Archive for the ‘Non-proliferation’ Category
Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
March 3, 2011
From the Editors
Somehow word of the worldwide nuclear renaissance hasn’t yet reached Washington.
In yesterday’s edition of The Hill, Georgetown University lecturer Francis Slakey suggests a new concern for the overburdened Nuclear Regulatory Commission – conducting “non-proliferation risk assessments” on all new uranium enrichment technology.
“Here’s one thing the U.S. can do to help keep [uranium enrichment] facilities [around the world] in plain sight,” writes Slakey. “NRC can conduct an assessment of the proliferation risks of any enrichment facility before granting a license. With a rigorous assessment, a facility would only get commercialized by assuring that it has some unique detectable `signature.’ It may have a distinct infrared or acoustic trace that is evident to our satellite or ground based arrays. Or, there may be a unique component of the technology whose acquisition would indicate the intent to build a facility. Any of those would guarantee that the US would always have the ability to detect the facility, diminishing worries about covert construction or use.”
The argument here is based on one simple premise: the U.S. is the fountainhead of nuclear technology and the rest of the world is filled with technological idiots. That may have been true in 1977 when we first gave up nuclear reprocessing, but it is no longer true today. “The concern arises,” continues Slakey, “from new and anticipated developments that will allow nuclear fuel facilities — uranium enrichment technologies — to get so small and so efficient that U.S. surveillance methods can’t spot them. Then, a rogue nation might acquire the plans, covertly build the facility, use it to produce nuclear weapons material, and develop a nuclear weapon without the U.S. ever seeing a thing.”
Today the “rogue nation” is just as likely to develop its own technology or ask for help form Russia, China or North Korea. And if they do acquire U.S. technology, couldn’t they just disable whatever “signature” was built into the process? Does anyone think they’re not smart enough to do that?
Unfortunately, it is the non-proliferation industry that is behind the curve. “Fortunately, the secret uranium enrichment facility in North Korea was uncovered,” claims Slakey. In fact, North Korea used plutonium to build its bombs and the CIA report of a secret uranium enrichment facility turned out to be something of a false alarm.
What this new manifesto reveals is that delusions about America as the fountainhead of nuclear technology and efforts to halt nuclear power in this country go hand-in-hand. “If we don’t develop the technology, no one else will,” has been the argument since we gave up reprocessing in 1977. This premise has proved spectacularly wrong. The rest of the world has gone ahead without us.
Read more about it at the Hill
Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
December 23, 2010
In today’s Townhall Q&A with Matt Bennett and Josh Freed of Third Way, there’s a paragraph worth committing to memory:
“Given the enormous geopolitical risks associated with nuclear technology falling into the wrong hands, Americans should be demanding that this nation continue to lead the world in the development of civilian nuclear power and not cede that territory to other countries. China not only is our economic rival, it has a profoundly different view of the relative risks of nuclear proliferation – witness its actions toward North Korea and Iran. We want the U.S. to remain in the nuclear energy driver’s seat.”
To see what this means in real life, take a look at today’s headlines: “The United States has imposed a highest ever penalty of nearly $4 million on a Chinese subsidiary of an American company for illegally exporting high-tech coatings to Pakistan’s under-construction Chashma 2 nuclear reactor. The firm, PPG Paints Trading in Shanghai, a wholly owned subsidiary of an American firm PPG Industries, was fined after pleading guilty to having illegally exported high performance coatings. It would have to pay $3.75 million as penalty, US Justice Department said.”
Here’s the situation. Pakistan already has a nuclear weapon. It has two nuclear reactors and is just completing its third, Chashma 2. The Chinese have been their main source nuclear technology since the 1980s and the two countries have already signed an agreement to build two more reactors, Chashma 3 and 4. Pakistan, along with India and Israel, has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty but it did sign a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Association with regard to its current construction.
The U.S. will have no role in Pakistan’s future nuclear development. China has sewed them up. However, one little American-owned company, a subsidiary of Pittsburgh Paint and Glass, did sell them some paint, making $32,000 on the transaction. For that we fine them $4 million.
Does that sound like a robust anti-proliferation policy or what?
