Monthly Archives: September 2015

All HEU is removed from Uzbekistan

IPFM Blog | September 28, 2015

On September 24, 2015, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration assisted Uzbekistan in completing removal of the last remaining HEU from the country. The transfer, carried out in cooperation with Russia and the IAEA, was completed on September 24, 2015. The shipment included irradiated fuel if the IIN-3M/Foton reactor that was operated by the Foton Enterprise in Tashkent. It was

The Foton reactor is an aqueous pulsed reactor. Its active zone contained 27 liters of UO2SO4 solution containing about 5 kg of U-235. It was shut down in June 2013. The transfer has been part of the U.S.-Russia-IAEA effort to repatriate Russian-origin fuel (RRRFR program) with funding provided by the United States as part of its GTRI program (recently restructured to become the Material Management and Minimization Program, M3). The agreement with Russia was finalized in February 2014.

HEU has now been completely removed from 29 countries plus Taiwan. Still, 27 countries have at least 1 kg of highly-enriched uranium in their stocks.

Facing rift within party, UK’s Labour drops plan to debate unilateral nuclear disarmament

Britain’s Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, applauds during the party’s annual conference in Brighton, southern England, Sunday Sept. 27, 2015. For six decades, British governments have considered unilateral nuclear disarmament unthinkable — but the once-unthinkable is the Labour Party’s new normal. Britain’s main opposition party has just elected a leader from the radical left, and this week party members may commit a future Labour government to scrapping Britain’s Trident nuclear arms program. (Gareth Fuller/PA Via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE

JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press | 

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Labour Party has decided to leave the country’s nuclear weapons alone.

The opposition party’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, opposes atomic weapons, and had said the issue would be debated at the party’s annual conference, which opened Sunday.

But after Labour-supporting trade unions said they would vote to keep nuclear weapons and protect thousands of defense jobs, delegates dropped the issue from the conference agenda.

It’s a setback for left-winger Corbyn, who wants the party to consider policies long considered off the political agenda, from nationalizing industry to diverging on foreign policy from the U.S.

He said earlier Sunday that Britain should get rid of its “weapon of mass destruction” and scrap the Trident nuclear program.

Britain has been a nuclear power since the 1950s, and both Labour and Conservative governments have consistently supported atomic weapons. Since the 1990s, Britain’s nuclear deterrent has consisted of four Royal Navy submarines armed with Trident missiles.

News that Trident would be debated at the conference for the first time in many years had been hailed as a victory by anti-nuclear activists — but caused despair for Labour centrists, who fear the party faces electoral oblivion under Corbyn.

John McTernan, a former aide to Prime Minister Tony Blair, argued that nuclear weapons are “deeply and broadly supported” by British voters.

“So to make the centerpiece of your first conference a turn towards unilateralism is a resounding signal to the public that you don’t want to be a party of government,” he said.

A vote to get rid of Trident would also have opened a rift between Corbyn and many Labour lawmakers, who support retaining nuclear weapons. Parliament is due to decide next year how to replace the aging Trident system.

The divide between pro- and anti-nuclear forces has long been a fault-line in the Labour Party. It was Prime Minister Clement Attlee’s Labour government that developed atomic weapons in the years following World War II, making Britain the world’s third nuclear-armed state after the United States and the Soviet Union.

Labour briefly adopted a policy of unilateral disarmament under leader Michael Foot, whose election-losing 1983 party manifesto was described by one Labour lawmaker as “the longest suicide note in history.”

Labour’s 1980s defeats led Blair and other young leaders to create “New Labour,” repositioning the party as patriotic, pro-business and strong on defense.

“Defense and security has been an issue that the Labour Party has been very, very keen to keep mainstream, certainly since the 1980s,” said Richard Whitman, an associate fellow at international affairs think-tank Chatham House.

New Labour won three consecutive elections from 1997, but the party lost power in 2010 and was trounced by Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives in a May election that focused largely on perceptions of economic competence.

Party members reacted by turning away from Blairism, derided by those on the left as “Tory-lite” policies. This month Labour elected Corbyn, a 66-year-old backbench lawmaker who promises to combine old-school socialism with a new style of politics. He is a sharp critic of Blair-era pro-business economics and international military engagements — notably the 2003 invasion of Iraq — and advocates more grassroots democracy in the party

On Sunday, however, pragmatism triumphed.

