Conflict of interest? Advisers paid millions to work for government and developers of failing nuclear projects

Alex Ralph reported in The Times that government advisers have been awarded contracts worth millions of pounds on failing nuclear projects, despite – in some cases – also advising the companies behind the schemes.

PWC, the accounting firm: awarded a five-year, £4.5 million contract by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as financial adviser on the Wylfa plant on Anglesey. The project is being developed by Horizon, a subsidiary of Hitachi, and The Times reported last July that PWC was also among Horizon’s advisers.

Arup, the engineering and design company, was awarded a £3.5 million government contract, over three and a half years, to act as technical adviser on the development of new nuclear projects. The Times reported in July that Arup was also an adviser to the Hitachi subsidiary behind the Wylfa project.

Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Commons’ public accounts committee, described the contracts as eye-watering, and added: “Given how little we have to show for it in progressing delivery, there are questions that have to be asked about the advice to government.”

 

 

 

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Radiation levels due to nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands, the leaking dome – or both?

Today, adding to the problems highlighted on this site in January, a Moseley resident forwards news of high radiation levels found in giant clams near U.S. nuclear dump in Marshall Islands – Los Angeles Times

The clams are a popular delicacy in the Marshall Islands and in other nations, including China, which has harvested them from vast swathes of the Pacific.

The findings from the Marshall Islands suggest that radiation is either leaking from the waste site — which U.S. officials reject — or that authorities did not adequately clean up radiation left behind from past weapons testing, as some in the Marshall Islands claim.

See: https://www.latimes.com/science/environment/la-me-marshall-islands-dome-is-leaking-radiation-20190528-story.html

 

 

 

 

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Initiating research into the implications of nuclear fallout released from melting glaciers

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Though most readers will be well aware of the concerns about leaking nuclear waste storage sites, the implications of nuclear fallout released from melting glaciers (media headline: ‘a ticking time bomb’) have had less coverage.

In April, Tech Times (USA), which reports on the latest innovations and developments taking place in technology, science and health industries and the challenges they face, focussed on research examining the effects of nuclear radiation on glaciers.

A study was presented at the European Geosciences Union’s General Assembly by researchers who discussed how ice and snow in glaciated areas can capture fallout from nuclear accidents and store them for long periods of time.

Dr. Caroline Clason (left), an expert on physical geography from the University of Plymouth in the UK, led an international team of researchers to examine the effects of nuclear radiation from various tests and disasters on 17 glaciers in different sites around the world.

They found fallout radionuclides (FRNs) trapped within ice surface sediment called cryoconite at all of them – the Arctic, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Antarctica and other areas.

These stored radiation particles could be released into the environment once the glaciers melt because of climate change.

A report in Science Alert adds that FRNs might contaminate the environment and the food chain once released again. Reindeer and their herders, for example, could be among the first affected.

The team thinks cryoconite could be helpful in cleaning up land contaminated by nuclear accidents. The work is continuing into how well the sediment holds fallout and where that fallout might go next.

Dr Clason said, “Our collaborative work is beginning to address this because it is clearly important for the pro-glacial environment and downstream communities to understand any unseen threats they might face in the future.”

 

 

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Trump administration: nuclear power is not the answer – and not zero-carbon

In 2017 Donald Trump vowed to help to revitalize the nation’s nuclear power industry a year ago and the administration announced plans for a “complete review” to bolster the country’s nuclear-energy program at home and abroad – vowing to unleash America’s “vast energy wealth”.

In February this year executives from U.S. nuclear developers—including Westinghouse Electric Co., LLC, and General Electric Co., and start-ups such as NuScale Power, LLC, and TerraPower, LLC—met the President to ask for the White House’s help in winning bids for international contracts. The executives said the international deals would lead to more manufacturing, construction, and engineering jobs for the U.S. economy, and noted that maintaining the country’s position as the world’s top nuclear developer could be critical for national security.

Last week, Pacific Standard reported that the U.S. has signed a deal to build six nuclear reactors in India and on March 22nd Bloomberg News reported that the Trump administration announced a $3.7 billion loan guarantee for two nuclear reactors being built by Southern Co.  Plant Vogtle, the only nuclear facility under construction in the U.S has been beset by engineering, procurement, cost overruns and construction problems.

