Monthly Archives: March 2015

France’s Nuclear Decline Exposed as Areva Confronts Cash Crunch

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Cooling towers for an Electricite de France nuclear power plant are seen in Nogent-sur-Seine, near Paris. Photographer: Antoine Antoniol/Bloomberg

Bloomberg | Tara Patel | February 27, 2015

(Bloomberg) — For decades France’s nuclear industry was seen as a source of economic strength, providing cheap power for factories, high-tech exports and tens of thousands of well-paid jobs. Today, it’s looking more like a liability.

Electricite de France SA, the world’s largest nuclear operator, must spend $63 billion over the next decade to keep the country’s aging fleet of 58 reactors running safely. More urgently, nuclear engineer Areva SA, touted as an export champion for a new atomic age, has lost billions from a project in Finland and investments in African uranium mines, raising the prospect of a state bailout.

“French nuclear has lost competitiveness due to mismanagement, technical difficulties and market changes after the Fukushima disaster,” said Juan Camilo Rodriguez, an analyst at Alphavalue SAS. The financial “sickness” at Areva could prove contagious to the whole nuclear industry, he said.

France relies on nuclear power more than any other country — it generates about three quarters of electricity. The government, which controls EDF, Areva and atomic researcher CEA, plays a critical role. Addressing the industry’s funding needs has been made more difficult by an economic slump, which has resulted in near-record joblessness, three years of virtually no growth and a budget deficit in excess of European Union rules.

“The situation is difficult for Areva,” French Energy Minister Segolene Royal said Monday, just hours after the company shocked investors by saying losses for 2014 would be about 4.9 billion euros ($5.5 billion), more than its market capitalization.

Japanese Meltdown

The company hired Credit Suisse Group AG, JPMorgan Chase Co., Citigroup Inc. and Rothschild & Cie. to help with its restructuring, French magazine Challenges reported this week. The government agency that manages the state’s shareholding has hired Erik Maris of Messier Maris & Associes.

Areva has been in a downward spiral since the meltdown at Fukushima’s atomic plant in Japan shook the global industry in 2011. The nuclear engineering company, which services existing reactors and supplies them with fuel, has lost about 75 percent of its value since as nations pulled back from atomic projects.

Last November, Areva’s credit rating was reduced to junk status by Standard & Poor’s after it abandoned financial targets. The company blamed its losses on construction of a new reactor on a Finnish island, delays in restarting Japanese plants and a worsening outlook for other export orders.

Before Fukushima, France’s atomic industry was readying for a nuclear energy renaissance. Former EDF Chief Executive Officer Pierre Gadonneix predicted France’s flagship reactor, the giant EPR model, would sell “like hotcakes” around the world.

Over Budget

Fukushima ended the prospect of new reactors in many countries, including Italy and Switzerland, in addition to damping a number of potential export markets for Areva and EDF. Germany decided to shut all its nuclear reactors.

Not a single EPR has yet fired up as construction projects in France’s Normandy region as well as in Finland and China are behind schedule and mostly over budget.

One remedy for Areva’s problems would be closer ties with EDF and CEA, Royal said. Closer cooperation could cut costs across the industry and even bring the relative strength of EDF to bolster Areva. The concern is that would spread Areva’s problems more widely.

“Areva’s difficulties are clearly not positive for EDF and for the French nuclear industry,” Bryan, Garnier & Co. said in a report earlier this week.

‘Financial Balance’

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. warned this week that any financial transaction with Areva would create risks for EDF, Europe’s largest power generator and the biggest source of dividends for the French government.

EDF is already grappling with its own challenges to achieve “financial balance,” Chairman and CEO Jean-Bernard Levy said earlier this month. EDF declined to comment further for this story.

The company is having to borrow to maintain dividend payments while spending more on maintaining reactors. At the same time, the government is trying to hold down power prices for industrial and residential consumers.

EDF’s existing partnership with Areva, its biggest supplier, has also hit operational road bumps.

