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A timely reminder following the annoucement that Silex will push to pursue laser enrichment, something that would make controlling proliferation almost impossible. As it turns out, the US doesn't even know where all its exported highly-enriched uranium is, and does not appear to be looking all that hard for it.
The Raw Story l Eric W. Dolan 13 September, 2011
The United States could only account for 1,160 out of 17,500 kilograms of Highly-Enriched Uranium (HEU) -- weapon-usable nuclear material -- exported to 27 countries in response to a 1992 congressional mandate, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last week.
"The world today is dramatically different than when most U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements were negotiated," the report said. "Many new threats have emerged, and nuclear proliferation risks have increased significantly."
In another disquieting revelation, the GAO pointed out that in the 55 visits from 1994 through 2010, U.S. teams found that countries who received nuclear components met international security guidelines only about 50 percent of the time.
"The agencies have not systematically visited countries believed to be holding the highest proliferation risk quantities of U.S. nuclear material, or systematically revisited facilities not meeting international physical security guidelines in a timely manner," the GAO report warned.
If this seems like a crazy idea to you, you are not alone. And it may end up in the Missouri Supreme Court. Still, Honeywell, local developer Centerpoint Zimmer ( a joint venture of Zimmer Real Estate and Chicago builder- Centerpoint), and all of the City Council save one dissenting member, are swayed by the lure of money and jobs. But, how long will that money and those jobs last? And, do we really support a private company building nuclear weapons, even in parts?
Mother Jones l Adam Weinstein 29 August, 2011
In Kansas City, Missouri, a local zoning fight is going nuclear, literally: A Monday-morning courtroom showdown between activists and politicians could determine whether the city becomes host to the world's first privately owned nuclear weapons plant.
The proposed plant, a 1.5 million-square-foot, $673 million behemoth, would replace an aging facility, also in KC, where 85 percent (PDF) of the components for nation's nuclear arms are produced. The new plant would be run by the same government contractor as the old one—Honeywell—and proponents say the only major change will be more jobs and city infrastructure. But there will be another big difference: The federal government will sublease the property from a private developer, who in turn will lease it from the city for 20 years…after which the developer will own it outright.
The developer that could ultimately own its very own nuclear weapons plant, Centerpoint Zimmer (CPZ), didn't even exist until the deal for the Kansas City facility. It's the product of a union between Zimmer Real Estate, a big swinger in local properties—"Their red signs are all over town," says Ann Suellentrop, a local anti-nuclear activist—and Chicago-based builder Centerpoint, which just happens to own a new 1,000-acre industrial park across the street from the planned production facility. In what it called a "competitive bidding process," the US General Services Administration awarded CPZ a contract to build the new plant—on a soybean field that the company already owned. The Kansas City Council, enticed by direct payments and a promise of "quality jobs," approved the deal and agreed to exempt CPZ from property taxes on the plant and surrounding land for 25 years. It also agreed to $815 million in bond subsidies to build the plant and needed infrastructure.
"It's one thing to be concerned about nuclear proliferation," Ed Ford, a Vietnam-era conscientious objector and the only city councilman to oppose the plan, told the Kansas City Business Journal. "It's another thing to have your city be an active partner."
kcnukeswatch l 3 August, 2011
While proponents of the new plant to produce nuclear weapons components cite its jobs as the major motive behind city financial involvement in the plant, the same resources spent on sounder investments would create more jobs – therefore, we are losing the jobs we would have were the city to use the same resources in a more prudent way.
This argument has long been made by proponents of the initiative, “Nuclear Weapons Components Production Prohibited” (currently awaiting City Council approval for placing on the ballot, which should happen by the deadline of August 30). We have commissioned experts in economics to document this point: Dr. Teresa D. Nelson and Dr. Lloyd J. Dumas. Lloyd J. Dumas is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Texas at Dallas (web page: http://www.utdallas.edu/~ljdumas/). Teresa D. Nelson is an independent researcher and consultant with a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Political Economy from the University of Texas at Dallas. Their report can be accessed here. Any journalist who will be covering this election campaign this fall will need to be familiar with this report.
Belarus plunges ahead with plans for new nuclear despite objections from world leaders and its own citizens. Compounding concerns, Belarus has now decided not to return its highly enriched uranium, a proliferation risk, to to Russia for downblending, Lukashenko stating Belarus has been badly treated internationally. While the safety of arms quality waste in Russia has been called into question, leaving it in politically volatile Belarus is an even worse solution.
