Category Archives: Nuclear
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity.
ISIL attacked Saudi Arabia
11.11.2014 Author: Viktor Titov
Saudi Arabia has recently witnessed the aggression that should have happened sooner or later due to its short-sighted policy in Syria, Iraq and Iran. As an old saying goes: “If you dig a hole for others, you’re sure to fall in it yourself.”
A few days ago the Saudi town of Dalva, situated in the oil-rich Eastern Province, suffered an attack of a group of armed Sunni terrorists, which resulted in seven civilian deaths. Most of the attackers were citizens of the Kingdom. The promt response of the local security forces allowed the servicemen to detain 20 members of an underground terrorist group, consisting mainly of those who had previously fought under the black banner of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Law enforcement agencies of Saudi Arabia have managed to capture the head of the armed group, his name is kept secret. The only information that has become available to journalists is that this commander has recently returned from Syria where he was fighting against the pro-Assad forces.
Riyadh is now facing a harsh dilemma: on the one hand, the House of Saud is actively oppressing its Shia citizens, on the pretext of their disloyalty and their alleged attempts to undermine the national security of the kingdom due to the “evil Iranian influence.” On the other – Sunni terrorists, that Saudi Arabia is fighting today alongside with its closest ally – the US, have assaulted Shia civilians on the Saudi soil, and those were virtually enjoying the same rights as the rest of the population, including the right for protection. It is now official: Saudi citizens motivated by religious hatred are commiting manslaughter of their fellow citizens.
The only question is how Riyadh may react when the Sunni terrorists that it had trained and funded will unleash a wave of terror against the Shia population of KSA? A similar course of events has already taken place in the neighboring Bahrain back in 2011, but Saudi regular troops were fast to cross the border in an attempt to prevent the violence from spreading.
It is no coincidence that the events in the city of Dalva are completely ignored by the international media. Should this fact become widely known then the Saudi authorities will be forced to recognize the threat ISIL poses to Saudi Arabia along with acknowledging the underlying instability of Saudi society that can endanger the ruling Wahhabi regime.
Now that the Shia population of the Eastern Province is buzzing with discontent, the House of Saud has found itself in a tight corner. Should the authorities fail to prosecute the terrorists a violent unrest of the Shia population, similar the one that shook Saudi Arabia in 2011 -2012, in the wake of the above mentioned events in Bahrain, will be quick to follow. But if the terrorists are to be punished to the fullest extent of the Sharia law, then the Wahhabis and Salafis will accuse the royal family of “betrayal” of the Sunnis. This course of events will end no better, with a massive wave of violent terror attacks, carried out by ISIL militants all across Saudi Arabia. Now that ISIL thugs have faced harsh resistance in Syria and Iraq, they will be eager to move south to start a “sacred struggle against the corrupt pro-American reign of Al Saud family“. As for the Iraqi Shia population, they can only welcome this U-turn in their ongoing struggle against Islamists. Moreover, it is possible that the indignation of the Saudi Shia population of the Eastern Province will find some form of support in Tehran and Baghdad. This means that the fate of the kingdom’s territorial integrity will be put to the test. The nightmares of the Saudi ruling family seems to be coming true — Saudi Arabia can be split into several parts, which had been joined together to create the kingdom back in 1929. This trend can be accelerated by the fact that a couple of weeks ago the Shia Houthis rebels seized power in Yemen, on the south-western borders of the KSA.
When Riyadh joined the US “anti-terrorist” coalition back in October, along with a number of NATO and GCC countries, political predicted the imminent revenge of ISIL.
So the events of November 4 may only be the first steps. On top of all, Saudi authorities have yielded to the US demands of dumping oil prices in an attempt to undermine Russia’s economy. This led to the narrowing scope of social initiatives being implemented in the Kingdom, since money became scarce in the royal treasury.
By agreeing to support the US global ambitions, the House of Saud has clearly shot itself in the foot. Especially now, when Washington has displayed its willingness to sign an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in two weeks time. This step will force Saudi Arabia to kiss it oil monopoly goodbye along with the role of the main strategic partner of the US in the region. At this point Riyadh couldn’t care less about the US military adventures in Iraq and Syria, it going to try to save its skin
It is clear that the coming days will put the Al-Saud dynasty’s survival skills to the test. Should the KSA authorities fail to keep the situation in the Eastern Province under control — the Kingdom is doomed. With each passing day the Shiite arc becomes more apparent on the political horizon of the Middle East, just like the US miscalculations.