Last July, EDF halted one of its nuclear reactors near the southwestern city of Bordeaux to replace three worn steam generators. The equipment made by Areva could have been installed within a few months. Instead, France’s regulator blocked the work because Areva failed to provide the necessary safety guarantees, according to a report on the agency’s website.

Normandy Delay

Now the reactor may not begin producing electricity again until mid-year, costing about 1 million euros a day in lost revenue for EDF.

The two companies’ flagship construction project in France is also troubled. In November, Areva and EDF announced a further delay for the Normandy EPR start up to 2017, a decade after construction began. With a budget more than twice what was initially proposed and five years behind schedule, EDF blamed the latest delays in part on late equipment deliveries from Areva.

“Nuclear is an important, but delicate sector,” said Gerard Mestrallet, chairman and CEO of French utility GDF Suez SA, which operates reactors in Belgium and has a partnership to build smaller reactors with Areva in Turkey.

“EPRs are very big and costly at a time when electricity prices in Europe and the U.S. have dropped,” he said.

Nuclear ‘Banker’

In 2010, Mestrallet pulled out of a project with EDF to build an EPR at Penly, France. At the time, he said he didn’t want the role of a nuclear “banker.”

Against the backdrop of Areva’s financial uncertainty, a long-delayed law that would reduce France’s reliance on nuclear power is in the Senate. Prospects for Areva and EDF will be affected by the decision of lawmakers on whether to shut some reactors.

Whatever the details of the legislation, nuclear power remains essential to France. As reactors built in the 1970s and 1980s age, the government must decide how to better manage an industry that threatens to be a drain on the cash-strapped country.

“The choices around nuclear are more politically than economically driven and in the mid- to long-term may take both groups along the same downward path,” said Alphavalue’s Rodriguez.

36 Years of Three Mile Island’s Lethal Lies … and Still Counting

EcoWatch | Harvey Wasserman | March 27, 2015

The lies that killed people at Three Mile Island 36 years ago on March 28, 1979 are still being told at Chernobyl, Fukushima, Diablo Canyon, Davis-Besse … and at TMI itself.

As the first major reactor accident that was made known to the public is sadly commemorated, and as the global nuclear industry collapses, let’s count just 36 tip-of-the iceberg ways the nuclear industry’s radioactive legacy continues to fester:

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1. When about half of TMI’s fuel melted on March 28, 1979, the owners, industry and regulators all denied it, and continued to deny it until robotic cameras showed otherwise.

2. Early signs that such an accident could happen had already surfaced at the Davis-Besse reactor in Ohio, which was also manufactured by Babcock & Wilcox. TMI’s owners later sued Davis-Besse’s owners for not warning them about what had happened.

3. When TMI’s radiation poured into the atmosphere the industry had (and still has) no idea how much escaped, but denied it was of any significance even though stack monitors failed and dosimeters in the field indicated high releases (plant owners claimed they were “defective”). Only due to the work of the great Dr. Ernest Sternglass, recently departed, was public attention turned to the potential harm this radiation could do.

4. When animals nearby suffered mass mutations and death, the industry denied it. When the plague was confirmed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Baltimore News-American, the industry denied the damage could be related to radiation.

5. Industry “experts” assured the public radiation doses to downwinders were similar to a single x-ray, but ignored well-established findings from Dr. Alice Stewart and others that a single x-ray to a pregnant woman could double the chances of childhood leukemia among her offspring.

6. Industry “experts” ignored the reality that radioactive fallout can come down in clumps rather than spread evenly, and scoffed at findings from neighborhood surveys done by Jane Lee, Mary Osbourne and others showing major outbreaks of cancer in certain downwind neighborhoods.

7. When humans nearby were born with Down’s Syndrome and other mutations, and then adults began dying, the industry denied it, then denied any connection to TMI, but then did pay at least $15 million in out-of-court settlements to affected families on condition they not speak about it in public.

8. When Chernobyl exploded in 1986, Soviet officials said nothing as massive clouds of radiation poured across Europe and into the jet stream that would carry it to the U.S. within 10 days.