The pact last December was an advance in the Obama administration's campaign to secure all vulnerable stocks of nuclear material by 2014, apart of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which is geared toward repatriating poorly guarded highly enriched uranium stocks given out over decades by the Soviets to satellite states.
While the suspension announced Friday was a sign of deepening tension between Belarus's flamboyant authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko and the West, analysts said it didn't pose a serious security risk.
Rethinking repatriation in environmental terms
Yet the repatriation program itself has recently come under environmental scrutiny as environmentalists and politicians question the wisdom of storing and processing highly enriched uranium in Russia’s substandard, environmentally unclean nuclear facilities.
Germany, with its stockpile of highly enriched uranium and spent fuel from its use accrued in the former East Germany, was the first of the 17 countries in the Global Threat Reduction initiative to refuse to ship its highly enriched uranium back to Russia on grounds of environmental safety.
Under pressure of massive public protests in Germany and Russia, Norbert Röttgen, Germany’s environmental minister in December of 2010 refused to ship 951 spent fuel rods from the Rossendorf research reactor in the former East German region of Saxony to the controversial Urals region Mayak Chemical Combine...
...This leaves Belarus as the last country in the former Soviet orbit outside Russia with a large, Cold War-era stockpile of highly enriched uranium, which can be used to make nuclear bombs if enriched to a pure-enough grade – something that has not been lost on Lukashenko.
In April 2010, Lukashenko refused to participate in the Global Threat Reduction initiative and dramatically announced that he had large stocks of weapons-grade uranium. He said at the time that he would not be “dictated” to abandon it and praised it as a “commodity.”
Later that year, during a security conference held in Astana, Kazakhstan, the Obama administration announced it had brokered a deal with Belarus to relinquish the uranium to Russia in exchange for US help building a Belarusian nuclear power plant – despite the clattering of Belarus’s neighbors against the plant.
Laser enrichment would remove any pretense that the production of nuclear fuel is not linked to proliferation. The enrichment of conventionally produced nuclear fuel is dangerous enough. Laser enrichment would allow smaller groups, with fewer resources to create weapons grade fuel with much less difficulty. The desire for profits in the nuclear industry are driving them to make the world less safe with each passing day. While the threat of terrorism has captured the public imagination, the reality of the nuclear threat doesn't seem to have sunk in. We need to find a way to resolve our differences without waging endless, crippling, and with nuclear and depleted uranium weapons- genocidal wars. In this age of information we now inhabit, there are no real secrets. While it is not possible to access all information (there is simply too much of it for that to be practicable), it is certainly possible to find any specific piece of information if enough attention is devoted to aquiring it. The idea that technology can be kept confidential, used only by "approved" (by who?) countries is unenforceable.
NYTimes l William Broad 20 August, 2011
Scientists have long sought easier ways to make the costly material known as enriched uranium — the fuel of nuclear reactors and bombs, now produced only in giant industrial plants.
One idea, a half-century old, has been to do it with nothing more substantial than lasers and their rays of concentrated light. This futuristic approach has always proved too expensive and difficult for anything but laboratory experimentation.
In a little-known effort, General Electric has successfully tested laser enrichment for two years and is seeking federal permission to build a $1 billion plant that would make reactor fuel by the ton.
The idea that nuclear weapons could ever really be a deterrent rather than a dangerous addition to countries' war filled ambitions becomes ever more on the public mind. Weapons, and delivery systems, are aging; national infrastructures are fraying; the waste is piling up and leaking out. We are entering an age when it is increasingly evident that in the minds of government and industry, life may be cheap, but safeguarding nuclear weapons and waste is not. Can we trust that they are doing this?
From the article:
Exactly how Pakistan safeguards its nuclear weapons, and what type of “use-control” features its weapons have, is unclear. The weapons are thought to have some basic use-control features to prevent unauthorized use. Its facilities and weapons are said to be “widely dispersed in the country” (Sanger, 2009), with most of the arsenal located south of Islamabad (Kralev and Slavin, 2009). Furthermore, the weapons are thought to be stored unassembled, with the cores separate from the weapons and the weapons stored away from the delivery vehicles (at least under normal circumstances).