Read more at the Times of India
Friday, December 3rd, 2010
December 3, 2010
From the Editors
Last week we commented on Washington non-proliferation expert Henry Sokolski’s fatuous article on National Review Online arguing that we should apply a “gold standard” of nonproliferation requirements before signing deals to supply nuclear fuel to the likes of South Korea.â€¨
Washington’s non-proliferation community lives in the past – somewhere around 1975 to be exact. To see how outdated these demands are, take a look at today’s World Nuclear News. Russia has just established a 120 tons store of low-enriched uranium to the International Enrichment Center at Angarsk, an industrial city near Lake Baykal, just north of Mongolia, to be managed by the International Atomic Energy Agency. â€¨
â€¨“The store has been created for use by any IAEA member country denied access to the normal commercial nuclear fuel market for its power reactors, despite being in line with its international non-proliferation obligations,” reports WNN. “Such a country could approach the IAEA, whose director general has the authority to make a contract with Russia to release the fuel for manufacture into finished fuel rods.”â€¨
â€¨In other words, Russia is offering fuel supplies to anyone who is denied by the U.S.â€¨
â€¨Whether a nation is in line with non-proliferation obligations is all a matter of interpretation. The “gold standard” advocated by U.S. non-proliferation fanatics says that countries such as Korea should not be allowed to reprocess their own spent fuel, even if they have the facilities. We’ll do it instead. This is all the more ironic because the U.S. already has obligations to take back fuel supplied to Japan, Korea and Taiwan over the last few decades and is not following through because we haven’t yet figured out what to do with it. Russia is offering to relieve us of that obligation as well.
â€¨The U.S. is rapidly losing all leverage in the international fuel market because, as one New York Times reporter put it, “the Russians have a peculiar level of comfort with all things nuclear” and we don’t.
â€¨ â€¨Does that upset the Washington non-proliferation experts? Not a bit. Scratch any of them – the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center – and you’ll find a 1970s-style anti-nuke crusader grousing about how America’s “nuclear industry” is forcing the technology on the world – as if America was the only team on the playing field.
â€¨ â€¨How this ends up on the Conservative National Review Online opinion page is anybody’s guess.
Read more at World Nuclear Review and National Review
Friday, November 26th, 2010
November 26, 2010
China and Russia are breaking out of the shadow of the U.S. economy so rapidly that the press can hardly keep pace. In the last two days, a) China and Russia have agreed to drop the U.S. dollar in their bi-lateral trade, and b) China has revealed ambitious plans to start exporting reactors by 2013 and develop an integral fast breeder program that will complete its nuclear fuel cycle.
All this has extraordinarily implications for America’s economic future. Approximately 40 percent of the dollar’s value comes from its use as the world’s international currency. Yet inflation and U.S. debt have eroded that value and China and Russia are catching on. If the world follows their lead in dropping the dollar, every American will lose 40 percent of his or her net worth overnight.
At the same time, both Russia and China are solidifying their economies by charging ahead with nuclear energy, while U.S. concerns remain fixated on tritium leaks and Yucca Mountain. At the China International Nuclear Symposium this week, Zhang Shanjing, president of China’s Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation revealed that the company will probably start selling reactors for export within three years.
Chinese technicians have already reversed-engineered Areva 900-MW reactors built at Daya Bay into the CPR-1000 and have 16 under construction, the first scheduled to open next September. Zhang said that once certain intellectual property issues are cleared up with Areva, Guangdong would begin exporting, probably by 2013.
Chinese engineers are already doing the same thing with the Westinghouse AP1000 as well. Testifying before the French Senate this week, Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon said is it “very worrying” to her company how quickly and efficiently the Chinese are building Areva reactors. Construction of two EPR-1700s at Taishan is ahead of schedule and on budget, while construction of the same reactors in Finland and France are years behind and far over budget.
Lauvergeon said the Chinese versions would come in costing 40 percent less than European efforts. Completion of the reactor at Olkiluoto is now expected to take 86 months and Flamanville 71 months, while the Taishan 1and 2 reactors are being completed in 46 months. Construction at Taishan 1, begun in 2009, is actually being slowed down so it does not overtake construction at Flamanville, which began in 2007, so that lessons learned in France can be applied in China. The implication is, of course, that once the Chinese enter the international market with similar reactors, they will be able to outbid Areva on any project.