9. The U.S. government did nothing of sufficient scale to monitor Chernobyl’s radiation as it came here, and did nothing to warn the public to avoid milk and other foods that might concentrate that radiation, and has repeated that behavior in the wake of Fukushima.

10. A massive bird die-off at the Pt. Reyes National Seashore came with the arrival of the Chernobyl cloud and was documented by resident ornithologist Dr. Dave DeSante, whose findings were ignored by the government; soon thereafter, DeSante lost his job.

11. Chernobyl’s radiation was tracked all across Europe where it continues to irradiate plants, animals and humans. The most credible study of Chernobyl’s human death toll put it at 985,000 in 2010.

12. Chernobyl still seethes with radiation, but the massive, hugely expensive movable sarcophagus meant to cover it is not yet in place.

13. When fire runs through the wooded areas around Chernobyl, massive quantities of radiation are re-released into the atmosphere.

14. Fifteen Soviet-era reactors remain operable in Ukraine, much of which is now a de facto war zone, raising serious doubts about what will happen to them and the rest of the downwind human race.

15. The Japanese government was repeatedly and passionately warned by thousands of citizens for more than 40 years that putting reactors in a tsunami zone surrounded by earthquake faults was not a good idea. They were dismissed as “alarmists” and repeatedly assured that the reactors at Fukushima and elsewhere around Japan could come to no harm.

16. Despite repeated public protests, when Fukushima Dai’ichi was built an 85-foot-high bluff was taken down so units 1 through 4 could operate more cheaply at sea level; as widely predicted, they were massively flooded on March 11, 2011.

17. Critical backup batteries meant to keep the reactor cores cool in case of melt-downs were placed in basements which were thoroughly flooded when the tsunami hit Fukushima. Workers later frantically took batteries from nearby parked cars to try to power up the stricken cooling systems and other critical components.

18. The exact whereabouts of the melted cores from Fukushima Units 1, 2 and 3 remain unknown.

19. After a half-century of industry assurances that American reactors could not explode, four General Electric reactors blew up at Fukushima.

20. By estimate of Hiroaki Koide, assistant professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, some 30 times as much Cesium 137 has been released at Fukushima as was released during the bombing of Hiroshima.

21. Some 300 tons of radioactive water continues to pour into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every day.

22. Thousands of highly radioactive spent fuel rods remain scattered around the Fukushima site; thousands are also still suspended in damaged spent fuel pools 100 feet in the air atop weakened buildings above shattered, melted reactors.

23. A petition signed by more than 150,000 people demanding that Fukushima be taken over by the world community was submitted to the United Nations on November 7, 2013, but has yet to receive a response of any kind.

24. Fukushima is still owned and operated by Tokyo Electric Power, which built it despite massive public opposition and continues to mismanage it while turning the “clean up” into a profit center, with a labor force thoroughly infiltrated by organized crime.

25. Like Fukushima, California’s Diablo Canyon reactors were built despite huge public protests, and sit in a tsunami zone surrounded by earthquake faults whose potential seismic power exceeds Diablo’s structural capacities, according numerous experts, including NRC official Dr. Michael Peck, who worked at Diablo for the commission.

26. A continual stream of revelations indicate illegal collusion on safety and other issues at Diablo between its owners, Pacific Gas & Electric, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as well as the California Public Utilities Commission.

27. Diablo’s owners almost certainly violated regulatory requirements and the law in using components within the reactors that were not tested to meet seismic standards.

28. Earthquakes have already damaged at least two U.S. reactors, at Ohio’s Perry site and at North Anna, Virginia (that quake also damaged the Washington Monument in our nation’s capital).

29. Public money designated for use by PG&E to upgrade piping systems was diverted to executive bonuses, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 2010 unrepaired gas lines, which were known to have been deteriorating for a decade, blew up in San Bruno, killing eight people and doing millions of dollars in damage. Such a disaster at Diablo Canyon could kill countless thousands and do untold damage to the national economy and global ecology.