Trade unions, whose votes carry half the weight at Labour conferences, announced that they would try to defeat any anti-Trident motion in order to protect jobs.

“The most important thing for us is jobs and the defense of communities,” said Len McCluskey, head of the Unite union.

A little later, Labour delegates voted not to debate Trident during the four-day conference in Brighton, southern England.

Hinkley Point C: Plans to spend billions building UK nuclear power station to be investigated by watchdog

A deal that will give the final go-ahead for Hinkley Point C in Somerset is due to be signed by ministers next month

Independent | Oliver Wright | 28 September 2015

Plans to spend £24.5 billion building Britain’s first new nuclear power station in two decades are set to be investigated by Parliament’s spending watchdog, The Independent understands.

A deal that will give the final go-ahead for Hinkley Point C in Somerset is due to be signed by ministers when the Chinese premier Xi Jinping comes to London next month. The plan, which is being partly funded by China, is underwritten by £2 billion of Government loan guarantees while the huge cost of the plant will ultimately be paid for by consumers in their bills.

Minister have agreed to pay EDF Energy who run the plant £92.50 per MW hour of electricity it generates – more than double the current wholesale price of £40.

Hinckley-Point.jpg
Power and the glory? An artist’s impression of Hinkley Point C

 

But the plan now faces a potentially damaging investigation by the National Audit Office followed by public hearings after Labour’s new Shadow Energy Secretary Lisa Nandy called for it to be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

She said, at current estimates, building Hinkley would be the most expensive power station built anywhere in the world – costing more than the Olympic Games, Heathrow Terminal Two and Cross Rail combined.

The investigation is likely to focus on whether the Government has chosen the right type of reactor to build and whether it would have made more sense to pay for the construction costs upfront through taxation rather than use private finance that will be paid back through bills.

“I am worried about the impact of this investment on energy bills…with too much of the costs shouldered by the most the most vulnerable in society,” she wrote in a letter to the PAC’s chairman Meg Hillier.

“(There is) an opportunity for the PAC to scrutinise the proposed agreement and investigate whether a more competitive process could ultimately lead to a more cost effective agreement for consumers.”

The Independent understands that Ms Hillier is minded to agree to Ms Nandy’s request with a formal announcement expected after the deal is officially signed off by the Government.

When built Hinkley C will produce 7 per cent of Britain’s electricity needs, or 3,200 MW of nuclear power. Green groups have argued that the government could create 20,000 MW of onshore wind-powered electricity or for the same price although this has been questioned by energy experts who say a nuclear ‘baseload’ of electricity is necessary to ensure consistency of supply in a ‘carbon free’ grid.

Hinkley: a truly major national scandal

The new nuclear power station will be the costliest engineering project Britain has ever embarked on, and a total waste of money

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Illustration of Hinkley Point: The new reactors at Hinkley would be the first of eight new nuclear power stations to be built in the UKPhoto: EDF Energy

The Telegraph | comment | Christopher Booker | 26 Sep 2015

Two bizarre interviews last week again highlighted how woeful has been much reporting on the costliest engineering project Britain has ever embarked on. Their cue was George Osborne’s announcement that UK taxpayers are to “guarantee” £2 billion of the money paid to firms owned by the Chinese and French governments, to build in Somerset the most expensive nuclear power station in the world.

Although it was originally claimed that Hinkley Point C would cost only £10 billion and be “cooking Christmas dinners by 2017”, its completion date is now likely to be well after 2023, and its cost has spiralled so fast it will be way over the current figure of £24.5 billion. This would already make it more expensive than the Channel Tunnel and half the estimated cost of the vast, as-yet unapproved HS2 rail project.

But all we might get for this colossal sum would be 3.2 gigawatts of heavily subsidised “low-carbon” electricity, when the latest £1 billion gas-fired power station at Pembroke can already provide 2GW of unsubsidised power at half the price and at less than a 20th of the capital cost. Furthermore, the two obsolete European Pressurised Reactors the French firm EDF plans to install in Somerset have so many design problems that those it is already building in France and Finland have massively overrun on cost and time, while a modern nuclear plant built by South Koreans in Qatar is completed on time and at a fraction of the cost.