As soon as Washington is trying to project its influence in the region, the Arab regimes are beginning to crumble and fall apart. One can recall the revolutions in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, along with the civil wars in Syria and Iraq to illustrate this statement.
It is now safe to say that Obama has screwed everything up again by putting its strategic partner in danger. It seems that the defeat in the US midterm elections was a failure all right, yet he never stops to surprise his followers. And it is unlikely that the Republicans will be fascinated by the sight of Saudi Arabia going down in flames.
Viktor Titov, Ph.D in Historical Sciences and political commentator on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook
Iran increases underground nuclear capacity sharply: diplomats
(Reuters) – A U.N. watchdog report is expected to show that Iran has expanded its potential capacity to refine uranium in an underground site by at least 30 percent since May, diplomats say, adding to Western worries over Tehran‘s nuclear aims.
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is due this week to issue its latest quarterly report on Iran’s disputed nuclear program, which the West and Israel suspect is aimed at developing bombs. Tehran denies this.
Language used by some Israeli politicians has fanned speculation that Israel might hit Iran’s nuclear sites before the November U.S. presidential vote. Washington has said there is still time for diplomatic pressure to work, but it could be drawn into any war between the two Middle East foes.
The Vienna-based diplomats, giving details on what they believe the IAEA report will show, said Iran had completed installation of two more cascades – interlinked networks of 174 centrifuges each – since the previous IAEA report in May.
They said Iran may also have added centrifuges in another part of the fortified Fordow facility, buried deep inside a mountain to better protect it against any enemy strikes, but they gave no details.
Fordow, where Iran is refining uranium to a level that takes it significantly closer to weapons-grade material, is built to house roughly 3,000 centrifuges – machines that spin at supersonic speed to increase the fissile concentration.
The May report said Iran had installed a total of 1,064 centrifuges, of which 696 were operating, in some six cascades. The diplomats said Iran has since added at least another 328, a jump of about 30 percent from the May figure, and perhaps more.
Iran says it needs this higher-grade uranium for a medical research reactor in Tehran. It is enriching uranium to lower levels at its main such plant in Natanz, where diplomats say it is also installing more centrifuges.
While the newly added centrifuges at Fordow are not yet operating, the expansion reaffirmed Iranian defiance of international demands to suspend enrichment, which can have both civilian and military uses depending on refinement level.
“There is reason to be concerned by increased tempo of enrichment, the larger stockpile of enriched uranium and, most importantly, the additional centrifuges installed in the deeply-buried facility at Fordow,” said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute of Strategic Studies think-tank.
It may reinforce the belief in Israel that diplomatic and economic pressure is failing to make the Islamic Republic curb its uranium enrichment program.
Iran denies allegations it seeks a nuclear weapons capability and says all its atom work is for peaceful purposes. It has threatened wide-ranging reprisals if attacked.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Thursday told heads of state from developing countries at a meeting in Tehran that the country has no interest in nuclear weapons but will keep pursuing peaceful nuclear energy.
(Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Myra MacDonald)
- Iran expands nuclear capacity in underground bunker: sources: VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has installed more uranium… (reuters.com)
- Iran “expands nuclear capacity underground” (thehimalayantimes.com)
- Netanyahu points to ‘more proof’ that Iran is making progress toward nuclear weapons (timesofisrael.com)
Small modular nuclear reactor to be employed at DOE Savannah River Site
The U.S. Energy Department and its Savannah River Site (SRS) announced three public-private partnerships to develop deployment plans for small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) technologies at SRS facilities, near Aiken, South Carolina. As part of the Energy Department’s commitment to advancing the next generation of nuclear reactor technologies and breaking down the technical and economic barriers to deployment, these Memorandums of Agreement (MOA) will help leverage Savannah River’s land assets, energy facilities and nuclear expertise to support potential private sector development, testing and licensing of prototype SMR technologies.
The Energy Department, Savannah River Site and Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) have entered into three separate agreements with Hyperion Power Generation Inc.; SMR, LLC, a subsidiary of Holtec International; and NuScale Power, LLC. The agreements will help these private companies obtain information on potential SMR reactor siting at Savannah River and provide a framework for developing land use and site services agreements to further these efforts.
“The Obama Administration continues to believe that low-carbon nuclear energy has an important role to play in America’s energy future,” said Secretary Chu. “We are committed to restarting the nation’s nuclear industry and advancing the next generation of these technologies, helping to create new jobs and export opportunities for American workers and businesses.”