30. Diablo Canyon’s once-through cooling system violates state and federal water quality regulations by dumping huge quantities of hot, radioactive liquid into the Pacific, killing billions of marine creatures while unbalancing the ocean ecology and contributing to climate chaos.

31. Like most other old U.S. reactors, Ohio’s Davis-Besse is literally crumbling, with the concrete in its safety shield being pulverized by continual freezing, yielding ever-growing holes in the structure.

32. Like most other old U.S. reactors, Diablo Canyon, Davis-Besse, five reactors in Illinois and many more cannot compete in electricity markets against wind power, solar panels, other renewable sources or increased efficiency, and would shut down were it not for massive public subsidies.

33. Ohio’s Public Utilities Commission is being asked by FirstEnergy, Davis-Besse’s owner, for subsidies amounting to more than $3 billion to keep open that decrepit reactor, which opened in 1978, and the Sammis coal burner, which is even older.

34. Wisconsin’s Kewaunee reactor has shut for purely economic reasons despite being fully amortized and having no apparent outstanding maintenance or engineering crises.

35. California’s San Onofre reactors were shut in part due to violations of licensing requirements that are mirrored at both Diablo Canyon and Davis-Besse, where shut-downs could be required by law. Let’s hope …

36. As we commemorate this tragic anniversary, we must note that this list of reactor nightmares could go very very far past 36. But let’s hope it doesn’t take that many more years to realize the folly of this failed technology.

In honor of the many many victims of Three Mile Island, and of the great Dr. Sternglass and so many dedicated experts and activists, we must turn this sad litany into the action needed to shut down ALL the world’s reactors so we don’t have to experience this nightmare yet again.

The lives we save will be our own … and those of our children … and theirs …

Harvey Wasserman reported directly on TMI’s death toll from central Pennsylvania. He co-wrote KILLING OUR OWN:  THE DISASTER OF AMERICA’S EXPERIENCE WITH ATOMIC RADIATION.

Don’t let fears of a “bad” nuclear deal with Iran kill a good one

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | Ariane Tabatabai | 03/20/2015

Pundits and politicians opposed to a nuclear agreement with Iran have accused US negotiators of trying to reach a “deal for the sake of having a deal”—the implication being that the White House and the US negotiating team, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, at this point simply want to be seen as having achieved something. But as Iran and six world powers continue meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland to strike a deal that would limit Iranian nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, it’s beginning to look like many of those critics simply oppose a deal for the sake of opposing a deal. They accuse the White House of pursuing a “bad deal,” but have little concrete to say about what they find problematic with the agreement under discussion.

Some US hardliners have said they reject the idea of a sunset clause, which would provide for the terms of the agreement to come to an end at some point—most likely after 10 to 15 years. This suggests that they would like to see an agreement implemented indefinitely. This is not a realistic objective, because Iran has said very clearly that by the end of the timeframe agreed, its goal is to be considered a normal, non-nuclear weapons state member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Open-ended limitations on Tehran’s nuclear program wouldn’t be acceptable to either the Iranian establishment or the general population after having paid a high price to reach a deal.

In practice, though, some measures under a comprehensive agreement would be implemented indefinitely. For instance, Iran may agree to carry out a change to the design of the Arak heavy water reactor that would be difficult to reverse.

Other elements of a deal, though, would need to have a clearer timeline if Iran is to assent.  For instance, Tehran can’t keep the number of operating centrifuges below 10,000 indefinitely. The country’s stated goal, as expressed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, is to have an industrial-scale peaceful enrichment program, capable of supplying enough fuel for its nuclear reactors.

One of Tehran’s concerns is that it doesn’t want to trade irreversible or hard-to-reverse actions for ones that could be quickly overturned. Such fears are not alleviated by some statements coming out of Washington—like the letter that 47 Republican US Senators addressed to Iran’s leadership on March 9, claiming that a future US president could undo whatever the current one agrees to. Indeed, some Republicans have clearly stated that they’d reverse any agreement, going against the administration as well as US allies and negotiating partners.

