Monthly Archives: December 2011

Polluting the Seas, the 25 000 Nuclear Dumps of Russia

There are nearly 25,000 hazardous underwater objects containing solid radioactive waste in Russia, an emergencies ministry official said on Monday (Dec. 26, 2011).  The ministry has compiled a register of so-called sea hazards, including underwater objects in the Baltic, Barents, White, Kara, and Black Seas as well as the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan, Oleg Kuznetsov, deputy head of special projects at the ministry’s rescue service, said.  These underwater objects include nuclear submarines that have sunk and ships with ammunition and oil products, chemicals and radioactive waste.  Their condition has been closely monitored for the past 15 years by ministry specialists.  The danger is that metal containers can eventually be eroded by sea water, resulting in the leak of hazardous substance.  Hazardous sites with solid radioactive waste sit on the sea bed mainly at a depth of 500 meters, Kuznetsov said.  Especially dangerous are reactor holds of nuclear submarines off the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago and a radio-isotope power units sunk near Sakhalin Island, he added.  “Should a major threat to the environment and people arise then the state will take effective measures to eliminate it,” he said.

Russia reports 25,000 undersea radioactive waste sites, RIA Novosti, Dec. 26, 2011

The Under-Reported War: Afghanistan and the American Democracy

Of all the news content in newspapers and on the Web, television and radio this year, Afghanistan accounted for about 2 percent of coverage, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, an arm of the Pew Research Center.  Six other subjects were given more sustained attention than the war there. In descending order, they were the economy in the United States; the unrest in the Middle East; the 2012 presidential election; the earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear disaster in Japan; the killing of Osama bin Laden; and the shooting in Tucson in which six were killed and Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of Arizona, was critically injured.

The figures come from the project’s weekly monitoring of 52 major papers, news Web sites, TV networks and stations, and radio stations. The project uses that sample to show what is atop the national news agenda, and what is not.  In a year-end report last week, the project’s researchers noted that “despite a drop in coverage of the war in Afghanistan,” there was an increase in international news over all, owing largely to the war in Libya and the protests in Egypt, Tunisia and other countries. The United States’ withdrawal from Iraq accounted for less than 1 percent of all news coverage.  Since Pew started its weekly monitoring in 2007, the war in Afghanistan has never accounted for more than 5 percent of all news coverage on an annual basis. In 2010, Afghanistan accounted for 4 percent of all news coverage.  The United States has about 91,000 troops in Afghanistan now. For much of this year and last, about 100,000 United States troops were in the country.

The news executives that pay for bureaus in Afghanistan have had to contend with tight news-gathering budgets, safety concerns and, in some cases, a perception that American audiences are not interested in the situation.  The relative dearth of coverage has brought occasional criticism in the United States, particularly from those who recall vigorous coverage of the Vietnam War. “Other than in its early stages in 2001-2002, the American press has greatly underreported this war,” John Hanrahan, formerly the executive director of the Fund for Investigative Journalism, wrote in an essay for Nieman Watchdog in August.  “This paucity of reporting — the almost total reliance on just a few reporters — has stark implications for how the war is perceived back home,” Mr. Hanrahan wrote. “The fewer the reporters, the fewer the first-hand accounts needed for citizens to form knowledgeable opinions of the war.”

By BRIAN STELTER, Afghanistan Low on News Agenda, NY Times, Dec. 25, 2011

Decimation of Endangered Species: the Rhino

Sumatra rhino. image from wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malaysian wildlife authorities said Monday (Dec. 26, 2011) the capture of a young female Borneo Sumatran rhino had given them a last chance to save the highly endangered species from extinction. The female rhino, aged between 10 and 12 years old, was caught on December 18 and is being kept in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah on the Malaysian area of Borneo island where it is hoped it will breed with a lone captive male.

The female rhino, which has been named Puntung, was caught in a joint operation by the Borneo Rhino Alliance and the Sabah Wildlife Department. “This is now the very last chance to save this species, one of the most ancient forms of mammal,” Laurentius Ambu, director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, said in a statement. Puntung had been specifically targeted since early 2010 as the mate for a 20-year-old, lone male rhino named Tam, who was rescued from an oil palm plantation in August 2008.