Russia is making rapid headway on nuclear as well. Just this week, Rosatom signed an agreement with Fortum, the Finnish nuclear corporation, to apply Russia’s “nuclear competencies in future nuclear power projects." Even France’s foothold in Finland may be challenged by the Russian effort.
All this is incredibly important to the future of the U.S. economy, yet it is making almost no news. The Russia-China deal on dropping the dollar has appeared only on Drudge Report. The only U.S. response to China’s export announcement has been a warning from the ever-vigilant Carnegie Endowment for International Peace saying that China’s development of a fast breeder may lead to “nuclear proliferation.”
Read more about it at World Nuclear News
Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
November 25, 2010
From the Editors
“No great art ever yet rose on Earth, but among a nation of soldiers,” wrote John Ruskin in 1865. And no great community of influential non-nuclear-proliferation experts ever arose except in a nation that had its own robust nuclear program.
This lesson doesn’t seem to be sinking into the non-proliferation chattering classes these days. Even with the possibility that North Korea could lob one of its nuclear weapons into South Korea, the non-proliferation poobahs in the nation’s capital are concentrating on collateral concerns – such as forbidding Jordan from enriching its own uranium or keeping South Korea from reprocessing its own fuel — as a means to an end to avoid more North Koreas.
Writing in National Review Online, Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, weighs in with yet another worn manifesto that the U.S. must crack down on friendly countries trying to expand their civilian nuclear programs. “[T]he U.S. and other responsible nuclear-supplier states must condition all future civilian nuclear-cooperative deals with any nuclear non-weapons state upon that country’s willingness to foreswear making nuclear fuel a process that can bring them to the very brink of acquiring nuclear weapons. For the U.S., this means demanding this concession in the nuclear-cooperative deals it is about to cut with Vietnam, Jordan, and South Korea . . .. “
Sokolski continues: "The U.S. should also put pressure on France, Russia, Japan, and South Korea to adopt such stricter conditions in their own nuclear-cooperative agreements. Most of those states are trying to expand their nuclear business in the U.S. and so are asking for U.S. federal loan guarantees or licenses. Recently, 17 nonproliferation experts on both the left and the right asked the president to require, as a condition of such U.S. assistance, that a firm’s country follow our nonproliferation lead. That’s sound advice.”
In other words, the way to deal with North Korea’s belligerence and the nuclear underground that is emerging among states — that former President George W. Bush once labeled the “Axis of Evil” — is to crack down on Jordan and South Korea and ask France, Russia and South Korea to play along as well.
Somebody has to tell the non-proliferation intelligenzia, that, without any meaningful marketpower in the international arena for civilian nuclear development, the U.S. no longer has much weight to throw around. If the U.S. withholds uranium from South Korea because they want to reprocess, they’ll simply buy from Russian instead. If you don’t play the game, you don’t make the rules.
Read more at National Review
Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
October 26, 2010
From the Editorsâ€¨
â€¨It’s a picture as old as history – a young, ambitious upstart with big plans for the future coming into confrontation with an aging patriarch intent on preserving the past.â€¨
â€¨In this case, the upstart is South Korea, a nuclear-happy country that has just landed the biggest nuclear energy contract in its history – $20 billion – to build four reactors in the United Arab Emirates.â€¨The patriarch is the United States of America.
The scene of this drama is the renegotiation of the 1950s treaty whereby the U.S. – then brimming with confidence over the technology – offered to supply poor, underdeveloped Third World Korea with enough fuel to start a nuclear program.