Nuclear is the ‘real new green deal’: a source of carbon-free electricity

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Friday during a visit to the site near Waynesboro, Georgia, alongside Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Southern Chief Executive Officer Tom Fanning. “This is the real new green deal. If you want clean energy that helps your environment, there is no source that is cleaner than nuclear energy. This is it.” Jacopo Buongiorno, a professor of nuclear science and engineering (MIT) agrees. “Let’s not forget that over half of our zero-carbon electricity in the U.S. comes from nuclear, so it’s by far right now, in the U.S. and in western Europe, the largest carbon-free electricity source.”

Do environmentalists who are now backing the technology as the world’s carbon budget shrinks and the dire consequences of climate change become ever clearer, realise:

  • that the carbon-free claim is invalid?

Though nuclear energy’s ‘base-load electricity generation‘ is carbon-free, a large amount of carbon dioxide is produced by the machinery used in mining uranium to be used as fuel, uranium transport and processing. If the percentage of usable uranium in the ores falls below a certain level, the carbon dioxide produced could well be equal to or more than that of an equivalent thermal power station. (A.W. Pereira, nuclear physicist, Indranet Journal, Issue Nos 28‑30 December 1998 Energy & Lifestyles)

  • that rising temperatures force reactors to be shut down?

Presciently, Pereira adds: “Global warming may itself make nuclear power generation impossible, since extreme variations of ambient temperature are predicted. In Europe in 1989, the hot summer left the waters of the Loire several degrees warmer than normal temperatures required to cool reactors at Chinon and St Laurent-des-Eaux. The reactors had to be shut down for several weeks. [New Scientist, 1989] The French were also forced to run their reactors at reduced capacity when drought had reduced availability of cooling water, and when inlet water sources froze”. [New Scientist, 1989]. And this continues to happen -see August 2018 reports: “French utility EDF shut four reactors at three power plants on Saturday, Swedish utility Vattenfall shut one of two reactors at a power plant earlier last week”.

  • that the energy costs of decommissioning nuclear power plants are not being taken into account

The problems of the safe disposal of radioactive wastes that could retain harmful activity for thousands of years, accidents, and the decommissioning of old nuclear plants, have not been solved. Cost calculations usually minimize waste disposal and decommissioning expenditure since none of them look thousands of years ahead.

The US industries’ trump card is that nuclear reactors ‘could be critical for national security’: As Pereira points out, the military-industrial complex values nuclear energy, ‘not for the energy reactors produce but because they are required to supply the plutonium for making bombs’.

 

 

 

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Trident submarine replacement news: Sept ’18 – Jan ‘19

nuclear submarine HMS Vengeance at Faslane

September 2018

WMCND sent a link to an article in the Yorkshire Post, drawing attention to the plan of Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Peace Minister, Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton.

His defence diversification strategy shows how high-skilled military engineering workers can be retrained to work in industries like health technology, transport and education. He pointed out that the skills and technologies used in the nuclear weapons and wider arms industry can be put to use in the civilian sector, for instance components used in ballistic missiles are also used in heart monitoring machines. Some of the money saved by would be spent on improving substandard accommodation and offering better post-combat support for veterans.

Under the proposals a Labour government would initially fund retraining schemes to help workers transition into different industries and within a few years the shift to civilian industries would be far more lucrative for the British economy.

Mr Hamilton said he hopes his proposals will eventually convince the unions and party to change policy and support scrapping the Trident submarine replacement programme. As yet, Labour’s policy is to renew Trident and protect the jobs of thousands of workers employed in the nuclear sector.

The MP stressed that his proposals would not mean an end to the arms industry in Britain, which would still be tasked with aiding defence of the country.

The defence diversification plan will form part of a “peace doctrine” currently being worked up by Mr Hamilton. The wider peace doctrine aims to build upon former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook’s “ethical foreign policy”. Under the doctrine the number one priority of the armed forces would still be the defence of the realm. But the military would also be tasked with a “responsibility to protect” people around the world from suffering.