The Energy Department has taken a number of steps to help jumpstart America’s nuclear industry and ensure that nuclear power continues to play an important role in the U.S. energy mix. As part of these efforts, the Department has worked to advance small modular reactors, which provide an important opportunity for America’s manufacturing sector to make and sell cutting-edge technology. Small modular reactors have the added advantage of passive safety systems, compact and scalable design and lower capital costs.
“We have a unique combination of nuclear knowledge and laboratory expertise, infrastructure, location and much more to make the Site a natural fit for advancing the small modular reactor technology,” said Dr. Dave Moody, DOE-SR Manager. “We are about reinvigorating SRS assets to impact national needs and influence new missions for the future of the Savannah River Site.”
By strengthening information sharing and access to site facilities and technical expertise, these MOAs will help break down engineering and testing barriers to advanced nuclear reactor research and development while providing these nuclear companies with the resources to support effective deployment plans.
Today’s announcement builds on the Energy Department’s work to develop nuclear power as a vital part of America’s all-of-the-above energy strategy:
• The Energy Department announced $10 million in new research funds earlier this month to solve common challenges across the nuclear industry and improve reactor safety, performance and cost competitiveness.
• In 2010, the Department signed a conditional commitment for $8 billion in loan guarantees to support the Vogtle project, where the Southern Company and Georgia Power are building two new nuclear reactors, helping to create new jobs and export opportunities for American workers and businesses.
• The Energy Department has also supported the Vogtle project and the development of the next generation of nuclear reactors by providing more than $200 million through a cost-share agreement to support the licensing reviews for Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor design certification. The Vogtle license is the first for new nuclear power plant construction in more than three decades.
• Promoting a sustainable nuclear industry in the U.S. also requires cultivating the next generation of scientists and engineers. Over the past three years, the Department has invested $170 million in research grants at more than 70 universities, supporting R&D into a full spectrum of technologies, from advanced reactor concepts to enhanced safety design.
The Memorandums of Agreement announced today do not constitute a federal funding commitment. The Energy Department envisions private sector funding will be used to develop these technologies and support deployment plans. The agreements, and the officials and offices involved with these activities, are separate and distinct from the Energy Department’s Funding Opportunity Announcement for small modular reactor cost-share projects announced earlier this year.
- Dept. of Energy signs agreements to develop small nuclear generators (arstechnica.com)
- The US Government Is Banking on Small Nuclear Reactors for Future Energy [Nuclear] (gizmodo.com)
- SMR developers are racing to the market (theenergycollective.com)
- Carnival of Nuclear Energy 93 (nextbigfuture.com)
- Small, Modular Nuclear Reactors – the Future of Energy? (hardware.slashdot.org)
- Feature: Small modular nuclear reactors – the future of energy? (gizmag.com)
- Department of Energy will fund up to Two Small Modular Nuclear Reactors for 2022 (nextbigfuture.com)
- DOE FY2013 Nuclear Energy Budget Request Makes Some Tough Calls, Not All of Them Good (switchboard.nrdc.org)
U.N. nuclear talks in Tehran: frustrated hopes
By Fredrik Dahl
VIENNA | Mon Feb 6, 2012 12:01pm EST
(Reuters) – After two days of rare and intensive talks in Tehran, senior U.N. nuclear officials may have felt they were finally making headway towards getting Iran to address suspicions that it is bent on developing the ability to make atom bombs.
Then, on the evening before the third and final session of last week’s meetings in the Iranian capital, the visiting U.N. nuclear watchdog delegation was handed an envelope that dealt a blow to any hopes of substantive progress.
According to one Vienna-based diplomat briefed on the discussions, it contained a procedural “new work plan” at odds with the nature of the discussions until then, in which the U.N. experts had tried to focus on concrete steps required by Iran.
In the view of Western officials, the Iranian move was further proof of the kind of stalling tactics Tehran has often used during the decade-long dispute over its nuclear program.
“It is delay. It is talks about talks,” a senior Western envoy said about the Iranian negotiating strategy.
The team from the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, headed by Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts, was forced to use much of the last day of the January 29-31 meeting to push back against the Iranian initiative.
“The agency had to spend a great deal of time getting over Iranian obfuscation,” said another diplomat. “It wasted a lot of time, at least a day.”
Neither Iran nor the IAEA have commented on the Iranian proposal or given details about it.
But it evoked memories among Western diplomats of an ultimately doomed plan agreed between the IAEA and Tehran in 2007 to resolve “outstanding issues” that failed to allay international doubts about Iran’s nuclear aspirations.