Some US allies, meanwhile—in particular Saudi Arabia and Israel—object to a deal not so much because of the substance of what’s on the table as because it would end the status quo. They fear that Tehran, politically and economically isolated for more than a decade, would resume relations with the West, leading them to lose their privileged place in the region vis-à-vis Washington. Likewise, if the focus shifts away from the Iran threat, newly reelected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could face more pressure from the United States on his domestic policies.

Negotiators are trying to produce a framework agreement by March 31 that would provide an outline and pave the way for a comprehensive deal by the end of June. This week has been a crucial time for Iran. The moderate government of President Hassan Rouhani would no doubt have loved to announce a framework deal by March 20, the Persian New Year, starting the year fresh by telling citizens that Iran is finally putting more than a decade of political and economic isolation behind it.

That may not have happened, but the fact that Tehran is still at the negotiating table despite the push from US critics is worth celebrating. The letter from Senate Republicans gave Iran the perfect way out of the talks and ammunition for a potential blame game, and Iran’s negotiating team didn’t take the bait. Tehran’s presence shouldn’t be taken for granted, though. Right now (as I’ve discussed here and here), there is consensus and political will among Iranian leaders. But this momentum will not last, especially if Congress starts to push for more sanctions prematurely.

The alternative to striking a deal could be an end to any cooperation beyond the terms of the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, setting the clock back to before the 2013 Joint Plant of Action. Iran would likely resume 20 percent enrichment, use all its operational centrifuges, research and development activities, and work on the Arak heavy water reactor. It might also bring some of its more advanced IR-4 centrifuges online, which are capable of processing much more uranium.

Behind closed doors, the details of what looks like an emerging deal are very attractive, providing the best assurances yet that Iran’s nuclear program will remain peaceful. In other words, there is almost a deal on the table that stands a solid chance of being acceptable to all parties. If they get their way, though, the hawks saying they don’t want a “bad deal” will kill a good one.

Ariane Tabatabai is a visiting assistant professor in the Security Studies Program at the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. Follow her on Twitter at @ArianeTabatabai.

Westinghouse, Hochtief partner on decommissioning services

WNN | 27 March 2015

Westinghouse and German construction company Hochtief AG have teamed up to offer decommissioning, decontamination and remediation services for Germany’s nuclear power plants.

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Unit 1 of the Neckarwestheim plant among the eight German reactors to be shut in 2011 (Image: EnBW)

Westinghouse announced yesterday that it has signed a teaming agreement with two Hochtief subsidiaries – Hochtief Infrastructure GmbH and Hochtief Engineering GmbH – to offer German nuclear power companies a “one-stop supplier” for end-of-life services.

Westinghouse said it will bring its “safety-focused nuclear expertise” to the partnership, as well as its experience in decommissioning, decontamination, remediation, segmentation and waste handling. Hochtief, it said, would bring its know-how in licensing, civil engineering and construction of interim storage.

“This teaming agreement will bring together an excellent combination of safe, reliable and proven decommissioning, decontamination and remediation services, as well as a broad experience from the civil and construction sector that ultimately will contribute to our customers’ success,” said Westinghouse vice president and managing director for Central Europe Norbert Haspel.

The company noted that a number of German power reactors will need to be decommissioned in the next 15-20 years due to national policy decisions. In March 2011, Germany reacted to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi by ordering eight older reactors to close for a three month ‘moratorium’. Acting on federal instructions, state environment agencies subsequently ordered that those reactors never restart. The country’s 17 remaining reactors are all planned to be shut down by 2022.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Nuclear power measures face questions

Crosscut | John Stang | March 25, 2015

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Critics raised questions Wednesday about three nuclear-related bills that the Washington Senate has passed and a House committee is considering.

The big topic at the House Technology & Economic Development Committee hearing was whether Washington should find a place to build small modular reactors, which would be produced for utility customers. Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, is sponsoring this proposal and the two other nuclear-related bills that the committee examined. The Senate passed the small modular reactor bill 27-21, mostly along party lines.