Previous attempts in the 1980s and 1990s to breed Borneo Sumatran rhinos failed… The breeding programme is important because it is estimated only between 30 and 50 of the Borneo sub-species of the Sumatran rhinos are known to remain in the wild in Borneo — a vast island shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.  Only 150 to 300 Sumatran rhinos are known to exist in the wild, making it one of the world’s most endangered species, with only small groups left on Indonesia’s Sumatra island, the north of Borneo and peninsular Malaysia.

Capture of rare Sumatran rhino gives hope for species, Agence France Presse, Dec. 26, 2011

United States, India and Japan: Nuclear Cooperation and Beyond

India and Japan will firm up strategic ties during their summit meeting next week with a $4.5-billion grant for an ambitious infrastructure project, announcing Tokyo’s participation in next year’s India-U.S. naval exercises and holding talks on moving ahead with India-Japan-U.S. trilateral cooperation.    Talks will also be held on a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation accord. Although Japan will shortly sign similar pacts with Russia, Jordan, Vietnam and South Korea, prospects of an accord with India, a non Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory, sailing through the Japanese Diet are dim…..[But there should] be no problem in Japanese companies supplying components to French and U.S. civil nuclear companies despite the absence of an India-Japan civil nuclear agreement. “Our understanding is that an agreement is required for a comprehensive partnership. But individual items can be sold by Japanese companies [which have a near monopoly on reactor vessels and its parts] to companies such as Areva under a licence from the government,” said sources.

Discussion on rare earthswill be held for the second summit meeting in a row. The decks have been cleared with the removal of Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL) from the Japanese End Users List in August this year. The Prime Ministers are likely to discuss this sensitive subject that entails a joint venture between IREL and Toyota Tsusho for a plant in Orissa. India stopped exporting rare earths seven years ago to stop depletion of mineral resources at a time when international prices were weak.

Sandeep Dikshit, India, Japan to firm up strategic ties, The Hindu, Dec. 25, 2011

The Quiet Nuclearization of the Middle East, UAE

The Braka-1 nuclear plant is slated to operate in 2017, with its three sister plants following at one-year intervals, said William Travers, the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation’s (FANR) director-general.Travers added the Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team presented its initial findings in Abu Dhabi on its ten-day mission during which they found “good practices in the regulatory system; yet with some recommendations and suggestions for further improvement.  “The review is of strategic value which results from an extensive dialogue that engenders common commitment to improving the quality and effectiveness of technical cooperation between the UAE and the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency].  “We have been working hard to establish FANR as a world-class nuclear safety regulator,” he said, pointing out inviting the IAEA’s peer review service is one important way to progress.

Carl-Magnus Larsson, IRRS team leader said: “Among the recommendations to improve the UAE regulatory system were: The UAE government should clarify roles and responsibilities of emergency response organisations as soon as possible.”  He added: “The UAE should conclude and implement a national policy and strategy for radioactive waste management.”  The comprehensive IAEA review was not an inspection or an audit and was based on a detailed self-assessment FANR has prepared over months.  “The mission included visits to the proposed Braka nuclear power plant site in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi Emirate, to the medical and industrial facilities as well as meetings with other key entities involved in the nuclear programme,” said Larsson.

The UAE will select a uranium supplier in the first half of next year for its $20 billion (Dh73.5 billion) nuclear energy programme, Hamad Al Ka’abi, the UAE’s permanent representative to the IAEA told Gulf News earlier after the Global Energy Markets: Changes in the Strategic Landscape conference.

“Our nuclear policy states that we would favour sending back the spent fuel to the country that supplied it,” Al Ka’abi pointed out, adding: “If that is not feasible, we would consider storing it in the UAE, in underground storage, for example. Nuclear safety will be the core of our plans and fundamental to the success and the long-term stability of the UAE programme.”

By Shehab Al Makahleh, Nuclear regulator wins accolades from review team Braka-1 facility expected to open in 2017, GulfNews.com, Dec. 25, 2011

Israel’s Covert War

Amid deepening tension between Iran and its principal adversaries — the United States and Israel — the Jewish state has formed a Special Forces command to carry out strategic strikes deep inside hostile territory.   The formation of the new command indicates that Israel’s military envisages long-range, largely clandestine and multi-arm operations will have a much higher priority than the conventional operations…  Israeli defense officials say the elite new corps’ area of operations includes the “third circle,” a term that usually encompasses the Persian Gulf and the Horn of Africa.  Indeed, the new formation, officially known in Hebrew as the Depth Corps, has been popularly dubbed the “Iran Command” so ingrained has the Islamic Republic become in the national psyche as the main existential threat to the Jewish state because of its alleged quest for nuclear weapons.