Everything about Hinkley Point indicates that it is as absurd a project as any government has ever fallen for. Yet when Channel 4 News reported the story on Monday, Jon Snow could think of no one better to interview on it than that great energy expert Vivienne Westwood, the dress designer, who could only repeat that “renewables” are getting “ever cheaper”, while subsidies to fossil fuels (non-existent) are rising ever higher.

At least when John Humphrys interviewed the Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, that morning on the Today programme, he began by gabbling some of the more obvious objections to Hinkley. But he then gave Rudd a free run to babble about how thankful we should be to the Chinese and the French for helping to give us “low-carbon energy security”. Please, guys, we know you are besotted with climate change and “low-carbon” energy. But even in your own terms, can you not recognise a truly massive national scandal when it is staring you in the face?

 

Iran’s Parchin nuclear myth begins to unravel

Middle East Eye | Gareth Porter | 22 September 2015

The Parchin stories have continued as if the impossibility of “sanitising” a site that had held nuclear material had not been revealed

For well over three years, heavy doses of propaganda have created a myth about a purported steel cylinder for testing explosives located on a site at Iran’s Parchin military testing reservation. Iran was refusing to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect the site while it sought to hide its past nuclear weapons-related work, according to that storyline.

Now Iran has agreed to allow the IAEA to visit the site at Parchin and environmental samples have already been collected at the site. However, the politically charged tale of the bomb test chamber of Parchin is beginning to unravel. IAEA director general Yukiya Amano entered the building in which the explosives chamber had supposedly been located on Monday and announced afterward that he found “no equipment” in the building.

That is surely a major story, in light of how much has been made of the alleged presence of the chamber at that location. But you may have missed that news, unless you happened to read the story by Jonathan Tirone of Bloomberg Business News, who was the only journalist for a significant news outlet who chose to lead with the story in his coverage of Amano’s Monday visit.

The rest of the news media buried that fact far down in their stories, focusing almost entirely on the fact that the Iranians have been allowed to physically gather environmental samples at the site under the gaze of IAEA technicians rather than IAEA inspectors carrying out that function.

The main storyline associated with the purported bomb cylinder since early 2012 has been that Iran has been removing evidence from the site for years in anticipation of an eventual IAEA inspection in order to hide the evidence of past experiments using the purported chamber. But the full story of that mysterious chamber makes it clear that it was highly dubious from the start.

The first description of an explosive chamber at Parchin appeared in an IAEA report published in early November 2011. But less than two weeks after the story of the cylinder was reported in the media, Associated Press reporter George Jahn published a report that an official of an unidentified state had “cited intelligence from his home country, saying it appears that Iran is trying to cover its tracks by sanitising the site and removing any evidence of nuclear research and development”.

The official provided an “intelligence summary” from which Jahn quoted: “Freight trucks, special haulage vehicles and cranes were seen entering and leaving” the site on 4-5 November 2011, it said, and “some equipment and dangerous materials were removed from the site”.

Disputed intelligence

The purpose of that language was clearly to suggest that Iran had actually removed the cylinder and the nuclear materials that it had been testing. If true, it would have been very incriminating evidence of Iran’s nuclear deception. But there was a problem with that claim. Officials of two other IAEA member states that were obviously following the aerial photography of the Parchin site closely denied that the story being peddled to Jahn by the unnamed state was true.

It was true that there was more activity than normal at the site on those days, they told Jahn, but nothing resembling the activities claimed by the unidentified state’s “intelligence summary”. One of those two countries denying the story was clearly the United States. Pentagon spokesman Captain John Kirby told Jahn he had “seen nothing to indicate that those concerns are warranted”.

The episode of the AP story begs the obvious question: Why was the state that could not be named so intent on planting a false story of Iranian removal of the purported cylinder? The obvious purpose of such a story would be to prepare government and public opinion for a possible IAEA visit to the site in the future, and the subsequent discovery that there was nothing incriminating at the site.