â€¨Flash forward 50 years. Korea now gets 40 percent of its electricity from nuclear, as opposed to our 20 percent. They run their reactors at 95 percent capacity, the only country that beats our 90 percent. (France is still at 80 percent.) The Koreans have now designed their own reactor – the 1,400 MW Korean Standardized Nuclear Plant – and are marketing it around the world with great success. Meanwhile, we have allowed our nuclear industry to wither on the vine and will be dependent on foreign parts for at least 75 percent of our new reactors – if we ever build any.â€¨
â€¨Yet the U.S. Department of State is still trying to tell the Koreans what to do.â€¨
â€¨The great issue in the negotiations is obviously “proliferation.” This write-up in a Korean newspaper puts it delicately:
â€¨â€¨“Members of the two countries’ delegations reflect the delicate nature of the situation. Korea’s delegation is led by Cho Hyun, who is in charge of multi-diplomatic control at the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry, and comprises officials from the ministries of foreign affairs, education, science and technology, and knowledge economy.
â€¨â€¨“The U.S. side consists mainly of nonproliferation experts such as Robert Einhorn, special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control at the State Department.”
â€¨â€¨The Koreans are ready to start reprocessing spent fuel as a step toward the Fast Breeder Reactor, the ultimate goal of nuclear technology, that would burn nearly 100 percent of the energy potential in a fuel rod instead of the current 3 percent in thermal reactors.
â€¨â€¨But the U.S. is not inclined to let them pursue this option. What’s America’s principal concern? “It might lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.” â€¨
Think of it. The Koreans sit on the same peninsula with a madman who has developed his own nuclear weapon – without bothering to steal anyone else’s plutonium. (They developed their own.) And the U.S. is telling the Koreans they can’t take the next technological step in nuclear because it might isolate plutonium somewhere in a reprocessing plant that might be stolen that might lead to some rogue nation building a nuclear weapon.â€¨â€¨
However, the U.S. does have the Koreans over a barrel in one respect. Failure to renew the treaty might leave them short of uranium supplies, which could scotch their deal with the UAE. There is leverage there.
â€¨â€¨But how long might that last? Wouldn’t the Russians just jump in with a better offer? They already have 40 percent of the world’s enrichment capacity and are vigorously marketing their uranium supplies abroad. Wouldn’t be ironic if, after fighting a brutal war to keep South Korea out of the Russian orbit. U.S. diplomats end up handing them over because of America’s fearfulness in developing nuclear technology.â€¨
For now both sides have agreed to disagree by leaving pyroprocessing – the central technology for the fast breeder – off the table. But that may not last long. The U.S. is going to have to wake up and realize it no longer has a monopoly on nuclear energy.
Read more at Donga
Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
You can see the gradual awakening to the realities of the World Nuclear Renaissance in the thorough but flawed report on AOL news, which calls the current situation a "Race for Nuclear Power."
Judy Pasternak’s report is alert to developments that have so far escaped the mainstream press. In the past few months alone the following developments have occurred:
* Tunisia signed an agreement with the U.S. to share nuclear technology
* Russia singed a similar agreement with Kuwait last Monday
* France has similar agreements with both Tunisia and Kuwait
* Jordan signed an agreement with Mitsubishi and Toshiba to allow it to bid on reactors there
* Egypt picked a location for its first reactor
* Saudi Arabia announced a whole section of Riyadh, the capital, will be powered by nuclear
* Sudan, Algeria, Libya and Morocco have nuclear programs in the early stages
From there on, however, the article goes on to feature hand-wringing by various American public officials and non-proliferation groups that all this is going to lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. None of them find the time to lament that almost no American companies will be participating as principals in this rapid nuclear development – or that an American presence might be helpful in quelling proliferation concerns.
There is also the usual skepticism that these efforts really have anything to do with providing energy and that "[l]ooming in the background is the widespread suspicion that the rush for civilian nuclear power is also covert preparation for a nuclear arms race." .
"Having nuclear power is a symbol of national prestige and a politically popular project. It showcases scientific and technological knowledge," Harvard University’s Martin B. Malin, an expert in arms control and international relations in the Middle East, and director of the Managing the Atom project at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. tells AOL. "But it’s really the presumed security implications" of nuclear power that are the real draw for these countries, "They are nervous about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and would like to have some capacity in the nuclear realm."
