment, already submitted to this committee, with respect to the START treaty and the impact of the START treaty," Kerry said. "It has no impact, in their judgment."
Had Kerry believed the information was relevant to New START, "we would not have proceeded today," he said. However, the Massachusetts senator did say the issue would be "thoroughly further vetted" before the accord goes to the Senate floor for debate.
Risch remained dissatisfied.
"I find the information particularly troubling ... as it affects the details of what we're doing here today," he said, differing with Kerry's description of the intelligence community view of the matter's relevance to New START.
Kerry later told reporters there was "no need to" divulge any details of the intelligence issue, with officials refusing to say even whether it pertained to Moscow.
"I am absolutely convinced it will not alter our sense of direction with respect to this treaty," he said.
Modernization Funding
The head of the Energy Department's nuclear weapons agency, Thomas D'Agostino, insisted during the telephone Q&A this week that an Obama administration pledge this year to spend an additional $10 billion on warhead upgrades over the next 10 years should meet his needs well. He said he is committed to "not throw more money at this" but spend "in a way that is fiscally prudent and is executable."
The Lugar version of the ratification resolution "clearly commits the Senate and the administration to support the plan the administration put forward, which is a substantial increase in budgets for the weapons complex and warhead refurbishment," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.
The projected $80 billion over the next decade exceeds "the levels put forward by the Bush administration, which Senator Corker and Senator Kyl seemed perfectly happy with at the time," Kimball added in a Wednesday interview. "The resolution and this Congress simply cannot bind future Congresses to spend even more, especially if there is no basis in fact to justify more spending."
Still, some Republicans have complained that much of the projected budget for nuclear modernization over the next decade appears in the later years, and they have called for higher expenditures on the front end.
D'Agostino laid the groundwork for a possible nod to these concerns, as he would not to rule out the notion that funding plans might change in coming years. However, he said last week that any future budget boosts would materialize only as a better understanding of warhead overhaul and maintenance projects is developed, and not because of any political deals made on Capitol Hill.
"Any change that is made is made based on the needs of the program," he said at the media roundtable last week. "That always takes into consideration the latest [programmatic] information -- not what I would call information on, 'well, if you give us this, we'll give you that' -- but information based on what does the program need to do its job."
"He's saying, look, we've put in more money and if we need more, we'll request it," Isaacs told Global Security Newswire. "He's not saying, if you [in Congress] put in more money, we won't take it."
Kimball said that even if the Obama administration wanted to win Republican votes by committing to higher expenditures for nuclear modernization and infrastructure, it would be more of a gesture than a guarantee, simply because of how U.S. government spending works.
"There isn't any choice. You can't appropriate fiscal year 2013 dollars in fiscal year 2011," he said. "If there are adjustments in the future up or down, future administrations will request those budgets and Congress will decide."
Floor Vote Timing
Kerry said yesterday that he had discussed with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) the possibility of holding a floor debate and vote on New START prior to the Nov. 2 elections. Such timing might "conceivably" work out, according to Kerry.
"The better chance is that it will happen in the very near term as we get beyond the election, in the lame-duck session," the chairman said.
The lame-duck session is tentatively slated for Nov. 15-19.
Kerry told Foreign Policy earlier this week there would not be enough time to vote on the New START agreement before the chamber recesses in early October, in the run-up to the midterm elections. He noted that a Senate floor debate during a lame-duck session before year's end might help avoid "any election atmospherics."
The debate and vote would require just three days or less, according to Kerry, but ratification might yet be further delayed into a new Congress early next year if the resolution becomes complicated by disagreements over language.
"We're very worried about that," said Isaacs, noting widespread concern among Democrats that ratification might be imperiled if the Republicans pick up more votes in the Senate, as widely expected, and the vote is pushed to 2011.
The Senate committee chairman's remarks offered earlier this week prompted some immediate pushback from administration officials, who have been trying to generate a sense of growing urgency to get the pact approved. Tauscher and others have said they are eager to see the agreement enter into force soon because its verification provisions would allow renewed insight into Russian strategic weapon development and deployment activities.
The accord includes provisions for on-site inspections of deployed weapons and the exchange of data about missile tests, among other measures.
"Every day that we don't have the START treaty ratified is a day that we do not have any strategic view into the Russian forces," Tauscher told reporters on Tuesday. "So I think that once again, the Senate has to do their will in order for this to be ratified."
Miller struck a similar tack.
"Earlier is clearly better," he said, noting "it's been since Dec. 5" that U.S. and Russian verification provisions were suspended when the prior START agreement lapsed. "But we understand that the Senate has to act according to its own time lines and needs to have all its questions answered and other issues dealt with."
Behind the scenes, Kerry is likely to be working with Lugar, Kyl, Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to hash out a unanimous consent agreement about when the treaty can be brought to the floor, said Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center.
To Isaacs, the "only way around" delaying a vote until the new Congress goes into session in 2011 is "finding time between now and December, working out a unanimous consent agreement for floor time with McConnell and Kyl."
Sokolski expressed surprise that the administration did not work earlier to ensure smoother political sailing for the treaty, given that the anticipated reductions are relatively modest and the terms of the pact are similar to prior agreements.
"The handling of congressional relations has been a hiccup from the start," he said in an interview. "This thing should have passed 100-0 back in December, just on verification," Sokolski said, adding that the new wording has given Obama's political opposition an opening for criticism.
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