The nuclear age began in a shroud of secrecy that was the Manhattan Project. It comprised three facilities in three different states. The primary site, Los Alamos in New Mexico, was established in 1942 with no reference on a map, no post office, no publicity. Although its physical presence was unknown, it was here that a team of international scientists, supervised by General Leslie Groves of the Army Corps of Engineers, worked to develop the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Besides Los Alamos, which remains a primary nuclear weapons research and development laboratory, the Manhattan Project required the construction of two ‘secret cities’. These ‘cities’ built in 1943 for uranium isolation at Oak Ridge in Tennessee and for plutonium production at Hanford in Washington State, were referred to as such because of their sheer enormity; and the construction effort was, at that time, the largest in US history. William Laurence, the journalist hired by the Manhattan Project to chronicle its discoveries notes that “[t]here was one strict rule: no mention was ever made of the work going on in the plants, and, as far as one could determine, the women did not have the slightest inkling of what their menfolk were doing” (Laurence 1946: 110). In each location, rural communities and/or native nations were literally packed up and moved out (see Laurence 1946: 104-113). Although tens of thousands of people were directly affected, either through dislocation from home or relocation to work, the Manhattan Project was kept a secret.
There are other, numerous conditions of the secrecy that characterized the Manhattan Project, but paramount among them was the bureaucratic culture that was in part instituted by Groves and which still operates today in the US Department of Energy (DOE) and in other international nuclear agencies. Groves’ style of militarized bureaucracy required restricted access to information, censorship, and the development of an ambiguous language. In his mind secrecy and security were synonymous. To this end, he instituted the practice of ‘compartmentalization’, whereby the knowledge of different aspects of nuclear weapons production was divided and separated. Groves claimed that “[the] compartmentalization of knowledge, to me, was the very heart of security. My rule was simple and not capable of misinterpretation – each man should know everything he needed to know and do his job and nothing else” (quoted in Hilgartner 1982: 26).
Protest in New York City during the 2010 NPT Review Conference
The vision of a world without nuclear weapons has not only inspired a widespread and important social movement in past decades, but continues to do so today. Nuclear disarmament is currently a central demand of the world peace movement—a complex network of organizations drawn together on the international and national levels, as well as on the basis of constituency. In addition, nuclear abolition garners the support of many other civil society groups, such as religious bodies, labour unions, environmental groups and political parties. Furthermore, much of the public also backs the development of a nuclear-weapon free world. This article will examine today’s activist campaign against nuclear weapons, as well as public opinion. It also will explore some of the obstacles faced by disarmament activists and discuss how the efficacy of their disarmament campaign might be improved.
This is a truly stunning amount of money. One that could, as the author states, be put to much better use:
One trillion dollars per decade is not peanuts – it would provide badly needed support for health care, job creation, education, and clean air and water. For the cost of just one nuclear weapon, we could, for example, provide health care to 36,000 people, textbooks for 43,000 students, or convert 64,285 households to renewable energy – and there are more than 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world.
It is time to go to nuclear zero. Now, before one of these weapons is used.
Battleland Blogs l Bruce Blair 4 June, 2011
Having contributed to the two definitive studies of U.S. nuclear weapons spending (Brooking's Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 and Carnegie Endowment's Nuclear Security Spending: Assessing Costs, Examining Priorities) which found that the United States incurred a cost of nearly $6 trillion on its nuclear weapons program from 1940-1996, I cast my net wider to capture the entire world's spending on nukes. The result: a massive amount of money will go down the drain over the next decade.
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IPPNW Chernobyl Conference Documentation l April 2011
Timebomb Nuclear Power
25 Years after Chernobyl
April 8 – 10, 2011
German affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Physicians for Social Responsibility in cooperation with the Society for Radiation Protection, the Physicians of Chernobyl, the Scientists Initiative for Peace and Sustainability and the Nuclear Free Future Award.
Chernobyl: The Meltdown
April 26, 1986: 23 minutes, 40 seconds after 1 am, Block 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded. For the first time ever, the world witnessed a “maximum credible accident” in a nuclear installation. This disaster changed the world. The Chernobyl catastrophe made millions of people into victims. 180,000 kilograms of highly radioactive material were inside the reactor. The radioactive cloud did not stop at borders, it circled the world. Even now, the effects of the accident are still being suppressed, hushed up and made light of.
Nuclear Energy Kills
Chernobyl opened our eyes to the dangers of nuclear technology. Nuclear energy kills. Not only when there is an accident but also all along the nuclear chain. Even before one single kilowatt of electricity is produced, people are dying. Uranium mining destroys the subsistence for livelihoods of whole populations and their health. Even during “normal operations” an increased danger is present. Childhood leukaemia occurs more frequently in the vicinity of nuclear power plants. Safety deficits are ignored or tolerated. No protection from natural disasters and terror attacks exists. Radioactive waste contaminates our groundwater. We will leave behind a highly radioactive inheritance for future generations for millions of years to come...
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