The Depth Corps is the equivalent of the U.S. Special Operations Command that oversaw the clandestine operation that led to the assassination of Osama bin Laden in May and will have the authority to initiate special operations.  It’s the brainchild of the recently appointed chief of the general staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, until recently head of the Northern Command along the border with Lebanon.  Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israel’s most decorated soldier and a legendary Special Forces leader, green-lighted the project.

The corps will integrate the Israeli military’s various special units such as the elite Sayeret Matkal of Military Intelligence, the air force’s Shaldaq and the navy’s Flotilla 13, coordinating their operations and their unique specialties to an unprecedented degree.  Sayeret Matkal was commanded by Barak in the 1970s. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, then an army captain, was one of his officers.  They both participated in the May 9, 1972, storming of a hijacked Boeing 707 of Sabena Belgian Airlines at Lod Airport outside Tel Aviv — now Ben Gurion International — held by Black September Palestinian militants to free the 100 hostages aboard the jet.

The new corps will be commanded by Maj. Gen. Shai Avitai, a former Sayeret Matkal chief and a close associate of Barak. Israel’s military objectives are primarily focused on Iran at this time, with threats to unleash pre-emptive strikes, primarily using fighter-bombers and ballistic missiles, against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear infrastructure.  But it’s also concerned with clandestine arms shipments, mainly from Iran, funneled through the Red Sea into Egypt via Sudan. At least two long-range strikes were reportedly carried out in January 2010 against arms convoys moving north through the Sudanese desert.But the formation of the new command follows major gains by Islamist radicals in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya amid the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings that began in January.

The seismic shifts in the Arab world’s geopolitical landscape, with a savage confrontation under way in Syria between the minority Alawite regime of President Bashar Assad and its opponents that could produce another Islamist-dominated power, have radically altered Israel’s security perspective…..The Post’s military correspondent, Yaakov Katz, said that, Iran aside, likely targets for the Depth Corps is Lebanon and Syria.

Israel forms corps for strategic strikes, UPI.com, Dec. 19, 2011

State of the World: Nuclear Waste

With more than 400 nuclear power plants in 32 countries, nuclear waste disposal is no longer an afterthought…  No nation yet has opened a permanent geological repository. But plans are well advanced in some countries, notably Finland and Sweden.  Canada plans to open a deep repository for high-level waste around 2035, though much work lies ahead, including finding a suitable site. Transferring the estimated four million spent fuel bundles into the vault will take an additional 30 years…

In the United States, the Obama administration’s recent decision to cancel the 2015 opening of a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada’s remote desert country has left jittery and angry American nuclear power producers sitting on enormous amounts of spent fuel crammed into interim storage for an indefinite additional period. The country’s 104 commercial power reactors churn out more every day. Cancellation of the project, which cost an estimated $9 billion and involved more than 20 years of research, is widely considered to have been based on political, not technical, concerns.But so was the original siting process. Washington in 1987 unilaterally deemed the waste was going to Yucca without seriously considering other potential sites. Not surprisingly, Nevada citizens have railed against the top-down plan ever since.

If the government doesn’t bow to pressure and reverse its decision, U.S. nuclear waste planners will be going back to the drawing board for what promises to be another very prolonged and expensive exercise.

The World Nuclear Association says deep geological disposal is the preferred option for several other countries, too, including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea and Spain.

FINLAND: Olkiluoto, on the shore of the Gulf of Bothnia in western Finland, was chosen and excavation and construction was started in 2004 by Posiva Oy, a nuclear waste management company. The repository is named Onkalo. Scheduled to open in 2020, spent nuclear fuel packed in copper canisters will be embedded in bedrock at a depth of around 400 metres. Onkalo will be the world’s first permanent nuclear waste crypt.

FRANCE:  Almost 80 per cent of France’s energy comes from 59 nuclear power reactors…The French radioactive waste disposal agency, Andra, is designing a deep geological repository in clays at Bure in eastern France for its disposal, as well as long-lived intermediate level waste. Andra expects to apply for a construction and operating licence in 2014.