By putting forward a new such proposal, they suspect, Iran was trying once again to drag talks out while pressing ahead with nuclear work Western powers fear is aimed at acquiring the means and technologies needed to build atomic bombs.
“The Iranians kept trying to push that ‘work plan’ and the agency was not going to go there. They had some very frank engagement,” the senior envoy said.
Iran’s mission to the IAEA was not reachable for comment. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has described the meeting with the IAEA as “very good,” without elaborating.
A second round of talks has been slated for later this month but Western diplomats hold out little hope that the February 21-22 meeting in Tehran will fare much better than the previous round.
One diplomat said the January negotiations ended with a draft “discussion paper” listing the main points the IAEA wants Iran to answer, especially allegations about possible military dimensions to its uranium enrichment program.
The talks coincide with soaring tension in the long-running row, with the United States and European Union adopting sanctions targeting Iran’s oil exports and the Islamic Republic threatening retaliation by closing the main Gulf oil shipping lane.
IRAN UNDER PRESSURE
The outcome of the IAEA’s meetings in Tehran will be scrutinized in Washington, European capitals and Israel for signs of whether Iran’s leadership may finally be prepared to give ground after a decade of pursuing shadowy nuclear development goals, or whether it remains as defiant as ever.
Many fear a downward spiral towards military conflict and rocketing oil prices if diplomacy and sanctions fail to change the Islamic state’s nuclear course.
The Vienna-based IAEA, tasked with preventing the spread of nuclear arms in the world, is pressing Iran to be transparent.
It wants Iran to explain intelligence findings, detailed in an IAEA report in November, about research and development work pointing to nuclear weapons aims, and grant access to sites, documents and people relevant for its investigation.
Iran has indicated readiness for the first time to answer the agency’s questions but also repeatedly dismissed the allegations as baseless and forged.
It says its drive to stockpile enriched uranium is entirely peaceful and aimed at generating electricity using a future network of nuclear power plants.
The deadlock over the IAEA’s suspicion that Iran is looking into “weaponizing” its nuclear activity dates back over three years.
Nackaerts and his team specifically asked last week for access to the Parchin military site near Tehran, without receiving a clear answer from the Iranian side, diplomats said.
The secretive U.N. agency would not comment on the visit beyond a formal statement in which Director General Yukiya Amano said: “The agency is committed to intensifying dialogue. It remains essential to make progress on substantive issues.”
The IAEA said it explained to Iran its “concerns and identified its priorities, which focus on the clarification of possible military dimensions.”
“The IAEA also discussed with Iran the topics and initial steps to be taken, as well as associated modalities,” it said.
Western diplomats said the statement made clear that there had been little progress on substance, but also raised pressure on Iran to deliver tangible results in the next meeting.
Tehran is in the “game of gaining time,” one of them said.
But at least it would be clear who was to blame if the talks failed, he added: “It is going to be Iran’s responsibility.”
The IAEA may also hope that the Iranian side next time will send senior officials such as Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, to the talks.
Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, was the main counterpart in the January meeting. While he is a senior nuclear official, the U.N. agency frequently sees him in Vienna.
“There was nothing achieved on this visit and in fact the agency could not get Iran to engage on possible military dimensions questions at all,” the senior Western envoy said.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)
Top nuke regulators tell White House of ‘grave concerns’ with NRC chairman
By Andrew Restuccia and Ben Geman
Members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have told the White House that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko is causing “serious damage” to the agency that could harm the body’s ability to protect health and safety.
An Oct. 13 letter from Jaczko’s four NRC colleagues to White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley is a powerful, unified rebuke of the agency’s leader by his fellow commissioners, who cite “grave concerns” about his conduct and allege it’s increasingly “erratic.”
“We believe that his actions and behavior are causing serious damage to this institution and are creating a chilled work environment at the NRC,” states the letter to Daley from NRC commissioners Kristine L. Svinicki, George Apostolakis, William D. Magwood, IV, and William C. Ostendorff.
“We are concerned that this will adversely affect the NRC’s central mission to protect the health, safety and security of the American people,” the letter adds.
Svinicki and Ostendorff are Republicans, the other three NRC commissioners, including Jaczko, are Democrats.
The four NRC members laid out their concerns to Jaczko directly in an Oct. 13 memo that mirrors the complaints in their letter to Daley. The memo tells Jaczko of the letter to Daley and acknowledges it is an “extraordinary step,” while adding that Jaczko has left them without “viable alternatives.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the letter to Daley Friday evening.
The NRC is the independent agency that regulates the country’s 104 nuclear power reactors.