Tri-Cities leaders envision a Boeing-style assembly plant to build small modular reactors. This is a long-range plan and is predicted to take several years to develop.

Small modular reactors are prefab reactors whose parts are manufactured in one location, and then transported to the reactor site for final assembly. A modular segment would be a mini-reactor of 50 to 300 megawatts. Small modular reactors are supposed to be designed so extra modules can be added as needed — with 12 modules being the theoretical maximum.

The concept is still on the drawing board. No one has built a commercial small modular reactor yet, although supporters contend they are similar to the small reactors that operate on U.S. Navy ships.

Energy Northwest (a consortium of Washington public utilities, including Seattle City Light), the NuScale company of Corvallis, Oregon, and the U.S. Department of Energy facility at Idaho Falls have agreed to build a prototype in Idaho by 2023. Tri-Cities interests hope to attract mass production to a half-built, never-finished Energy Northwest reactor site at the Hanford reservation.

Brown’s bill would direct the Washington Department of Commerce to research potential sites to set up a facility to build small modular reactors. Gov. Jay Inslee supports this bill as a way to switch some of the generation of electricity to sources that produce no carbon emissions. “We believe small modular reactor technology … should be considered in a non-carbon world,” said Tony Usibelli, representing the governor’s office and the Commerce Department at the hearing.

NuScale wants to submit its reactor designs to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by October 2016. Energy Northwest and NuScale are expecting a 39-month turnaround for the NRC to examine the plans. That means the feds could give a green light to build a NuScale-Energy Northwest prototype in Idaho by early 2020, Gaston said. The sponsors target 2023 as a date when a small modular reactor could be operating in Idaho.

At the hearing, critics cited the lack of any track record on cost or safety for small modular reactors, plus concerns over the nation’s lack of a permanent place to store used nuclear fuel.

“Small nuclear reactors are still in the prototype stage. … The prototype has never been tested in power production yet,” said Thomas Buchanan of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Johnson argued that a single small-modular reactor would not generate enough electricity to efficiently recover its construction and operating costs. He suggested that multiple modules at one site are the only way to make the concept cost-effective.

Deborah Wolpoff of Olympia pointed to the cancelation of the nation’s proposed nuclear fuel repository inside Yucca Mountain, with no replacement lined up. “I think it is irresponsible to promote this technology that produces this waste that we have no solution for,” Wolpoff said.

Committee member Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Seattle, wondered why the Legislature should support a new nuclear industry while Hanford’s Cold War nuclear wastes are decades from being cleaned up.

Energy Northwest ran into massive financial troubles in the 1970s and 1980s. At the time, Energy Northwest was known as the Washington Public Power Supply System, or WPPSS. The never-finished WPPSS Reactor No 1 site a Hanford — next to Energy Northwest’s 1,150-megawatt Columbia Generating Station reactor — is where Tri-Cities leaders want to locate a small modular reactor facility. Much of the basic nuclear-oriented infrastructure has already been installed.

Another Brown bill, which the Senate passed 44-5, would create an education program aimed at providing nuclear science lessons to students in the eighth through 12th grades. Qualified American Nuclear Society members would be brought in for classroom sessions. Also, science teachers would receive instruction on nuclear science in order to teach the subject in the classrooms. School participation would be optional. Washington State University would be in charge of the overall program, which would be financed by an undetermined mix of state and private money.

Representatives of Washington State University and Energy Northwest supported the bill. However, committee member Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D- Seattle, questioned why legislation is needed to set up a program. “Why don’t you do this right now?” she said. Gaston replied that while such a program is doable in the Tri-Cities, which is filled with nuclear experts, it would be difficult to set up elsewhere in the state.

Mary Hanson of Physicians Social Responsibility argued that the bill would give the nuclear industry influence over students, while other energy industries would not have the same access. She said American Nuclear Society members might be less versed in nuclear power’s health issues than its technical ones.