GERMANY:  In May, as the enormity of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear complex disaster became clearer, German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to phase-out nuclear power from the country’s 17 reactors by 2020.  Like France, Germany reprocesses its waste — but at reprocessing facilities in France, Russian and Britain. The reprocessed waste is then shipped back to Germany and stored in a former salt mine in the northern town of Gorleben.  In 1979, Gorleben was selected as a temporary nuclear waste site, but the government recently resumed research to make it into a permanent storage site. In November, thousands of protesters clashed with police in an unsuccessful bid to halt a Gorleben-bound train of reprocessing waste from France.

RUSSIA: Used fuel from 27 reactors is reprocessed for plutonium. Four geological disposal facilities are planned to begin operation in 2025-2030.

INDIA: Spent fuel from 14 reactors is stored in pools, then reprocessed. A geological repository is planned but not sited.

SWEDEN: Forsmark, on the east coast of Uppland and site of a nuclear power plant, has been chosen, When open in 2023, it is to safely hold spent fuel 500 metres underground for 100,000 years.

SWITZERLAND: The country had been reprocessing its high-level waste abroad in France and Britain, but enacted a 10-year reprocessing moratorium in 2006. Spent fuel is now kept at the country’s five reactor sites.  Two sites are under investigation as possible locations for two national waste repositories, one for low- and medium-level waste and one for spent fuel.  In June, meanwhile, the country resolved not to replace any reactors and phase-out nuclear power by 2034.

BRITAIN: Used fuel from its 31 reactors is reprocessed and the vitrified waste is stored above ground for 50 years.  In 2003, the government established the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management to investigate options for a long-term management approach. In 2008, the committee recommended deep geological disposal, which the government endorsed.

Excerpts, By Ian MacLeod, The global nuclear waste race,The Ottawa Citizen December 20, 2011

NATO Claims Right to Impunity for Civilian Deaths in Libya

NATO’s seven-month air campaign in Libya, hailed by the alliance and many Libyans for blunting a lethal crackdown by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and helping to push him from power, came with an unrecognized toll: scores of civilian casualties the alliance has long refused to acknowledge or investigate.  By NATO’s telling during the war, and in statements since sorties ended on Oct. 31, the alliance-led operation was nearly flawless — a model air war that used high technology, meticulous planning and restraint to protect civilians from Colonel Qaddafi’s troops, which was the alliance’s mandate.  “We have carried out this operation very carefully, without confirmed civilian casualties,” the secretary general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said in November.

But an on-the-ground examination by The New York Times of airstrike sites across Libya — including interviews with survivors, doctors and witnesses, and the collection of munitions remnants, medical reports, death certificates and photographs — found credible accounts of dozens of civilians killed by NATO in many distinct attacks. The victims, including at least 29 women or children, often had been asleep in homes when the ordnance hit.  In all, at least 40 civilians, and perhaps more than 70, were killed by NATO at these sites, available evidence suggests. While that total is not high compared with other conflicts in which Western powers have relied heavily on air power, and less than the exaggerated accounts circulated by the Qaddafi government, it is also not a complete accounting. Survivors and doctors working for the anti-Qaddafi interim authorities point to dozens more civilians wounded in these and other strikes, and they referred reporters to other sites where civilian casualties were suspected.  Two weeks after being provided a 27-page memorandum from The Times containing extensive details of nine separate attacks in which evidence indicated that allied planes had killed or wounded unintended victims, NATO modified its stance.  “From what you have gathered on the ground, it appears that innocent civilians may have been killed or injured, despite all the care and precision,” said Oana Lungescu, a spokeswoman for NATO headquarters in Brussels. “We deeply regret any loss of life.”  She added that NATO was in regular contact with the new Libyan government and that “we stand ready to work with the Libyan authorities to do what they feel is right.”