October 2018

The SNP’s defence spokesman Stewart McDonald told The House magazine: “I hope that if Jeremy’s in the position to form a government, perhaps with an arrangement with the Scottish National Party, then that [scrapping Trident] should be one of the key planks of any discussion that we have”.

November 2018

Mr Corbyn put the 25-page initial framework for the doctrine to Shadow Cabinet Ministers including Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith (left) and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry for consultation. Politics Home reported that the formidable Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith rejected calls for a rethink of Labour’s backing for the nuclear deterrent, saying that the “defence diversification” review aimed at finding alternative jobs for people in the defence industry would not lead to Labour ditching its support for the multi-billion pound nuclear deterrent: “It is absolutely part of our policy to keep the deterrent. And that is our settled policy. And that was in our manifesto last year, which was agreed by everybody.”

She is on record as criticising the proposal for a policy review if Labour won the next election – supported by Emily Thornberry – saying that for a nuclear deterrent to be effective it was essential that “you are prepared to use it”, including a ‘first strike’ attack if necessary, though Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has previously said he would never launch such an attack as prime minister.

December 2018

The Times reports that the Trident submarine replacement programme will take up an extra £400 million of the Ministry of Defence’s budget this year. Four Dreadnought submarines are being built to replace the Vanguard-class boats that host the Trident nuclear deterrent. The new submarines are due to come into service in 2028.The extra money for the submarines, announced yesterday, has been brought forward as part of their £31 billion total cost, estimated in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

January 2019

An updated government briefing paper released in January explains that the Dreadnought programme, commonly referred to as “the renewal or replacement of Trident”, is about the design, development and manufacture of four new Dreadnought class ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) that will maintain the UK’s nuclear posture of Continuous at Sea Deterrence (CASD)

BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and Babcock International are industrial partners in this project. As the programme moves forward, BAE Systems has estimated that 85% of its supply chain will be based in the UK. potentially involving around 850 British companies.

Spending on the Dreadnought programme in 2018/19 is currently forecast at approximately £1.13 billion. However, HM Treasury has also granted the MOD access to £600 million from the Dreadnought contingency fund during this period, again to keep the programme on track and reduce risk.

The National Audit Office reported the expected total spend on supporting the Enterprise as being £50.9 billion between 2018 and 2028. The wider portfolio of programmes that underpin this includes the design, production, maintenance and operation of submarines and nuclear warheads and providing the estate and people to support capabilities. NAO raised concerns over the impact of spending on the MOD’s nuclear programmes, including Dreadnought, on the affordability of the Department’s overall equipment plan.

 

 

 

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Pork-barrel politics? President Trump has announced the US’ withdrawal from the INF treaty

On 20 October 2018 (below), citing Russian non-compliance, US President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing the US from the INF treaty and on 1st February 2019, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the U.S. was suspending the treaty.

The INF Treaty eliminated all land-based ballistic and guided cruise missiles, as well as their launchers, with short medium-range and intermediate-range. It did not cover air- or sea-launched missiles. By May 1991, 2,692 missiles were eliminated, followed by 10 years of on-site verification inspections.

On several occasions since 2008 the US has accused Russia of violating treaty terms by testing the SSC-8 cruise missile. In 2013 it added the development of a new ground-launched cruise missile which violated the INF prohibition of missiles to these charges, but Russia denies that its range violates INF limits.

Russia argues that America’s establishment of bases capable of launching Tomahawk missiles in Poland and Romania and its usage of ballistic “target ” test missiles and armed UAVs such as the MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-4 also violates the INF Treaty.

The military-industrial advantages

CNN adds that, according to a report obtained by *Breaking Defense, the US has since 2013 been considering the INF-range missiles it might develop should the treaty collapse.  In October 2018, it revealed that unreleased Pentagon documents and Congressional demands for information showed that Washington has long planned for the day when the INF treaty with Russia would be ‘ripped up’.

The report by the Joint Staff and Strategic Command, made it clear that as far back as 2013 — a year before the Obama administration first publicly complained about Russian violations of the treaty — the Defense Department was considering which technologies the US could develop should Washington walk away from the INF.

Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza confirmed that the department continues to work on “a review of U.S. options for conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missile systems, which would enable the United States to defend ourselves and our allies, should Russia fail to return to compliance.”

Welcomed by NATO hierarchy

Quartz reports that the start of the withdrawal process, which goes into effect tomorrow, has the backing of the US’s NATO allies – not sosome will oppose any proposal to site and deploy the new generation of nuclear missiles in Europe and such splits within NATO would strengthen Putin’s position

But the withdrawal certainly was welcomed by NATO’s Secretary General on BBC radio and online:

Donald Trump’s failure to alert allies about the final decision was criticised by Richard Burt, former U.S. chief negotiator of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty:

“The overwhelming view of people, not only in the United States and Russia but around the world, will be that it was the United States that killed this treaty . . .The handling of this decision is just simply god awful.”

Thomas Countryman, former assistant secretary of State for international security and nonproliferation, commented that the announcement has handed Moscow “the double-victory it sought: keeping a new system that adds to its military strength, while being able to shame/blame the US for accelerating an arms race.”

*Breaking Defense is published by Breaking Media, a network of ‘next-generation business-to-business media brands – including  Above the LawDealbreakerMedCity NewsBreaking Energy and Breaking Gov.

 

 

 

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Nuclear weapons tests in the Enewetak Atol: rising sea levels add to the toxic legacy

 

The Enewetak Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, is about halfway between Australia and Hawaii. After WWII, the atoll came under control of the US, and in 1948 the first nuclear test was carried out. For 10 years, as part of the Cold War, 43 nuclear bombs were detonated on Enewetak – twice as many tests as its neighbour, Bikini Atoll.  

The US sent around 4000 personnel to the area in 1977 to clean the site. During the three-year process, they mixed contaminated soil and debris with cement and buried it in one of the blast craters on the beach. The concrete dome was added and in 1980 the atoll was said to be safe for habitation. Local residents returned the same year. But the effect of rising sea levels due to climate change had not been anticipated. 

In 2013, Lawrence Livermore Laboratories issued a disturbing report commissioned by the US Department of Energy which examined the ‘Cactus’ dome on Runit Island, one of 40 islands of the Enewetak Atoll, recorded the cracks and ordered repairs. 

Double standards? 

It noted (p2) that “If the Cactus crater concrete containment structure on Runit Island were located in the United States proper (or subjected to U.S. regulatory authority), it would be formally classified as a Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Site and be subject to stringent site management and monitoring practices”. 

A reader sent a link to an article by Australian journalist Phoebe Loomes, who reports that rising sea levels have added to the degradation of the large, concrete-dome holding the toxic materials which are leaking into the Pacific Ocean.

Mike Willacy, an investigative journalist, travelled to the Marshall Islands for the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program in 2017. He said that the dome was only meant to be a temporary solution until the US came up with a permanent plan – a cost-cutting exercise.

He saw the cracks in the concrete dome and was told that residents feared for their lives if the structure collapsed. They warned of the fallout that could arise from the water flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

“Seawater is penetrating the underside of the dome, because when they threw all this material into the old bomb crater, they didn’t line it with anything. They were supposed to line it with concrete, but that never happened because of cost considerations. So, as the sea level has risen, the groundwater level has risen and therefore you have groundwater penetrating inside the dome, because a lot of this atoll is obviously sand (and) coral. It’s permeable material.”

In the Marshall Islands, the most common cause of death is diabetes, which is related to a thyroid disorder – the second is cancer. There are high levels of birth defects, cancer and thyroid problems, which locals attribute to continued fallout from the radioactive bombing of the area.

The population of the Marshall Islands is around 70,000 and local people are allowed to live and work in the US without a visa as part of the reparations for the nuclear testing that took place. Over a third have already moved to the US. Ms Loomes adds, “It is said that when you leave the Marshall Islands, you buy a one-way ticket”. 

As sea levels continue to rise and the climate becomes more unstable, residents of the Marshall Islands are faced with the harsh reality that their island homes are becoming uninhabitable. Willacy writes: “The children who live there refer to themselves as ‘the last generation’ “.

 

 

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