The third Brown bill, which the Senate passed 29-20, would add nuclear power to the list of alternative power sources that certain utilities can use to meet a state requirement to offer their customers voluntary participation in alternative energy purchases. The current list of green sources includes wind, solar, geothermal and biomass energy.

Energy Northwest and the state’s public utility districts supported the bill as a way to diversify sources of electricity. Physicians for Social Responsibility opposed it, contending nuclear energy is not a renewable power source.

While the GOP-dominated Senate passed the three bills, the question is whether a Democrat-controlled Technology & Economic Development Committee will recommend passage — and whether the House Democratic leaders will allow floor votes on them.

Revealing Israel’s Nuclear Secrets

The Pentagon Declassifies a Surprising 1987 Report

Secret Place: Israel’s nuclear reaction in Dimona, photographed in 2014.

Getty Images

Secret Place: Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona, photographed in 2014.

Forward – The Jewish Daily | Michael Karpin | March 25, 2015

In early February, the Pentagon declassified a 386-page report from 1987, exposing for the first time ever the actual depth of top-secret military cooperation between the United States and Israel — including, amazingly, information about Israel’s unacknowledged nuclear program.

In view of the caustic tension that has increased lately between Washington and Jerusalem, the timing of the publication’s declassification, after a long legal process, might raise a few eyebrows. I have some knowledge about the build-up process of Israel’s nuclear capacity and after reading the report in question I must express my astonishment: I have never seen an official American document disclosing such extensive revelation on subjects that until now were regarded by both administrations as unspeakable secrets.

The report — titled “Critical Technological Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations” — describes in detail the march of Israeli military and technological advancement in the 1970s and 80s. The authors drew particular attention to the development and progression of Israel’s nuclear infrastructure and research labs.

The most surprising segment in the report states that the Israelis are “developing the kind of codes which will enable them to make hydrogen bombs. That is, codes which detail fission and fusion processes on a microscopic and macroscopic level.” In practice, this short expression confirms that in the eighties, Israeli scientists were reaching the capabilities to employ hydrogen fusion, possible creating the sort of bombs that are thought to be a thousand times more powerful than atom bombs.

It should be emphasized that in the history of the relations between the two countries, there is no other published official American document that mentions in any way the Israelis development of hydrogen bombs. Moreover, the report proclaims that the labs in Israel “are equivalent to our Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories.”

Needless to say, all three of these laboratories were the principal creators of American nuclear capability. Israel’s facilities, the report reveals, are “an almost exact parallel of the capability currently existing at our National Laboratories”.

With all these revelations, the report is not directly stating that Israel has developed either an A-bomb or an H-Bomb, but the hints are not hidden. “As far as nuclear technology is concerned,” the report proclaims,” the Israelis are roughly where the U.S. was in the fission weapon field in about 1955 to 1960.” The first American thermonuclear bomb (H-Bomb) was tested in 1952. Hence, a conclusion that previous to the second half of the eighties, Israel had obtained nuclear technologies that make building an H-Bomb possible is within the realm of the possible.

The report was composed by the Institute for Defense Analysis, a not-for-profit agency, which is federally funded and functions under the supervision of the Pentagon. Simultaneously, IDA’s physicists and engineers visited military labs, factories and private companies both in Israel and NATO countries. Strangely, quite a significant amount of the material that the American experts had assembled in Israel was released with this declassification, while everything that they wrote on their NATO allies has been blacked out or withheld by the Pentagon. It’s another strange aspect of this story and, along with the timing, demands further scrutiny of the defense department’s motives.

In some scientific spheres, the IDA report claims, Israeli physicists were at that time some steps ahead of the Americans. Several times in the text the report mentions the “ingeniously clever” solutions that Israeli physicists had found for complicated problems. Some of these “ingenious Israeli inventions” are ascribed in the report to the scientists of Rafael (Hebrew’s acronym of “Authority for the Development of Armaments’), which is “a key research and development laboratory in Israel.” Still, the report asserts that the Israeli scientists were “junior partners,” who preset “technology based on extrapolations of US equipment and ideas.” How Israeli scientists could be “partners,” who obtain nuclear technologies that were produced in the States? On this subject the report remains silent.

