Tag Archives: nuclear

Off the Hook: Nuclear Power Companies in Germany

location of nuclear plants Germany, Image from wikipedia.

Germany aims to phase out its nine remaining reactors by 2022, faster than almost any country

On  December 12, 2016 , it cut a deal with the nuclear power companies operating in the country that would guarantee them a ceiling on costs related to radioactive waste, lawmakers said  on December 12, 2016  Germany’s E.ON SE, RWE AG, EnBW AG and Sweden’s Vattenfall AB already set aside about €17 billion ($18 billion) to finance the disposal of radioactive waste after the government moved to ban nuclear power five years ago. Now  they would pay an additional €6 billion into a public fund but be off the hook for any further payments if the cost of processing the radioactive material were to balloon out of control in the decades to come, as many experts fear.  The companies have also agreed to drop some of the lawsuits they filed against the government after the nuclear ban….

The government and the power companies are moving toward “legal certainty,” said Oliver Krischer, a lawmaker with the Greens on Monday. But “to bring a lasting peace to the topic, the nuclear power plant companies should drop their remaining disputes at the national level and in international tribunals,” he said. Vattenfall is suing Germany for around €5 billion in arbitration at Washington’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

Excerpt Germany Cuts Deal With Nuclear Power Companies Over Waste Costs, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 12, 2016

23 Baseball Stadiums of Nuclear Waste: the Fukushima disaster

Japanese officials in towns around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant reacted guardedly to plans announced on Saturday (October 29, 2011) tobuild facilities to store radioactive waste from the clean-up around the plant within three years.  Saturday’s announcement, seven months after the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 25 years, came as towns near the plant are still coping with health fears and disputes over where to store huge amounts of unwanted waste…

Japan aims to halve radiation over two years in places contaminated by the crisis. To do so, it may have to remove and dispose of massive amounts of radioactive soil, possibly enough to fill 23 baseball stadiums…Local authorities would have to keep the contaminated waste in their towns until the facility is ready….

In Minami Soma, top soil scraped from school playgrounds and house yards is kept on site, piled up in corners or buried. The city has not been able to decide on a single storage location for the soil because of resistance from residents.

Fukushima towns struggle to store radioactive waste, Reuters, Oct. 29, 2011

India’s Nuclear Capable Missiles

The successful launch of three missiles in the past week confirmed India’s readiness for strategic defence and that the country’s missile development and production capability have reached a high maturity level, observed V.K. Saraswat, Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister.  Talking to The Hindu soon after the launch of the nuclear weapons-capable Agni-II on Friday, he said the hat-trick of successes has proved the country’s capability to develop and produce missiles of any range and the possession of technology to meet any threat profile.  He said that Agni-II Prime surface-to-surface missile would be launched in November and the first flight test of India’s longest range strategic system Agni-V (5,000 km range) would be conducted in December. Besides, an interceptor missile test would also be held as part of the plans to put in place Ballistic Missile Defence system.

Y. Mallikarjun T.S. Subramanian, Launch confirms India’s readiness for strategic defence, the Hindu, Sept. 30, 2011

Nuclear Lobbyists, Money=Power

The main trade group for the nuclear power industry, the Nuclear Energy Institute, spent $580,000 in the second quarter  of 2011 lobbying federal officials about financial support for new reactors, safety regulations and other issues, according to a disclosure report. …NEI, based in Washington, lobbied the government on measures designed to ensure the nation’s 104 commercial reactors can withstand natural disasters. It also lobbied on a measure that would require nuclear operators to transfer radioactive spent nuclear fuel from cooling pools inside or near reactor cores to dry casks further from the reactors.  In the Japanese nuclear accident, crowded pools of spent nuclear fuel overheated when the nuclear station’s cooling power was knocked out.  NEI also lobbied the government over environmental regulations. Congress is considering measures that would delay new clean air and clean water rules and curb the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to issue rules by forcing the EPA to factor in the cost of their implementation in addition to medical and scientific evidence.  There also are several measures under consideration that would block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.  Nuclear power generation produces no greenhouse gases and none of the airborne toxins such as mercury that EPA clean air rules target. But many nuclear plants use outdated cooling systems that consume enormous amounts of water. Replacing those cooling systems with newer systems that use less water is expensive.