That, in turn, indicates that the state in question was the same one that had provided the original story of the explosive cylinder to the IAEA and that it already knew that no cylinder would be found there because the original story had been a fabrication.

Israeli-supplied documents

The IAEA member state that had provided the information about a purported bomb cylinder was never identified by the IAEA. But IAEA director-general Mohamed El Baradei asserts in his memoirs that in the summer of 2009 Israel turned over to the IAEA a number of intelligence documents purporting to show that Iran had carried out nuclear weapons work “until at least 2007,” most of which consisted of purported Iranian official documents whose authenticity had been questioned by some of the agency’s technical experts.

El Baradei refused to bow to diplomatic pressures from Israel’s allies, coordinated by the head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, to publish a compendium of those documents, including the claim in an intelligence report of the Parchin explosives cylinder. The Israelis and the Obama administration had to wait until Amano succeeded him and agreed to do exactly that.

The episode of the AP story isn’t the only evidence that the unidentified state had concocted an intelligence document on Parchin that was a complete falsehood. In August 2012, an IAEA report stated that the agency had acquired the satellite imagery available on the Parchin site for the entire period from February 2005 to January 2012. The report revealed that the imagery showed “virtually no activity at or near the building housing the containment vessel” during that entire period. The imagery clearly suggested that Iran had not been using the site for any sensitive activities, much less the activities suggested by the IAEA in its report, during the seven years, nor had they engaged in any cleanup of the site.

And an earlier episode sheds further light on the issue. In 2004, John Bolton, then the administration’s Iran policymaker, leaked satellite imagery of sites at Parchin that had features someone believed might be high explosives testing facilities. After a few months of bullying by Bolton, the IAEA asked to visit Parchin. Iran not only agreed to an inspection in February 2005 but allowed the IAEA to choose any five sites in any one of the four Parchin quadrants – after the inspection team’s arrival – and take environmental samples anywhere at the sites. And in November 2005, after El Baradei requested a second inspection, Iran again gave the IAEA the choice of five more sites at which to take samples.

The significance of those two 2005 IAEA inspections is not merely that the environmental samples all came back negative. More important, Iran would never have allowed the IAEA to choose to take environmental samples anywhere it chose at Parchin if it had carried out nuclear-weapons related experiments as claimed later by the unidentified state.

The story continues

Beginning in spring 2012 and continuing right up to the Vienna round of Iran nuclear negotiations last summer, the IAEA, Western diplomats and David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security generated many dozens of stories about Iran’s “stonewalling” the IAEA on Parchin while it sought to remove evidence of its purported nuclear-related testing at the site. Those stories invariably used the term “sanitising” – the same word the Israeli official used in passing on the false story to AP.

Those stories were just as dishonest as the original Israeli story because the IAEA and Western diplomats assigned to it know very well that there is no way to remove all traces of nuclear material from a site. In 2013, Stephan Vogt, the head of the IAEA’s environmental sample laboratory, declared in an interview: “You cannot get rid of them by cleaning, you cannot dilute them to the extent that we will not be able to pick them up.” Strangely, however, even after that interview was published, the Parchin stories continued as if Vogt had not revealed the impossibility of “sanitising” a site that had held nuclear material.

We are now only a few weeks away from the release of the environmental sampling results at Parchin. It will be amusing to this writer to see how the governments and news media who pushed the Parchin myth manage that story.

– Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: This handout picture taken on August 13, 2004 provided by DigitalGlobe satellite and courtesy of the Institute for Science and International Security, shows a view of facilities of Parchin military site in Iran which was alleged to be possibly involved in nuclear weapons research. (AA)

Abe urges Iran to follow nuclear deal so Japan can boost investment

Nikkei Asian Review | Kyodo | September 28, 2015

NEW YORK (Kyodo) — The leaders of Japan and Iran met Sunday on the sidelines of U.N. meetings in New York, with Tokyo proposing increased investment as an inducement for Tehran implementing a nuclear deal with six major powers.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani © Kyodo

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also agreed to work together toward an early conclusion of recently commenced talks to sign a mutual investment pact, a Japanese official said.