The article does note that all Middle Eastern countries do not have oil and that many are running short of electricity – protesters in Egypt recently blocked highways after power outages. It also notes that countries with large fossil fuel reserves can benefit by selling them abroad rather than using them at home. It even quotes William Tobey, a former senior nonproliferation official in the Bush administration saying, "This can be good for the United States and for the worldwide supply, because oil and natural gas are fungible."
But then follows this inexplicable and unattributed sentence:
"But that scenario might not necessarily make a dent in global greenhouse gas emissions, an often cited benefit of nuclear power."
This, of course, is the mantra of professional environmental activists arguing that because the uranium enrichment in Paducah, Kentucky uses 1000 megawatts of coal to produce the nation’s enriched uranium supply, that nuclear power will not reduce greenhouse gases as advertised.
Altogether, though, AOL offers a clear-sighted view of what’s going on in the world – something sorely missing in general press coverage of nuclear energy.
Read more at AOL News
Monday, April 12th, 2010
By William Tucker
Whatever its success in reducing the possibilities of nuclear war, the 40-nation summit that convenes in Washington today holds great promise for advancing the cause of civilian nuclear power.
Bomb making and electricity generating have been fatefully intertwined, from the moment the first nuclear weapon was dropped in 1945 until the present moment, when the world holds its breath to see if Iran is really making a bomb or just seeking civilian power.
Nothing about Iran’s intentions will be resolved at the two-day conference convened by President Obama. But the summit will obviously help the world industry get its act together and root out sloppy procedures that could lead to a disaster for the industry in the years ahead.
There are dozens of little pockets of bomb-grade material lying around the world relatively unsupervised, the result of the haphazard procedures that have been followed so far. This was highlighted last week when Chile announced it had finally managed to rid itself of 40 pounds of highly enriched uranium created at two research reactors over the last several decades. The attempt to ship the material to the Savannah storage site was delayed twice by damage to transportation facilities in the recent Chilean earthquakes.
That such quantities of HEU and plutonium are sitting around relatively unguarded may come as a surprise to many in the industry, who might assume that countries all over the world are following protocols provided by the great powers. The summit is sure to pick off much of this low-hanging fruit – caches of potential bomb material that have not attracted much notice.
But what may also happen is that the experience of seeing how far along other countries have gotten with reprocessing may convince officials within the Obama Administration that the rest of the world has moved along smartly while the U.S. is lagging behind.
Since the 1970s, non-proliferation in the U.S. has meant not dealing with plutonium – not isolating it, not reprocessing it, not even thinking about it except to lay it all up in some huge repository such as Yucca Mountain. Many nuclear opponents in this country still equate American reprocessing with nuclear proliferation – which is kind of a joke in a time when North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and possibly others have generated their own plutonium, while France, Japan and others have complete plutonium recycling and have not served as repositories for terrorist bombs.
Today’s summit may awaken Americans to the idea that we are no longer in the lead in nuclear technology and we had better give up our 1940s dreams of a nuclear monopoly and start interacting with the rest of the world.
Either way, the long-run outcome of this week’s summit is likely to be that rogue bomb material is a problem with which the world can deal and that fear of clandestine terrorist activities is not something that should stop the worldwide renaissance in civilian nuclear technology.
Copyright © 2010, Nuclear Townhall
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Thursday, April 8th, 2010
The worldwide advance of nuclear power and concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons seemed to be converging this week as the Obama Administration headlined its non-proliferation efforts.
Lest there be any doubt of the revival, the news everywhere involved new construction. The State Bank of Egypt announced it is seeking funding for four new reactors by 2025 and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. said it has identified a site for two new 700-megawatt reactors. India has long been exploring thorium technology to take advantage of its extensive thorium resources.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration moved ahead with plans to convene a summit of 47 nations next week to discuss the security of nuclear materials. U.S. officials may be surprised at the response, having always assumed that America has a huge lead in nuclear technology over the rest of the world and that it is our responsibility to keep other nations from handling nuclear material. This approach has backfired recently when U.S. officials tried to tell South Korea it could not reprocess fuel for fear that it might lead to nuclear proliferation. The South Koreans said Americans were treating them as “criminals.”
Read it at World Nuclear News
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- William Tucker