The American expert who made the check-up in Israel discovered “a totally integrated effort in systems development throughout the nation.” All forms of electronic combat were “integrated system, not separated systems for the Army, Navy and Air Force.” The technology in some instances “is more advanced than in the U.S.,” the expert wrote.

The request to publish the report was initiated three years ago by the American journalist Grant Smith. His plea was based on the Freedom of Information Act and while the Pentagon had lingered Smith filed a lawsuit. A District Court judge for the District of Columbia compelled the Pentagon to address his request.

Although the report reveals quite a wide compilation of new facts about Israel’s most covert defense industry, to my astonishment its declassification produced no media reverberation whatsoever, not in Israel (except on the Ynet news website), nor in the States. The mainstream Israeli media was probably busy with the dramatic election campaign and in the United States only the progressive weekly magazine, The Nation, and quite a few professional websites and blogs — some of them explicitly anti-Israel — showed any interest.

In the light of Iran’s nuclear talks, the declassification’s timing could prove troublesome for Israel. It makes it much harder to maintain the policy of ambiguity about Israel’s nuclear program and, subsequently, helps Iran’s argument that it shouldn’t be denied its own ambitions.

Michael Karpin is an Israeli journalist and author of “The Bomb in the Basement – How Israel Went Nuclear and What That Means for the World”( Simon & Schuster, 2006).

Pentagon Declassifies Documents Confirming Israel Has Nukes

Sputnik News | 26.03.2015 (updated 27.03.2015)

In the latest example of the strained relationship between the United States and Israel, the Pentagon has quietly released a classified document which reveals the extent of Israel’s nuclear program. A program the Israeli government has long denied even exists.

Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted the controversial invitation to speak before the US Congress and warn against “a nuclearized Middle East and the horrific consequences…to all humanity.”

The speech received, perhaps, the largest round of applause heard in the Capitol since Republicans took control of both houses of Congress. President Obama was less enthused, calling the address “nothing new.”

Coincidentally or not, Netanyahu’s speech coincided with the Pentagon’s decision to declassify a top-secret document which proves that despite Bibi’s warnings about a “nuclearized Middle East,” the region is already a host to nuclear weapons. Namely: Israel’s.

The 386-page report, entitled “Critical Technological Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations,” dates back to 1987 and critical details on a nuclear program Israel has never admitted having.

“[Israel is] developing the kind of codes which will enable them to make hydrogen bombs,” the Department of Defense report reads. “That is, codes which detail fission and fusion processes on a microscopic and macroscopic level.”

Even more damning, the report calls Israel’s nuclear ability “an almost exact parallel of the capability existing at our National Laboratories,” and calls Israel’s labs “equivalent” to US installations in Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Oak Ridge.

Los Alamos, of course, was where Robert Oppenheimer conducted the bulk of the Manhattan Project experiments.

“As far as nuclear technology is concerned the Israelis are roughly where the US was in the fission weapon field in about 1955 to 1960,” the report reads.

To break that down, a Pentagon document states that 28 years ago, Israel was already as advanced in nuclear development as the United States had been shortly after testing its first hydrogen bomb.

The timing of the document’s release is certainly suspicious. Originally requested three years ago by a US journalist under a Freedom of Information Act request, the Pentagon had been slow to respond. A ruling by a District Court judge ordered the Defense Department to reply.

It’s also worth noting that while the declassified document revealed key aspects of the Israeli nuclear program, the Pentagon took pains to block out sections only other allied countries, including France, Italy, and West Germany.

On Tuesday, a Wall Street Journal report also alleged that Israel was spying on the P5+1 nuclear negotiation. While the prime minister’s office denied these claims, the newspaper cited senior US officials who said that Israeli intelligence was eavesdropping on the international talks.

Barely a week into his new term and Netanyahu already has radioactive egg on his face.