NEI also lobbied for funds for research and development for smaller, cheaper reactors and other nuclear technologies.  Nuclear reactors produce about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity, but the country’s reactors are aging. No new reactor has been planned and completed since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

In April through June, NEI lobbied Congress, the Commerce Department, the Defense Department, the Executive Office of the President, the Departments of Transportation, Energy, State and Homeland Security Department, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Office of Management and Budget, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to the report the NEI filed July 19 with the House clerk’s office.  Lobbyists are required to disclose activities that could influence members of the executive and legislative branches of government under a federal law enacted in 1995.

Nuclear group spent $580,000 lobbying in 2Q,-

Nuclear Smuggling and Criminal Networks

If terrorists ever get their hands on a nuclear bomb or the means to build one, it will likely occur in the area that surrounds and feeds into the Black Sea. This region, which includes Southeast Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, is with rife ethnic and cultural tensions, weak governance structures, rising nationalism, intense competition for resources, divisive geography, disputed borders, dueling great powers, Islamist terrorism and protracted warfare. It is a good place for terrorists to look for weapons of mass destruction….

 There is… the growing connection between nuclear insiders and organized criminal networks in this volatile part of the world.  Successful illicit trafficking requires three things: access to the contraband, identification of a potential buyer and safe transport of the goods, usually across international boundaries. Nuclear trafficking cases over the past couple of decades show a clear pattern. Insiders working within a country’s nuclear establishment are almost always responsible for theft of nuclear material but they usually have trouble finding a buyer and figuring out how to transport it across international borders.

This lack of know-how on the part of nuclear insiders is not surprising. People who are cleared to handle dangerous nuclear materials do not normally associate with terrorists, nor do they tend to run in circles where knowledge of how to smuggle contraband across international borders is common. The weakness of nuclear insiders is finding an illicit buyer and moving their nuclear contraband clandestinely. So far, these difficulties have worked to the advantage of law enforcement….

The pattern appears to be changing in dangerous ways, however. More recent nuclear smuggling cases indicate that experienced illicit traffickers are at work. They suggest that insiders with access and the willingness to steal nuclear material have teamed up with organized criminal networks that know how to move the contraband clandestinely. This alliance creates an illegal distribution chain that is much more secure and thus much more difficult for the police to uncover.

A nuclear smuggling case in Georgia in 2006 illustrates the point. The police arrested several Georgian nationals who were attempting to sell highly enriched uranium. The modus operandi used in the operation caught the attention of Georgian nuclear security officials and led to a number of disturbing conclusions.

The case began when the Georgian police learned of efforts by Russian sellers to find a buyer for nuclear contraband. The Georgians mounted a sting operation and posed as interested buyers. Then they requested a meeting with the sellers on Georgian soil. At first, the case appeared to be like the others in which naive nuclear insiders were attempting to sell stolen material. The sellers, however, never showed up for the meeting. Instead, they sent a courier with a sample of the illicit material. When the courier arrived, the police “buyers” tested the contraband, determined that it was low-quality material unsuitable for bomb making and refused to buy it. The courier left the meeting and was on his way back to Russia when he was arrested.

What the Georgians came to understand is that the courier was conducting a test run of the proposed smuggling route and gathering information on the potential buyers. Had the courier returned successfully to Russia, the real sellers would have gained much useful information. First, they would have known that the route used by the courier to cross the Russian-Georgian border was safe. They could use it to deliver the higher quality contraband. Second, with knowledge of the buyers’ identities, they could perform further due diligence, perhaps even use surveillance, to determine whether the buyers were genuine. These are not the tactics of naive nuclear insiders. They are more like what one expects to see from experienced international traffickers. The Georgians had another such event take place in 2010.

Globalization has eased the movement of people and goods across international boundaries. The price of highly enriched uranium is running at least $10,000 per gram. The risk-reward calculation is changing in a way that incentivizes illicit traffickers to include nuclear material in the contraband they move. This means that terrorists can become commodities purchasers, much like the buyers of illegal drugs. In short, the odds of terrorists successfully acquiring nuclear material have increased in their favor.

Bruce Lawlor, Nuclear trafficking: A growing threat, Washington Times, June 3, 2011