NATO, however, deferred the responsibility of initiating any inquiry to Libya’s interim authorities, whose survival and climb to power were made possible largely by the airstrike campaign. So far, Libyan leaders have expressed no interest in examining NATO’s mistakes.  The failure to thoroughly assess the civilian toll reduces the chances that allied forces, which are relying ever more heavily on air power rather than risking ground troops in overseas conflicts, will examine their Libyan experience to minimize collateral deaths elsewhere. Allied commanders have been ordered to submit a lessons-learned report to NATO headquarters in February. NATO’s incuriosity about the many lethal accidents raises questions about how thorough that review will be.  NATO’s experience in Libya also reveals an attitude that initially prevailed in Afghanistan. There, NATO forces, led by the United States, tightened the rules of engagement for airstrikes and insisted on better targeting to reduce civilian deaths only after repeatedly ignoring or disputing accounts of airstrikes that left many civilians dead.  In Libya, NATO’s inattention to its unintended victims has also left many wounded civilians with little aid in the aftermath of the country’s still-chaotic change in leadership.  These victims include a boy blasted by debris in his face and right eye, a woman whose left leg was amputated, another whose foot and leg wounds left her disabled, a North Korean doctor whose left foot was crushed and his wife, who suffered a fractured skull.  The Times’s investigation included visits to more than 25 sites, including in Tripoli, Surman, Mizdah, Zlitan, Ga’a, Majer, Ajdabiya, Misurata, Surt, Brega and Sabratha and near Benghazi. More than 150 targets — bunkers, buildings or vehicles — were hit at these places.

NATO warplanes flew thousands of sorties that dropped 7,700 bombs or missiles; because The Times did not examine sites in several cities and towns where the air campaign was active, the casualty estimate could be low.  There are indications that the alliance took many steps to avoid harming civilians, and often did not damage civilian infrastructure useful to Colonel Qaddafi’s military. Elements of two American-led air campaigns in Iraq, in 1991 and 2003, appear to have been avoided, including attacks on electrical grids.  Such steps spared civilians certain hardships and risks that accompanied previous Western air-to-ground operations. NATO also said that allied forces did not use cluster munitions or ordnance containing depleted uranium, both of which pose health and environmental risks, in Libya at any time.  The alliance’s fixed-wing aircraft dropped only laser- or satellite-guided weapons, said Col. Gregory Julian, a NATO spokesman; no so-called dumb bombs were used.

While the overwhelming preponderance of strikes seemed to have hit their targets without killing noncombatants, many factors contributed to a run of fatal mistakes. These included a technically faulty bomb, poor or dated intelligence and the near absence of experienced military personnel on the ground who could help direct airstrikes.   The alliance’s apparent presumption that residences thought to harbor pro-Qaddafi forces were not occupied by civilians repeatedly proved mistaken, the evidence suggests, posing a reminder to advocates of air power that no war is cost- or error-free.  The investigation also found significant damage to civilian infrastructure from certain attacks for which a rationale was not evident or risks to civilians were clear. These included strikes on warehouses that current anti-Qaddafi guards said contained only food, or near businesses or homes that were destroyed, including an attack on a munitions bunker beside a neighborhood that caused a large secondary explosion, scattering warheads and toxic rocket fuel.

NATO has also not yet provided data to Libyans on the locations or types of unexploded ordnance from its strikes. At least two large weapons were present at sites visited by The Times. “This information is urgently needed,” said Dr. Ali Yahwya, chief surgeon at the Zlitan hospital.  Moreover, the scouring of one strike site found remnants of NATO munitions in a ruined building that an alliance spokesman explicitly said NATO did not attack.  That mistake — a pair of strikes — killed 12 anti-Qaddafi fighters and nearly killed a civilian ambulance crew aiding wounded men. It underscored NATO’s sometimes tenuous grasp of battle lines and raised questions about the forthrightness and accuracy of the alliance’s public-relations campaign.  The second strike pointed to a tactic that survivors at several sites recounted: warplanes restriking targets minutes after a first attack, a practice that imperiled, and sometimes killed, civilians rushing to the wounded.

Pressed about the dangers posed to noncombatants by such attacks, NATO said it would reconsider the tactic’s rationale in its internal campaign review. “That’s a valid point to take into consideration in future operations,” Colonel Julian said.  That statement is a shift in the alliance’s stance. NATO’s response to allegations of mistaken attacks had long been carefully worded denials and insistence that its operations were devised and supervised with exceptional care. Faced with credible allegations that it killed civilians, the alliance said it had neither the capacity for nor intention of investigating and often repeated that disputed strikes were sound.

The alliance maintained this position even after two independent Western organizations — Human Rights Watch and the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, or Civic — met privately with NATO officials and shared field research about mistakes, including, in some cases, victims’ names and the dates and locations where they died.  Organizations researching civilian deaths in Libya said that the alliance’s resistance to making itself accountable and acknowledging mistakes amounted to poor public policy. “It’s crystal clear that civilians died in NATO strikes,” said Fred Abrahams, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. “But this whole campaign is shrouded by an atmosphere of impunity” and by NATO’s and the Libyan authorities’ mutually congratulatory statements.