Abe said it was important for Tehran to put into action the accord on the country’s nuclear programs reached in July with the U.N. Security Council permanent members, plus Germany, and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Japanese leader promised that his government would help more Japanese companies launch business in Iran and make contributions to Iranian economic expansion, according to Katsunobu Kato, deputy chief Cabinet secretary.

Rouhani asked Abe for help in increasing settlement with Japanese banks, which is restricted under international sanction measures against Iran’s nuclear programs, so Tehran can import more medicine and medical equipment from Japan.

Abe told Rouhani such assistance could be provided as long as Iran fully implemented the nuclear deal, allowing the lifting of economic sanctions by the United States and European countries, according to Kato.

Abe and Rouhani agreed to enhance cultural and academic exchanges between Japan and Iran, Kato added.

In a separate meeting, Abe and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, agreed to closely cooperate in efforts to stabilize the situation in the Middle East, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Abe and Tamim exchanged views on sources of concern in the region such as Islamic State extremists operating in Syria and Iraq and the situation in Yemen, the ministry said in a news release.

On bilateral issues, Abe requested that Qatar ensure a stable supply of liquefied natural gas to Japan.

The premier told Tamim that he believes a bilateral tax pact approved by Japan’s Diet earlier this month will further promote economic activities between the two countries.

Tamim was quoted as saying by the ministry that Japan is an important trading partner for his country, and that he would like to help boost investment between the two countries and strengthen relations in various areas including security and defense.

Abe explained Japan’s new security laws that expand the scope of operations of Japanese troops abroad. Tamim welcomed the enactment of the laws earlier this month, according to the ministry.

India may get US, French cos as partners for building nuclear submarines

Economic Times | Manu Pubby | 28 Sep 2015

NEW DELHI: For the first time India has options when it comes to finding a partner to build a military nuclear asset. Besides Russia, ship builders from France and the US have started initial conversations with the defence ministry on participating in an Indian effort to build a new class of nuclear-powered attack submarines.

Russia has been the traditional ally of India when it comes to sensitive technology and strategic systems.

But a Navy plan for constructing six new nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) to patrol the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and beyond has prompted ‘discussions’ with the two western nations, sources familiar with the development told ET. The Cabinet Committee on Security had cleared Navy’s proposal in February.

The Indian SSN project — expected to cost over Rs 1 lakh crore — is an ambitious plan to design and produce a nuclear attack boat with the help of the private sector. If this materialises, it will propel India into a select league of the five nuclear powers that have such a capability. SSNs are nuclear powered submarines, but do not carry nuclear warheads, relying instead on conventional weapons and stealth to hunt ships and other submarines. The last country to enter this club was China in 1974 with its Han class boats.

Sources told ET that senior representatives from the submarine branch of a leading US conglomerate have met key Indian defence ministry officials regarding the project. The efforts included a top level meeting in July. The discussions have been kept low key given the sensitivity of the project and details are not available.

Similarly, French representatives have also approached the Indian side for exploring avenues for cooperation on the project in the past few months. While the French submarine manufacturer has not commented on the project, the Indian side is interested in the new ‘Barracuda’ SSN being developed by French ship builder DCNS. A senior DCNS representative refused to take questions on the matter.

The new nuclear submarine for the French Navy is currently under construction and is expected to start sea trials by next year. The Barracuda was also showcased at the Defence Expo held in New Delhi last year. As reported by ET, India is also in talks with Russia to lease a nuclear attack submarine — a newly built, customised boat that could give engineers a first-hand look at construction technology and process.

Unlike a nuclear missile armed submarines (SSBN) that is designed to carry out a nuclear strike, nuclear propelled attack boats (SSNs) are considered less sensitive, with their primary role being hunting vital enemy naval ships and submarines. While foreign assistance on SSBNs is a complex matter, there have been examples of nations sharing non-nuclear technology for SSNs. France is at present assisting Brazil with its first nuclear submarine project. The deal involves France helping Brazil with the non-nuclear components of the submarine, with the South American nation using its own reactor and fuel.

India’s first SSBN, the INS Arihant, is currently undergoing sea trials in Vizag. It is expected to carry out a weapons test shortly. The only SSN in service with the Navy at present is the INS Chakra, an Akula class submarine on a 10 year lease from Russia to train Indian crew for such operations.