The letter comes at a time when the NRC is grappling with issues including safety upgrades in the wake of the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant and weighing industry applications to build the first new U.S. reactors in decades.
The four commissioners say Jaczko, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), has “intimidated and bullied” senior staff; ordered staff to withhold information meant for NRC members; and tried to “intimidate” an independent NRC committee from reviewing aspects of the NRC’s analysis of the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The letter also alleges that Jaczko has “ignored the will” of the majority of the commission and treated his fellow commissioners with such “intemperance and disrespect” that the commission no longer functions as effectively as it should.
The letter was released Friday by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has scheduled a Dec. 14 hearing on NRC leadership.
Jaczko defended his leadership on the commission in a Dec. 7 letter to Daley released Friday by the NRC.
He acknowledged that there are often major policy disagreements on the commission, adding that he believes the commission “has taken an approach that is not as protective of public health and safety as I believe is necessary.” But he said he respects their right to disagree.
“I follow the law, I respect the policy duly established by the Commission even if I disagree with it, and I faithfully executive Commission policy as I oversee the staff of the agency,” he said.
Jaczko argued that the commissioners have a “lack of understanding” of their statutory responsibilities. They are responsible for “policymaking, rulemaking and adjudications,” while the chairman is in charge of “all other functions.”
The commissioners are raising concerns about management decisions that are in the chairman’s purview, Jaczko said in the letter.
“I seek to consult with my colleagues on a great number of the decisions I make whether they are policy or management related,” he said. “I do not always agree with their suggestions and advice, however, and that has led to a circular claim that if I exercise my statutory authority I am somehow abusing them.”
Jaczko apologized to Daley for “any distractions” the disagreements on the commission may have caused and said he takes “responsibility for improving the level of our dialogue.”
The letter comes amid simmering tensions on the commission.
NRC Inspector General Hubert Bell released a report in June that alleged Jaczko “controls information” provided to the other NRC commissioners by designating issues as administrative matters, which he has control over, rather than policy matters.
“Because he acts as the gatekeeper to determine what is a policy matter versus what is an administrative matter and controls information available to the other commissioners, they are uncertain as to whether they are adequately informed of policy matters that should be brought to their attention,” the report, which was requested by House Republicans, says.
The report also raised questions about Jaczko’s handling of the decision to stop work on a multi-part evaluation of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in light of the Obama administration’s decision to abandon the long-delayed project.
Additionally, the commission has disagreed in recent months over how to deal with the recommendations of a task force assigned to reevaluate the country’s nuclear safety regulations in light of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.
The report called on the commission to make sweeping improvements to NRC’s “existing patchwork of regulatory requirements and other safety initiatives.”
Jaczko called on the commission to quickly evaluate the report and implement the necessary recommendations. But the commissioners initially resisted Jaczko’s call for swift action. Ultimately, they agreed to move forward quickly on the recommendations identified by staff as the highest priority.
All five NRC members are slated to testify at the House hearing next week, according to Issa’s office.
Issa, in a letter to Daley Friday, asks the White House to designate a witness for the hearing.
“The White House has now been aware of the Commissioners concerns for nearly two months, and the public deserves to understand what actions have been taken and whether the President still believes that Chairman Jaczko is capable of leading the NRC,” Issa writes.
Meanwhile, a panel of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will examine the post-Fukushima task force’s recommendations at a hearing Thursday.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the committee’s top Republican, said in a statement Friday evening that he’s taking the NRC commissioners concerns very seriously, and commends their “courage” for coming forward.
But amid the newly revealed attacks on Jaczko, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a senior Democrat and longtime critic of nuclear power, issued a report Friday that blames the other four NRC commissioners for stymieing NRC efforts to boost safety after the Fukushima disaster.
Markey accuses Jaczko’s four NRC colleagues of attempting a “coup.”
“The actions of these four Commissioners since the Fukushima nuclear disaster has caused a regulatory meltdown that has left America’s nuclear fleet and the general public at risk,” Markey said in a statement.
“Instead of doing what they have been sworn to do, these four Commissioners have attempted a coup on the Chairman and have abdicated their responsibility to the American public to assure the safety of America’s nuclear industry. I call on these four Commissioners to stop the obstruction, do their jobs and quickly move to fully implement the lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster,” he said.
This story was updated at 8:08 p.m.
- APNewsBreak: NRC panel: Nuke chief damages agency (newsok.com)
- APNewsBreak: NRC panel: Nuke chief damages agency (sfgate.com)