Excerpt,-

Chevron’s Oil Spills in Amazon, destroying the paper trail

A new document reveals that Chevron officials ordered the destruction of key documents as part of a broad scheme to hide the extent of the company’s pollution in Ecuador’s Amazon, says Amazon Defense Coalition.  A company memorandum from Ecuador dated July 1972 ordered that all reports related to oil spills “are to be removed from the Field and Division offices and destroyed.” From 1964 to 1990, Chevron operated a large concession in Ecuador’s Amazon region that included an extensive network of pipelines, wells and separation stations.

Chevron operated in Ecuador under the Texaco brand. In February, an Ecuador court found Chevron liable for dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon, decimating indigenous groups and causing a spike in cancer rates. Damages in the case, which is under appeal in Ecuador, were set at $18 billion. The extent and environmental impact of the disaster dwarfs the size of the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to experts.

The memo ordering the destruction of documents was written by R.C. Shields, at the time the director of production in Latin America for Texaco and Chairman of the company’s Ecuador subsidiary. The memo directs Chevron personnel to report only oil spills that are “major events” which are defined as those that “attract the attention of press and/or regulatory authorities.”  The directive also orders that no reports are to be kept on a “routine basis.”  The Shields memo emerged via discovery in U.S. federal court.

Texaco reportedly caused hundreds of oil spills in Ecuador, many of which were “remediated” by setting them on fire, according to the book Amazon Crude, which was published in 1989 and which documented Texaco’s substandard operational practices. The company also has admitted to pouring sludge from the waste pits along dirt roads.

The Shields memo ordering the destruction of documents infuriated members of the legal team representing 30,000 Amazon residents who are suing the oil giant.  This memo is a vivid illustration of the culture of deceit that characterizes Chevron’s destruction of Ecuador’s Amazon over a period of decades,” said Pablo Fajardo, the lead Ecuadorian lawyer. “Deception remains the operating principle for Chevron in Ecuador even today as the company continues to flout its legal obligations to remediate toxic pollution that threatens thousands of innocent lives.”

Karen Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for the Ecuadorians, said the memo was part of a “pattern of corrupt activities” by the company that include a fraudulent remediation in the 1990s, the fabrication of scientific evidence, attempted entrapment of a trial judge and threats to put judges in jail if they didn’t rule in the company’s favor.  “Chevron acted like the Mafia in Ecuador,” she added. “This repugnant memo is just a small piece of the company’s scheme to defraud Ecuador’s government and its people.”

Chevron’s Ecuador Fraud Highlighted In Memo Ordering Destruction of Documents Related to Contamination, Says Amazon Defense Coalition, PR NewsWire, Dec. 14, 2011

The Nuclear Weapons Establishment is Here to Stay

The National Nuclear Security Administration  released the final Request for Proposals for the new multi-billion-dollar contract, which for the first time will combine management of the two plants that perform national security missions in different states 1,000 miles apart.  In addition to Y-12 National Secuirty Complex in Oak Ridge and the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas, there is an option to include the tritium work done at the Savannah River nuclear site in South Carolina (pdf).

The contract proposals, which are expected to cost millions of dollars to prepare, are due March 13, 2012. Bidding teams are likely to include multiple companies in partnerships.  Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services currently has a management role at both Y-12 and Pantex. B&W Y-12, a partnership of B&W and Bechtel National, has managed Y-12 since 2000.  Ryan Cornell, a corporate spokesman for B&W, confirmed that the company plans to bid on the combined Y-12/Pantex contract…..

A number of changes were made following the draft, including a decision to offer a separate contract for security services at Y-12 and Pantex. Originally, the NNSA had planned to include the protective force as part of the overall managing and operating contract.  The final RFP for the Y-12/Pantex management contracts includes a separate “severable” line item for the project management of the Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12. The UPF is a proposed multi-billion-dollar production facility that’s in the final design stages, with preliminary construction expected to begin in late 2012 if the necessary approvals and funding are in place.

Excerpt from: By Frank Munger, Government seeks bids on Y-12/Pantex contracts, Knoxville News Sentinel, Dec. 15, 2011